Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy New Year - And Many More This Year !

As the hours tick by to the start of 2012, I want to wish you and yours the very best for 2012.

If you like one New Years Day, how about a few over the next 366 days?

With our western Gregorian calendar, we will be enjoying a leap year.  That one extra February 29 when all of those leap year babies get to celebrate a traditional birthday and when the slight errors in our 365 day calendar can be caught up with.

The Chinese New Year 4709, will begin on January 23.  This is the year of the water dragon, which sounds like a very good year.  The last year of the water dragon was for those flower children born between January 27, 1952 and February 13, 1953.

At sunset on September 16, the Hebrew calendar celebrates Rosh Hashanah, or New Year's Day 5773.

The Hijri or Islamic calendar will celebrate New Year's Day 1434 beginning at sunset November 14.

The Mayan calendar will be THE topic this year.  On December 21, the 5125 year great cycle will begin anew.  I have embedded an YouTube clip that is pretty interesting about the Mayan circular calendar.

December 21, winter solstice, is the Mayan New Year's Day this year, and a date wherein both the Maya lunar and solar calendars have coinciding New Year Days.  That only happens every 52 years, and so last occurred in 1960.

With each New Year we have renewed potential, renewed optimism, and a renewed chance to improve not only ourselves, but the world in which we live.

The very best to you and your family in 2012, 4709, 5773, 1434, and as we observe the end of 5125 and usher in the beginning of 1.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

What Are Your Predictions For 2012?

It is obvious that I am occupied with things other than this blog.  So much worthy news to comment upon and I am not posting.  So, for those who have checked in to see if anything new will ever again appear on this site -- why yes it will, just sporadically until the holidays and my end of year tasks are completed.

So, for both my readers' amusement, I ask for your predictions for 2012.

I'll start it off with one of my own.  The City-County Council and the Mayor will not agree on anything this year EXCEPT they will agree to give more money to the CIB.  Not the Libraries.  Not IndyGo.  Just the CIB.

So, any thoughts for the new year?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Are Democrat Votes Lacking For Smoking Ban?

Tonight is the last Council meeting of the year, and the last where the Republican majority will reign.  Among other items of interest on tonight's agenda is the glaring absence of Prop 352, the Vaughn proposal to extend Indy's smoking ban.  That proposal failed to get out of last week's meeting of the Rules committee - only Councillors Vaughn and McQuillin voted to send it to the full Council for a floor vote.  Councillors Cockrum, Lutz, Rivera, Gray, Sanders and Mansfield voted to kill it then and there.

From the beginning, the Democratic caucus' response to this proposal was worse than tepid.  Caucus leader, Joanne Sanders, continually referred to it as an attempt for Vaughn to take credit from Councillor Angela Mansfield's years long efforts.  Her unswerving distrust/dislike of Vaughn finally culminated at last week's Rules committee meeting in her theorizing that the entire proposal was a setup for defeating any extension of the smoking ban.  As is usually the case with conspiracy theories, the folks accused of fabricating them just aren't that smart and clever.

Mansfield also showed contempt for the backers of the proposal and, despite the support it eventually got from interested organizations, she declared she would not ask her caucus to support it.  In the end, she voted against it in the Rules committee.

Well, I'll venture a possible additional reason for not wanting a floor vote on the proposal.  It just may be that the Democrats couldn't get enough votes for Prop 352, even if they all put their feelings about Vaughn aside like the adults we all expect them to be.  The potential embarrassment just might have been too much to endure.

I've been looking at past votes and needed votes to pass the extension of the smoking ban.

Prop 352 would require 15 votes for passage.

Vaughn had his and Councillors Hunter, Malone and McQuillen's votes to contribute to the 'yes' side of the tally.   So the Ds would need to come up with 11 yes votes out of 13 Democrats voting to secure passage.

During last week's Rules Committee meeting, Democrat Councillor Gray demonstrated an interest in maintaining some significant exemptions to a complete ban when he voted against two of Mansfield's amendments - one to remove Vaughn's exemption of the downtown off track betting facility, and the other to deny the ability to transfer a tobacco store or hookah bar license that would exempt those facilities from the smoking ban; both amendments failed.  He also voted against sending the proposal to the full Council for a floor vote, along with Sanders and Mansfield. 

Back in 2009, Gray voted in favor of amending a proposed extension of the smoking ban so that the ordinance would continue to exclude fraternal organizations and tobacco stores, then curiously asked to be allowed not to vote on the actual proposal in order to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.  No further explanation is available in the minutes.  So, ultimately, Gray's position on an extension of the smoking ban is not certain.  The amendment, had it passed back in 2009, would have resulted in a modified proposal that is quite similar to the one introduced by Vaughn last month.

Councillor Dane Mahern asked to be allowed not to vote on both the amendment and the proposal to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest due to a previously scheduled fundraiser.  So, his position is not on the record.

Voting against the 2009 proposed extension of the smoking ban were Democratic Councillors Brown and Oliver.  The minutes of that meeting reflect Brown's interest thusly:
Councillor Brown said that 98% of establishments were impacted by the current ban, and he asked if there are statistics showing the number of workers that were impacted. Seeing no response, Councillor Brown asked if there are any statistics showing the number of workers that will further be affected. Councillor B. Mahern said that if they affect one worker it is worth it. Councillor Brown said that through education, he continues to support non-smoking initiatives, but he would like to see an accounting of the percentage of reduction in second hand smoke deaths since the ban to warrant a further ban. Councillor Hunter said that second-hand smoke deaths are down across the country by 62 million.
Brown voted for the amendment loosening the proposal (the amendment that failed) and against the proposal.

Oliver was noted in the minutes proposing an amendment to exempt bowling alleys, which did not receive a second.  He vote against the other amendment and the final proposal as well.

Not in attendance that night were Councillors Pfisterer and Minton-McNeill.  The latter testified against Vaughn's proposal last week, saying an all or nothing ban was required so as to maintain a level playing field between hookah bars and mom and pop tavern operations.

All the remaining 8 Democrats voted in favor of the 2009 proposed extension of the smoking ban.  That proposal failed by a vote of 12 to 13.  The exact tally was:

12 YEAS: Bateman, Evans, Hunter, Lewis, Mahern (B), Malone, Mansfield, Moriarty Adams, Nytes, Sanders, Smith, Vaughn
13 NAYS: Brown, Cain, Cardwell, Cockrum, Coleman, Day, Lutz, McHenry, McQuillen, Oliver, Plowman, Scales, Speedy
2 NOT VOTING: Gray, Mahern (D)
2 ABSENT: Minton-McNeill, Pfisterer
It is possible that some of the 8 Democrat votes would not be cast for anything but a complete ban.
So, all put together, if Prop 352 had come before the full Council tonight, victory was not assured, even without all of the political mishigas.  There would be 4 Republican yes votes, 8 likely (but not sure) Democrat yes votes, one likely Democrat no vote, and 4 uncertain D votes - at best.
It would have been a nail biter.  But, it would have been a public service to hold the vote.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fundamental Friday - WCTY

This week's Fundy goes to the entire staff of WCTY, AKA "the government channel" folks.  They are the usually unseen stalwarts who cover every City Council meeting, including all of their committee meetings save the committee on committees, and all Board and Commission hearings held in the City-County Building.  They travel around town with cameras in tow, nights and weekends, to cover community meetings and Mayor's Nights Out.

Led for years now by Station Manager Ken Montgomery, the crew provides live broadcasts and taped archives so that all citizens of Marion County can keep their own eye on what is getting done and who is doing what in City government.  As they say, sunshine is the best disinfectant.  And with that sentiment, nothing can beat what the WCTY folks do for all of us and our Democracy, each and every day.

If you don't know, all shows are archived and can be viewed at any time of the day or night at .

The crew is small, but work diligently.  They are Christy Thomas, Alan Dhayer, Bradley Sims, Nick Hess, Tim Barrett, and Dave Lister.

I've only seen one Councillor do it, but maybe I've just missed others.  I always get a chuckle out of it when Councillor Bob Lutz gets ready to call his committee together.  He looks at the camera, says "are you ready?", and the camera nods in assent.  While they may be out of view, they do their jobs with the greatest professionalism and they give us all access to what those in power are up to.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Council Democrats Are Blowing It

The Council's Democratic Caucus is blowing it big time, and the impact of their posture on the proposed expansion of the smoking ban is wide ranging.

The epicenter of all this is the expansion of the smoking ban proposed by Council President Ryan Vaughn, due to be heard at tonight's Rules committee meeting.  It is not Vaughn's actions, however, it is the reaction of Council Democrats to Vaughn that is causing the image of their Caucus to take a hit.

Democrats are wary, at best, regarding Vaughn's motives, and with good reason.  Still, his eleventh hour proposal is a significant improvement to existing public policy, has the best shot in years of passage and is sure to be signed by Mayor Ballard.  The Indianapolis Star, in its editorial on December 6, described the Democrats' response in juvenile terms, saying
...when your opponents give you 98 percent of what you want, it's politically unwise and even petty to pout over the 2 percent you didn't get. Yet, that's exactly what's happening in the debate over a comprehensive workplace smoking ban.

Councillor Angela Mansfield, whose reputation has been one of an intelligent, thoughtful Councillor, is taking a hit from what appears to be petulance on being one-upped by Vaughn.  She must know that Vaughn is saving the Mayor the major embarrassment of vetoing a proposal to be introduced next year that would not exclude fraternal clubs and organizations.  But she also must know that her hard work on a proposal that could pass the Council with the newly added Democratic votes, is likely to be vetoed by Ballard - ending her hopes to expand the smoking ban yet again.

Councillor Joanne Sanders is echoing Mansfield in telling the press that she will not promote Vaughn's proposal within the Caucus.

As the Star put it, just declare victory and move on.

The action of these prominent players in the Council's Democratic Caucus is not only jeopardizing good, if not perfect, public policy in terms of a smoking ban for Indianapolis.  Should the public impression not be improved, and quickly, it also will have these additional points of impact:

1) It takes the limelight away from Vaughn's push to adopt new Council districts in advance of a Democratic majority taking over the Council come January.  You cannot simultaneously pose as the adult in the room and act in ways that garner the use of the word "pout" by the City's largest newspaper.

2) It affects the public perception of how seriously the new Council will take important issues that arise next year and after.

3) It also removes from Mayor Greg Ballard, the stigma of being unable to work across the aisle with Democrats.  The Democrats are now seen in an unfavorable, unreasonable light, due to their own words and actions; lightening any pressure Ballard may have received from the public to cooperate.  Now, any fault for a paralyzed government will not be assigned solely to Ballard, but to the Council Democratic Caucus in equal measure.
The Democrats have little time to turn their actions and the public's perception of their motives around.  The Caucus should have been able to celebrate the changing of the guard on January 1.  Instead they have to make it clear that the public interest is their interest and fix the response to the Vaughn smoking ban proposal with all haste.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Fundamental Fridays - Melissa Thompson

This week's Fundy award for good government goes to Melissa Thompson, Clerk of the City-County Council.  Ms. Thompson's merit for this award is her dedication to producing records when requested by a member of the public.

Some offices in City government, most notably the Mayor's office and the Office of Corporation Counsel, shred the intent of the open records laws daily, only clinging to the minimum legal requirements under state law while deliberately delaying and setting up unspoken requirements for getting documents - like asking twice.   Luckily, not everyone in City Hall handles requests this way.

Even if all City departments and agencies were vigorous in allowing access to public records, Ms. Thompson would stand out.  She fulfills requests quickly; nearly all of mine have been within the day the request was made.  She takes time out to elaborate on how to navigate some otherwise arcane Council jargon.  And she delivers it all in a highly professional manner.

Clerk of the Council is a political appointment, so Ms. Thompson's days on staff are now limited.  Hopefully for the citizens of Indianapolis, her replacement will continue her strong dedication to fulfilling the spirit and letter of the open records laws.  I wish her much success in her new endeavors, and thank her for her valuable stewardship of the Council Office.

Support Evaporating For Broad Ripple Parking Garage Variances

Last evening the Land Use Committee of the Broad Ripple Village Association voted unanimously to 'not support' the variance requests for the proposed Broad Ripple parking garage.  As you know, the garage is proposed for the corner of North College Avenue and Westfield Boulevard; the development of which is to get $6.35 million from the City as part of its acquisition, demolition, and construction costs (see "Broad Ripple Parking Garage - Farce Extraordinaire" and "Broad Ripple Parking Garage - Somebody Forgot To Which End of the Horse You Attach the Cart" on this blog and Ogden On Politics' "The Tale of the Broad Ripple Parking Garage: Taxpayers Pay to Build the Facility While the Developer Gets 100% of the Ownership and Revenue" for the highlights and more links).

The requested variances, if granted, would allow the building to avoid the setbacks required by City Ordinance and reach up to the City's right of way (which would basically be the sidewalk), allow smaller than required parking spaces, and allow a bank drive through without required maneuvering space.  The developer has also requested a vacation of the City's air rights and subterranean rights above and below the sidewalk so that the building facade can extend beyond the owner's parcel.

Particular sticking points for the BRVA group are the setback variance request for Westfield Boulevard and the proposed drive through for the bank tenant of the garage, among other disappointments that members of the committee have had with the overall project.

The BRVA Land Use Committee joins remonstrance by the Meridian Kessler Neighbors Helping Neighbors, and neighboring veterinarian, Dr. Brunner, of the Broad Ripple Animal Clinic that abuts the garage property.  The Board of Zoning Appeals will consider the variance petition this Tuesday, December 13.  The Plat Committee of the Metropolitan Development Commission will consider the vacation request at its January 11 meeting, the original hearing being continued by the Meridian Kessler group.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How Much Is the Superbowl Costing Indianapolis and Indiana Taxpayers?

Paul Ogden has a riveting blog entry today about the real cost to cities and states that host Super Bowls.  I highly recommend "Sports Economist Says Indianapolis is Big Loser Financially From Hosting Super Bowl" to all taxpayers of Indianapolis and, yes, even all of Indiana.

Meanwhile, Council President Ryan Vaughn - before the election - promised the Council that he would do his best to get the Ballard Administration to cough up information about how much cash the February Super Bowl is costing Indianapolis.  So far, nothing has come forward.  And considering how much water Vaughn is carrying for Ballard these days, it leaves this writer wondering why they will not tell the public what the price tag is.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Broad Ripple Parking Garage - Farce Extraordinaire

Its like we all went through the Looking Glass with Alice the day the City opted for the Keystone Group's proposal to build a garage on the corner of N. College Avenue and Westfield Boulevard in Broad Ripple.

I reported previously (see "Broad Ripple Parking Garage - Somebody Forgot To Which End of the Horse You Attach the Cart") about the fact that after the deal was inked down, Keystone Group, now going by 6280, LLC, for this project, filed for a number of variances.  Turns out the project as proposed and as accepted by the City, will not fit on the property without A) a variance for zero foot setback from the right of way (35 foot setback on College and 40 foot setback on Westfield required) and B) a variance to shrink the size of each parking space.  At what point does the Ballard administration admit that this project is too large for this site?

Well, as absurd as things were up to the point of filing for the variances, an alert reader gave us a heads up that things were actually even more absurd than we thought.  The folks at 6280, LLC, have also filed to extend into the City's right of way - meaning, they cannot fit in the space they actually own and must spill over and under the sidewalk.  The technical request is to 'vacate' the right of way from 17 feet up in the air to 62 feet up in the air on the three sides of the building, and to 'vacate' the right of way from 1 foot below ground to 8 feet below ground all the way around the building.

The 'ribbon of light' facade, it turns out, can't fit on the building if the entire building is actually required to fit on the lot.  Rather, the property is so inappropriate for the project, that the ribbon must be allowed to hang over the sidewalk and the alley if it is to be a part of the plan at all.  The developer says that the underground vacation is required for structural support, but that makes no sense.

How much more information does the Administration require as proof that this project is not on the right site?  The garage costs twice as much as comparable projects (even those cited by the developer in their own proposal), it is proposed for a location rejected in a 2007 study of Broad Ripple's parking needs, the building can't fit on the property without being granted a variance, and even then, the building is too small to fit 350 regulation size parking spaces in it without further variance, AND EVEN THEN the facade will not fit on the building without hanging over the sidewalk.

When does it become apparent that the project does not fit on the property?  It is all too absurd, even for government work.

I fully expect another round of variance requests should the pending matters be granted.  The 'ribbon of light' is proposed to serve as an advertising beacon.  That, of course, is not allowed by our ordinances. 

The Board of Zoning Appeals is scheduled to consider the filed variance requests on December 13 and the Plat Committee of the Metropolitan Development Commission is scheduled to consider the vacation of air and subterranean rights of way on December 14.  Maybe these bodies will bring sensible resolution to this farce by denying the petitions presented to them.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Fundamental Fridays

Please bear with me before you start groaning with derision.

It seems to me that there are fundamental aspects to good government and good governance.  Open, transparent, accessible government - for instance.  Working in the best interest of the community, not special interests - for instance.  Good stewardship, leadership, vision - for instance.

It also seems to me that there are folks who serve in our local government who demonstrate a fundamental aspect of good government on a daily basis, and others who do so from time to time.

Dare I say it so clearly but -- not all is wrong with our local governance.

So, in order to promote it when I see it, I am instituting a new feature to Had Enough Indy ?  It will be an award worth the paper it is written on.  I'll call it the Fundamental Friday Award - or "Fundy" for short.

The inaugural Fundy (drum roll, please) goes to Councillors Angela Mansfield, Ben Hunter, and Ryan Vaughn, and Mayor Greg Ballard.  The reason is - compromise when compromise will bring about benefits to the community.  In years gone by we might have called it statesmanship - putting the needs of the people before party politics or grandstanding opportunities.

The topic involved is, as you already know, the enlargement of Indy's smoking ban that will still fall short, but not far short, of a complete ban.  However, it will be as close as all sides can get if they hope to garner enough votes for passage and to win the Mayor's signature.

Mansfield and Hunter have been working together, across the political aisle, for years now, trying to move the smoking ban forward.  They were ready to reintroduce a previously defeated measure once the Democrats took control of the Council in January, but a measure unlikely to be signed by the Mayor.  Vaughn threw a Hail Mary pass in the last minutes of Republican control; likely to give Mayor Ballard something he could stomach and sign, saving him face.  Nonetheless, they all came together and are now lending their support to an slightly more aggressive Vaughn measure.

So, include the coming together to work for the benefit of the public, to the art of compromise when compromise will bring benefits to the community, as the reasons why the very first Fundy goes to Mansfield, Hunter, Vaughn, and Ballard.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Proposed New Council Districts Trisect Irvington

One of the legal goals for creating new districts,  for the Council or any other governmental unit, is to keep what are called "communities of interest" intact.  The proposed new Council Districts, to be introduced at the December 5 Council meeting, totally misses the mark where Irvington is concerned.

Jonathan Katz has gone to the trouble of demonstrating clearly how Irvington is divided from its heart into not one, not two, but three different Council districts.  Below is his highlighted map.
The yellow-shaded area is Irvington.  Pieced together are the proposed new districts 12, 18 and 19.

Irvington is an historic district that is coming back through the inspiring tug and pull of its dedicated, focused, residents.  I should say that it at the point of being successful and on the verge of being stably successful.  It doesn't need to be mishandled by the new Council map.  All efforts should be put forward by Ryan Vaughn, the steam roller behind getting these maps enacted, to correct this grievous error.

For some taste of Irvington here are a couple of interesting links:

The Irvington Buzz

The Irvington Community Council

The Irvington Development Organization

The community of Irvington deserves to be left intact within one Council district with one Councillor as dedicated as these residents are to Irvington.

Apology To Readers - Confusion Reigning On Genesis Of Re-Precincting

I must apologize to my readers for substantial error in my post yesterday.  I said that the Mayor did not have to correct errors in the precincts due to the State Legislature's creation of its new districts.  That is not entirely true.

I have been trying to track down the actual genesis of the problem, but, at this point all I can say is that the State Legislature, through HB 1601, did require the Mayor Ballard to review census data on all precincts sent to him by the State's Election Division, and either submit corrections to the precincts affected, or re-precinct entirely.  The bill anticipated little cost to the County, with the Legislative Services Agency stating "Explanation of Local Expenditures: County Executives- County executives should require only a minimal increase in administrative time to send the ED the information required by the bill", in its Fiscal Impact Analysis.

While I am not able to say if it was poorly drafted Legislative districts or Congressional districts (which did use census blocks instead of precincts in their legal descriptions) (see IC 2-1-12, IC 2-1-13, and IC 3-3-5, respectively) it is certain that some action regarding the evaluation and correction of precinct boundaries was legally required of Mayor Ballard.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Trouble With The Justification Story

I don't know how many people have been bamboozled by the story justifying the need for new precinct maps, but I was certainly one of them !

If you read through yesterday's blog entry, "New Precincts And Proposed New Council Districts", you will see that the justification for reprecincting was that the State Legislature had created their new House and Senate districts by totally ignoring the precinct boundaries.  Thus, new precincts had to be cobbled together to try to make the Legislative districts whole.

Well.....  That storyline turns out to be fabrication. 

The truth turns out to be that the House and Senate districts were defined by listing the precincts they include.  You can read it for yourself, but I'll summarize it here:

IC 2-1-12 - lists 2011 House districts by precinct.  Scroll down and you will find Marion County precincts included in districts 86-100.  I can find no precinct that has been included in more than one House district.

IC 2-1-13 - lists 2011 Senate districts by precinct.  Districts 28-36 contain Marion County precincts.  Once again, I can find no precinct that has been included in more than one Senate district.

So - there was no need to create new precincts at this time.  The impact I noted yesterday on creating split precincts from the redistricting of Township Board lines using the old precincts, still holds however.  Bottom line, these new precincts will increase the confusion and expense of the Primary and General Elections in 2012. 

If it were up to me, I'd revoke these precinct boundaries and honor the electorate with both the chance to weigh in on new Council districts and by telling them the truth.

[hat tip to fellow bloggers Paul Ogden and Gary Welsh for illuminating this corner for me]

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New Precincts and Proposed New Council Districts

I've had a bundle of information provided to me about new precinct and Council district maps in the last 24 hours.  Short story - the political parties are girding for battle and the only ones who aren't getting their fair say appears to be the public and the taxpayers.

Lets start with the new precinct maps.  The Mayor of Indianapolis has the sole authority to draw precinct boundaries.  According to City-County Council President, Ryan Vaughn,  Mayor Greg Ballard requested that Vaughn get the precincts drawn up on behalf of the Mayor.  Vaughn, through a Council contract, hired Republican operative David Brooks, to redraw the precinct boundaries.  The Republican 'explanation' for the need for new precincts is that the State Legislature drew up their new House and Senate districts without regard for precinct boundaries, in some cases splitting those precincts.

Now when a precinct is split, that means that there must be multiple ballots in the split precinct on Election Day, to accommodate the different constituents of the different districts.  Split precincts are not fun on election day as there are invariably folks given the wrong ballot and frustrated voters and poll workers.  In addition, the need for multiple variations of the ballot for a precinct drives up the cost of conducting the election; the added expense being passed on to the taxpayers, of course.

So, at first blush, reprecincting would seem to be a good way to save the taxpayers money by covering the lack of intelligent redistricting by the State Legislature.

However, consider this additional fact.  The Township Boards just finished redrawing their districts to conform to the 2000 census.  They had to finish their mapping by earlier this month as the Board seats are on the 2012 ballot.  State law bans redistricting during any year a district is up for election.  The Boards drew their new districts using the old precinct boundaries.  By introducing new precincts, the Mayor has guaranteed that there will be many split districts during next year's Primary and General Elections.  Some of the new precincts may be split by more than one Township Board district.

My examination of Indiana House and Senate districts leads me to a count of 15 House and 9 Senate districts that include any precincts in Marion County.  Compare that with the 9 Township Boards in our County, with 7 districts each, or 63 seats total.  The probability is high that there will be far more split precincts with the new map than had the old map been retained.  Expect a concomitant increase in expense for the two elections next year as a result.

Now on to the newly proposed Council district maps.  The Democratic caucus of the Council does bring up some legitimate criticisms of the way Vaughn has maneuvered the introduction of the maps to the Council for a vote.  Jon Easter posted the caucus' statement on his blog, Indy Democrat, just yesterday.  The Democrats point to the timing of the Mayor's approval of the new precinct maps, coming just two hours before the deadline for introduction of new proposals to the Council for 2011 - and - introduction by Vaughn of a Council Proposal to accept the new Council district maps drawn up under contract by Brooks, just minutes before the deadline.  This left the Democratic caucus with no opportunity to either draw their own proposed map with the new precinct boundaries, or to introduce said map to the Council for consideration.  That move by Vaughn was a clear partisan steamroller approach to party politics.

This is not to say that the Democrats can't draw their own maps when they take over in January. Obviously, Mayor Ballard will not sign such a map.  Also, it does not preclude a Court contest of any Republican map adopted in 2011, as State law seems to ban adoption of Council district maps any earlier than 2012.

I would remind all readers that ten years ago, the State Supreme Court came up with the districts we are now using and that they are nicely compact and in the best interest of Democracy.  The Democrat and Republican proposed maps introduced ten years ago suffered from as much gerrymandering as the ones to be introduced to the Council on December 5.

Meanwhile, there are 4 public meetings - one of which was held last night, with almost no notice.  From one attendee, I am told that the only basis of comment that will be considered by Brooks and the Republican caucus, is if there is a problem with the process.  They will not consider problems with the resultant map.

I spoke with Julia Vaughn (no relation to Ryan) of Common Cause about the mapping process.  Common Cause has, for a long time now, taken an interest in how district maps at all levels of government are drawn and has promoted a process that would embrace the least amount of gerrymandering at the lowest cost to taxpayers.  She has mentioned that there are programs that can be used, inexpensively, by any computer literate citizen to draw up their own proposal for compact districts that keep connected features of interest together.  Such a program, of course, would have to include the precinct boundaries in its code.  The speed with which Ryan Vaughn and Greg Ballard kicked through the new precincts followed by the introduction of a proposed Council map obviated any real participation by voters and taxpayers.

Julia Vaughn further suggests the following for a good public process to redistrict:
Best way would have been to appoint a diverse group of people - black, white, Latino, Republican. Democrat, Libertarian, Independent, northside, southside, eastside, westside, (you get the idea) of folks that would sponsor meetings in every township before any maps were drawn to get public input on what communities of interest exist (might be a racial group, neighborhood group, historic district etc) and what voters think the new districts should emphasize (competitive elections vs. a compact geographic area for example).  The map drawer should have weighed all of these considerations and then produced a map.  A second round of meetings should have followed to get or not get the public's buy-in on  what was proposed. 
This did not happen with the Republican map.  We mere citizens, who should be in the loop on such an important thing like Council districts, are left standing on the sidelines.  We can hope that the Democrats, who surely will proposed their own Council map in 2012, will follow an inclusive process like that suggested by Julia Vaughn.  Somebody in office needs to give a hoot about the public interest and the inclusion of the public in a fair and ample public process.

If you would like to attend one of the three remaining meetings on the new maps they are:

December 1st (Thursday) 6-8pm  ---  John Boner Center, 2236 East 10th Street

December 6th  (Tuesday) 6-8pm ---  Sterrett Center, 8950 Otis Avenue

December 8th (Thursday) 6-8pm ---  City County Building, Public Assembly Room

The Council Proposal containing the Republican Council district maps, will be introduced next Monday, December 5.  It likely will be assigned to the Rules Committee for a public hearing.  There are no currently scheduled meetings for that committee for the rest of the year, but one will surely be added to accommodate this issue.  Stay tuned for date and time.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving !

The pies were made yesterday, and very shortly the mad rush to stuff the bird and get it into the oven will commence.

I want to take this moment to wish all of my readers a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving.  This is the best holiday of the year !  Hope your family is near and celebrating with you.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Seeds of Hope

Jon Murray, Indy Star reporter, has another good article in today's paper about the drama over competing expansions of Indy's smoking ban.  See "Smoking ban gets unlikely support" for the entire piece.

What could have shaped up as a lose-lose head butting contest, may instead hold the seeds of hope for working government in Indianapolis.

As noted two days ago, there are two competing proposals - one to be introduced by Council President Ryan Vaughn at the next Council meeting, and one to be introduced by Councillors Angela Mansfield and Ben Hunter in January, after the Democrats gain control of the Council.  Both would bring significant enhancement to the current smoking ban, extending the ban to all bars, restaurants, bowling alleys and other public gathering places.  Vaughn's proposal would continue to exempt private organizations, tobacco shops and tobacco bars.  The Mansfield / Hunter proposal would exempt only tobacco shops.

As Murray writes:
Anti-smoking advocacy group Smoke Free Indy, which backs only the comprehensive plan [Mansfield / Hunter] so far, estimates 370 bars and other establishments still allow smoking. Most likely would be covered under an expanded ban.
By the group's count, Vaughn's proposal would exclude about 60 from the smoking ban: nearly 20 cigar and hookah bars, five retail tobacco shops, and 35 nonprofit private organizations, including country clubs, social clubs, fraternal organizations and veterans halls.
Only the retail tobacco shops would be exempted by the proposal outlined by council members Angela Mansfield, a Democrat, and Ben Hunter, a Republican.
The rub is, Vaughn can get his ordinance signed by Mayor Ballard, but may not get enough Democrat votes to get out of the Council and on to Ballard's desk.  The Mansfield / Hunter proposal could be passed by the Council, but is not likely to be signed by Ballard - and they likely don't have the votes to overturn a veto.

So, the upshot of it all could very well be that nothing gets done by those who agree on an extension of the ban to cover about 310 of the approximately 370 locations that currently allow smoking.

However, Murray's article contains the seeds of hope, not only for a more comprehensive smoking ban in Indianapolis, but also as a harbinger of working government for the next 4 years.
Mansfield expressed hope that Ballard would sit down with her and Hunter "to see exactly where he is on the issue." Marc Lotter, Ballard's spokesman, said such a meeting shouldn't be a problem in coming weeks, as long as Vaughn also is at the table.
"We're both open to compromise," Hunter said. "We'll look at (Vaughn's) language when we get it in the next 24 to 48 hours."
Mansfield, Hunter and Vaughn all say they want to rid bars of smoking before Super Bowl activities begin in late January, but Mansfield amended that goal Thursday: "I'd much rather see a good, comprehensive proposal in place, even if it's after the Super Bowl."
Vaughn said earlier this week that timing was the reason for his surprise push. He sees a requirement for a period of published notice as a stumbling block before the Super Bowl. Mansfield disagrees that it would be.
But Vaughn said supporters of a more comprehensive ban should support his proposal as an "interim step."
[edited to correct mistake in original Star posting]

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How To Argue About Something You Agree On

The morning paper (and last night's Ogden on Politics) has a story about Council President Ryan Vaughn's intention to offer enhancements to the current smoking ban in Indianapolis.   (see "Bars could be smoke-free soon" by Star reporters Jon Murray and Shari Rudavsky, and Paul Ogden's "Indianapolis' Mayor Ballard, (Some) Council Republicans To Throw Bar Owners Under the Bus In Expanded Smoking Ban")

Instead of ushering in a spirit of cordiality and bipartisanship, which one could have hoped would be the tone for next year's split party governance, it appears to be the first volley in party warfare.  Hopefully I am way off the mark and cooler heads will prevail.

At its core is the intention of many to have a full or nearly full ban on smoking in Indianapolis - tightening up the law passed in 2005.

The Democrats have more Councillors, both on and soon to join the Council, in favor of a stricter ban than do the Republicans.  According to Councillor Angela Mansfield, she would have a veto proof 18 votes in favor of a ban come January.  Mansfield is working again with Republican Ben Hunter to craft a stricter ban than they were able to get passed previously.

Neither the Mansfield/ Hunter plan nor the Vaughn plan are available for public review.   I am not sure that Mansfield's proposal would be a 100% ban, either, but, according to the Star, Vaughn's proposal would :
In addition to bars and bowling alleys, Vaughn says, his proposal would ban smoking in hotel rooms as well as restaurants that slipped through the current law by allowing only patrons who are 18 or older.

His proposal would exempt cigar and hookah bars -- newly defined as "tobacco specialty bars" based on sales -- as well as retail tobacco stores and nonprofit fraternal organizations, including veterans' halls.

Vaughn says his plan has the virtue of the backing of Mayor Ballard, and an earlier passage date which would be in keeping with state law notification time requirements on enacting laws that impose penalties.  Mansfield sites her 18 votes and says the penalties were contained in the 2005 ordinance and are therefore not subject to another time limit.

I understand the all or nothing approach of Smoke Free Indy, but this is the Indianapolis-Marion County City-County Council.  Passage of the weaker Vaughn proposal may wipe out some of the 18 votes Mansfield would need to veto proof additional expansion of the smoking ban in January, and if that happened, Vaughn's weaker proposal would stand for some time to come.  But, if Vaughn's approach is satisfactory to some of Mansfield's 18 votes, then how solid is her support in reality?

One aim is to have a ban in place by the Super Bowl, in order to leave a more progressive impression with visitors.  Even if Mansfield's interpretation is ultimately correct, an appeal to the Courts could delay any proposal passed in January while the Court considers the validity of the challenge.  A long term outlook for the health of bar workers would continue to be satisfied, but the opportunity some see in marketing Indy could be lost.

At some point, the new Council and the Mayor will either have to learn to talk and consider compromises that move our City forward, or we will have 4 years of gridlock.

[edited to add: My mistake, 18 votes is not veto-proof.  According to the Indianapolis Code, a 2/3 majority is needed to override a veto.  That calculates to 19.33 votes required - so I assume 20 are in reality required to override.  This makes discussion by the Council and Mayor even more imperative.  On a smoking ban, even if Mansfield can get all 16 Ds and Ben Hunter, Ryan Vaughn, and Mike McQuillen to vote for her proposal, it would not be enough votes to overturn a Ballard veto.]

Monday, November 14, 2011

Council Meets Tonight

The City-County Council will hold its first lame duck meeting tonight.  The agenda is posted on the Council website.

A few items caught my eye.

Of interest tonight is Prop 303, which, unless an agreement has been reached by both sides, would cause the Council to hear a zoning matter - petition 2011-CZN-825 (2855 N. Keystone Ave.) which was approved by the MDC on October 5, 2011.  A brief review of the online documents, including staff report, suggests that Herman & Kittle want to rezone 1.6 acres from commercial uses to a multi-family residential use.  They want a 3 story, 56-unit building.  The current planning staff recommended denial of the petition, primarily due to how different this use and structure would be from the surrounding neighborhood of single story residences and a community center.  Should the matter go to a full hearing by the Council, a 2/3 majority vote of the Council is required to overturn the decision of the MDC.

Prop 286 is kind of peculiar, in that it appropriates about $8 million for this year's budget, $7.6 million of which is for debt service.  The proposal says that it will all be paid with new revenues.  One has to wonder how a) somebody missed the need for $7.6 million in debt service payments due in 2011, and b) failed to appropriate the money during the budget process for 2011.  Debt service schedules are highly predictable.

Props 286, 304, 307,  and 308, excluding the debt service noted above, adds $1.9 million to the current budgets of 6 departments or agencies (Mayor's Office, Department of Code Enforcement, Public Defender, Cooperative Extension, Community Corrections, and Superior Court) and cuts the current budget of the County Prosecutor by $211,500.  Now, just over $600,000 is from newly obtained grant money, which certainly needs to be appropriated.  But, in a twist, the entire $1.9 million would be reduced by $1.5 million if Prop 309, which is being introduced tonight, is passed.  Prop 309 cuts 24 budgets by a total of $16 million, "for the purpose of ensuring the city and county have adequate fund balances going into 2012 and beyond".

Also being introduced tonight are three Proposals authored by Councillor Angela Mansfield aimed at the unilateral decision of Council President, Ryan Vaughn, to expend $50,000 for redrawing precinct lines and another $225,000 for redrawing Council District lines.  Indy Star reporter, Jon Murray, has a really good article on this set of proposals in today's paperProp 315 would censure Vaughn for the expenditure and remove him from the Presidency.  Prop 316 would rescind the contract to redraw Council District lines and hold the money for use next year.  Prop 317 would require any expenditure over $500 by the Council officers to be approved by the Council's Committee on Committees.  All three will be assigned to the Rules committee.

Two more proposals to be introduced tonight are tied together.  Prop 336 appropriates $2 million from the Rebuild Indy fund, to a charter school incubator to be created by a partnership with the Mind Trust.  Prop 338 creates an Office of Education Innovation, a Board to oversee it, and the charter school incubator.  It further grants the Director of the OEI, the authority to approve sending back to the non-profit, all of the County Option Income Tax revenue collected from employees of any Marion County non-profit that "is committed to reform and improve educational outcomes in our county".  All 5 members of the Board would be appointed by the Mayor and may either reside or work in Marion County as one of the minimum qualifications.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Fun With Math - Voting Stats

As I read about the election day results, the percentage turnout caught my eye.  As I usually do, I wondered why we pin so much faith in the calculated turnout percentage of registered voters.  There is usually mention of how low it is relative to the importance of the election - whichever election one might be talking about just after that election day.  And, to a point I agree.

However, the list of registered voters is very difficult too purge.  If any of us were to view the list for our neighborhood, we likely would pick out names of deceased or moved voters.

Here's a little math for your Friday. 

First - how many eligible voters in Marion County would you guess are registered to vote?  Pick a percentage - any percentage.  From those on my block, I'd guess a high percentage would be 50%.

The election board website gives us the results from this election.  It notes a total of 604,641 registered voters and 181,171 ballots cast for a turnout of just under 30%.

But, the 2010 census counts a Marion County total population of 903,393 with 25% under the age of 18.  A little math gives us an eligible voting population in our county of 676,641. 

Now if 604,641 people were registered to vote, out of an eligible voting population of 676,641, that would calculate out to a staggering registration rate of 89% !

If my anecdotal 50% rate from my block were to hold upon inspection throughout the county, that would indicate that 44% of the registered voter list is erroneous.  This would further lead to the calculated conclusion that just over half of the registered voters turned out to vote in the latest election; or 54%.

So, with all that hand waving and number crunching, what we have is a clear conclusion that we simply must find a way to either purge the voter registration list of dead and moved voters, or, begin to note that the voter turnout isn't anywhere near as low as it appears when a bad voter list is used as part of the calculation.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Nasty Politics - A Backlash Maybe?

While they say that negative ads are used because they work, results from yesterday's elections are suggestive of a different paradigm.  Yesterday there was some backlash on the Melina Kennedy campaign because of race baiting tactics undoubtedly initiated by Ed Treacy, Chairman of the Democratic County Party, but likely signed off on by Kennedy herself.

Treacy engaged in a laundry list of gutter politics and attempted intimidation.  He is a stain upon the Party and the good people in it.

Up in the northside, Christine Scales appears to have won reelection as District 4 Councillor, defeating the the enormously funded Kostas Poulakidas by all of 39 votes.  One of the mysteries of this campaign season is why the Star remained silent about the postcard smear tactics used by the Poulakidas' side against Scales.  Well, at least they will be following what anyone would expect now - a recount.

So, for this time at least, nasty politics did not determine the ultimate outcome.  That is a good thing.

The Council and the Mayor are of different political persuasions for the next four years.  Facts are, beyond the political posturing for impact's sake, there is not a huge difference between the 'sides' and there is much room for amicable relations - if hatchets can be buried, politics removed for a while, and clear heads prevail.  Another thing is, there is not much wiggle room to finance any modest, much less grandiose, 'visions'.  The budget I saw passed by the Council for 2012 is likely too 'small' to actually do all the things that were promised, much less accommodate many additional services. 

But, at the end of the day, two honest perspectives offered without hidden agendas can often lead to improved outcomes.  Let us hope that the Council and the Mayor can find their way to move in that direction and lay the best foundation for Indianapolis' future.

Friday, November 4, 2011


A lie is a most curious thing.

Lies cover a spectrum - from one end, telling a lie indicates you are a good person, and at the other end, it proves you are not.

Our tolerance for lying is a personal thing.  Much like salt on food, the point of 'too much' varies by individual and it is one of those things that are hard to pin down, but we all know it when we see it.

I would also offer the thought that there is a situational aspect to our tolerance for lies.  Again using the salt analogy, more salt is expected on potatoes but not on ice cream.

Such as it is, lying is part of our political contests.  From small omissions of fact to improve a candidate's appeal, to knowingly false accusations of the worst sort against one's opponent - we have seen it all in this race for Mayor and Council.

Our individual tolerance has been tested.  Some respond much better to the worst of lies if it is their party or their preferred candidate doing the lying.  What would shock and appall if it were done by the 'other side', is grudgingly embraced by some as 'just how the game is played', simply because it is 'their side' doing it.

Every member of a political party has as much right as any other to demand either a high ethical standard, or let a low standard prevail.  Each may not have the same power to achieve those demands.  However, when you vote you can, and I would suggest should, consider it in your choices of which candidates to vote for.  Is your candidate and your party fairly representing your values and standards in their actual conduct during the campaign?  How far askew have they gone by your reckoning?  Do they deserve your vote, given how their conduct reflects on their character?

We can all lament election time as the silly season and proclaim how we will be glad when all the negative ads are gone.  But if we, with our vote, condone the most egregious tactics, then we are part of the problem.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

What's Going On At Early Voting?

Let me say from the outset that I am a big fan of Marion County Clerk, Beth White.  I was not always, but when she stepped up to take the responsibility after her first election went terribly wrong - then made vast improvements over even the previous status quo - well, she earned my admiration.

I fully realize the budget constraints under which her office is operating and White's commitment to the efficient use of taxpayer funds.  But, even with that, I have to question what is being reported by fellow blogger Josh Featherstone over at Featherstone On Government.  I have only recently become aware of Featherstone's blog, but am impressed with the quality of the writing.  I suggest everyone read his latest entry "Problems with Early Voting at the Clerk's Office Today?" in its entirety.

Featherstone relates his experience while voting at the Early Voting Center in the Clerk's Office of the City-County Building.  He points out that the election board is using early voting ballot envelopes that are from the last primary.  Highlighted on those envelopes are the blanks that must be filled in - well, must be filled in if the ballot going into them are primary ballots.  One of the highlighted questions apparently is party affiliation.  Featherstone writes:
The first problems lie at your first stop, the entry desk where you complete the information on your envelope. See, the areas of essential information you need to fill out have been highlighted for you. The problem is, many (if not all) of the envelopes in use are left over from the primary. The problem with that is that the section asking for you to declare a party for your ballot are highlighted.
I'm knowledgeable enough about politics that I am aware that declaration does not occur in a general election, only in a primary. I asked why it was highlighted, the gentleman said it was a leftover from primary and to ignore it. Then the gentleman to my right asked why he had to declare and was told the same thing. The person to my left did not ask, and checked the box for a political party.

It makes me wonder his many people didn't bother or know to ask, and just checked a party. If there, God forbid, was a nefarious election worker, they would then have clear indication of what ballots to "misplace" on election day.
Featherstone hit the nail on the head.  What of the potential for abuse offered by these leftover ballot envelopes.  Elections are not only supposed to be above board, they are supposed to be preventative of abuses. 

I am also left wondering about how these many pre-highlighted ballot envelopes remain from the May primary?  Yes, I can see having leftover envelopes in goodly quantities.  Its just that over 6000 people are reported to have voted early already for the November 8 election.  How is it that there were over 6000 leftover ballots that were already highlighted by hand? 

White's integrity on election matters is above reproach in my mind.  But, what I think does not matter.  The use of old ballot envelopes may be fiscally prudent, but their use with pre-highlighted requests for statement of party affiliation is logically imprudent.  If this election ends up being close, these old ballot envelopes may just be fodder for not only an appeal, but fodder for an electorate who does not recognize the ultimate victor's legitimacy.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Latest Tid-Bits About Broad Ripple Parking Garage

There are a few tid-bits that have accumulated recently, regarding the proposed Broad Ripple parking garage.  The simplest thing is to list them in one blog entry just to expedite getting the information out.

1) Old Marathon Gas Station site sold -  A sales disclosure form is available on the State's DLGF website that shows the Marathon Gas Station site at 6280 N. College Avenue was sold to 6280, LLC, on August 29, 2011, for $1.8 million.  Compare this price to the assessed value of $999,800.  Marathon made out great in this deal.  It always helps to have the government tossing money into a project like this.  Free money leads to price inflation.

I could find no sales disclosure form for the old Marcos Pizza parcel at 6286 N. College.  It appears to remain owned by 6286, LLC.  Who is behind that LLC is a mystery, except that the bills are sent c/o Todd Morris.  Morris is listed as the Parking Manager for Newport Parking - one of the players in Keystone Group, LLC, who submitted the winning proposal for the garage.

2) Significant site plan changes have been made - When the developer and City officials met with the Broad Ripple Village Association months ago, they pitched the garage using a specific site plan.  They promised at the time, to return for approval of any significant changes to that site plan.  Well, a new site plan was submitted as part of the new Variance request.  This new plan is significantly different, yet no imput on the changes has been sought from the BRVA or other neighborhood groups representing residents in the area.

Here is the first site plan floated to the BRVA:

Here is the current site plan:

You can see that, among configuration changes to the retail space and it's access, the retail parking spaces have been eliminated as designated spaces.  There are 10 new spaces in the southwest corner that appear to be outside of the garage itself.  The 18 spaces shown to the south are actually associated with the Broad Ripple Animal Clinic, and not with the garage itself.

The owner and Veterinarian Dr. David Brunner has been critical of the garage in public meetings.  He cited a study by his attorney, Steve Mears, which concludes that parking garages on non-rectangular lots have a typical price of $15,000 per space.  This garage weighs in at a hefty $27,000 per space.  Hmmm... 

3) Traffic Impact Study under way - The City is undertaking a traffic impact study for the Westfield / College intersection, with a particular interest in alternative configurations that might optimize pedestrian safety.  One possibility thrown out there is that the City is contemplating increasing the width of the sidewalk on the east side of the proposed garage, and a concomitant decrease in lane width of the vehicle lanes on College Avenue.  More on this particular point once I get a copy of a vacation petition that an alert reader of this blog mentioned in the comments section of my last entry.

The City has already stated that it will cover all expenses related to street improvements around the garage site.  It now sounds like significant changes to the streetscape are being envisioned.  To what cost, we do not know.  That puts into further doubt the statement that this garage proposal was the best submitted.  The need to at least consider revamping the streetscape just adds to the fact that the garage as proposed does not legally fit on the lot, cannot accommodate any more than 305 spaces, and cannot adequately accommodate a bank drive-through teller lane without variances.  (see my last blog entry "Broad Ripple Parking Garage - Someone Forgot To Which End Of The Horse The Cart Is Attached")

That's it for today.  Expect more to come on this 'not-ready-for-prime-time' garage (with apologies to Saturday Night Live).

Friday, October 28, 2011

Broad Ripple Parking Garage - Someone Forgot To Which End Of The Horse You Attach The Cart

The saga of the Broad Ripple Garage continues, and does so in unerringly the wrong order.

For background you can read my earlier posts on the garage (see "Tidbits on the Broad Ripple Parking Garage", "Are Taxpayer Dollars Being Flagrantly Misused?", "BZA Decisions Contributed Mightily To Broad Ripple Parking Situation", "Broad Ripple Parking Garage - More BZA Decisions Noted - Running Total 320", "More News About Broad Ripple Parking Garage Deal - Sheesh!", and "BZA Decisions Impact Our Community In Tangible Ways - Parking In Broad Ripple".

For the latest news, that the agreement between the City and the Keystone Group has been inked down and contains some aspects that run counter to comments by both Council President Ryan Vaughn and Mayor Greg Ballard, see Paul Ogden's "The Tale of the Broad Ripple Parking Garage: Taxpayers to Pay to Build the Facility While Developer Gets 100% of the Ownership and Revenue".

This blog entry is about the fact that the developer has filed a variance asking for a few things that might make you wonder why these things are coming up AFTER the proposal was submitted and accepted and even AFTER the deal was inked down.

The hearing date is now set for 1 pm, November 15, in the public assembly room of the City-County Building.
Yes, petition 2011-DV2-021 asks for a few variances.
1) they want permission to build retail space and parking space at or below flood level without the required structural flood proofing for the building
2) they want permission to build the building 40 feet closer to Westfield Blvd and 35 feet closer to College Ave than allowed by ordinance
3) they want permission to reduce the size of the parking spaces themselves from 10 by 18 feet down to 8.75 by 18 feet (meaning they can only legally fit 305 spaces and not the promised 350 spaces if the variance is denied)
4) they want permission to locate a drive-through lane for a bank that will block parking spaces set aside for the bank, with that lane too short by about 6 car lengths as well.

So, you say the ground floor risks getting flooded?  And you say you can't fit the required building size on the lot legally?  And you are telling us that you really could only fit 305 spaces in the building you proposed in the winning proposal - not the promised 350?

And yet the City of Indianapolis said you had the best, most responsive proposal?  And furthermore, even after knowing you would need all of these variances just to squeeze, tuck, and constrict the spaces onto a lot obviously inadequate for the purpose, the City of Indianapolis still went through with the deal and signed the contract?

Wow !  Keystone Group (now going by 6280, LLC, for this project)  must have some fan-tas-tic salesmanship talents !

Here's the problem with granting these variances.  There will be tight turns in the basically triangular building that inebriated patrons of nearby bars will be trying to navigate after their night on the town.  If anyone could use a full size parking space to get in and out of, it surely are these patrons.  Then, because the lot is really a baaad choice, customers of the garage will be coming and going across congested streets to get in and out of the garage in their cars, and then crossing busy congested streets to get to and from the bars.  That sounds like a recipe for problems.

If rational thought is to prevail, the requested variances must be denied.  That will send the deal back to ground zero where it belongs and where some sanity can be regained by the City to kill this deal off.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What Makes Pay-To-Play?

I noted in my last blog post that while some of the PACs contributing to the candidates have names that tell you who is behind that PAC, some do not.

Today we look at the PAC named Citizens for Excellence In Government.  In the last two years this PAC has given $34,000 to the Kennedy campaign and $15,000 to the Ballard Campaign.  These figures are from the PAC campaign finance filings with the State of Indiana, as well as contributions reported by the candidates and posted on the Election Board website through yesterday.

Turns out there have been two primary contributors to Citizens for Excellence in Government PAC in the last couple of years. One is an individual, Alex Oak, and the other is LC Investors, LLC.   State PAC finance records posted online go only up to the 2011 pre-primary report.  Posted records show that during all of 2010 and up through 4/8 of 2011, the PAC took in $64,200 in contributions.  Oak gave $31,000 of that and LC Investors, LLC, gave $25,000.  I do not have access to the donors of record from 4/8/11 through yesterday, as the 2011 pre-election campaign finance report for the PAC has not yet been posted on the Secretary of State's website.

But, you get the picture.  A great deal of money has flowed to the two campaigns through this PAC that has two main contributors.

So, who are the contributors?

Alex Oak is Chairman, CEO, and Partner at Paul I. Cripe, Inc., d/b/a Cripe Architects + Engineers.  There is surprisingly little information about LC Investors, LLC.  Their registered agent is Stephen W. Lee who is a partner at Barnes and Thornburg who specializes in Real Estate Development.  There is one news story from the IBJ wherein LC Investors, LLC, is mentioned as a creditor in the bankruptcy of Flaherty & Collins Properties.

A review of Paul I. Cripe, Inc., in the City's contract database reveals 8 contracts - two originating in the Peterson administration and the rest in the Ballard administration.  Contract 1354 originated in 2005 and was for $25,000.  Contract 1425 originated in 2007 for $2.1 million.  That was extended in 2009, 2010, and 2011, adding $668,880 to the original amount. Contracts 8033, 8108, 8403, and 8284 originated in 2010 for a grand total that year of $691,143.74.  Contracts 9314 and 9115 have been inked down so far this year for a total this year of $406,826.  Grand total of two contracts under Peterson was $2,125,000.  Grand total of 6 contracts plus three extensions of a Peterson contract under Ballard was $1,766,849.74.

Did Oak contribute to this PAC to further the cause of 'excellence in government'?  Who knows.  Were any of these contracts and donations used in Kennedy's supposed calculation of pay-to-play schemes by Ballard?  Who knows.  That list has not been revealed beyond the Indy Star.  A review by the Star did find that Kennedy's claims were overblown (see my blog entry "Is the Kennedy Campaign in Trouble?")

So, if these contracts are extended in a Kennedy administration, or if new contracts are awarded to Paul I. Cripe, Inc., will that be considered by the Kennedy camp to be pay-to-play politics?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Large Contributions - Kennedy & Ballard 2011

I have gone through all campaign finance reports for both Melina Kennedy and Greg Ballard for the entire year to date (as of yesterday, October 25) and compiled a list of contributors whose total donations equal at least $10,000 since January 1, 2011.  A number of these contributors gave to both campaigns, but not to both in such large amounts.

Before I get into the list, I must note that the Kennedy campaign finance reports are deliberately randomized as to dates and alphabetical order of donors.  If you'd like to see for yourself, look for Lacy Johnson in Kennedy's pre-election report.  He made a large number of donations over the time period, but you will find his name scattered throughout the individual donors portion of the report.  Even then, the dates of his donations are not sequential.  These campaign finance reports may meet the letter of the law, but their deliberate randomization makes reviewing them extremely difficult.  They speak poorly of Kennedy's commitment to transparency.

Below I list the names of the individuals and organizations whose contributions amounted to at least $10,000 during 2011.  I have rounded off to the nearest dollar to make scanning the list easier.  I also segmented the lists into individual donors, corporations, political action committees, labor, and 'other'.

The overall outcome is that Ballard took in 28 large donations totalling $411,315 while Kennedy took in 29 large donations totalling $722,711.  This amounts to 24% of Ballard's total itemized donations for the year and 35% of Kennedy's.  Kennedy took in no large donations from corporations.  Neither took in any large donations from Labor (although many Labor organizations have set up PACs which did make large donations).

Christopher BurkeNaperville, IL$10,000
Christal DeHaanIndy35,000
Russell FortuneIndy10,000
Russell Fortune III (may be same person as above)Indy10,000
James IrsayIndy10,000
Scott JonesCarmel10,000
Phillip KuntzFishers10,000
Bhagwan PatelIndy10,000
Beurt SerVaasIndy10,000
Herbert SimonIndy20,000
Ray SkillmanIndy10,000
Randall M TobiasCarmel10,000
James WadeIndy10,000
Dean WhiteMerrillville25,000

7 Ray Skillman business locations

HNTB Holdings Ltd. PACKansas City, MO

Barnes & Thornburg, LLPIndy$20,329
Bose McKinney & Evans, LLPIndy15,000
Bruce White & E White JTWROSChicago, IL25,000
Central Canal Holdings FC LLCIndy10,000
DLZ Indiana, LLCSouth Bend11,000
Downey Racing, LLCAvon10,000
Hunt / Smoot Midfield Builders LLCScottsdale, AZ10,000
Indiana Republican State Central CommiteeIndy23,179
M & J Management LLCIndy20,000
REI Real Estate Services, LLCCarmel25,000
Ruth's Chris Steak House - Hoosier LP and Terra LP (two PACs)Indy17807

David B BeckerFortville$10,000
George A Buskirk Jr.Zionsville10,000
Gregory F HahnIndy15,975
Jason R HeslerIndy10,400
Alan P HoganIndy10,400
Lacy M JohnsonIndy24,642
Dennis MehielValhalla, NY10,000
Alan K MillsIndy10,500
Anne NoblesIndy10,000
Deborah J SimonCarmel10,000
Herb SimonIndy10,000
Cindy Simon SkjodtCarmel29,199
Ann M StackIndy38,035

Citizens for Excellence in GovtIndy$16,800
DPBG Political Action CommitteeIndy12,000
EMILY's List-NF FundWashington, DC10,000
IBEW Educational CommitteeWashington, DC27,500
Local 135 DRIVEIndy10,500
Midwest Region Laborers' Political Action LeagueSpringfield, IL25,000
Taft, Stettinius & Hollister Better Gov't FundIndy13,500
UAW Region 3 Victory FundIndy45,000
Victory 2010 CommitteeIndy105,000

Barnes and Thornburg LLPIndy$10,358
The Bart Peterson for Mayor CommitteeIndy60,000
Bose McKinney and Evans LLPIndy25,958
Brightpoint Eclipse, LLCIndy81,000
Hunt / Smoot Midfield Builders, A Joint VentureScottsdale, AZ10,500
Indiana Democratic PartyIndy60,394
Jonathan Weinzapfel for Mayor CommitteeEvansville10,000

Many of the PACs have names that reflect who they represent.  I will post about some of the others in later blog entries.  

Tully Takes Stand On Negative Ads

Star Columnist, Matt Tully, has taken on the negative ads and laid the bulk of the reponsibility on the Kennedy campaign.  In today's edition, Tully admits he favors Kennedy, however the tactics being employed undermine her message, and will leave a stain on her administration should she be elected.

He says:
If elected mayor in two weeks, Melina Kennedy promises to usher in to city government what she calls a spirit of collaboration and a bold effort to tackle, from the ground level and with the help of many people, the city's massive education problems.
Kennedy talks often about overcoming the city's challenges by working closely with neighborhood groups and building tight relationships with community leaders, teachers and other residents. The core of her campaign message seems to be a vow to rally Indianapolis residents around the notion that the city can be greater. Her team says she can be the force that brings competing factions and diverse interests together.

It's a compelling message -- one that anyone who has read my column in recent weeks knows has swayed me toward Kennedy as Election Day approaches. I'm convinced that Indianapolis needs a mayor who can persuade residents to embrace tough solutions to our biggest challenges, and Kennedy seems to have an ability to get people around her excited and motivated.

And that is what makes the topic of today's column -- the relentlessly negative and exaggerated television and radio ad campaign Kennedy has run -- so disheartening. For weeks, she has pummeled incumbent Mayor Greg Ballard, by all accounts a decent and honest man, with phony and unfair attack ads portraying him as everything from a corrupt fat cat politician to a reckless big spender eager to raise taxes.

Meanwhile, she has sat back while the nasty and bullying leaders in the Marion County Democratic Party air radio ads on African-American stations suggesting, at the very least, racial insensitivity on Ballard's part, invoking an unwelcome dose of racial politics into the campaign.

Finally, her campaign has needlessly dragged Deputy Mayor Michael Huber through the mud. That's a particularly infuriating tactic. In 19 years of covering politics, I don't think I've ever dealt with a more impressive, sincere and dedicated political aide than Huber, a young father who spends his days eager to find solutions to the city's biggest problems, including efforts to transform the city's infrastructure.

Huber is exactly the type of person we need in politics -- collaborative, creative and smart. But the attacks against him explain why so many good people avoid public service.

For months, I've listened to Kennedy's speeches. I've read her position papers. I've spent hours talking to her about issues such as crime, education and her vision for the city. She is a master of policy and has big ideas about what the city can achieve. She is an impressive communicator and a tireless worker. She's pretty much sold me; I believe a Kennedy administration could do big things.

But this much is clear: The tenor of her paid-media campaign does her candidacy a horrible disservice. And it is turning many people off.

Repeatedly, I have talked to voters, both Democrats and Republicans, who mention with disappointment the nonstop negativity coming out of the Kennedy campaign. This week, I talked to a friend who said she went to bed Sunday night, after watching the final mayoral debate, excited about Kennedy. But after seeing a handful of attack ads during the local news the next morning, she'd changed her mind.

It's just too mean, she said.

For the record, Ballard's campaign has run negative ads, too. But Kennedy went first, forcing Ballard to respond, and the ads coming from her campaign are more personal; they are filled with much more dangerous allegations. And, of late, they have come without any balance. It's as if her campaign has decided to go all negative, all the time in these final weeks.

In the end, it might work. Fear and anger clearly motivate voters, and those emotions have helped retire many incumbent politicians in recent years.

But there is a cost. And it's far too steep, particularly for a candidate with Kennedy's potential and in a city that desperately needs leaders who can bring people together.

A campaign too heavily based on mean-spirited messages will leave a lasting stain. If Kennedy is elected, and I still hope she is, voters will remember not just that she won but also how she won. Ultimately, she will learn that harsh campaign tactics make it much harder to bring about the type of positive change she so often talks about outside her TV ads.

That would be a shame. That would be harmful for Indianapolis. That's why Kennedy should stop the silliness and end her campaign on a different, much more uplifting note.
While I'm not the fan of Huber that Tully is, I think he painted the rest of the picture quite well.  Time is running short and there are repercussions that may outweigh the benefits to the tactics being embraced by Kennedy's campaign.  I know in my house, which is composed of Liberal Democrats, the majority are now voting for Ballard precisely because of Kennedy's actions.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Campaign Finance - Ballard & Kennedy, 2011

I have pulled together the entire year's contributions, as of today (large donation supplemental reports are being filed daily), and totaled the sources for the itemized donations for both Greg Ballard and Melina Kennedy.  The campaign finance reports are available on the Election Board website - for Mayoral candidates specifically, click here.

Itemized Campaign Contributions - 1-1-11 through 10-24-11
total itemized$1,723,067.80$2,067,977.37

Many labor organizations have formed PACs, and their contributions show up in that category.

The 'other' category includes businesses that are not formed as corporations (law firms, LLCs, etc), and donations from political and candidate organizations. 

Individual donation totals were pretty darned close, with Kennedy taking the edge.

Ballard took in twice as much from corporations, but Kennedy outpaced him more than 4 to 1 in donations from PACs.  Kennedy scored slightly better than Ballard in the 'other' category of donors.

As of the pre-election campaign finance report filed last week (covering through 10-14-11), Ballard had $886,435.37 cash on hand, while Kennedy had $738,126.19.  Since that report, Ballard has filed reports of large donations (greater than $1000 each) totalling $35,000, while Kennedy reports total large donations of $47,000.  However, no smaller donations or any expenditures are reported since 10-14-11.

Indy Star Calls Ballard's Comments Like They Were

Today's Indy Star editorial calls out the Kennedy campaign - softly, but still it calls it out - on their deliberate warping of the facts to suit their gutter politics (my accurate choice of words, not the Stars').  Here is what they had to say:
In response to a question about high unemployment rates among racial and ethnic minorities in Indianapolis, Mayor Greg Ballard, in an Oct. 15 televised debate, made reference to a "difficult population" in connection with his administration's efforts to create jobs in the urban core.

Was it the "gotcha'' moment of the 2011 Indianapolis mayoral campaign, an indication of the incumbent's lack of respect for or insensitivity to minorities in the city? Marion County Democrats clearly think so. They've been running a hard-hitting radio ad in support of challenger Melina Kennedy that blasts Ballard's quote as an "outrage."

Let's agree that the mayor's phrasing was awkward. Ballard never will be mistaken for an eloquent public speaker. But a fair reading of his comments, kept in context -- and, more important, his record over the past four years -- should dispel fears that Ballard doesn't care about or hasn't tried to reduce joblessness among minorities, especially for African-Americans and Latinos. One example: The city during Ballard's term has significantly increased the number of women-, minority- and veteran-owned enterprises that it does business with.

The fact remains, however, that the unemployment rate among blacks is unacceptably high. That's true not only in Indianapolis but also the nation as a whole. In August, the national unemployment rate for blacks (16.7 percent) reached its highest level since 1984. It declined slightly, to 16 percent, in September, but the long-term trend is discouraging. The unemployment rate for blacks has stayed above 10 percent for more than four years, and many economists predict that it will stay that high for years to come.

Several factors help explain why the unemployment rate among blacks is higher than in the general population. Black workers tend to be younger and less experienced and have a lower level of educational attainment than the American workforce on average. Those are stiff challenges -- difficulties? -- in the best of times. In a stubbornly weak economy, it's a formula for deep suffering and despair.

Given that reality, a few awkward words in the heat of a political debate should have little lasting significance. Far more important is ensuring that this community does all it can to create a fertile environment for jobs to be created, and to ensure that all racial and ethnic groups have the opportunities and skills they need to thrive in the workplace.
My party can do better than this and Democrats need to demand it.