Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Pre-K Investment Will Make Difference for Indy

I watched most of Monday night's City-County Council meeting from my living room on Monday night.  It's so good to have WCTY, and they do such a tremendous job of bringing City-County government to everyone across Marion County.

With interest, I watched the debate over the Pre-K plan that was passed.  I remembered what a struggle it was to get that proposal to the floor for a vote.  It took a tremendous amount of negotiation from what Mayor Greg Ballard originally wanted to what actually got sent to his desk for his signature.  It was an example of what the Council does right and an example of how compromise is not a dirty word.

The $4.2 million we will spend on the plan as taxpayers will bring in millions more in investment from private industry if the plan is successful, and that will provide millions of dollars for families to jump start the education of their youngsters.  It will also be an investment in education, and that benefits the entire community.

I don't buy it as a crimefighting technique, and I share the concerns of many Councillors who believe we don't do enough to build up the infrastructure of our city in roads and sidewalks, but I believe this plan builds up the intellectual infrastructure of our city.

Crime is something we need to pay attention to, and it's indeed great to hear homicides are way down in Indy so far this year.  I believe we could do more to help our teens and young people from turning to a life of crime, and I think we need to make that investment on that end of education as well.

We can discuss these important topics in the months to come, but this plan to invest in the education of our children is one way Democrats and Republicans came together to make a difference.  I know not everyone will agree, but it's a no brainer, in my opinion.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

House of Cards or House of Congress?

Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu
It seems more like a story line out of House of Cards: Congress going rogue and taking the extraordinary step of inviting a foreign leader to speak to Congress without consulting with the President. 

Unfortunately, that’s what will happen in reality today in Washington. The United States Congress is Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest campaign stop in his bid to keep his seat as Prime Minister in Israel, and Republicans are more than willing to be used as props as a foreign leader likely criticizes an American President on U.S. soil.

I want to be clear.  While I have my problems with Netanyahu, I understand his position as Prime Minister of Israel.  He feels he must do what keeps Israelis safe.  I also believe that with a tinderbox of nations around Israel that want to do it nothing but harm, it puts the country's Prime Minister constantly on the defensive.  I find Netanyahu personally a fascinating figure, and I have since I first became familiar with him in the 1990's.

That said, I believe many Republicans have a blind spot when it comes to Israel.  While I accept them as our friend and ally, I believe that Republicans and even some Democrats give the country and its leadership too wide of a berth.  Israel can not only defend itself against foreign enemies, but it has shown the ability to go overboard at times.

Thankfully, more than a few Democrats, including Indy’s own Congressman, Andre Carson, have seen through the politics of the speech. They won’t attend the speech. President Obama won’t be meeting with Bibi, either. The Vice President will also give Netanyahu’s speech the cold shoulder when he addresses the joint session of Congress.

All I have to say is that Congress is lucky Frank Underwood isn’t the President. Underwood likely would find a way to upstage Bibi’s speech and chaos would ensue. 

It’s clear that the Republican leadership in the House and Senate have gone rogue. It’s a dangerous precedent to set. Sure, President Obama has taken unilateral action, but his Executive Orders must pass legal muster. There’s no real litmus test for a Congress that has so heinously flaunted its own will and by extension dragged the American people into a far-off election.

Just imagine the uproar from Republicans if President Obama were to be invited by a foreign country to speak to their legislature just two weeks before a critical election.

Democrats aren’t doing that. They are simply doing what Americans have done for years when they disagree with something: boycott it. I wish Pete Visclosky and Joe Donnelly would join Congressman Carson and stand with the President against this moment in American history where Congress overstepped its bounds and an opportunistic politician played them like a fiddle.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Hill Still Considering Gubernatorial Bid

Baron Hill
Baron Hill has made some noise about running for Governor.

The former U.S. Representative certainly fits the bio for a Democrat that might do well statewide.  He's no liberal and usually finds himself somewhere in the middle politically.  In Congress, he was a member of the blue dog Democrats.

His experience is a great asset.  Hill served in the Indiana House for eight years before leaving to run for Senate.  He was unsuccessful in that campaign against Dan Coats which was to fill out the remaining term of Vice President Dan Quayle.

After a few years in private life, Hill returned to public life and ran for Congress in 1998.  He would be reelected in 2000 and 2002.  In 2004, Mike Sodrel tripped him up, but Hill returned in 2006 to reclaim the seat and held on to it again in 2008.  In 2010, Hill was swept out of office by the Republican tide in that election giving way to Todd Young.  Since then, Hill has been doing a variety of things including what many former legislators do...opened up a lobbying business.

So now, he's refreshed again and apparently wants to explore a run for Governor after six years.  He says he will decide this month.

I think Hill brings a lot of baggage with him that makes him a much easier target to politically attack than some of the other candidates.  One of his biggest faux pas came on the campaign trail in 2010.  When video of him inartfully handling a question from a young journalist came to light.  Hill came off looking very bad in the clip, and I would assume that video would show up again.  In many parts of Indiana, Hill's vote for Obamacare likely won't go over well, either.  The baggage of a voting record in Congress can certainly be a problem.

There's no question, however, that Hill would be a good candidate for Governor.  He can raise money, and he knows how to do retail politics.  Nothing I mentioned in the above paragraph is, in itself, a problem that cannot be overcome with a strong campaign.

Baron Hill remains a name to watch for 2016.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

History Repeats in Indiana

Senator Scott Schneider
Indiana is going down a dangerous path, and we've seen it before.

The Indiana House is about ready to take up the so-called "religious liberty" bill that passed out of the Senate on a 40-10 vote on Tuesday.

It's a bill that is less about religious liberty and more about fear of those that you don't approve of.  That's what this is really about.

State Senator Scott Schneider claims that this bill is not a "sword" but instead a "shield" allowing people to protect themselves from doing business with those they disagree with by hiding behind the legislation.  Really, it's another affront to LGBT Hoosiers who are once again being told, "You may be able to marry like us, but you'll never be the same as us.  Just to be sure, we're going to try to codify that into law."

We can already see what kinds of trouble a bill like this can cause.  Just look to the north in Michigan where they don't have this type of bill.  Just a few days ago, news broke that a pediatrician refused to see the child of a lesbian couple.  Imagine an emergency room doctor or nurse refusing to treat a gay person or a gay person's family member because of their religious beliefs.

If Schneider's legislation seems familiar, it is.  It's very much the same exact type of legislation that was passed in the post-slavery South to justify treating those of a different skin color in a different manner.  I'm not comparing the plight of LGBT Americans to those of African-Americans, but I believe treating people differently because of something they cannot change about themselves is not right.  It is not only wrong, but it goes against the teachings of many religions.  It goes against the teachings of Jesus Christ.

What Scott Schneider and those of his ilk are afraid to say is that they have passed this legislation because they don't want to bridge the gap between fear and understanding.  It is just easier to discriminate.  That it's a lot more simple to try to stand behind this legislative shield than it is to go about the business of tolerance and understanding.

I beg the Indiana House to do the right thing and vote down this law.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Indy Council Committee Approves Angie's List Deal

A City-County Council Committee voted on Monday to advance the Angie's List "stimulus" to the full Council.

I still can't figure out why the city is so enamored with this company.

Here's the deal, Angie's List wants to take over the old Ford plant on the near-Eastside and create over 1,000 jobs.  They also want over $18 million in tax incentives to do so.  The Metropolitan and Economic Development Committee approved the deal which would also move an IPS Maintenance Facility.

If this were Eli Lilly or even Anthem, I could maybe get on board with this expansion, but this is Angie's List.  It's a company that continues to struggle to even get close to turning a profit, has laid off workers as recently as August 2014, and has a business model that is essentially the same thing offered by tons of other free sites that review products and help people select the best choices.

If I want to know about a plumber, for example, I don't go to Angie's List.  I go to Google!

So, here we are, handing out more in tax incentives, and my friends, both Republican and Democrat, are championing it.  Yes, I know it benefits your districts, but what about the rest of the city?

To the naysayers, the Councillors say don't worry.  If Angie's List fails, you'll get some of the money back because the deal does have some clawbacks
I guess I've just seen too many of these bad deals up close.  Here in my area of town, we still suffer from the United Maintenance Facility deal that didn't come close to producing what it said it would.

I swear I sound like a fiscal conservative on this stuff, but I just guess I can't bear to hand out cash to a company with nearly a 20 year record of what I would consider dubious business decisions.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

House Vote Puts Common Wage Law in Peril

Indiana AFL-CIO President
Brett Voorhies
Indiana's common construction wage law has served the state well for 80 years, but it's now up to the Indiana Senate to keep it from going by the wayside.

In another attack on working families, House Republicans voted 55-41 to kill the common construction wage law citing free market concerns.  It's such a bad idea that 13 Republicans joined with the Democrats in opposition.

AFL-CIO President Brett Voorhies put it far more eloquently than I can.  In a statement released yesterday, he said:

“With (yesterday)’s vote in the House of Representatives, the Republican supermajority has attacked the wages of working Hoosiers, a successful private sector business model and the autonomy of local governments. For decades the common construction wage has created a level playing field for contractors bidding on public projects, ensured skilled, local workers were hired and compensated appropriately and delivered world-class projects on time and on budget. In less than a week, following just one committee hearing, the representatives who supported House Bill 1019 have put this all at risk. 
We will continue to work with our coalition of locally elected officials from both parties, contractors and small business allies that actually do this work and our affiliated unions to stop this reckless attempt at repeal – and hope that this massive policy change is given more debate and deliberation in the State Senate.”

As Voorhies stated, the bill now moves over to the Senate side.  Democrats hold just 11 seats, so they will need 15 Republicans to join them to kill this bill if it makes it to the full Senate.

District 100 State Rep. Dan Forestal also had a great tweet illustrating what a bad idea this is for Hoosier workers.

Apparently, Rep. Forestal, your friends on the Republican side of the House aisle care more about ideology than reality.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Indy Snow Force Needs to Reexamine Six Inch Policy

As I was driving home yesterday from dinner, I noticed a City of Indianapolis plow going down Thompson Road (which was clear) pushing snow on the edge of the berm further back.  As I passed neighborhood streets, I noted what a treacherous disaster they looked like.  

While certainly it should be the aim of the city to consolidate its efforts on the main drags of Indy to clear away snow, it certainly wouldn't kill them to invest in maybe some equipment to help out the neighborhoods that aren't under the watchful eye of a homeowner's association.  

I tweeted Indy Snow Force yesterday about whether the neighborhood contractors would be activated.  The answer was no.  

Six inches is the limit.  At 5.9, you're out of luck.  At 6.1, it's apparently all good.

Now, I have news for you.  I had an appointment I could not break downtown on Saturday morning at 10:45.  I had to ask a friend of mine with a four wheel drive to pick me up and drop me off then bring me home.  With the 5.2 inches added on to the base of what was already there, I couldn't get my car out of the garage safely.  I still can't go to the end of my cul de sac.

Now, it would be absolutely ridiculous for me to expect the Indy Snow Force to have my cul de sac completely clean while it was snowing, but the snow stopped over 24 hours ago, and it appears we have time to clean already clean streets.

Before you accuse me of being a bleeding heart liberal on a spending frenzy, it seems that we get the money to do what we want to do in this city.  Instead of sending plows down those already clean streets the next day after a snow storm, why not retrofit several city pickup size trucks to help out the neighborhoods?  After all, 5.2 inches of snow at the airport might have been six somewhere in the city.  It's an arbitrary policy that needs to change.  

Hopefully it will when Joe Hogsett is Mayor.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Gregg Deserves Second Bite at Apple

John Gregg
In 2012, we were so close to preventing some of what's happening in Indiana.

We were so close to stopping the Mike Pence Express before it even got started, and we were so close to having at least some semblance of balance at the Statehouse.

Unfortunately, elections do have consequences and Mike Pence got a few more votes than John Gregg did in the 2012 General Election.  It was a surprisingly close election that saw Gregg close to within 3.2 percentage points on Election Night.  In August, some polls showed him 18 points behind.

The turnaround in Gregg's fortunes in the polls seemed to coincide with a change in tactic that saw Gregg go from a folksy campaign built around homespun commercials to a serious campaign that saw him dominate Pence in the debates and start to make his case as to why he would make a good Indiana Chief Executive.

Except for a brief time to take care of some family issues, Gregg hasn't really stopped running for Governor, and he told the Northwest Indiana Times that he'll make a decision about 2016 this spring.

I hope that John Gregg decides to run again.  It doesn't mean that he will survive a Primary if he's challenged, but I think he has probably the best chance of winning in 2016.  He's not liberal.  He doesn't carry a ton of baggage.  He already has name recognition, and he does have a record of working with Republicans when he was Speaker of the Indiana House.

He also knows Mike Pence, and I don't think that Gregg will hold anything back this time.  I would expect that Gregg might be Pence's worst nightmare of an opponent again in 2016.  I would assume that Gregg would target his attacks on Pence's vulnerabilities and there are plenty of them right now.

I'm not endorsing Gregg, and I will watch the race carefully.  I just think Gregg deserves a chance to finish what he nearly did in 2012.  That means to topple Mike Pence and stop his reign as Governor of Indiana.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

While Brewer Languishes, Hogsett Flourishes

Joe Hogsett
So far, for Joe Hogsett, campaign 2015 has been like a smoothly sailing ship on calm waters.

He will never acknowledge it, but, with an extraordinary effort, he's starting to put away this 2015 election before it even starts.

For starters, Hogsett's raised over $1 million in his campaign war chest and he still just keeps doing what he's doing, crisscrossing the county driving his own extremely modest car (you have to see it to believe it) and building a broad bi-partisan coalition.

Despite the strong start, Hogsett says at every campaign stop that he has a primary opponent and must win there first before getting to November.  "I'm taking nothing for granted," has become Hogsett's mantra even though his opponent, Larry Vaughn, can't match his dollars or his polish as a candidate.

The Republicans still haven't gotten their act together, and I'm not sure that they will.  It's just going to be harder and harder for Chuck Brewer to make inroads against the fully-functional Hogsett campaign the longer he's bogged down with his residency controversy.  Gary Welsh reported more on the story just yesterday on Advance Indiana.

The good news for Brewer is that the electorate is far from paying attention to this one.  Those that are paying attention are a little caught up with what's going on at the Indiana General Assembly.  Others won't start considering the Mayor's race until later this summer and fall.

I predict Hogsett's campaign will be doing laps around the competition, and it will still be fighting hard for every last vote and voter.

Still, it's impressive to see Hogsett, who could be sitting on his butt in an office right now making phone calls to gather support, out and about and aggressively going after this job across the city every day on a seemingly never-stop schedule.

Just imagine what it's going to be like when he's Mayor.