Monday, March 29, 2010

Sorry, But I'm 100% Right on Coulter

Being painfully objective requires a healthy dose of introspection, and frequently, I read posters' comments pleasantly surprised that they've provided either an angle I hadn't remotely considered or unseen data from sources previously unknown. I keep an open mind on policy debates, as nobody can be an expert on so many issues.

BUT...when somebody says I'm wrong on the media and political marketing, whooo boy, that's like telling your grandmother her cooking is terrible. Don't expect it to be pretty.

In response to my Ann Coulter post, I received the following reply:

Hey Chris,

I think using the term "utterly stupid" to describe those student protesters applies your assumptions, issues, and hangups as an American to a bunch of people who don't share them. I think you're wrong to assume that *Canadian* students should or do care all that much about "amplifying" American right-wing ideologues within American media markets. Those protesters, right or wrong, wanted to deny Coulter a platform in their community and in their country and at that they succeeded. As a result, her platform in *our country* got bigger, yes, but that is *our problem* not theirs. You might reflect on that before you call them naive, misguided, and foolish.

Now, although this person posted anonymously, (s)he started with "Hey Chris" instead of "Hey, douchebag" or a comparable phrase that now passes for repartee in our dumbed-down culture. I'm going to assume, accordingly, that this person is a friend of mine and somebody who I really respect, so I'll tell him/her precisely what I would say were we meeting at Barcelona for beers:


After assessing whether my speculation was right that you're a student, a professor, or a Vietnam era student activist - as only somebody connected to a college campus and protest politics could so mythologize the virtue of a student protest gone so horribly awry - I would ask you rhetorically, "You think these students succeeded in denying Coulter a platform in their community and in their country by engaging in this ill-conceived exercise?!?"

Well, allow me to retort, my friend.

The ten most populous cities in Canada are Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, Galgary, Edmondton, Winnipeg, Hamilton, Quebec City, and London.

Guess who had stories about Ann Coulter after the "Ottawa incident?"

The Toronto Star, the Montreal Gazette, the Montreal Examiner, the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen, the Galgary Globe & Mail (headline: "Spurned in Ottawa, Ann Coulter Gets a Big Welcome in Galgary"), the Edmondton Sun, the Winnipeg Sun, the Winnipeg Free Press, the Hamilton Spectator, the London Free Press, the National Post (which I guess is Canada's version of U.S.A. Today), and a slew of Quebec papers I am ashamed I couldn't read despite a lot of high school French, though I'm pretty sure it's the same, given that most of the story leads include the phrase "La militante de la droite americaine Ann Coulter."

And that's just the print media, which tends to be more measured in covering controversy than blogs, radio, and TV.

From CTV:
Did Ann Coulter, that ‘blonde she-devil' to the left, the "American Voltaire" to the right, execute a checkmate on the Canadian media and public worthy of Garry Kasparov?

Whether on the television and talk radio airwaves, Twitter, or even on old-fashioned ink, it was impossible to avoid the firebrand conservative this week.
The story quotes Judy Rebick, a Ryerson social justice and democracy professor and prominent political commentator from the left, as saying that Coulter used the University's warning letter to "provoke a confrontation and it worked."' Rebick added that outspoken Canadian conservative political activits Ezra Levant and Coulter "set a trap and the University of Ottawa, its protesting students, and the media fell into it."

Levant admitted that the controversy caused by the letter raised their profile. "It proved our point, showing that censorship only draws more attention," the free speech advocate told CTV of the University of Ottawa's actions.

After bringing this information to your attention, I'd rebuke you for making me out to be some type of cultural imperialist when this has nothing to do with "my assumptions, issues, or hangups" and everything to do with the laws of media. I'd point out that the facts Canadians covered this more than America proves my point quite nicely, and then I'd lead you to the really messed up part.

Because the students vociferously protested, Coulter was able to pretend she was afraid and cancel. Had there been no student protest, Coulter would have had no choice but to bore the room and go home. One person who attended the Calgary event noted, "Her remarks were not intelligent enough to be offensive" - precisely the reaction you want).

Instead, Coulter is running wild in Canadian media (as well as U.S.) and even talking about filing a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.

I would go on, but I would recognize I'd be beating a decomposed horse. Instead I'd just order us another round while muttering, "Dans son visage!" (In your face!)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Lest anyone think I'm saying all college students or professors have a squishy attitude about the frail ears of their students, see the comment from Professor Rosenberg in my original post. The consensus seems to be that we can all call Ann Coulter an intellectually vapid blatherer, but the best way to prove it to a third party is just to let them see her.

UPDATE: I've just been advised by Erin Rosenberg that she is not a professor. I guess that's the kind of assumption you make about people who get "deep" on you in a scholarly way.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Misguided Canadian Students and Their Foolish Fear of Ann Coulter

As I consciously avoid paying attention to Ann Coulter, I hadn't heard about her scrum with Ottawa University until attending a terrific panel discussion featuring Sheila Kennedy and Erin Rosenberg last Thursday at Butler University (GO BULLDOGS!) entitled "Rights and Wrongs: Achieving Civil Discourse."

Coulter was invited by a conservative student union to speak on campus, and a protest wave ensued. The Vice-President of the University even e-mailed Coulter to remind her, in the words of the Huffington Post, "to watch her mouth."

The short version is that Coulter was told that Canada lacks the same defamation protections as America, and further, has criminalized "hate speech."

Coulter spun the e-mail as Ottawa University creating a "climate of hate." (Kudos to Coulter for acknowledging for the first time that humans can adversely affect a climate!) Student protestors by the hundreds appeared and shouted Coulter down and, ultimately, the lecture did not go forward.

Coulter and Fox News made it sound like some liberal gestapo shut down the event, though the Vancouver Sun reports that the conservative organizers told campus security the event wouldn't go forward because of "safety concerns."

Ahh, to be young, idealistic, revved up, and so utterly stupid again!

Apparently, it's time for Professor iPOPA to teach the young whipper snappers a thing or two about public relations in politics.

First, the media loves controversy, and Ann Coulter IS media.

Second, controversy can't happen if only one side plays the game.

Third, somebody who does professional media for a living will almost always outspin you and make you look like a complete jackass.

Let's think this through.

Fifteen hundred kids spent who knows how many hours organizing protests, spreading "the word" to stop Coulter from speaking hers, and actually took their evening off to chant, "Ann, go home!" Why? Because they said you wanted to ensure their University was not a discriminatory place.

But you know what they actually did?

They made Ann Coulter a First Amendment hero, they proved everything she says about how "tolerance" toward other ideas is a one-way vehicle for "liberals," they gave their own University and country a huge black eye, and they deprived some independent-minded people who didn't know Coulter of the opportunity for her to say something insensitive that might prompt them to conclude on their own that she's a vapid, intellectual-bereft puff pastry.

Dr. Phil gets mocked, but he asks this great question: "Do you want to be right, or do you want to do what works?"

Here, some college students wanted so desperately to be part of some morally superior ("right") direct-action tactic, they got completely owned.

Any college kids thinking about leading a similar protest against a speaker, please remember that if you must make yourself part of the story (which you'll admit if you're objective is a bit self-indulgent because it's about you), make these your actions:

(1) don't protest the coming of the speaker;

(2) don't go;

(3) take your 1,500 people and on the same night and time, build houses for Habitat for Humanity or engage in some other philanthropic venture that supports multiculturalism; and

(4) issue a brief statement saying, "While Ann Coulter is tearing down our neighbors, we are building together."

Seriously, do you realize how many collective hours you wasted (that could have been spent constructively) just so Ann Coulter can tell this story of liberal persecution in her next book?

I don't want to be too hard on the students because they are not alone. Every time a klan or skinhead rally is announced, everybody wants to do a counter-protest. Do you know that nobody covers six klansmen walking down the street, except ironically? It's only when somebody plans a counter-protest that the media will cover the story because you've given it "balance." (I promise you there are news editors praying somebody will organize a counter-protest in every instance).

But try telling people who love to be in front of cameras and microphones and who covet having their followers see them as "action-oriented" that the best play is not to play at all. Some are so blinded by the spotlight, they don't realize that they put the klansmen in it with them.

In other words, to paraphrase that classic philosophical connundrum, "If an Ann Coulter appears in an auditorium but nobody is there to hear her fall, does it make a sound?"

Not a notable one, unless you foolishly amplify her.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Brizzi's Mario Driving Recklessly...and Drunk

“He wanted to avoid any further embarrassment by resolving this case as quickly as possible.”

These are words Marion County Prosecutor's Office spokesman and Carl Brizzi's right arm, Mario Massillamany, uttered when Dennis Oxley was charged with misrepresenting himself as a legislators to avoid a public intoxication arrest.

These might be words Masillamany will want to remember.

As if Brizzi did not have enough problems, Masillamany was arrested in Hamilton County last night for being twice the legal limit (.16 BAC) while driving 31 miles per hour over the speedlimit. (Always a good call to be both drunk and driving fast).

Will Brizzi fire Masillamany? He says yes in the story "if he's charged," and how couldn't he? Remember when Brizzi fired (cough, I'm sorry accepted the resignation of) Deputy Prosecutor Gillian Deprez?

I don't see any way Brizzi could maintain credibility by claiming there is a difference here. What's he going to say, "Sure, he was .01 percent more drunk than Deprez and driving recklessly, but at least he got stopped before he caused any property damage!" (Of course, "Brizzi's credibility" has been an oxymoronic expression for months).

If only Masillamany, the chair of the Hamilton County Young Republicans, had a close friend in the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office who could handle this for him.

Oh wait! Isn't Marion County Deputy Prosecutor David Wyser running right now? If Masillamany can delay on until November, he might get a sweet deal just like Paula Willoughby. I'd say it's a strong bet that Masillamany is already a Wyser donor, and if $2,500 can get a 70-year murder beef reduced to 18 served, $250 can surely get you diversion.


Friday, March 26, 2010

"That's What She Said...."

If you watch The Office, you know what I mean. If not, watch The Office.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mayor Greg Ballard Selling Indy on Payday Loan With Water Deal

I hate payday loan companies.

They sell people on getting "money fast," but they never talk about how they're hosing futures by making people give up an insane slice of future earnings. A typical payday company will charge $25 per $100 borrowed, even though they'll get their money back in two weeks in most cases. Even if they gave you 30 days to pay back the loan, you would still be paying an annual percentage rate of 455%.

So why do people do it? Because they're desperate. You give them a whiff of money, and they can't say no.

Welcome to Greg Ballard's new strategy for getting support for the sale of the city's water and wastewater facilities to Citizens Gas!

The website for the City of Indianapolis lists "public meetings" to be held on this deal. They are:

March 29 - 6:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. - Aldersgate Free Methodist Church, 9035 E. 21st Street

April 13 - 6:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. - Nu Corinthian Church's Family Life Center - 5935 West 56th Street

April 20 - 6:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. - Divine Savior Lutheran Church - 7315 East 75th Street

But what intrigues most are two quotes by the Mayor:
Public involvement and accountability are imperative to the success of this transfer. This process began more than one year ago with the formation of the Infrastructure Advisory Commission and will continue with transparent study and public deliberation.

Mr. Mayor, you say you will "continue public deliberation," but when did the public ever get to weigh in on how much money the City would receive, when, and in what form?

As I've said before, my criticism (and most I've heard), is not on whether Citizens' charitable trust structure makes the most sense going forward. Rather, this is about the deal's terms, and you won't entertain thoughts that you're making the city take a payday loan from Citizens Gas. Here, instead of giving away a huge chunk of a future check, you're giving away our city's most valuable resource permanently.

When you talk about "the sucess of the transfer," it's clear your mind is made up. So why even have these public meetings?

First, because the terms of the deal were crafted in secret. Yes, people knew the Mayor had solicited expressions of interest (EOI) on how to do things better, but nobody save the Mayor's people, the parties, and a slew of big downtown law firms have had any say on the deal's terms. So now you have to engage in this after-the-fact exercise so your critics cannot attack your process.

But there's more, and Mr. Mayor, you are so very crafty. Unfortunately, you tipped your hand when you said:
As we move forward with due diligence and explore how to invest the $425 million earned through the transfer, we want to hear from residents, who live in the neighborhoods with crumbling streets, curbs and sidewalks, about their infrastructure investment priorities.

Will Marion County residents really fall for this? The Mayor wants you salivating over the new streets, curbs, and sidewalks, and he wants you to "buy in" by "putting you in charge" of what gets done. This way you'll tell your city-county councillor to go along. You won't think about the absolutely crappy terms he has negotiated for you, and more importantly, there will be a psychic link between you and that construction truck you see pouring new sidewalk. You'll think, "This sidewalk brought to you by Mayor Greg Ballard."

Feel free to revel in that euphoria. But remember that when you see nothing's left of the city's paycheck when it comes in the future, I told this would come to pass.

The Mayor won't.


Williams: Mayor is All Wet on Water Deal

Yeseterday, Democratic mayoral candidate Brian Williams issued a statement regarding the Citizens Gas water deal that is so well-done, I feel compelled to provide it to you in its entirety here. It should be required reading:

Recently, Mayor Greg Ballard and the City of Indianapolis entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the sale of the city’s water and waste water systems to Citizens Gas. Rather than the MOU being the product of a community based decision making process for evaluating water system ownership, management and funding alternatives, the citizens of Indianapolis were presented a transaction that the Mayor intends to pursue, for better or worse.

Strong municipal leadership should have begun a community discussion of how Indianapolis improves the quality of the water it drinks and the water it discharges into our lakes, rivers and streams and how Indianapolis pays for the deferred maintenance of its infrastructure to meet those community standards. In evaluating the transaction the Mayor proposes, its flaws are twofold. The first flaw is what is missing: Assurances that our community continues to receive safe, clean, reliable water. This MOU does not establish any standards or any metrics to measure performance against such standards.

The second flaw is with the content of the MOU. First, the MOU does not provide the city with the option to re-purchase the water and waste water systems in the event Citizen’s Gas decides to sell them in the future. This MOU allows Citizen’s to sell our water company to a for-profit corporation whose interests may not align with those of Indianapolis. Second, the City of Indianapolis and its advisors have failed to protect the city, the taxpayers and the rate payers by allowing Citizen’s Gas to complete the transaction only if it receives "an acceptable indemnification from the City ... related to certain of the City's pre-closing combined sewer overflow liabilities."

This nebulous condition could prove financially ruinous to the city as the City could be responsible for billions of dollars in additional expenses for something it no longer owns – the water and wastewater systems – and for which it no longer receives revenue. A strong leader with experience would define and limit this potential exposure as part of a sale.

Finally, it is unclear that the transaction as presented is a net gain financially to the city for the following reasons:

1. The Mayor has stated that the City will gain $425 million on the sale. Based on the MOU that is not accurate. The MOU clearly states that the City will receive $170.6 million in cash at closing. Another $92 million will be paid on October 1, 2011. Therefore, the net cash proceeds from Citizen’s Gas to the city are actually $262.6 million. However, this amount may be reduced by:

Some unknown amount due to “increased borrowing costs” resulting from a downgrade of a provider of surety bonds backing the Water Company revenue bonds;

The value of the Water Company headquarters if Citizens decides it does not want it; and,“Up to $15 million” based on some vaguely referenced “Cost Sharing Agreement.”

The only way the proceeds from the sale equal $425 million is to assume that the $262.6 million in cash over two years is not reduced by any of these contingencies and that the City of Indianapolis borrows another $163 million.

In the MOU, Citizen’s Gas proposes to make payments in lieu of property taxes in the years 2010 through 2039 totaling over $666 million and that future revenue will be pledged to pay off the principal and interest on a loan of $163 million.

Put simply, the Mayor and his advisors are proposing that we trade over $600 million in future revenues for $163 million today – an amount insufficient to address meaningfully the City’s current infrastructure needs which are estimated to be over $4 billion for the water and waste water systems and $1.5 billion for roads, bridges, sidewalks and parks.

2. As part of the purchase Citizen’s will acquire approximately $127 million in cash that the City currently holds in a construction fund for wastewater system projects. Therefore the maximum net cash proceeds to the city at closing from the sale could be $43 million ($170 million - $127 million). That amount could be further reduced by the contingencies already noted. An astute leader would question whether the risks of losing control over a vital asset and paying the expenses associated with completing a sale of this complexity is worth such a relatively small amount of money.

We do not know how much the city will spend on lawyers, accountants, engineers, environmental experts, brokers and other costs to complete the transaction the Mayor proposes. One study by the non-partisan research organization Public Citizen estimated the costs preparing for privatization at nearly $5 million.

3. Between now and closing the City will continue to pay its obligations, including some debt that Citizens Gas will assume. The City’s payments "will reduce the Assumed Debt Obligations that Citizens will be assuming at closing." In many instances, if the seller pays off debt before closing, then the cash paid to the seller increases at closing. In this case, the maximum amount of cash at closing is $170 million. Under this MOU, if the City pays off $100 million in debt between now and closing, the maximum amount of cash at closing would still be $170 million. In a deal between knowledgeable business people, Citizen’s would pay an additional $100 million to keep the agreed upon value of the assets constant. Here the Mayor and his advisors have not protected the economic well being of the City, the rate payers and the taxpayers.

4. In order to close on the sale, Citizen’s Gas must receive "satisfaction with respect to the balances of the Systems' working capital". In a normal arms length deal, the parties would agree on the amount of working capital. Any shortfall at closing would reduce the purchase price and any excess at closing would be paid to the seller. Here, there is no excess going to the City, but any shortfall could result in no closing, or more likely a further reduction in the amount of cash paid at closing. Again, the Mayor and his advisors failed to protect the City, the rate payers and the taxpayers.

Indianapolis must make significant investments in its infrastructure. Currently, those investments are over $4 billion for water and waste water systems and $1.5 billion for roads, bridges, sidewalks and parks. In addition to those investments, Indianapolis must improve the quality of its water and ensure that it is clean and reliable. The development of solutions to these challenges requires leadership that begins with a dialogue about the problems and the creation of a framework by which community supported solutions can be identified and implemented.

Municipal ownership of water utilities gained prominence in the nineteenth century because of water quality and supply problems and affordability. Those same concerns exist today along with concerns about protecting our water supplies from natural disaster and human threats and about water conservation. Clean water is as important to a community’s well being as public safety and education. Clean water is vital for human health and it is necessary for successful business ventures in agriculture, livestock and manufacturing. In other words, economic development and jobs only come to communities with a reliable source of clean water. For these basic reasons access to plentiful, reliable, clean water is in the community’s short and long term interest. Municipal ownership is the best way to ensure those concerns are met because of accountability at the ballot box, transparency of management and operations and a long term perspective to assess the entire community’s needs.

Unfortunately, the lack of water quality standards as part of this agreement and the relatively insignificant amount of cash at closing present tremendous risks to the city, its citizens and the rate payers – risks that are significant enough that a prudent leader would seriously consider the merits of the Mayor’s proposal. Effective performance of Indianapolis’ water and waste water systems depends upon effective staffing, consistent public support for sufficient funding, better asset management systems, performance measurements and rewards and stakeholder involvement and transparency. True leadership requires that Indianapolis develop sustainable solutions to its infrastructure problems and leadership that develops community support for the performance and standards that must be met.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Did Evan Bayh "Show Us the Money"?

When Senator Evan Bayh stepped down, I was angry. He left Democrats in the lurch because D.C. legislators don’t play nice?!? It was the political equivalent of “taking my ball and going home.”

Then I really thought about it.

Partisans don’t own the souls of our elected officials. We’re entitled to have them serve in the right way while in office and to have them exit while mitigating collateral damage. That’s it. We can’t make them stay, in particular when they’re cut from the executive “get things done” cloth, not from the “bloviate on C-SPAN and demonize the other guy” exterior.

The exit timing was a Bayh masterstroke. By waiting until the last minute, Bayh faked Mike Pence and Todd Rokita into staying sidelined though polling showed Bayh wasn’t a sure thing. Also, the Senator ensured there would be no costly primary like the one that caused the party’s 2008 gubernatorial implosion.

Instead, Bayh threw the choice of who filled his shoes to the Indiana Democratic Party State Central Committee’s 33 voting members, and he did so only after ensuring 8th District Congressman Brad Ellsworth had the votes to replace him.

Had Senator Bayh waited until after his re-election to resign, Governor Mitch Daniels would have appointed his successor, who would have served until a special election. Democrats would not have gotten the seat back.

In fact, the only real downside to Evan Bayh’s departure was that Ellsworth had little time to raise money for a 2010 election.

But how big a problem could that be? After all, the GOP has been playing host to a resource-consuming, five-way free-for-all (Dan Coats, Marlin Stutzman, John Hostettler, Don Bates, Jr., and Richard Behney) and Bayh was holding roughly $12 million in the bank, even after refunding contributions designated for a general election in which he will no longer participate.

A maximum mitigation effort would have Bayh legally laundering his money by giving it to every federally-qualified candidate or party committee with even the remotest Indiana connection, knowing it would wander home to Ellsworth. Or Bayh could always donate it all to the state party. No, it couldn't go directly to Ellsworth, but once state party and all the legislative party committees were covered, they could start directing all their prospective donors to give to Ellsworth instead.

We all knew the Senator would tip the cup. We just didn't know whether he'd pour it out or just let some drips fall.

I'd be lying if I said I was optimistic. Despite his considerable accomplishments, objective party folk will tell you off-the-record that the Senator has a lackluster record sharing his wealth unless the recipient's campaign helps him.

I’ll never forget one candidate who who was offered then-Governor Bayh’s support. The candidate recounted that the Governor was cordial as they talked about Bayh’s appearance at a fundraiser and in some joint political communications. But as soon as talk turned to Bayh donating money directly from his extremely flush campaign committee, the candidate said, "I could literally hear (Bayh’s) sphincter muscles clinch.” This was a key Bayh ally making the request.

But couldn't his circumstances now make him more sensitive to the need to rise as the consummate team player?

We got an answer today when the Indiana Democratic Party issued a release saying that Evan Bayh donated one million dollars to the state party, "the largest donation ever by an individual not on the ballot." Bayh called it a "million dollar vote of confidence in Brad Ellsworth and Indiana Democrats."

Call the Senator a victim of his astonishing fundraising prowess, but that's not nearly enough, even for a guy hoarding money for a 2012 gubernatorial run.

I have no doubt the Senator will stump for and attend events for candidates, but Mitch Daniels is investing his personal and political capital in untold numbers of state representatives in an effort to control legislative maps.

As insane and ungrateful as this will sound, I have to ask. Why did Bayh only give a million?

No, Bayh hasn’t become President (or even Vice-President), but he is a shrewd political operator. Thus, while I know I’d donate to him if he is generous with his current funds, he undoubtedly knows too many Democrats have less kind spirits about his exit. Moreover, he's raised money nationally from people who were thinking about sleeping in the Lincoln Bedroom some day. Now that he's coming back to a smaller pond, it will be harder to recapture the dollars.

Basically, any goodwill engendered by spreading his largesse might not be enough to help him get it back dollar for dollar. But if he keeps it, the cash plus his statewide standing makes him the prohibitive favorite for 2012 if he wants to make a go. If he rolls into 2011 with at least eight or nine million, there’s no way he doesn’t clear the Democratic gubernatorial field the millisecond he declares. More importantly, if Democrats retain the U.S. House of Representatives, with eight or nine million, Mike Pence has to think very carefully, in particular if he becomes minority leader. Without it, he's "back home again in Indiana."

Accordingly, Democrats who look to Senator Bayh as Santa Bayh in 2010 will find more lumps of coal in the stockings than presents, though there is always the possibility that he's checking the list twice with an eye toward giving more. I hope so.

Because if Democrats lose the Indiana House of Representatives and Evan Bayh still has $8 or $9 million in his account on November 3, 2010, a lot of Democrats won't be quick to forgive, even if we know he's our best chance to end the Daniels-Skillman administration.


Monday, March 22, 2010


I guess realizing your swindle is coming to an end can create stress in the family unit.

Jim Cochran, Tim Durham's business partner in the acquisition of Fair Finance, is cooling his heels in the Hamilton County jail on a domestic battery charge.

There is a hearing set at 1:15 p.m. today in Hamilton County Superior Court on the bond issue.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Ellsworth Vows to Vote Yes

Congressman and Senatorial aspirant, Brad Ellsworth, has vowed to vote in favor of healthcare reform. On his website, Ellsworth states:

“Like most Americans I was frustrated by this process throughout. Unfortunately many in both parties made snap judgments on whether or not they would support this bill based on politics, not policy. I was sent here to look at all sides of the argument in a thoughtful manner and I knew that the status quo was no longer acceptable. I needed to answer only one question when deciding whether to support this reform: will this bill benefit Hoosiers? Put simply, in my core I know it does.”

“There is no issue more important or more personal to every single Hoosier than our health and well-being. My job is to look beyond all the political games, study the bill carefully, and do my best to make the right decision for Indiana.”

“After months of meetings and conversations with thousands of Hoosiers, health care experts and pro-life advocates, I am confident supporting health care reform is the right decision for Hoosiers.”

“Starting this year, children with pre-existing conditions will never again be denied coverage. Indiana small businesses will get the tax breaks they desperately need to reduce their health care costs and invest those savings in growing their businesses and creating jobs for Hoosiers. And our seniors will see significant savings on their prescription drug bills as we start to close the Medicare Part D donut hole.

“As a pro-life Hoosier, one of my central concerns has been preventing federal funding of elective abortion. Throughout my brief time in Congress, I have held firm to my pro-life principles, even when it meant going against my party, and I am proud of my 100% pro-life voting record on abortion-related issues. I have spent time listening carefully to constituents, pro-life leaders, policy experts and reading all the details of every bill. After assurance from the Catholic Health Association, Catholic Nuns and pro-life advocates I am confident in my heart that this bill meets my pro-life principles and upholds the policy of no federal funding for elective abortions. More than that, it invests $250 million in support services for women facing unplanned pregnancies and over a billion dollars to help families afford adoption services. These investments will reduce the number of abortions in America.”

“In addition to meeting my pro-life principles, the plan reduces costs, improves access to affordable insurance options, covers pre-existing conditions, and does not add one penny to the deficit – my five principles for health care reform.”

Now every Democrat who wanted healthcare reform needs to pony up and gear up for Ellsworth because his foes will be coming to get him. And they will be merciless.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Mayor's Citizens Gas Deal: Intriguing Idea Marred by Brazen Hypocrisy & Political Cowardice

If you didn’t hear me on Abdul in the Morning this past Monday morning, let me share that the Mayor’s proposal to sell the city’s water and wastewater companies to Citizens Gas makes sense intuitively.

Who wouldn’t automatically think that a non-profit structure, specifically a “charitable trust” like Citizens Gas, must be more efficient than a private company because they don’t have evil stockholders to placate. (Of course, one would think this mentality might compel Republicans to favor a single-payer healthcare system over for-profit insurance companies, but I guess Republicans only like profit motives on healthcare, not on utilities).

It’s also a PR masterstroke. The phrase “charitable trust” makes you think your grandma will be providing your drinking water now. (Heck, if the City could give Brighthouse to a “charitable trust,” maybe I wouldn’t have my six favorite channels intermittently disappearing while I continuously call to get a four-hour window for “service” at times I’m never home because I have a job).

But the prospect that this deal favors the city is obscured by the fact it is the most brazenly political, hypocritical, and cowardly act undertaken by an elected official in Indianapolis since Unigov was implemented.

The terms are these. The City of Indianapolis will receive $170 million at closing, then $90 million on October 1, 2011. In addition, Citizens Gas will assume $1.5 billion dollars worth of the city’s debt. This is why people keep talking about a $2 billion dollar deal.

Folks, the "$2 billion sale" figure is false, no matter how many times Abdul and the Mayor say it. If you read the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Citizens and the City, you will see that Citizens Gas will only move forward with this deal if the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) permits the assumption of this debt to be figured into its rate structure. In other words, you won’t save dollars because this debt is assumed. You’ll just pay it in higher water and sewer rates instead of in higher taxes.

And this is precisely the Mayor’s goal. Mayor Ballard wants this deal because elected officials won't do the right thing by raising taxes to invest in necessary water and sewer infrastructure improvements if they know they are going to get attacked politically.

From the Mayor at his press conference:

Let me be clear. This solution works for the long term. With this, we will take politics out of running our water and wastewater systems. No more politicians putting off doing what is right for the long term for what is politically expedient today.

He’s wrong about the first part because Bart Peterson in 2005 sought a $350 million bump in water and sewer rates for these very enhancements.

In other words, there are courageous “politicians” who will say, “We need this, and your rates are going to have to go up.” Mayor Ballard just is not one of them, apparently. But his remarks to the Star about how politicians will be attacked for doing the right thing is dead on, and he knows. You know how? Because he did it against Bart Peterson. In 2007, Ballard banged Peterson for repeatedly “raising taxes,” and he included in his list every water or sewer increase sought by the city.

Simply put, Mayor Ballard is the guy who robs the store and then tells the owner, “You better get a security system.” I try to keep this blog analytical, but I can’t contain myself. Among all politicians and strategems I’ve seen at all level s of government, nothing compares to this for pure political cowardice.

Even the underpinning of this deal is based on a distortion of history. The Mayor is fond of saying that Citizens Gas was founded as a public trust to avoid having rate decisions made by politicians. Here’s a term of art for your, Mayor. That’s crap.

According to Citizens’ own website, the trust was founded principally to avoid the city having its natural gas supply taken over by monopolist robber barons. Now, it is true that there was concern about political patronage, but that had nothing to do with retribution for setting rates and everything to do with fear of the mayor’s brother with no background in natural gas systems running the whole show and blowing up the city. But last time I checked, quite a few decade had passed since Tammany Hall. In other words, the concerns about re-election that concern Cowardly Greg aren’t the concerns that animated Eli Lilly back in the day. Of course, Lilly was a leader.

But, iPOPA, you say. This can’t ALL be about politics. Aren't there cost savings?

Sure. Not having to earn a profit is good, and the trust can issue tax-exempt bonds (though the city could also, I believe). But the main alleged advantage to this deal is that by consolidating utilities, we achieve “synergies” (the most hackneyed phrase in management, by the way) of $40 million per year. Again, intuitively, this makes sense. If you fold three companies into one, you won’t need three HR, IT, or legal departments. But $40 million?!? Even the Mayor doubts this.

More from Mayor Ballard’s press conference:
Reporter: Any promises with rates?

Mayor Ballard: Not at the moment. We’ll have to look at that. They’ll be lower than previously forecast. I think we…that’s pretty much in there. That’s one reason we’re doing it.

The Mayor regarding “synergy savings”:
Mayor: If there are some synergies later on, I think you said, I think the Star said today lawyers and IT. Maybe, maybe not. It’s up to them. People still have to do the work. The systems still need to be maintained. So I mean, I hear a lot of that when we do things within the city, but you never see it happening. It’s just all speculation.

In other words, Mayor Ballard is only able to speculate that rates will be lower than they would be without the deal (though still going up massively), but he can’t tell you how they got to the $40 million in savings per year, nor does he even believe it. Do you?

But here’s the most troubling part. How did the City get the $262 million purchase price? Why isn’t that report on-line, Mr. Mayor? How do we know we’re not getting rooked for turning over our water supply in perpetuity?

Also, why the lump sum? The Mayor repeatedly called this a long-term solution. So why aren’t we having the savings paid out over time, like over the 50-year period the Mayor referred to at his press conference? If Citizens will save us $40 mill per year, why don’t we have them pay us $35 million per year indefinitely? They’d still save $5 million off their operating costs, wouldn’t they?

Or how about this. Why don’t they just assume the debt and forget the $262 million? We all know the cash is just an advance against a higher future rate increase. Why not forget the cash and have lower rates in the future, Mr. Mayor?

Here’s why. If Citizens Gas doesn’t give up the $262 million, Mayor Ballard can’t put up little signs telling you about the new sidewalks he’s going to start building in your neighborhood right before his re-election. That’s what this is principally about.

From the Mayor’s press conference:
We will use the cash from this deal to make a transformational investment in our city’s infrastructure. Roads, bridges, and sidewalk needs, many of which have been neglected for a generation, would be addressed.

A true leader would have not permitted this neglect to continue once he took office. And a true leader would ensure a revenue stream from this sale for 50 years and beyond. But Mayor Ballard has never been that.

I promise you that if members of the City-County Council said, “Mr. Mayor, we’ll vote for your deal, and in exchange, you forego the lump sum and spread the benefits out over time,” he wouldn’t do it. He wants to finance his re-election on your future rate hikes, folks.

But, iPOPA, you say, “If the Mayor does this deal and rates go up now so Cit Gas can pay for the $262 million, the Mayor will get creamed in November, 2011."

Oh, did I forget to tell you about how the Mayor ensured that wouldn’t happen? Here’s another quote from the the Mayor's press conference:
Additionally, after acquiring the water system in 2002, the city flat-lined water rates for five years while simultaneously taking on more debt than the system is worth.

Sentient beings might conclude that the Mayor is faulting his predecessor for negotiating a deal where rates stayed the same for five years while debt went up from necessary improvements. But do you know the MOU has a two-year rate freeze following closing on this deal?

Think about that.

While saying how bad rate freezes are, the Mayor’s deal includes one, and a two-year freeze specifically means there will be no more rate increases in 2010 or 2011, which – well, what a surprise! – would mean no rate increases until after the November 2011 election. To quote The Church Lady when she referred to Satan: “How conveeeeenient!”

Of course, it’s probably not all that likely that a rate increase would be needed in 2011 though. Look at this exchange from the press conference:
REPORTER: Do you support the current rate increase that’s before the IURC?

CAREY LYKINS (Cit Gas CEO): No, I’m not a part of it, and I’m not familiar with the details of it. I would presume that it’s all necessary and required, but I have not seen the case.

Doesn’t it seem like Mr. Lykins is disinterested? So why does the MOU state that this deal only moves forward if the IURC outcome is one that Citizens Gas views as “favorable?" "And which outcome IS favorable to Citizens?" I ask in jest, knowing they want that 35% increase in rates because it will probably cover a huge chunk of the $262 million.

Not convinced yet that your Mayor is out to lunch? Here’s another great line from the Mayor’s press conference:
In 2008, the water system proved unable to correct itself without huge rate increases.

I’ve heard of anthropomorphism before, but is anybody else surprised to learn that water systems have the ability to correct themselves without any humans, especially a mayor, being involved? Unfortunately, this “little water system that could” just couldn’t correct itself without first imposing a huge rate increase on itself.
Another classic:
REPORTER: Mayor, you mentioned taking politics out as a positive thing. How can you insure accountability and any guarantee for ratepayers under this deal?

MAYOR: Utilities were created, just as Carey said, utilities were created for a certain reason in cities and municipalities across the country. A lot of that reason was to take politics out of it, so that the interest of the municipality, the city, is looked after in the long term. They are extremely accountable. Extremely accountable. You talk to any utility, and they will tell you, they’re accountable, and they will be.

I bet if you talk to Bernie Madoff, he’d tell you investment brokers are very accountable, too.

Another zinger:
We will look at greatly enhancing our connectivity with greenways and bike lanes and may look at addressing unsalveagable, abandoned homes.

Silly me. I thought the Mayor made abandoned homes one of his campaign priorities. Now he's letting you know that he might look at it now if he gets this $262 million. What happened to "cutting the fluff," Mr. Mayor? Can't you use all of the efficiencies that you boasted about being able to find for abandoned homes?

Finally, let me ask a simple question. Mr. Mayor, the contracts with Veolia and United Water both had minority business enterprise and women business enterprise mandates. I didn't see that in your MOU. Are you turning your back on MBEs and WBEs?

If the devil is in the details, this deal isn't getting my blessing until the Mayor exorcises its craven and hypocritical political components. I'll let the cowardly ones slide. I've come to expect them.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

For Brad Ellsworth: A Slate of Retorts to Anti-Healthcare Claims...Including Abortion

Spencer Valentine, my colleague and friend at A Loyal Opposition, has implored Democratic Congressman (and all-but-certain U.S. Senatorial candidate) Brad Ellsworth to "follow through" on his prior favorable healthcare vote.

Spencer tells the Congressman that, when he does the right thing and votes yes, we will help him make the case. But, as Spencer does a pretty compelling job making the case now, I figured I'd jump on board and help make the case to the Congressman, courtesy of Slate (arguably one of the best reads in a person's day).

Dear Congressman Ellsworth:

As you deliberate on healthcare reform, I hope you will keep in mind the following:

1. Don't buy the "government takeover" myth. I've written repeatedly that the government won't employee anybody or own any hospitals, clinics, pharmaceutical companies, or medical device makers. All the government will do is provide some people subsidies to buy private health insurance.

Of course, do not fear conceding in the interest of intellectual honesty that America is spending more public dollars on healthcare, but this trend will continue even without reform. In fact, without reform, it might get worse.

As Slate notes, in 1990, health care expenses were split 60/40 private/public. By 2000, that rate had changed to 55/45 (with two years with a Republican President and six years with a Republican House during that decade). During eight years of all-GOP Whitehouse (and mostly Congress) from 2000 to 2008, the rate fell to 52/48 private/public.

As the recession boosts poverty, more people are eligible for Medicaid, and the reduction in payroll jobs has caused losses in job-related insurance. Wellpoint earnings were below expectations yesterday because it estimated it will lose 400,000 individual policy holders this year. And those people are going where exactly? To no coverage? If all 400,000 stay healthy, great (except every healthy person who bails raises the rates for everybody else, making further exodus even more likely).

But what if these folks who abandoned coverage get catastrophic injuries or illnesses? Hasn't "the market" just given us 400,000 possible "free riders?" Most importantly, didn't the "public share" of our healthcare debt get greater with a Republican-supported prescription drug benefit in 2003? But what elected Republican is talking about dismantling Medicare? Not one. As an aside, if a "government-run system" is so terrible, why aren't Republicans talking about giving our veterans private insurance? Don't they value our veterans, Congressman?

America is going to end up in the same place on public medical expenses with or without reform. Democrats just hope to save more people and money through preventive care in the process.

2. "The Market" Won't Stop Insurance Companies From Hosing Us.

Indiana bears a black mark because some of the biggest insurance companies profitting off of rescission practice have roots here. "Rescission" is when a company invalides a policy after claims are filed based on technical violations on the application.

Slate notes that three health insurance companies - Assurant Health, Wellpoint, and the hypocritically-named Golden Rule - saved $300 million by rescinding nearly 20,000 policies based on omissions policyholders made in filling out enrollment forms that had nothing to do with the claims filed. When asked to pledge to stop this practice except in cases of intentional fraud, the CEOs of all three told Congress, "Thanks, but no thanks."

A lawsuit now charges that Assurant Health has engaged in "recission profiling" by launching investigations into fraud among HIV-positive clients. You think insurance companies don't do the same thing with cancer?

3. A holdout for the Stupak Amendment is Stup-id and Intellectually Dishonest. Congressman, there is nothing in this bill that says the federal government will pay for abortion. What the bill says is that IF a person enrolls in an insurance plan that provides abortion coverage, they must pay $1 per month into a separate segregated fund. But anybody who doesn’t want it covered can select an abortion-free plan, and in the Senate version of the bill, every exchange much have at least one abortion-free plan.

Stupak might argue, however, that the bill may commit tax dollars in the form of subsidies to somebody who could then choose to select a plan that provides such services. In other words, not only won’t Stupak and his supporters fund choice federally, they won’t even fund an individual's choice to fund a plan that funds a choice.

There's not only hypocrisy at work here, there's also terribly tortured line-drawing. How many times have you heard a Republican say, "We don't want to take your tax dollars because we trust you to spend it in the right way more than government?" How does that trust evaporate if the government is the one that gives you the dollars in the first place?

There are literally hundreds of ways government puts money into people's hands. Does anybody say, "Hey, we can't give you your crop subsidy, military pension, social security, educational grant, or mortgage interest deduction unless you let us know you won't use any part of those dollars to pay for an abortion for you or anybody you know." Every time I file my taxes, I check that I want $3 to go the public financing of presidential elections. What if one of the candidates favors federal-funding of abortion, and (s)he gets elected and changes the law? Have I just "funded" abortion?

Stupak has said that he won't vote for a bill without his language, but, as Slate's Tim Noah points out, it "can't be shoehorned into President Obama's package, because it's nonbudgetary and therefore ineligible for inclusion in a budget reconciliation bill."

In short, Stupak obviously wants the bill to fail, and so does anybody who clings to Stupak's amendment. In fact, Congressman, I'm starting to wonder if the "Stupak amendment" is a canard for conservative districts where a majority of people (particularly folks inclined to vote for Democrats) would benefit but where representatives are afraid a vote would be unpopular before November, 2010.

While I do not say this is the case for you, how easy would it be for your bluedog colleagues to go home and say to working-class, pro-life constituents, "Boy, I really wanted to do this for you because I know you needed it, but it would have funded abortion! You understand, right?"

Pro-life folk need to take a step back and ask what is more important: symbolic politics or actually reducing abortions? If you agree with the latter, Congressman, you might like to know that if your choices are: (1) kill the bill and do nothing; or (2) expand access to all medical care, including unsubsidized abortions, only the latter will reduce abortion rates.

The New England Journal of Medicine has a study that bears this out. Romneycare provides direct funding for abortions, but two years later, even though non-elderly insurance rates rose six percent, the abortion rate dropped 7.4 percent among teens and 1.5% overall. In other words, you give people access to information and all medical services, and some won't get pregnant in the first place and some will have children because they know medical care will be available.

As Spencer stated, Democrats stand ready to help you.

Give us the chance.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Burns Needs No Spin on Ballard Administration's Revolving Door

Terry Burns at Indianapolis Times raises some interesting questions about the exodus from the Mayor's Administration following announcement of the Citizens Gas deal. This is a must read for anybody concerned about whether the prospect of future employment can conflict with a current duty to the public.


Saturday, March 13, 2010

School Administration's Homophobia Causes Lawyer

Today The Bilerico Project gave me the honor of guest posting.

Customarily, iPOPA is about pure political analysis. This story, however, is deeply personal. It chronicles one of the most formative moments of my life and explains why I was interested in serving on the Board of the Indiana Stonewall Democrats when given the opportunity recently.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Zoeller in RNCC Cellar as GOP Vows to Continue "Dissing" Hoosiers During Dinner

Even though he's one of their own, the Republican National Campaign Committee (RNCC) doesn't care what Indiana's top law enforcement officer, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, thinks.

Jim Shella blogs that when the RNCC made robocalls into three congressional district in a manner that is legal but in violation of an agreement made by all three state party chairman in an effort to give Hoosiers some peace, Zoeller asked the RNCC to stop. The RNCC's reply?

"Sorry, dude. We've got way too much anti-Democrat, misleading healthcare-related fear mongering to do to get this done with live humans." (Okay, I made that last part up, but you know that's what they were thinking).

Zoeller told Shella the tactic was "disrespectful."

I'm painfully objective and when praise is due, I give it. Kudos to Republican Greg Zoeller for taking on his own party. Too bad their ends justify even "disrespectful" means.


Merit Board Earns Demerits for Deplorable Jefferson Decision

If you were the manager of a restaurant or grocery store and you learned your employee stole $500 worth of steaks, would you have that employee prosecuted for theft? Maybe. But maybe not if they made restitution. But would you fire that person? Oh, no doubt.

In truth, the industry, job title, or stolen item wouldn’t matter. A bank teller or church secretary with cash or tithing money, a construction worker with job-site tools, a Walmart greeter with shopping carts, or an office manager with boxes and boxes of Post-It notes. There is no industry where an employee isn’t on the bricks the moment he’s proven dishonesty through theft.

Save one.

The one where honesty matters more than in any other position – policeman with IMPD.

In August of 2009, Bobby Jefferson, a two-year member of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) arrested an illegal immigrant possessing a lot of cash. Jefferson wrote up a report saying he confiscated $3,700. But Jefferson later amended his report later to reflect that he had taken $4,200. In other words, Jefferson probably realized what would happen if the suspect started talking about his missing $500. (The immigrant was ultimately deported on a battery charge).

Jefferson was immediately suspended. Former IMPD Chief Michael Spears wanted him canned, a position supported by new chief Paul Ciesielski and the local Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). You read that right. The FOP wanted their own guy gone because they realized how having a bad apple in the bunch spoils it for everybody (take note, Democratic Party).

But police discipline has to go through a Civilian Merit Board, and even though Jefferson was found guilty of theft and found to have violated 9 of 10 departmental rules, the Board would not approve his dismissal.

Attorney Mike Morken and Jeff Oberlies voted to terminate, but John Burns, Frank Miller, Catherine Ross, and Joe Slash, former deputy mayor under Steve Goldsmith, voted to just suspend Jefferson without pay for six months.

Slash stated, “"The majority of the board came to the conclusion that we did not want to fire this guy. We wanted to give him an opportunity to salvage his career."

Are you (expletive) kidding me? Salvage his career!?! The guy should have been prosecuted criminally, and he should have been grateful all he got was fired. But now he’ll go back on duty and instead of having all its personnel focusing on making high quality arrests that might actually reduce violent crime, the department will have to babysit this guy.

Where the trustworthiness of every officer is so crucial, how could these four individuals be so insanely short-sighted? Didn't you read his job title? He's a police officer. How can you deter others from similar conduct when they know they won't even lose their job?

I’m not sure which of the board members were elected by the officers and which were appointed by the Mayor, but were I the Mayor, I’d be telling those four right now to enjoy their last term.

Will he?

UPDATE: Republican City-County Councillor, Ben Hunter, the chair of the Public Safety committee, has vowed to investigate why Jefferson was not fired.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mayor Ballard Refreshingly Honest About His Own Cowardice and Status As "Just Another Politician"

I can't reach any conclusion but this: Mayor Greg Ballard is a self-aware man.

He says we need to get our utilities out of the hands of "politicians" so no office holder can be blamed at election time for implementing necessary rate hikes.

For example, him. Especially him.

The Mayor speaks from experience because he became mayor employing such blame-game tactics. Indianapolis needed pension relief so former Mayor Bart Peterson gave Luke Kenley his mandated local option income tax in exchange for having the state take over the obligation. And Ballard crushed Peterson on it. (If only Peterson had created a "fire and police pension charitable trust").

In short, Ballard is absolutely right that some political candidates (mostly Republicans like himself, by the way) attack their opponents for "raising taxes." But if a principled leader thought rate hikes were needed, wouldn't he push for them? Wouldn't he sell us on the necessity? Then why hasn't this Mayor?

As I said before, I'm going to be open-minded as I study this deal in more depth. But no matter how this plays out, for good or ill, our Mayor has proven himself not some courageous "man of the people," but rather, just another politician who would rather abdicate his responsibility than do what he says is needed and right.

Can I ask a question, Mr. Mayor? Why stop at utilities? Why not convert IMPD into a "charitable trust" if it's such a great governing model? Violent crime is insane right now, and I bet if we had a "charitable trust" those trustees could get that money for overtime on the streets, and no politician would have to ever take blame for raising taxes. In fact, why don't we just replace your office with a charitable trust?

I'm being facetious, of course, Mr. Mayor, because the City of Indianapolis already IS a "charitable trust," and you're its head trustee.

I can think of at least four people who would ask about your Mayor's chair the same thing Abraham Lincoln asked a reluctant general about his army:

"If you don't intend to use (it), may I borrow it for a while?"


Jon Easter Deserves Praise for Commentary on Bigoted School

Democratic blogger, Jon Easter, is the kind of guy who gives out more praise than he'll ever accept because his humility makes him like that, but I cannot think of how his "personal prerogative" comments could have been an iota more effective. This is a must read.

I'd print the whole thing verbatim, but I want him to get credit for the traffic because it's so well-deserved.

The short version? Somewhere in Mississippi you've probably never heard of, Itawamba County, a high school chose to cancel its prom instead of permitting a lesbian to attend in a tuxedo with her girlfriend. The story itself will likely enrage and sadden you, but Easter's poignant approach to the subject matter should be commended.

Briefly stated, Chumbawamba did "Tub Thumping." Itawamba does "Gay Bashing."


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ballard Goes J.G. Wentworth on Us, But Does Deal Hold Water?

It seems these days that no Republican politician can avoid "the lure." They get offered lump sum cash for an asset now, and they sell out control, which is ironic because it runs completely contrary to all their smug talk about accountability and the Shepard-Kernan Commission's report as well.

Just like Governor Daniels did with the Indiana Toll Road, Ballard has worked a deal to sell the city's water operations to Citizens Gas for $1.9 billion with promise of infrastructure improvements. (Actually, the Toll Road was a 99-year lease; this IS an actual sale).

From the outset, because the Mayor has kept everybody in the dark until the deal was done, I haven't had time to really study it yet.

But here's what I already don't get. I'm told that the upside for Citizens Gas is that it's a charitable trust, not a company that has to appease stockholders. This means that IF it makes profits, the result is either reduced rates or reinvestment in infrastructure. I'm also told the Board members are fiduciaries, which means they have to act in the best interests of the ratepayers. Yaaaay!

Except what happens when Citizens makes a bad business decision? Say for example that something that seemed a good idea at the time, such as Coke Manufacturing, turns out to be a huge error (p. 62) and the company has to take a substantial hit because it can't find a buyer for the dismantled enterprise and now it has ongoing remediation costs? Did the fact it's a charitable trust ensure that mistakes don't result in rate increases? Well, no.

Can the Mayor fire anybody? Not anymore.

So can we hold someone responsible at a charitable trust if the trustees go completely outside of their core competency, for example, by taking control of a completely mammoth and unrelated enterprise? How could they? The public has no say in who the trustees are, nor in who they appoint to the Citizens Board, nor in who that Board hires or fires.

At least with the Mayor, there was a modicum of accountability if things got screwed up.

Harry S. Truman had a plaque on his desk that read: "The Buck Stops Here."

Greg Ballard just auctioned off that entire spirit so that he can fill the potholes he's left gaping and the sidewalks he's left crumbling.

He might even use some of that as a parlor trick to tell you he achieved the 10% cut in spending that he pledged he would achieve as a condition to his seeking re-election.

The real tragedy is that if the Democratic City-County Council voted as a block, this deal could not pass. But my prediction is that when somebody is told they can get some new sidewalks and look like heroes at re-election time, one or more D's will fall off the wagon and join the Mayor in selling out because, just like the Mayor, they probably won't even BE in office when the excrement hits the oscillating unit.

Hey, Mayor, have you thought about selling the Health & Hospital Corporation to Clarian?


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Mayor Ballard's Warped Sense of Public Involvement

Mayor Ballard said his administration would be "transparent."

Is this how it's done?

Despite telling Democrats on the City-County Council repeatedly that nothing was in the works, the Mayor and Citizens Energy Group CEO Carey Lykins are having a joint press conference tomorrow at 9:00 in the Mayor's Office.

Well, I wonder what those two could be discussing?

Did anybody think that it might be a good idea to get public input before embarking on any type of joint venture? You did? Oh, you just decided it would be a good idea to tell as few people as possible and to face the public AFTER the joint announcement?

Utility Briefing Invite[1]

Notice how this is a joint PR affair?

I seldom resort to personal invective on this blog, but, friends, our Mayor has gone from a "man of the people" to a behind closed doors deal cutting coward. He has the joint conference and then sends his underlings to clean up with the public. And, yes, Mr. & Mrs. John Q Public, you will get precisely one hour to grasp all the complexities of this deal our Mayor has shephered in the dark of night. Good luck!


Evans In With Both Feet

In an earlier post today, I suggested Jose Evans was doing a coy two-step into the mayoral race because his press release didn't talk about a declaration, per se. It only talked about filing an exploratory committee.

Well, I just just got an e-mail that eliminates all doubt. It bears one of the better political logos I've seen, and it strikes a populist chord by referring to Evans as a "real" Democrat and going after the "downtown establishment":

Too many politicians care more about downtown businesses than they do about creating jobs and our neighborhoods - I plan on changing that attitude.

As Mayor, I will promote 21st century ideas focused on creating jobs and fostering neighborhood development. I'll fight to ensure we have a world-class public education system and to make Indianapolis one of the safest cities in America.

Over the next several months we'll have many opportunities to discuss these and other important issues. For now, I hope you'll go to my new website, learn more about my campaign, and suggest your ideas to improve Indianapolis.

Evans has completed revamped his prior website, and this one has a bit of punch (and even includes the opportunity to buy a Jose Evans Mayoral hoodie!)

While good marketing can't create a candidate of substance, but bad marketing can sure obscure one. Looks like the veil is off. The rest remains to be seen.


Evans Mayoral Bid Curious, But His Water Company Meddling Dead-On

Democratic City-County Councillor, Jose Evans, will file paperwork at 2:30 p.m. today that establishes his "exploratory committee" to run for Mayor of Indianapolis, a move that will surely have people shaking their heads.

With a clearly-established candidate among party faithful in Melina Kennedy, a formidable "outsider" candidate in Brian Williams, and even an African-American candidate in former At-Large City-County Councillor Ron Gibson, one may ask, "What's the play here for Evans?" Is this what iPOPA has dubbed a "Braveheart maneuver" (trying to get concessions from your opponents to force you off the battlefield) or just an effort to elevate profile, as Jim Shella with WISH-TV suggests.

Before Gibson's entry, Evans had a hail mary-type long-shot chance at potentially garnering support for a plurality in an inverted Thomas Carcetti/The Wire scenario. But now that Gibson stepped in, he forces Evans to fight to preserve the segment of voters with no real connection to political folk but who think it's time for Indianapolis to have an African-American mayor.

Also, it's not clear who supports Evans' bid yet, nor will we find out immediately. Evans is not announcing his candidacy like Gibson, who drew at least 50 supporters to a rally; he is only handing over paper for said "exploratory committee," which makes it sound like Jose is two-stepping his way into the race. This late in the game, Evans cannot afford to be coy, and he should expect some political blowback from this effort. To paraphrase sage words once uttered by Democratic Party Chair Ed Treacy, "We need fewer candidates, not more."

But when praise is do, I give it, and here it is.

For months, Evans has been criticizing the Ballard Administration's handling of the water company, and he's been trying to publicly force the Mayor's Office to discuss what plans its has for a sale to Citizens Gas. I've seen at least three separate press releases for such calls that went unheeded and, perhaps in part because council Democrats just assumed Evans was seeking the limelight and going rogue, nobody signed on.

This is not to say none of the D's on the council weren't paying attention. Democratic City-County Council leaders have been working behind the scenes collecting information, believing that the Mayor would let them know before any real progress was made, and last week, the caucus introduced a resolution seeking that the mayor ensure a public process. That resolution was sent to the rules committee by Republicans, and the meeting at which it was to be heard last Tuesday was cancelled.

Now guess what? Democratic blogger Terry Burns reports there is now a "deal" that will be presented to the caucus this evening. The presentation was already made to Republicans on Monday, and I'm told that, but for Citizens and its attorneys, no presentation would have been made at all to Democrats.

There are all kinds of "teachable moments" here for my fellow Democrats, so absorb them:

1. You can't trust anything Mayor Ballard says about "transparency."

2. There's a fine line between paranoia and political astuteness. We like to believe when people say, "I'll let you know," and that's fine. But on this one, Jose Evans fell on the right side on the line. I admire the council resolution, but I can't help but wonder. If the entire caucus had "gone public" to the media, might an enterprising TV reporter have gone to the 25th Floor and asked, "Is city legal and/or an Indianapolis law firm representing Citizens Gas negotiating and/or writing up a purchase agreement as we speak? Doesn't the public have a right to be heard on this?"

3. We should remember to check our human nature, which often lets our feelings about the "who" prevail over our logic surrounding the "what." Even if Evans' critics think he got information wrong or did this for all the wrong reasons, he rightly saw a ram-rod coming.

4. The Ballard administration is ingenius at buying off individual Dems. Now that a deal seems to be a fait accompli, expect it to chisel off individual D councillors by offering a cut of the pie. Hopefully, D councillors will not fall for the siren song and completely fail to recognize potentially catastrophic long-term implications.

5. Finally, remember Luke 12:24: "You cannot serve two masters at the same time. You will hate one and love the other, or you will be loyal to the one and not care about the other." Every elected official or party with the mind to take advice from an attorney better memorize the attorney's client list because the Rules of Professional Conduct require allegiance to the client's interests to trump any political friendship you think you have.

As two of the Marion County Democratic Party's most prominent advisors and financiers serve with the law firm representing Citizens Gas, the effort to persuade D's to vote in favor might actually be led by my own party's consiglieres, bringing with them, not horse heads in beds, but statements like, "This is going to happen, so you need to get what you can as quickly as you can before there's nothing left."

Ahh, my kingdom for a modicum of Democratic solidarity even when the Mayor deals a bad hand. But, hey, politics isn't pretty, and somebody has to pay for the re-election campaigns.


Monday, March 8, 2010

May Apparently "Shall" Be Ignored By Marion County GOP

I try to say positive things about fellow Wabash grads, so I'll credit Carlos May, the GOP candidate taking on Congressman Andre Carson in the 7th District of Indiana, for being an extremely friendly guy and for his frugal thinking.

Getting "gently used" office equipment is smarter than using limited funds to buy new stuff. But when you have to send a call out on Facebook seeking a satellite office and basic office supplies, such as copy paper, coffee cups, snacks, and sodas, doesn't it tell you something about the state of your party's finances and/or its commitment to your race?

May's list of needs includes a DV Camcorder, Digital Photo Camera,
Old Land-Line & GSM Cell Phones, Magic-Jacks, Coffee Urn, Airpots & Paper Cups, Printer Ink (Epson: Black 68, CYM 69), Power Strips, White & Bulletin Boards, Book Shelves, Clipboards, Messenger Bags, Copy Paper, Sodas & Snacks, Trash Cans & Bags

It should have included a whole lot of Tums.

Welcome to the Majors, Carlos!


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Ogden Raises Interesting Questions About Plowman

Republican Paul Ogden asks some interesting questions about Lincoln Plowman in a recent blog post.

Specifically, why would the Marion County GOP donate $2400 to Plowman in February of 2009? That's two years before his next election, and the guy is in a staggeringly Republican district. Oh, wait! Did anybody else notice and think it was fishy that the exact same day that check came in, Plowman wrote a check to himself for $1930 for money he had loaned the committee? Why did he need that money so urgently?

After reviewing Plowman's last report, I have questions of my own.

Is the cool thing now in the GOP operating above your means and then loaning yourself money so it looks like you raise more than you do?

Plowman repeatedly loaned himself money, including a $3,082 on March 5, 2009, the exact day his campaign bought a PC from Fry Electronics for that exact amount. Why? Because his campaign only had $1300 at the time. He makes the purchase, records the loan, and presto, because campaign finance laws require all incoming "dollars" to be recorded as "contributions," he's just added "$3,082" to his year-to-date fundraising total. (This is why cash-on-hand if the only intrinsically valuable piece of information on a CFA-4. Plowman raised $14,000, a very healthy sum for a councillor, but he only had $500 in the bank at year's end).

Also, last time I checked, campaign finance law say you can spend contributions only on things reasonably related to campaign activities. Raise your hand if you believe that Plowman actually spent $4041...yes, that's four THOUSAND....on the purchase of a new campaign phone and only campaign cell phone bills. (iPOPA looks across entire county, sees no hands).

Just like Carl Brizzi, Plowman also has numerous "meetings" that look an awful lot like a guy eating out on his donors' dime. This practice troubles me because the only difference between campaign donations and something that resembles implied bribery is the law prohibiting candidates from benefitting personally from contributions.

Also, if Plowman resigns and is done with politics, what will happen to his new iPhone? What will happen to his new laptop? Will he keep them? Or will he donate them to another committee or sell them and transfer the proceeds to another committee? Only the latter practices are legal, and I assure you, I'll be watching.

And it won't just be Plowman from here out. Fair warning to both R's and my fellow D's alike....if you use your campaign committee like a personal bank account, you should probably reform your ways, or you might get your feelings hurt.


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Mansfield Pushes Plowman Out the Door?

Sometimes political officials step down because they realize it's necessary to restore a broken public trust. And sometimes they step down because they're about to get busted wide open politically.

Let's play a game called, "Which one describes Lincoln Plowman?"

Word has been circulating all last week about City-County Councillor Angela Mansfield's (D-District 2) planned ethics complaint against Plowman, which was filed today. iPOPA suspects that buzz prompted Plowman's expedited resignation, which will be delivered on Monday. Kudos are due to Mansfield for speeding the return of integrity to the 25th District.

As Mansfield rightly points out, because Plowman has essentially pled the 5th on why he is on administrative leave and being talked to by the FBI, the council cannot ascertain whether any conflict of interest exists in his service. This is problematic because it could potentially jeopardize future votes.

Republican Council President Ryan Vaughn and GOP Chair Tom John are undoubtedly ecstatic to see Plowman go, whatever the cause, as there was a radioactive glow of corruption and chicanery lingering over the entire Marion County Republican Party before Plowman's administrative leave.

As I've said repeatedly, a party label is a brand. Right now, the Marion County GOP is the Toyota of Indiana politics.

Plowman Complaint[1]


GOP Encourages Communication With Dems; Churns Phony Opposition to Healthcare

It seems lately that with every fiber of its being the Republican Party stays on one message: No.

Whatever President Obama wants, don't give him. No matter what. No matter how much he agrees with us.

And now they've wed their "Go with No" mantra with a nice slice of "divide and conquer" by targeting Indiana Democrats in conservative districts.

Via blast email from the Indiana GOP, entitled "Alert: Help Stop Democrats Healthcare Reform!" -

Last summer, you helped us generate thousands of phone calls and e-mails into the offices of Reps. Brad Ellsworth, Baron Hill and Joe Donnelly regarding the health care legislation that Democrats in Washington are trying to force on the American public. Once again, we need your help in this effort.

Since last summer, Reps. Ellsworth, Hill and Donnelly voted for the House version of the bill after months of pretending to have the same concerns as Hoosiers: How much will it cost? Will you get to keep your doctor? Will premiums go up? Will quality of care go down? Months later, we still don't have definitive answers to those questions and the Senate passed an even more egregious bill.

Now, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is talking about passing that same Senate bill through the House. We must encourage Reps. Ellsworth, Hill and Donnelly to stand with Hoosiers and oppose a government takeover of health care. They already ignored our concerns once, but with a renewed effort and a worse piece of legislation, we might convince them to oppose their own party's bad idea!

Please contact these Congressmen today and tell them that Hoosiers won't stand to have this legislation thrust upon us.

If you want healthcare reform, Democrats, you better get to work offsetting this Republican-orchestrated astroturf opposition. Contact Baron, Brad, and Joe.

While it's masterful political strategy to call this a "government takeover" of healthcare given how people hate the word "government," it's intellectually dishonest.

Under no Democratic plan will the government own hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, or medical device manufacturers or employ a single medical provider. What the government will do is cut checks and negotiate rates, just like with Medicare.

How many elected Republicans have called Medicare a "government takeover" or asked that it be dismantled? Not one. In fact, when Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) proposed a budget that talked about even cutting Medicare benefits, House Minority Leader John Boehner and his colleagues ran away from it, though when pressed Boehner couldn't name a single substantive disagreement he had with that budget.

There are robust discussions to be had on healthcare. Most Americans do favor market-based solutions. The problem is that "the market" has almost never delivered solutions Americans want in healthcare.

Has the market done away with prohibitions on pre-existing conditions? No.

Has the market kept premiums down? No.

Has the market kept healthcare costs down? No.

Did the market create portability in coverage? No.

Did the market ensure that medical decisions were made by doctors and not HMOs? No. (This is why "the government" tried to pass the Bi-Partisan Patient Protection Act).

Some may contend that the problem has been "the market" is artificially restricted because you can't sale insurance across state lines. That's an excellent point. But each state has a Department of Insurance that heavily regulates insurance products sold within its boundaries. If companies sell across state lines, who ensures that companies in Ohio haven't denied claims arbitrarily for customers in New York? Who ensures that all plans sold comply with minimum terms that even Republicans would claim they want? Who ensures comparable pricing structures so people can make informed comparisons? It will have to be some entity with federal authority, won't it?

Another Republican Party disconnect is on the notion of forcing people to buy insurance. Oh, the horror! But isn't that precisely what forty-seven states, including Indiana, require before you can operate an automobile? If you drive without insurance, you get a suspended license; drive with a suspended license, go to jail. Why aren't Republicans talking about dismantling these laws in 47 states?

Because many Republicans right now aren't serious about dismantling anything except the Obama administration.

Here's the truth about insurance. The more people in a pool who don't file claims or really even need the insurance, the cheaper it is for everybody. In other words, there has always been and always will be a subsidy from good case to bad case.

A healthy person might want to play the "healthcare lotto." I know because did. I was self-employed, young, single, and healthy, and I could get coverage for $258 a month. Instead, I opted out and spent my money having nice dinners with friends. Fortunately for me, the gamble paid off. But I was precisely the person Wellpoint points to as the cause of its 39% premium increase in California. When you let healthy people (or good drivers) walk away, there are fewer payors to subsidize the remaining people in the pool, and the irony is, the more the premiums go up, the more people will walk away, if they can.

This is how you know the GOP is not serious about eliminating pre-existing conditions. As soon as insurance companies can't "cherry pick" (i.e., offering coverage only to the healthiest people least likely to ever file a claim), premiums will go up unless you ensure that people can't leave the "national" pool. You might let them go from one company to another, but they can't walk away completely, or the premium cost containtment breaks down.

And this setup is precisely what Medicare is, except you have to think of senior citizens as the ones with the "pre-existing" condition of old age. They pay less in "premiums" than they'll use in claims, which is why the system has to be subsidized by healthy people. And guess what? Medicare pays less for services than private insurance. Why? Because it's "government" at the switch negotiating rates, not thousands of smaller insurance companies with less bargaining power.

Republicans also claim they want to empower consumers by advertising prices for services just like at Jiffy Lube. This is a talking point with common sense appeal. But has "the market" made anybody list prices? No. As it stands, there is no website or pricing sheet I can get at a hospital to show me what a tonsillectomy runs. So who is going to compel price listings if not "government?"

Of course, I need to be able to compare apples to apples, or competition doesn't work. But how do I compare the value of an appendectomy? Republicans say they want performance measures for healthcare providers advertised. But to compare appendectomies to appendectomies, we'd need uniform criteria and data collection methods. Has the market developed that to date? No.

What if hospitals fudged their numbers? Would the market impose a penalty on them? Of course not. "The market" wouldn't even know. Detecting wrongdoing by insurance companies, doctgors, and hospitals and penalizing it is what "government" does. (Lawsuits can serve this purpose as well, but Republicans do everything they can to limit those and the resulting damages).

But at the end of the day, all you need to remember is that sixteen years have passed since the Republicans killed the last effort to reform healthcare, and the House Republicans plan will increase coverage by only three million people. Has "the market" gotten thirty-six million Americans coverage they don't have now? No.

In short, when more Republicans get real on what America needs to get healthy, I'm in the market to listen.


Friday, March 5, 2010

GOP Mastering Identity Politics But Not Truth in Advertising

I'll be the first to admit that I don't look at the Indiana Republican Party's website on a daily basis, so I need to ask my Republican readers. Is it commonplace for the Indiana GOP to put an Indiananpolis city-county councillor on the front page of its website?

Or could there be something unusual or unique about this guy serving in his first elected office that makes the GOP front him? Oh, here it is in the bio:

"Angel Rivera is the newest addition to the Indianapolis City-County Council, and the first Latino to serve in the role."

Oh, Really?

While this is a shrewd ploy by Republican Party Chair Murray Clark, you can't tell me he hadn't heard of former City-County Councillor Karen Horseman-Celestino, who served from 2000-2003. (And what about current Councillor Jose Evans, who is bi-racial with a Cuban father?)

But I suppose if you acknowledge that electing an Hispanic and/or Latino to the council is nothing new for Democrats, you don't look like trailblazers to the voters you're trying to court.