Friday, January 20, 2017

Indiana's New AG Releases Statement on Trump's Inauguration

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill
Indiana’s new Attorney General is speaking out and pleading for calm as Donald Trump gets inaugurated in Washington.

Curtis Hill, the former Elkhart County Prosecutor, who took office just last Monday replacing Greg Zoeller, said in a statement,
“The peaceful transfer of presidential power stands among our nation’s most cherished traditions. Whatever our political beliefs and affiliations, let us all join together as Americans to give thanks for the stability of our great republic. Let us do what Lincoln asked: 'Let us be guided by the better angels of our nature.' This is not the time for division nor is this the occasion for politics."
First of all, if this is what we can expect for the next four years, I'd say Curtis Hill is already running for something else. It's certainly his right to put out a statement on anything he wishes, and politicians do.  That said, I honestly wasn't thinking, "Wonder what Indiana's new Attorney General thinks about Donald Trump's inauguration."  Don't take this as a slap or a slight.  I think it's something interesting, and it signals something larger about Hill's star in the Republican Party.  It's going to rise.

Taken on merit, I disagree with parts of the Attorney General's statement.

First off, I do agree with the peaceful transition of power being a cherished tradition. I also do absolutely agree that we should celebrate that power moves from one President to another in our democracy without tanks on the streets.  It’s been that way now since George Washington handed power to John Adams in 1797, and we should be absolutely proud of that.  I disagree with Mr. Hill on this being a time for politics.

An inaugruation is all about politics! Politics inherently run through the veins of this government, and President-Elect Trump will stand up and give a political speech today. The response of the opposing party and its leaders is a political decision even if that decision is to attend the festivities, watch politely, and enjoy the cold January afternoon.  It's Donald Trump's big political day.  After all, it’s his inauguration.

I also think that we can handle any dissent to Trump's ascension to the highest office in the land because of the strength of our democracy. People can and will protest and that's perfectly ok because they have the right to do so. Curtis Hill may not agree that the timing is right, but I believe the freedom to stand up against those in power in a peaceable manner is also what we celebrate about our country. 

 The right to peaceably assemble, the right to speak freely, and the right to the press to write and speak freely are all guaranteed under our Constitution. I’m sure that Attorney General Hill knows all of this, too.

Perhaps the “better angels of our nature” tell us that the appropriate action when something is wrong to not let it go unchecked. That, I suppose is in the eye of the beholder.

One way or another, it's a big day in America.  I join AG Hill in wishing everyone in Washington a smooth day.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Thanks Obama

President Barack Obama boards Air Force One
White House Photo by Pete Souza
The fact is tough to face for some, but it's a fact.

Today is the last full day of the Barack Obama Presidency.

Tomorrow, shortly after noon, Donald Trump will raise his right hand and become the 45th President of the United States.  It's a time-honored and tested ritual   The power of the United States Executive Branch of Government will pass peacefully to Trump.  I think it's fair to say that two more different men have rarely taken part in this well-rehearsed ceremony.

The good news for President Obama is that the burden of leading this country will rise from his shoulders, and America's problems will become that of Donald Trump.  The talk will have to stop, and he will have to lead.  As many before have said, the past has been prologue, but the future has not been written.

What an eight years we've had with a man who grew up in a way unlike any previous POTUS.  The first African-American President of the United States left a consequential legacy that hopefully come the future will still be in tact.

Among his major accomplishments in office: bringing back the economy from near-collapse, adding millions of new jobs after double-digit unemployment gripped the land, saving the auto industry, repairing a shattered reputation around the world, attacking climate change and immigration reform, passing the Affordable Care Act, honoring the agreement with Iraq to bring home our troops, beginning the process of drawing down troops in Afghanistan, normalizing relationships with Cuba, refusing to let our enemies sleep, and getting Osama bin Laden.

There were many disappointments too.  The rollout of the Affordable Care Act was bungled.  Obama was unsuccessful in passing comprehensive immigration reform and getting action on gun control.  During his administration, the United States Government spied domestically on Americans and on some of our biggest allies.  Benghazi was poorly-handled, and the Syrian Civil War spun out of control allowing the rise of ISIS.

Part of the reason for these disappointments was a Congress that, for six years of his eight years, worked strongly against him.  President Obama has been disrespected and treated more poorly than many of his predecessors.  All the while, the President and his family have been a picture of class, intelligence, and even good humor.

There will be many defining American moments that we'll look back upon as to when President Obama was at his best.  One moment I'll always remember will be when he stood at the memorial service in Charleston for the nine people shot and killed in the Mother Emanuel AME Church shooting and broke into "Amazing Grace".  It was a healing moment.

I'll also remember the movement that got him elected.  I remember meeting in people's living rooms and in coffee shops.  I remember making phone calls and knocking doors on his behalf.  I remember getting to know Mike Liroff and Charlie Davis and other organizers in the campaign.  I believed in President Obama.  I believed in the movement.

I'll remember when Obama's Vice President, Joe Biden, said he was "absolutely comfortable" with marriage equaity in this country.  Soon, Obama said he backed it, too.  The Department of Justice stopped defending DOMA.  Don't Ask Don't Tell went by the wayside.  Public opinion turned around, and Republican-appointed judges and Supreme Court Justices ultimately made marriage equality the law of the land in a broad advancement of civil rights for gay people like me.

That was not only the hope and change he promised.  It was signed, sealed, and delivered.

Tomorrow, Barack Hussein Obama II leaves office with a near 60 percent approval rating.  His administration has been largely scandal-free.  A grateful country says thank you.

I say thank you, and I can't wait to see what's next.  At 55, Barack Obama seems far from done making change.  This country needs him badly, too.  While I hope Donald Trump succeeds for the good of the country, I know that Barack Obama will be there to use his bully pulpit to make the world a better place.  To me, that's the job of a former President.

There will never be another Barack Obama.  For one final time, thanks Obama!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Wesseler, Mowery Join City-County Council GOP Caucus

As is typical of local government, the layer most close to the public is often the one you hear the least about.

Republicans Jack Sandlin and Aaron Freeman left the City-County Council in November of last year. The duo took their “talents” to the Indiana Senate this January leaving two conspicuous open seats on the Council. Those seats have been filled.

John Wesseler, who according to the IBJ is a U.S. Army Veteran and has an extensive background in law enforcement, won the caucus to replace Sandlin. The Homecroft resident joined the Council in December.

Also joining the Council last month is Councillor Brian Mowery. On the positive side, Mowery seems to be excellent with social media with active Twitter and Facebook accounts. He lives in Franklin Township.

So, that means the Council is now comprised of the following 25 individuals. I’ve tried to list them by seniority on the Council.

Democrats
Monroe Gray 11/23/1992 (Goldsmith)
Duke Oliver 1/1/2004 (Peterson)
Maggie Lewis 12/2/2008 (Ballard)
Zach Adamson 1/1/2012 (Ballard)
Frank Mascari1/1/2012 (Ballard)
Vop Osili 1/1/2012 (Ballard)
Leroy Robinson 1/1/2012 (Ballard)
Joe Simpson 1/1/2012 (Ballard)
LaKeisha Jackson 8/21/2014 (Ballard)
Stephen Clay 11/15/2014* (Ballard)
Jared Evans 1/1/2016 (Hogsett)
Blake Johnson 1/1/2016 (Hogsett)
David Ray 1/1/2016 (Hogsett)
*-Estimated Date

Republicans
Marilyn Pfisterer 1/1/2004 (Peterson)
Janice McHenry 1/1/2008 (Ballard)
Mike McQuillen 1/1/2008 (Ballard)
Christine Scales 1/1/2008 (Ballard)
Jason Holliday 1/1/2012 (Ballard)
Jeff Miller 1/1/2012 (Ballard)
Jeff Coats 1/1/2016 (Hogsett)
Susie Cordi 1/1/2016 (Hogsett)
Colleen Fanning 1/1/2016 (Hogsett)
Scott Kreider 1/1/2016 (Hogsett)
Brian Mowery 12/5/2016* (Hogsett)
John Wesseler 12/5/2016* (Hogsett)
*-Estimated Date

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Former Rep. Mae Dickinson Passes at 83

News came late Tuesday night that longtime State Representative Mae Dickinson passed away after fighting health issues.

Long before I knew anything about politics, I knew about Dickinson and the work she did on behalf of children in the Indiana General Assembly.

Dickinson was first elected to the Indiana House in 1992 and served there until 2007. She retired from the House as her 95th District seat went to John Bartlett.

Her work as a neighborhood activist and State Representative aside, Dickinson also had quite a collection of hats, and she seemed to never be seen with the same hat on twice.  It was her trademark.

She served long and well, and the tributes poured in.

Congressman André Carson:
Saddened to hear about the passing of former State Rep. Mae Dickinson. Mae was not only a friend, she was a leader, stateswoman and gift to our entire community. May God bless her family during this time.
City-County Council President Maggie Lewis:
I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of State Representative Mae Dickinson. For nearly 15 years, she served the people of Indianapolis' 95th district with valor. Colossians 1:10 says, "Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.”

Representative Dickinson produced good fruit for the City of Indianapolis. Because of her profound commitment, our community has tougher domestic violence penalties and more extensive background checks for school corporations. On behalf of the City-County Council my deepest sympathy goes out to her family for their great loss.
There are many more personal reflections out there on social media. If you search her name, you'll find stories of kindness and service.

Representative Mae Dickinson is gone at 83.

Trump Undermines Own Legitimacy By Conduct

Donald Trump
I'm back from my long weekend, and it's just in time for one of the most interesting weeks in politics: Inauguration Week.

This year, January 20 falls on a Friday, so we get an entire week of hype before Trumpmageddon 2017. At noonish on Friday, Donald John Trump will raise his right hand and John Roberts, a man criticized by Trump, will ask him to repeat after him the Oath of Office.  It won't matter what he says because, legally, at noon on January 20, Barack Obama will no longer be President of the United States and Trump will.

It will be yet another peaceful transition of power between political parties but never perhaps between two political figures like Obama and Trump.

Obama, the first African-American to serve as President of the United States, will be handing off to Trump, a 70-year-old former reality show host and business man who successfully navigated a populist wave for an electoral vote victory.  

As Trump did for several years to Obama, he himself is fighting claims of illegitimacy to hold the office.  The loudest voice is civil rights icon and Georgia Congressman John Lewis.  The man who felt the blunt force of a sheriff's deputy's nightstick on Bloody Sunday in 1965 told NBC's Chuck Todd that he did not see President-Elect Trump as legitimate due to concerns over Russian hacking of our electoral system.  Trump fired back with sophomoric tweets using untrue rhetoric to sully the reputation of Lewis.  It backfired.

I don't agree with John Lewis in this regard.  I think Donald Trump was elected President of the United States by the laws of this land.  I think he stands as a legitimate holder of the office.  He, however, is threatening his own legitimacy by his actions.

How can a man swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States when he clearly doesn't even know what the very first First Amendment of that document says or means?  It's the First Amendment that guarantees my right, your right, John Lewis's right to protest.  It's the First Amendment that guarantees my right, your right, John Lewis's right to speak out.  It's also the First Amendment that guarantees the right of a free press and media to write about it.  

Thank YOU John Lewis for once again having the courage to speak out and stand up.  You are one of my heroes.  

As for Mr. Trump, I suggest he do some cramming on what it means to be President and take that Oath of Office.  Pocket-sized Constitutions are widely available.  One can even find the Constitution online with a little less time on Twitter.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Donnelly's Reelection Fight Already Underway

Senator Joe Donnelly Spends the Day as a Firefighter.
Joe Donnelly’s fight for reelection to his Senate seat in 2018 has already begun with campaign insiders already being pulled in to lead his effort.

Peter Hanscom will lead Donnelly’s campaign as his campaign manager. Despite Hanscom’s relatively young age, it’s not his first time at the rodeo. He’s served in leadership roles with the Indiana Democratic Party, Freedom Indiana and Indiana Competes.

In 2012, Donnelly moved over from the U.S. House to the Senate by defeating then-Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock. Donnelly ran the perfect campaign, and, while the campaign was trending his way, Mourdock’s now infamous comments on rape shocked Hoosiers. 

Consistently, Donnelly ranks as one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate, and his record on women’s issues tends to annoy more liberal Democrats. When he was elected to the Senate, Donnelly was against same-sex marriage, but he has since evolved on the issue. His vote for the Affordable Care Act as well will no doubt be used against him.

It will be harder to connect Donnelly to some of the same nefarious things that Evan Bayh was connected to in Todd Young’s successful campaign against the former Senator from this past fall. Donnelly is ethically as clean as a whistle, and no one can dispute how hard he has worked for his constituents in the State of Indiana. Donnelly has constantly been at the forefront of everything from VA reform to solving the crime issue in Indianapolis. Donnelly’s also been going across the state and doing a myriad of different jobs to put himself in the perspective of everyday Hoosiers.

Much will depend on who ends up challenging the Senator. You can bet it will likely be one of the current sitting GOP U.S. Representatives trying to take back the seat for Republicans.

I would assume this will be a close race all the way through.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Rokita Out to Destroy Civil Servant Union Representation

Rep. Todd Rokita
Last seen trying to take food out of the mouths of school children, Congressman Todd Rokita is back with the innocuous soundng Promote Accountability and Government Efficiency Act.  

The devil is often in the details when it comes to bills, as I've said before, and that's defintely true with the PAGE Act.  In fact, as reported by postalnews.com, Rokita's bill would kill union representation for newly-hired civil servants such as postal workers by making them "at-will" employees who "may be removed or suspended, without notice or right to appeal, from service by the head of the agency at which such employee is employed for good cause, bad cause, or no cause at all."

I'll give you a moment.

Ready to move on yet?

Another moment then...because there's more.

The bill would also make it impossible for a civl servant to qualify for a raise without reaching a certain performance level.  In essence, performance pay.  We recently saw how that worked for teachers in Indiana, didn't we?

I have an idea for Todd in his next campaign.  Why doesn't he run on his record of taking on the scourge of feeding children and paying civil servants?  Don't forget calling elderly Americans "piggish" and "Un-American" for expecting their social security and Medicare coverage.  

If Rokita ran on that record, maybe we could get someone in that seat that actually cares about individuals over ideology.  I can't imagine many of the people that mindlessly elect this guy know much about him.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Holcomb, Crouch Take Office Today

Crouch and Holcomb on Campaign Trail
Photo from Suzanne Crouch's Twitter
What a difference a year makes!

One year ago, Eric Holcomb was a candidate for United States Senate.  Mike Pence seemed to be on his way to at least a rematch with John Gregg in the race for Governor of Indiana.  Suzanne Crouch was on her way to midway through her term as Auditor of State.  Donald Trump was still seen as a joke, and Hillary Clinton was the frontrunner to replace Barack Obama in the White House.

Holcomb dropped out of the race for Senate in February.  Trump would soon become the frontrunner for the Presidency as he wrapped up the nomination by winning the Indiana Primary in May.  He then selected Pence as his running mate.  Holcomb was selected by the Republican State Committee to be the party's nominee for Governor.  A few weeks later, Holcomb tapped Crouch to be his running mate, and they started from behind in the polls.

We all know what happened in November, and, now, here we are.  Indiana state government takes center stage today as Governor-Elect Holcomb will raise his right hand and be sworn in as Indiana's 51st Governor.

All agreements and disagreements aside with Holcomb, but it must seem still like a whirlwind.  I'm not sure that I can think of anything quite like what happened to him this past year.  He's gone from out of the running for Senate to back in the game again to the Governor's Mansion.

It's easy to see why I'm a little unsure of what we are getting, but people that know Holcomb tell me he's up to the task.  Crouch also brings a great deal of experience to her role as Lieutenant Governor.

I don't know what's ahead for this General Assembly session and how they will ultimately treat a man that, as of last summer was out of politics for the moment.  I just caution Holcomb to remember that essentially 49 percent of Hoosiers wanted someone else as Governor.

I simply ask him to keep that in mind when they look at all sides of an issue.  There are a lot of us out here in the loyal opposition.  That said, I wish Governor Holcomb the best as he takes office because if he succeeds for our state, we all are more likely to succeed as Hoosiers.