Friday, October 28, 2016

Do Research on IPS School Board Race; Don't Vote Blindly

I don't have a dog in the IPS fight other than I'm a concerned citizen who lives in this city and wants good schools for our students.

I have found myself at odds on social media, in person, at events and at other times with some of the current IPS Commissioners up for reelection.  Yet, in two cases, I consider them my friends even though I feel that some of their views on education reform are just plain wrong.

There are some things you just never will convince me about this reform movement, and I don't like the power and influence that the money that creeps into these races brings with it. Still, I think by and large the current incumbents on the IPS Board of School Commissioners are good people that think they are doing right by the students and community they serve even if we disagree.

I'm not going to endorse anyone here on my blog because it's really up to the voters in IPS to select the best candidates for them.  I will say that I do believe there are individual candidates on the ballot that should not under any circumstances be elected to this board.  Please don't read more into that statement than there is.

Rather than mention names, I'm going to allow you to make your own decisions.  It's worth a few minutes.  I encourage you to Google your candidates and research them fully.  I don't encourage you to vote this one without doing research.  Believe me, it won't take long to determine which candidates can be trusted on this board and which should not be near it.

To all of you in IPS, I wish you the best as you make your decision.  The true fate of public education in this city is in your hands.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Trump/Pence Insult Hardworking Poll Workers with Rigged Election Rhetoric

My first foray into politics was working the polls.
Donald Trump

My first position was a poll sheriff. That position was eventually done away with in each polling site, and I moved to judge. I also worked some elections as a clerk. I would do the job again.

It’s an enjoyable way to pass a day, you get paid, and you get the satisfaction of knowing you helped in the important process of electing our leaders. I worked every election from 2000 up through 2004. After that, I made the step from working inside the polls to be a Precinct Committeeperson and then a Ward Chair.

I stepped out for a few years, but I recently reassumed a Ward Chairmanship in Decatur Township. It’s a different way to serve, but you’re still involved in the process of helping to recruit poll workers and make sure they know what they are doing.

I never have served as an inspector in the polling site, but I know the job isn’t easy. It takes a person that can follow step-by-step instructions and who can keep organized. When I did serve inside the polling place, I took my job seriously. While there were times you could grab a bowl of chili and maybe even read a book, your job is to make sure that everyone who appears and is legally able to do so at your precinct has an easy experience casting their ballot.

Most poll workers meet the night before to set up the polling site, and there is a structured way to do it. There are set policies and procedures that are not optional. They are to be adhered to at all times, and, while it might be easy to cut corners, that’s the quickest way to making a critical mistake. 

When my alarm would go off at 4:30 a.m. on Election Day, I had to be ready to go when I worked the polls. A quick hop in the shower, a bowl of cereal, and a car ride later you are there in the pitch black ready to open the polls at 6:00 a.m.

That’s when the inspector unlocks the door and yells, per regulation, “The polls are now open!”
There’s usually a rush early on. The people waiting outside for you to open at 6:00 a.m. are usually not so patient. The day typically progresses from there.

When I did work the polls, I can tell you that I never disenfranchised anyone. If someone was not on our poll book, we did the best job that we could to find out why from the Election Board. Usually, the problem was the voter’s problem. He had not voted in four years and didn’t know his precinct moved. She didn’t update her voter information after she moved from Michigan. People misread a map. 
If we ever touched a ballot more than we were supposed to under the regulations, we were supposed to fill out a form about assisting a voter. Once we handed the ballot to the voter, it’s officially his or her ballot now. There are contingencies for everything. Ballots where people make mistakes or that are defective are called “Spoiled ballots”, and there are specific ways inspectors have to deal with them to make sure that ballot can never be run through a machine.

Before one poll worker can leave, the ballots must balance with the number distributed originally. There are all sorts of official seals that require the signature of all those working. These are safeguards. Tons of documents are signed. Everything…including the official pens must be counted.
Extraordinary care is taken to make sure EVERY vote counts and every ballot…voted and unvoted…is catalogued and accounted for. In Marion County, the Republican judge accompanies the inspector to one of the drop off sites for all the election materials. They wait in line and cannot leave until everything balances.

My point is that Donald Trump and Mike Pence calling our election system rigged is so ridiculous it doesn’t even really deserve merit. Calling the system rigged is calling out all those hardworking poll workers and Election day workers who work hard for low pay. It’s a slap in the face.

Truth be told, rigging an election in Marion County would mean rigging over 600 polling precincts and more than 3,000 election workers.

So, when you go to the polls on November 8, rest easy. Your vote will count and be counted.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Please Send My Friend André Back to Congress

André Carson
It’s hard to believe, but André Carson has been in Congress since March of 2008.

Carson won a Special Election and then fought off a wild primary field that year before winning an easy victory for his first full term in Congress. It’s been a journey for the man who once rapped under the stage name of Juggernaut. I’m actually, full disclosure, honored that I have been able to call the big guy my friend for eight years.

I met André shortly before the nominating caucus that made him the Democratic Party candidate for the special election. I admit, as I have before, I was skeptical to turn the 7th District Congressional seat over to a man with so little experience at the time. 

I talked with Carson over the phone, and I immediately connected with him. Instead of discussing his position on trade or what I thought he needed to do to improve the economy, we talked about music and what toys we played with when we were younger. It was a good conversation, but I felt as if I knew David Orentlicher just a little better. 

When it came time to vote at the caucus, David Orentlicher was my choice. David O. had been a state representative for years, and I knew him well. I knew his position on a myriad of issues, and I also knew he had a great deal of experience. He was and remains a brilliant candidate for Congress, and he just gave it another go in the Primary in 2016. The votes were counted, and David Orentlicher didn’t win. In fact, André smoked everyone on the first ballot.

To congratulate him, I was going to leave him a voice mail. I dialed his number, and I was shocked when I heard that big booming voice on the other end, “Jon Easter…what can I do for you man?”
I had made it known that I was an Orentlicher guy, so I told André congratulations, and, “I’m with you now. Whatever you need from me, you let me know.”

Carson said, “Great. Let’s go!”

Ever since that day, that’s been my relationship with the Congressman. He’s been there for me whenever I’ve called, texted or sent a social media message. He’s been on my radio show. He’s asked me for advice. I’ve asked him for advice. He’s helped me with issues with my mother’s care. Carson has been the kind of friend to me that transcends the political side of things.

To me, he’s André and, to him, I’m “Big East”. Reminds me of the relationship I had with his grandmother who called me her “Decatur Boy”. That’s an entirely different story. Needless to say, it’s really hard for me to objective when it comes to my friend André.

I have been. There are times we’ve disagreed. I’ve even called him out on the blog. Whenever we see each other next, he always thanks me for what I wrote and treats me just like always. Congressman Carson is a good man.

So, I can’t lie. I’m proud of my Congressman. I’m proud of my friend. I’m proud of the way he’s helped lead the fight to improve veterans’ healthcare when they come home from war. I’m proud of the millions of dollars he’s been able to redirect back to our city for road and street repairs. I’m proud of the funds he’s been able to secure for homeland security. I’m proud of the work he does for working people in trying to save our jobs and making the 7th District a place companies want to come to and build. 

I’m also proud to have watched him start as one of 435 and grow to become a leader in not only the Congressional Black Caucus but the Democratic Caucus at large. I’m proud my friend stands up for me as a member of the Congressional LGBT Caucus even though he’s not gay. He’s one of the best allies our community has.

When I considered running for Senate District 35 in 2012, I was on the fence. My mother, who was still living at the time, told me not to do it. Other friends were pushing me to go for it. I was stuck. I called Congressman Carson and asked for 15 minutes of his time. He was busy, but he told me he’d call back. About 40 minutes later, there was André’s number popping up on my phone, and he gave me the best advice possible. He said that the only person that knew if I should run for sure was me. He also suggested that if I even had to ask the question then maybe there was my answer. I thanked him, hung up the phone, and I decided to follow my mother’s advice.

Now, that doesn’t mean that Congressman Carson doesn’t rib me now every time he sees me about running for office again, “When are we going to see you on the ballot again, Big East?”

I guess I get to see a different side of my Congressman than most do. To me, he’s my friend André, and I hope you’ll give him another two-year term in Congress. He works hard for you, and he cares.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Strong Bayh Ad Underscores Evan's Hoosier Roots

In this time of awful political advertising, it's really refreshing to see an ad that stands out for its positivity, memorability and effectiveness.

I think the Evan Bayh campaign, whose ads these past few weeks have been very strong, has struck gold with this one.

The ad features a woman named "Sue" who babysat Evan when he was a boy.  She drives home Evan's Hoosier roots, family story and reminds us that even though his jobs may have taken Evan away from Indiana that a person is "once a Hoosier, always a Hoosier".

If you disagree, are you going to argue with Sue?  I think she looks like she probably would make you go pick your switch.

Awesome ad by the Bayh campaign.  It's the best I've seen this cycle not run by Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Bayh Can Help Fix Broken Senate

Evan Bayh
Evan Bayh is not perfect.

Not by a long shot, and I've been critical at times of him here on this blog.  Sometimes, it's important to step back and take the long view of things though.

Bayh was a successful Secretary of State and then two-term Governor of Indiana.  Bayh won election to that office in a tight fight over Republican Lieutenant Governor John Mutz.  He was the first Democrat in two decades to serve in the office.

Serve he did.  Probably his lasting gift to the state besides lower taxes and a state surplus was the 21st Century Scholars Program.  Years later, that program still continues to help students that deserve to go to college be able to do so.

Evan Bayh then went to the United States Senate, and, I'll be honest, many Democrats found his service there less palatable than his Governorship.  But, in a testament to his leadership, for the next 16 years, red Indiana had a purple tint.  Bayh Democrats, those middle-of-the-road, careful D's populated the Statehouse.

So, as I looked at my ballot in the voting booth the other day, I didn't even hesitate to mark my ballot for Evan Bayh.  After all, John McCain has said that if Republicans control the Senate you can expect them to hold the United States hostage until they get nominees for the U.S. Supreme Court that meet their demands, Constitution be damned, he expects Republicans to block President Hillary Clinton's nominees, should she win the Race for the White House.

You see, Todd Young is a Republican, and I'm not sure what he's done in Congress nor has he given us much idea.  He's been one of 435...indistinguishable from the rest.  He has no programs with his name on it.  All Todd Young will do in the Senate is toe the party line.  He will serve the Republican Party and not the state of Indiana.

We know Evan Bayh won't do that.  Bayh's bucked his party and even trended more conservative at times than Richard Lugar on some issues when they were both in the Senate.  Bayh won't be the gridlock in the Senate.  Like Indiana's current junior Senator, I think Bayh is part of the solution to fixing a broken Senate.

You see, what makes Bayh not liked by many Democrats is actually one of his best qualities.  Bayh reaches across the aisle.  Sometime, he votes like a Republican.

I just can't see Todd Young doing that.  Make sure you send Evan Bayh to the Senate.  Heck, Joe Donnelly's seat may even depend on it in 2018.  It will be a lot easier for Joe to stay in the Senate with a partner like Evan Bayh on his side.

Don't look for perfection. Look for the guy that will get things done.  That's Evan Bayh.

Friday, October 21, 2016

I Voted No on Mass Transit Referendum

One of Chicago's "L" Trains
I voted no on the mass transit referendum.

Believe me, I'm sympathetic to all the reasons to vote yes, and I may even agree with some of them.  However, this plan is a bandage on a gaping wound and will do little to solve the mass transit problems with IndyGo in certain parts of the city.

One of those parts is where I live.  I live in Decatur Township, and this plan does little to nothing for this area of town.  The problems facing residents down here with access to mass transit will continue, so I don't feel that I should have to pay for it.  Call me selfish, short-sighted, a hypocrite...whatever, but I just don't feel that this is something I can support.

I \don't buy that there is any long term plan to solve this issue in this area.  If I did, I would think differently about this plan.  Kentucky Avenue and/or the railroad tracks along Kentucky Avenue would be a perfect corridor for plan expansion, but it won't come.  I've already been told by a City-County Councillor, a Democrat, that we don't have any destinations down here and that we don't have enough residents to support expansion.

To me, that tells me that there's no plan for the city to ever help us down here build up what we have.  They are content with Decatur Township taking the trash from he rest of the city and putting it in the landfill down here.  They are content with the IPL Harding Street plant powering the city from extreme Northeast Decatur, but they aren't serious about helping us bring restaurants, shopping centers, and other amenities that would attract higher-level housing down here.  Nope.  We're supposed to fund the rest of the county north of Troy Avenue but get nothing this way.

I am pro-mass transit, and I would support a tax increase to get it done. I voted for the Eskenazi Hospital referendum, and I voted yes on the Decatur Township schools referendum.  I just can't support this halfway done plan that won't address the myriad of needs in my neck of the woods.

I say to the powers that be that if you want my tax dollars, I just ask that you give me a plan worth raising my taxes for before I will vote to raise them.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Two Supremely Qualified Candidates Battling to Replace Zoeller

Judge Lorenzo Arredondo
There's a key race on the ballot that few people are talking about.

It's the race for Indiana Attorney General, and either one of the candidates running for this job hope to make history on Election Night.

On the Democratic side, Judge Lorenzo Arredondo was the Lake County Circuit Court Judge from 1976 to 2010.  Arredondo has taught judges to be judges and is also a former classroom teacher.  He's a brilliant legal scholar, and he would be an excellent Attorney General.  If elected, the Democrat would be the first former judge to serve as Indiana Attorney General and the first Latino elected to a statewide executive office.

Curtis Hill
Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill, Jr. is the Republican
nominee for the office.  If elected, Hill would be the first African-American man elected to a statewide executive office (Dwayne Sawyer was appointed, and Pamela Carter was the first African-American and female African-American elected to statewide office).  Hill is now in his 13th-year as Elkhart County Prosecutor.  Before that, he was a deputy prosecutor and was a private practicing attorney.

Qualifications are not a question.  These two are supremely qualified to be Attorney General.  It comes down to a question of philosophy.  If elected, what will the Attorney General do?  Zoeller has often used his position to take the state to court over political fights.  When he has done this as he has in cases against immigration, Obamacare, gay marriage, and the auto bailout, he has usually lost spending millions of dollars in taxpayer money on appealing or pushing cases over a political agenda.

Judging from Curtis Hill's website, it sounds as if he has a very similar philosophy as Zoeller.  From his website:

As your Attorney General, I will not hesitate to fight back against executive orders, agency rules, or legislation that seeks to invade our lives in violation of the Constitution. I will establish a federalism unit to fight for and restore the proper balance between our federal government, our state, and the people of Indiana. You should expect your Attorney General to lead with courage and as your Attorney General, you can count on me to stand my ground for Indiana and protect the rights of Hoosiers!

Arredondo has said straight up that he would not use the office as a political one to push his own philosophy of government.  Arredondo talks on his website about using the office for much more of its other functions.  Judge Arredondo says he wishes to be a consumer advocate for Hoosiers as well as a good steward of taxpayer dollars.  On his website, he says he will be tough on crime and push for better policies on curing Indiana's opiate problem and keeping criminals behind bars.

Let me state this.  I think either candidate will do a fine job as Indiana's Attorney General, but I feel that Lorenzo Arredondo is the best choice.  His depth of experience and his ideas for the office will serve Hoosiers well.

It's a critical choice for Hoosiers.