Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Gerrymandering Resolution Passes City-County Council by 15-10 Vote

Current Council Districts
Last night, a bipartisan group of Indianapolis/Marion County City-County Councillors passed a proposal for a special resolution to urge the Indiana General Assembly to support reform eliminating gerrymandering.

Fifteen Councillors voted yes. Almost all of them were Democrats (two Republicans). Ten Councillors voted no. Almost all of them were Republicans (one Democrat).

Why has the Republican Party decided to take this position? After all, gerrymandering City-County Council Districts and eliminating the At-Large seats from the Council didn’t provide the desired result of a Republican-majority Council in 2015’s election. In fact, Democrats won two of the seats Republicans seemed to engineer to be in the hands of the GOP.

Gerrymandering dilutes voices, and, to be honest, both parties have been guilty of it. It’s one of the biggest benefits of winning a majority in a political system. Under the current set-up, the majority gets to draw the district lines. Usually, the party in power does so to protect itself.

It’s past time to reform this practice and eliminate it from politics. Unfortunately, this proposal didn’t pass 25-0. Below, note the people who represent you that voted for and against this proposal and, should they appear in public or at town hall meetings, make sure you ask them why they want to continue to gerrymander. If they don’t give an answer that makes sense, ask the question again.

Voted Yes on Proposal 285.
Zach Adamson-District 17 (D), Stephen Clay-District 13 (D), Jared Evans-District 22 (D), Colleen Fanning-District 2 (R), Monroe Gray-District 8 (D), LaKeisha Jackson-District 14 (D), Blake Johnson-District 12 (D), Maggie Lewis-District 10 (D), Frank Mascari-District 21 (D), Jeff Miller-District 16 (R), Duke Oliver-District 9 (D), Vop Osili-District 11 (D), David Ray-District 19 (D), Leroy Robinson-District 1 (D), Christine Scales-District 3 (D)

Voted No on Proposal 285.
Jeff Coats-District 5 (R), Susie Cordi-District 18 (R), Jason Holliday-District 20 (R), Scott Kreider-District 23 (R), Janice McHenry-District 6 (R), Mike McQuillen-District 4 (R), Brian Mowery-District 25 (R), Marilyn Pfisterer-District 15 (R), Joe Simpson-District 7 (D), John Wesseler-District 24 (R)

Monday, November 6, 2017

Say It Ain't So, Joe!

Senator Joe Donnelly
Joe Donnelly, you've done it again.

I've tried to defend you to my friends. I've tried to compare you to a statesman, and I've even tried to give you credit when you have done things right.

Last week, you made my voluntary job very difficult. If you weren't running against crazy in 2018, I'd gladly let you take up the mantle on your own and live with the consequences. That said, you've put me in the position of going to the polls and holding my nose to vote for you.

That's right. You have my vote, and that's probably why you feel comfortable voting for two virulently anti-gay judicial candidates put up by the Trump Administration for confirmation. You feel like you can take my vote for granted. 

You see, I like you, Joe. I think you're truly a good man who has public service in his heart, but I wonder if you like me. I wonder how you can look your constituents who are LGBTQIA+ in the face after you vote the way you did on those nominees. It's hard to, on one hand, court my vote and ask for my money while you vote against my interests.

No, I'm not a one-issue voter. That said, if someone consistently tells you that they want your money and your vote because they need it to go to Washington to serve you and then does the opposite, what would you do?

I remember standing in the hallway of the Indiana Democratic Party's state convention and having a long conversation with then-Congressman Brad Ellsworth. At the time, Ellsworth was wrong on many LGBTQIA+ issues, but he said something that will always stick with me.  He said to me that, on the issue of Don't Ask, Don't Tell that he was willing to risk his political career to vote the right way on that bill. He did. He voted to overturn the policy, and it was used against him in the 2010 Senate race.

Are you willing to do the right thing and put your career as a Senator on the line to do the right thing for Hoosiers? It's not like these nominees were going to fail, Joe. Without your vote, they still would have been confirmed. You did not need to be one of the eight.

I understand that you represent Indiana, Senator Donnelly, but putting these kinds of judicial candidates into our justice system is not helpful for anyone except he ideologues on the right. They are more than comfortable putting principle and party ahead of the people. Don't make that same mistake, sir.

Again, you have my vote. You won't get any of my money.

My "Note to Self"

In honor of CBS This Morning’s excellent “Note to Self” series, I’ve decided to write a letter to 12-year-old Jon Easter, a socially-awkward and bullied 7th grader.
---
Dear Jon,

You have no idea what you’ll miss if you go through with those thoughts in your head. The next 30-years are going to be filled with fun times, great discoveries and even some emotions you can’t even describe, but you will emerge as a strong-willed individual who loves life.

Right now, life doesn’t seem so simple, but it is. You have no idea what’s going to happen in the next few years. Spend more time with Mom and Dad and the family, even if they don’t have time. Drink up the advice and lessons you learn from them. You will need them later.

Related to that, realize now that your parents are wiser than you. Realize that you don’t know all the answers, even if you think you do. You’ll realize that later those lessons make sense.

Come to terms with those feelings inside. Everything is going to be fine, and the quicker you realize that you’re not broken and don’t need to be fixed the faster you’ll start to grow as a person. You are not crazy. You are gay, and it may still take you some time to understand that. One day, you’ll look yourself in the mirror, and you will admit it to yourself. It won’t be the end of the world, trust me.

As hard as it is, don’t be so hard on yourself.

Realize that those that treat you badly don’t really understand you, yet. Someday they will, or they don’t need to be in your life. That’s a brave decision at 12, but I know you. You’re very brave. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you’re not.

Stand up for what you believe in, and stand up for what is right. It may sound cliché, but you will gain respect if you stick to your principles while still understanding that you don’t know nearly everything.

Take every opportunity that comes your way, and don’t be so afraid to try new things. Put down that Nintendo controller and get outside. Enjoy the world and let the world enjoy you.

You are going to be a teacher. It will be the joy of your life, and you’re going to be successful at making a difference in the students you teach. It will keep you motivated and young-hearted, and it will give you an outlet for your precociousness. It will also keep you coming back for more each day. Never give up on anyone you teach, no matter how much they may give up on you. Always be there to soften their landing.

Love is going to be hard for you. Don’t accept second-best. Don’t settle. Take comfort in the friends that my make and know that some of them will be your second family. Continue to lead with your heart and continue to be kind.

Speaking of family, you will lose people you love. When they are gone, they will stay with you forever. You’ll cry sometimes, but you’ll smile mostly. Be there for them when they need you.

I don’t know where we’re going from here. You can only control what you’re going to control, but I hope to be around to have 72-year-old Jon write a letter to 42-year-old Jon. Who knows what we’ll accomplish between now and then? I just know that I’m still in the opening act, and I’m still not ready for intermission.

With love and thanks,
Jon

Thursday, October 26, 2017

I Say Run Joe, Run!

Joe Biden
Joe Biden has announced that he will not rule out running for President in 2020.

It's an uphill climb for old Grandpa Joe from Delaware, but I'm telling you that if he runs, I'll be all in for him.

It would be Joe's third bite at the big apple, and his first two runs ended rather quickly. He made it further in 1988 before he was derailed by a plagiarism scandal. He admits, he messed up. In 2008, he ran a credible campaign, but he came up short against Barack Obama.

Biden and Obama ended up as perhaps the closest Vice President and President in history.

My admiration for Joe Biden, however, goes back years. As a man, he's suffered and endured more pain than many. He endured the personal pain of losing loved ones, certainly, but Biden also survived an often fatal brain aneurysm. One thing that his personal pain has done is that it's humbled him.

That's why, even though he would be 78 years of age when inaugurated in 2021, I would enthusiastically support him. Joe Biden, unlike our current occupant of the Oval Office, understands what it's like on Main Street, USA. He's just Joe. That's why we love him.

I don't think there's a better embodiment of what it should be to be a Democrat than Joe Biden, but I also know that Biden knows how to get things done in government. He's an expert having stalked the halls of the U.S. Senate for years. He can heal the nation.

It's a long shot. There will be others running, and I know people will have their doubts. I'm just saying that I hope Joe Biden runs and that I get the chance to support him just one more time. Say the word, Joe, and I'm in.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Democrats Must Articulate Message for Future Success

President Trump
Harold Ford, Jr. was on Real Time with Bill Maher on Friday, and he said something that I've been saying for a while.

If Democrats are going to do anything in the next few election cycles, they are going to have to do it on message and not counting on making Donald Trump into a supervillain. My advice to the DNC would be to ignore Donald Trump and let him sink himself. He's doing a great job of it. What Democrats need to do is get back to being the party of the people.

Now, I do believe it's fair to talk about Donald Trump and his leadership. I think it's fair to talk about how he's been divisive, but that can't be the only message.

Trump has systematically rolled back almost every bit of progress President Barack Obama made on many fronts. We have to remind people why the progress was made is incredibly important. We have to become the party of defending the Affordable Care Act. We have to become the party of defending Dreamers. We have to become the party of human rights and equality. We have to push a plan and get candidates who can help Democrats to push it.

For 2020, we have to put forth a 50-state strategy again. If we take a winning message and put it behind a strong candidate, we will win. Don't expect a landslide, but expect those states that flipped in 2016 to flip back in 2020 if we hit the right message. We have to play electoral politics as well as we can play it and hope that we can bring some more states over, too.

It's just not going to be easy, and I would assume that Donald Trump will be President in 2020. Republicans have a civil war going on in their own party, and we can't do the same thing. We have to find a candidate that unites the party and get behind that candidate.

Finally, once Democrats get the message and the candidate, the move must be made to go digital. Work so hard on social media platforms...just like the Trump campaign and the Republicans did in 2016.

The bottom line is that without the first part of this, a coherent message that resonates, the rest of my plan won't work. We can't cede the messaging to Trump and the Republicans, and we certainly can't win by getting into the mud with him no matter how much he tries to take us down there.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

In Memoriam: Tom Petty (1950-2017)

Today, we learned of the death of rock and roll legend, Tom Petty. Tom was 66 years old.

Not to be petty, but it was a heartbreaker.

Tom's been a part of my life, whether he knew it or not, since I was a kid. I remember seeing his "Don't Come Around Here No More" video on MTV when I was a child of six or seven. I can remember being slightly frightened by it, but I knew it was special.

Petty's music was special. It was the soundtrack of a summer night or an afternoon at work. Tom's lyrics were subtly complicated but easily accessible, and, while his voice was never the best in rock, his showmanship and musicianship stand unquestioned.

"Learning to Fly" was an important song in my life. It came out when I was in high school, and I can remember playing it on WBDG during my student DJ days. The lyrics spoke to me, a young man trying to find myself in the big world, because they told a story and a lesson all at once.

Losing Tom Petty is like losing that friend you've had most of your life. You know he's gone, but his music will continue to inspire people, young and old, for ages to come.

Goodbye old friend.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Apologies to Tom Petty and Family

When I saw the death of Tom Petty confirmed by CBS News and Rolling Stone, I wrote my in memoriam blog post on his death and how his music affected my world.

It appears that Mr. Petty may still be with us, and I hope that's true. I've retracted my blog post.

My apologies to Tom Petty and his family.

Coming Together To Change Our World Takes Unity

What an awful start to October.

When I woke up this morning, I flipped on the television to be greeted not by Julia Moffitt, Ben Hill and Chuck Lofton, but the coverage of last night's mass shooting in Las Vegas.

As I was at work, I kept checking Twitter for updates, and the death toll continued to go up. Unbelievably more than 500 people were injured.

Obviously, I send my condolences to all those that have lost and wish the best to those recovering. I send thoughts of comfort to those in mourning. Your burden to bear is so much.

It's true that we're not safe anywhere from terror...foreign or domestic. It's also true that we can't stop living our lives. It's more likely that I could get hit by a semi on 465 on my drive to work than me being the victim of a terrorist attack.

We still don't know the motive of the attacker in this case, but he was able to do a lot of damage and shake up a lot of lives in just a few minutes. No one person should have that much power or the means to do it, but we can have that debate on another day.

I firmly believe that today is a day for coming together. For giving each other hugs and hoping and praying, if that's what you do, for a time when these mass killings are a distant memory and when human beings value each other's worth so much that no one ever wants to take another's life for any reason.

You may say that I'm a dreamer, but I hope I'm not the only one.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Rokita Revelations Bring Back Personal Recollections

Rep. Todd Rokita
The revelation by the Associated Press that Todd Rokita is a bit of a bear to work for should not surprise anyone who has followed things closely since the Congressman has been in public life.

I don't know if the article will cause Rokita to lose the primary or not to Luke Messer, but it sure makes him look bad.  I can only go by the personal experiences that I've had meeting politicians of that make and model.  I've met other candidates, too, on and off the campaign trail.  I can say that you probably don't want to make enemies of your past staff.  It can bite you in the butt.

Now, I've never worked for my friend André Carson, but I can tell you that he's about as unpretentious as they come.  Congressman Carson and I first met when he was running for his grandmother's vacant seat.  I was undecided at the time, and Carson called me on a Saturday afternoon, as I recall, a few weeks before the caucus.

We talked about everything from his philosophy of government to religion to 90's pop music to what toys we played with as a kid.  Ultimately, I voted for David Orentlicher in the caucus, but I pledged my support to Carson in the primary and since then.  He's never held my caucus vote against me.  In fact, when I talked to him about it, he said, "Well you're on board now. Let's go."

When I was considering a run for state office, Congressman Carson gave me great advice as a friend.  He's also been a source of constant encouragement for me with my blog, my old radio show, and in my run for City-County Council.

His grandmother was another Congressperson that I had a great relationship with during her time as my representative.  I met her at a predatory lending roundtable, and I said I was from Decatur Township, "Well, I didn't know anyone LOVED me in Decatur," she said.

After that, I was her "Decatur Boy" everywhere she saw me.  I also was on the receiving end of a kiss on the cheek and a big hug from the Congresswoman.  She was one of a kind.

Probably the least pretentious politician I've ever met was (and hopefully will be again someday) Brad Ellsworth.  The former Congressman from Indiana's 8th District was in French Lick one year, and I wanted to meet him.  I finally ran across him and introduced myself.  He kept saying, "Call me Brad," whenever I kept trying to call him Congressman.

After a serious discussion of some issues we disagreed on, he invited me to his hospitality suite that night, so Chris Jackson and I found our way to the upper floors of the French Lick Hotel.  We entered the hospitality suite and asked for the Congressman.  "Oh, you mean Brad," said the staffer.  "He's out on the roof deck."

His suite opened up onto a large roof deck, and, sure enough, there was one of the 435 members of Congress surrounded by mostly his staff under the Southern Indiana stars.  We were admonished again to call him Brad by Ellsworth when we tried to go again to the Congressman word.  So, our last stop of the night was with Brad and his staff under the stars.  He sipped Diet Coke, and I seemed to remember a causal chat about our families.

I know this breaks down in a partisan way, but it doesn't have to.  I know there are truly nice Republicans and truly nightmare Democrats.  These are just the experiences I thought of when I read the AP article.


Monday, August 28, 2017

Battle Over Budget More Bore Than Big Deal

Mayor Joe Hogsett
Joe Hogsett has done a great job fiscally as Mayor of Indianapolis.  

That’s what the latest kerfuffle over the budget has told me. 

The Indianapolis Mayor has garnered wide praise from both sides of the aisle when it comes to the relationship with the City-County Council when compared with that of his immediate predecessor. Suddenly, some in the GOP are now accusing Mayor Hogsett of overselling the city's fiscal state even while they claim it's actually good.

If you haven’t been following the news recently, the Indianapolis Star's James Briggs has a pretty good wrap-up of the story here. According to the piece, Republicans like Councillor Jeff Miller are praising Mayor Hogsett’s budget as "probably one of he best" in 10 years while simultaneously still disputing just how good it is. 

Pretty boring times at the City-County Building betwixt the two major parties when the only fodder that the Republicans can throw at the Democratic Mayor is, “Your budget is good…but…but…it’s not as good as you say!”

Quite a change from the eight years previous to Mayor Hogsett’s term, isn’t it? You remember it. The Council and then Mayor Greg Ballard fought over seemingly every project and every contract. 

Lawsuits were filed. Ballard accused some his own party of playing politics against him. A longtime GOP (now Democratic) Councillor was primaried because she stood up to the Mayor.  All the while, Ballard was spend spend spending away on pet projects such as the World Sports Park on Indy’s Eastside and handing out essentially no-bid contracts.

That's part of the issue according to the Hogsett Administration. They tell the Star that if they had not done anything about the budget and spending, Indy was headed for a structural budget deficit of over $50 million.

Republicans have been very quiet, and they clearly sense an opening here to try to make a molehill out of an anthill.  As budget battles go, this is like the battle between pepperoni or sausage on a delicious pizza or what specific color of light blue you wish to paint your wall.  "Do I want light blue or morning blue?"

It's a boring battle of semantics over politics.  The bottom line is that, as Councillor Miller again acknowledges, this is a good budget.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Is It Just Me or Does This Make You Sick, Too? (WITH UPDATE)

I was scrolling through my Twitter account timeline earlier tonight, when I came across this Tweet from the digital director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.




Are you kidding me?

This is what passes for appropriate campaign strategy in 2017?

Listen, if you want to raise outsourcing as a campaign issue against Joe Donnelly, go ahead.  If you want to use tactics that smack of racism in 2017, then get ready to lose and lose big.

This is not the kind of campaign tactic that's welcome in the Hoosier State or against an honorable guy like Joe Donnelly.  It's beneath the office of U.S. Senator, and it's well outside the bounds of what should be appropriate in campaigning.

I call on Todd Rokita, Luke Messer, and any other Republican Senatorial candidates to immediately condemn and disassociate themelves from this kind of campaign ploy.  Whoever dreamed up this ploy and thought it was a good idea should be relieved of their position immediately.

It's not funny or appropriate.

UPDATE
People who were at the event told me that Joe, although he is portrayed as having seen the band and to have reacted, arrived long after the band had left.  "I never even knew there was a band there (until I saw the video)," said one event goer on Facebook.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Council Raises Worker Pay, Riles Up Katz

Monday night, the City-County Council passed a pay raise for city and county workers to bring those that qualify up to a $13 an hour living wage.

The raises, according to the estimates, will cost $450,000, and Mayor Joe Hogsett has said that the city's $1.1 billion budget can easily handle the cost.  Initially, Mayor Hogsett played it cautious on the pay hike.

With everyone seemingly on board, the proposal passed 22-2 with the only no votes coming from Joe Simpson because the Democrat didn't feel it went far enough with the raises, and Jason Holliday because...well...he's Jason Holliday (he votes no a lot).

The seemingly non-controversial vote from he Indianapolis Marion County City-County Council was too much for WIBC's morning man, Tony Katz.  Katz, a Carmel resident, tweeted out:




That raised an eyebrow for me.

First of all, the raises cost just $450K...not $450 million.  That's literally .0004 percent of the budget.  Seems ok to this Marion County resident.

Secondly, the proposed budget pays out $120 million in road and street and bridge and sidewalk repairs.  That's more than $450,000 by a lot. Apparently, it is possible to care about social justice while addressing the city's needs, and it does it responsibly.

When I called Katz on his tweet, he said I didn't get the issue and that there's no such thing as a living wage.  Just to make it clear, I had to lay it out for him.




Hope he gets it. The raises are a small (in cost), nice thing for the hardworking city-county employees that most need it.  I'm sorry if folks can't handle that.  It was the right thing to do.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Clinton Called It...Completely

In light of this past weekend's events, I think his stands alone and needs no comment.  Watch this video.


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Rokita: Too Extreme for Indiana

Rep. Todd Rokita
Hoosiers rejected Richard Mourdock when he got too extreme.

Apparently, that wasn't enough of a warning for Todd Rokita.

This week, arguably the most clueless man in Indiana's Congressional delegation announced he was running for Indiana's U.S. Senate seat in 2018.  He becomes the latest Republican in the race.

Now, Rokita has his fans.  They tend to fall on the far right conservative side of the coin.  It's been easy for Rokita to say and do just about anything he's wanted to do in the very conservative 4th Congressional District and continue to get away with it.  After all, Rokita's 4th District predecessor used his muddy combat boots as a prop and once did a speech on the floor about smoking lettuce.

Rokita has trailblazed his own path to crazy in the 4th.  He called Americans "piggish and un-American" for worrying about the health of the overall economy vs. allowing the country to default over the debt ceiling.  Rokita tried to bust civil service unions by making civil servants such as postal workers at will employees.

As if that weren't enough, the conservative firebrand tried to change the laws regarding free and reduced school lunch.  The plan would have potentially knocked 120 schools across Indiana that serve 58,000 kids from the program, according to the Indianapolis Star. Fourteen schools would have been in Indianapolis alone.

He's defended United Airlines and the actions of law enforcement in the awful case where the Louisville doctor was dragged down the aisle because he refused to give up his seat to a United flight crew.

“This is a bit of a two-way street. What happened on that United flight shouldn’t have escalated to where it was, but a grown man, assumedly sane, when approached by law enforcement on an aircraft should abide by the request being made,” Rokita said.  United settled with Dr. David Dao.

Even his campaign announcement drew scrutiny.  Indy Star columnist Matthew Tully penned a highly critical piece writing, "U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita is taking things to a new level this summer, peddling a package of baloney so oversized he must have bought it at Costco."

The Lafayette Journal & Courier's Dave Bangert appears to have caught Rokita in some sort of political hypocritical mess.

Bangert writes:

One of the better lines on the Statehouse steps – presumably no location was available as a backdrop in the 4th District, where calls for town halls have gone unanswered in 2017 – was his commitment to something called “No Budget, No Pay.” 
The fundamentals are sound: Members of Congress should be held accountable if they can’t deliver a workable budget. Rokita touted Indiana’s balanced budget provisions and promised to fight for the same as a U.S. senator. 
Fair enough. 
But Rokita conveniently forgot to mention what happened in October 2013, when No Budget meant No Government for a short time. 
At the time, Rokita gloated about how the federal government shutdown was a stand against the Affordable Care Act. He said at the time, “We’re doing exactly what our constituents asked us to do,” by delaying the rollout of Obamacare. The longer the shutdown, the better his chances, he told me in a conversation from Washington, D.C. “I think we’re going to win.”
 Bangert added that the tactic didn't work, but that Rokita did get paid.




I know I'm getting windy here, but there really isn't anything in Todd Rokita's record that shows that he's anything but a man who is as far from the model of an "Indiana Senator" as can be.  Think about that tradition.

Richard Lugar was seen as a statesman and a trusted voice by both parties.  Birch Bayh penned the 25th and 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  He also is the father of Title IX.  Vance Hartke was instrumental in improving access to college and improving transportation in our country while standing up to oppose the Vietnam War.  Even Dan Coats, in his first go around in the Senate, supported gun control laws and voted for Ruth Bader Ginsburg's confirmation to the Supreme Court.

Joe Donnelly fits this tradition more than any of the Republicans running and certainly more than Rokita.  In a Senate full of those on the right and those on the left, in true Indiana fashion, Donnelly has placed himself in the middle which draws ire from the liberal left, and it may be those folks that ultimately help elect their polar opposite if they don't vote for Donnelly in 2018.

It's so critical that Todd Rokita goes home to Brownsburg in 2018.  I can't imagine him with a bigger bully pulpit and more power than he has today.  Right now, he's the 4th District's issue, but Hoosier voters can avoid making him Indiana's problem...for six long years.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

So, I've Been Meaning to Say...

It's official. I'm getting older.

Last week, I turned 42.  I also found out that I'm now diabetic.  Next week, I'll go in for a sleep study to find out why I blow the rafters off my room at night with my snores.

I'm too young for this sh....tuff.

Listen, I'm not griping or complaining.  Except for the sciatica and a toe that I slammed into the door jam on Sunday morning, I feel pretty good. I am blessed to have excellent health care through my employer, but I also feel a bit guilty for missing (maybe willfully and blissfully ignoring) all the signs up until now.  To be frank, I've knocked down some of those signs.

The thing is that for a long time that I had an almost fatalistic view of my life.  Easter men don't live long lives. We mostly drop dead in our 60's.  Dad nearly made 70, but he died at 69.  Watching my mom's struggle with long term illness began to change my mind.  When you are delivered the test results that you are diabetic, I came to the realization that I could be my mother and sooner rather than later.

I'm one stroke from being in long term care for the last bit of my life, and that bit could be a long time.  Not quite the mirror image you want looking back from the future.

If I don't improve the quality of how I'm living, I won't improve the quality of my life in the future.  I had a vision of myself in ten years, and it's not who I want to be.

So, I'm going to make some small changes at first.  Then, I'm going to gradually change some other things.  Before you know it, it's going to be a new me.

I know this blog post is not about politics, but I wanted you to know what I've been going through lately.  I've been kind of depressed about all of this, and, frankly, I haven't had a lot of time in my life to blog.  I'm going to start posting again.

We're going weekly for a while, but I fully intend to get back to a daily weekday posting schedule.  I just need to get myself sorted out, first.  I hope you all understand, but I understand if you don't.

Finally, I don't write this for sympathy.  I know many people have it worse than me.  I also don't write this to get a lecture.  Believe me, I've already lectured myself.  I just want you to know that we're all in this crazy world together, and I wanted you to know what was going on with the blog.

Thanks for your support over the last nine years, and I hope you'll continue to read on into the future.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Senate 2018 Race Update: Messer is IN; Rokita's Gonna Rokita

Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN 6)
Officially, the Republicans have a frontrunner in the race for U.S. Senate, but that status could be very short-lived.

Congressman Luke Messer is officially in the race for U.S. Senate from the state of Indiana according to a tweet from his campaign on Wednesday.

Messer, who has raised a large war chest for a run, is expected to battle fellow Republican Todd Rokita in the May Primary for the opportunity to face incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly in the fall of 2018.  There are other Republicans in the race, but the two Congressman have raised the most money.  Rokita has not yet announced officially that he is running for the seat.

Speaking of Rokita, the Congressman released a statement from his Congessional Office indicating he believes perhaps "God's will" controls natural disasters.

Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN 4)
Rokita represents beleagured Kokomo in the 4th Congressional District, and the folks in Kokomo have had their fill of bad weather in the last few years.  Two major and costly tornadoes have hit the city since 2013.

Rokita said, “Even though we cannot predict God’s will when it comes to natural disasters, let’s prepare ourselves for God’s will," according to the Statehouse File.

The Rokita statement brought back memories for some who remember Richard Mourdock's 2012 foot-in-mouth moment. During the final debate with Joe Donnelly and Andy Horning,  Mourdock said he opposed abortion even in rape cases because, as he said, when a woman becomes pregnant due to a rape, "that it is something that God intended to happen."

The best news for Joe Donnelly is that Rokita's often his own worst enemy.

It's still unclear who Donnelly would face. According to Abdul Hakim-Shabazz, a poll showed recently that the Republican nomination is anyone's game at this point.  There's even room for someone like Curtis Hill to join the race.

Friday, July 14, 2017

It's Only July: 2018 Indiana U.S. Senate Election Making Headlines

It's been quite a week in the U.S. Senate Race for 2018.

Taking the bad news first (from the candidates' perspectives), the American Democracy Legal Fund has filed FEC complaints against Republican candidates Todd Rokita and Luke Messer because they continue to campaign for the office and have raised more than $5,000 and yet remain unannounced as candidates.  Both of those things would seem to violate federal campaign laws.

Rokita and Messer say the ADLF complaint is baseless and Rokita's campaign called it politically-motivated.

Messer and Rokita each have, on the positive side, sizable $2 million plus warchests according to Indy Politics to fire political bombs at each other prior to having the survivor face Joe Donnelly in the general election. It's going t be a nasty nasty primary.

On the Democratic side, Donnelly also got some bad press this week.

An AP report published on Thursday said that a company owned by Donnelly's brother and that the Senator had profited from had benefited from using labor at a plant in Mexico.  Donnelly, of course, has been a loud and vocal voice against companies sending jobs to Mexico such as Carrier and Rexnord.

The Donnelly campaign says that the Senator's family's company employs many Hoosiers and Americans and that he's still committed to making better trade deals such as renegotiating NAFTA.  It remains to be seen if this has any traction.

On the good news side, Donnelly has raised nearly $4 million for his reelection fight.  Of course, he's going to need a lot more than that.  Abdul-Hakim Shabazz also reported on his Indy Politics website that Donnelly is sporting a 53 percent approval rating.

We still have 10 months until the primary in this race, and it feels like it's already campaign season.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Indiana: A Heartless State?

Governor Eric Holcomb
Eric Holcomb signed off on an application to make Indiana one of the first states to require people to work as a condition of receiving Medicaid benefits.

The plan would not apply to all Hoosiers receiving Medicaid...only those who are not pregnant, under 60 years old, or not "medically frail" would be required to work, according to Maureen Groppe's report in USA Today.  Groppe says 59 percent of Hoosiers already on Medicaid work.

According to the USA Today report by Groppe, critics say that no many more people would qualify to work therefore numbers in the workforce won't rise by much.  Opponents say that this is just another barrier that could be used to interrupt or toss people from their coverage.

It does beg the question, for example, as Groppe does, what does "medically frail" mean?  For example, is someone who has cancer, for example, medically frail?  Could working make someone with heart disease more medically frail?  The article also mentions those with mental illness.

Hopefully, Holcomb will change his mind on this stupid and heartless idea.  We really should not expect people on Medicaid to work as a condition of their coverage.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Trump Scandal of Hour Embroils Don Jr.

President Donald Trump
People ask me why I haven't been blogging on the President more, and, frankly, the only excuse is that I'd have to be a full time, 24/7/365 blogger to keep up.

That's right.  This administration's missteps come at you like a MLB pitcher's fastball to the cranium...every day.

The latest scandal from the administration that has given us more scandals than accomplishments is the Donald Trump, Jr. meeting with some nebulous Russian woman to receive damaging information on Hillary Clinton back in August of 2016.

You know the story by now, at first Trump Jr. denied the meeting occurred. Then he said it was a meeting about adoption. Now, after great work by the New York Times, Trump Jr. admitted that the meeting was to get promised damaging information on Clinton.  The New York Times now reports that Trump Jr. knew of Russian efforts to derail the Clinton campaign prior to the meeting.

The plot just keeps thickening.  Depending on how this all pans out, it could be that connection to put the whole picture together.

It's more lies and deception from an administration that seems to revel in it.

So, there, I wrote about it.  Now, I feel like I need a shower.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Tribune/Sinclair Merger Could Change Indy TV News

Sinclair Broadcast Group is eyeing a merger with Tribune Media.

The nearly $4 billion deal would add another 42 stations to Sinclair's armada of stations including two stations here in Indianapolis.  Tribune-owned WXIN and WTTV or, as they are more commonly known Fox 59 and CBS 4, would join an army of over 200 stations if the the FCC approves the merger of the two media groups.  It could also make a difference in what news gets delivered in our city and how it is reported.

John Oliver of Last Week Tonight took a good and in-depth look at the landscape and the reality of what could be coming to our town.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Kenley Leaves Consequential Legacy

Sen. Luke Kenley-R
Noblesville
Luke Kenley, one of the most consequential Senators in the Indiana Senate over the last 50 years, has decided to retire as of September 30.  Abdul-Hakim Shabazz broke the story on his Indy Politics "Cheat Sheet".

Kenley, a Harvard-educated former Noblesville City Judge, found a second political career in the Senate.  He was first elected in 1992 and was reelected in 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012 and, most recently, in 2016.  He is the powerful Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

That means that Kenley has been involved in the Indiana budget process for years as Republicans have not been in the Senate Minority since the late 70's.  Kenley has, for better or worse, kept a tight lid on spending and taxes and has helped the state build the surpluses while other states went into debt.  There's not a major budget initiative that didn't cross his desk.

This past session was one of Kenley's most-challenging sessions as the piper got paid for all the purse string tightening on both sides of the equation.  After years of cutting things to the bone while refusing to increase revenue, Republicans raised over 40 taxes and fees in the budget this time around, so that could be one reason why the 72-year-old  Kenley decided to hang it up.  Regardless, Kenley has earned the right to head off into the sunset and enjoy retirement.

When Kenley retires, he will still have two full sessions left on his term in office.  Republican precinct committeepersons and vice precinct committeepersons will gather once Kenley leaves office to fill the vacant seat.  Whoever gets the seat will have those two years as Senator from District 20 to establish himself or herself before facing oppositon in 2020.

In my capacity as a Democratic political blogger, I wish Senator Kenley a warm retirement and congratulate him on going out on his own terms.  Good luck, sir.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Indiana GOP Refuses To Listen To Responses To Own Facebook Post On ACA

The Indiana Republican Party got more than it bargained for when it asked for Obamacare horror stories on Facebook.



A "walk" through the comments to the post reads like an ad for the Affordable Care Act rather than one against it as people poured out their hearts telling their stories to the Indiana GOP.  The attempted social media stunt with unintended consequences has generated all sorts of coverage by the national media.  Here's just one example from CBS.

In the CBS article, Kyle Hupfer, this week's Chair of the Indiana GOP, blames the Indiana Democratic Party and other Democrats for sharing the social media post and essentially flooding the post with pro-Affordable Care Act stories.  To that, I'd say he's right.  I won't lie.  I shared the post, and I encouraged my friends to share their healthcare stories.  Some of them did.

I also shared my story that, as someone with pre-existing conditions, that I might find difficulty finding coverage or affording coverage under the proposed Republican bills passed by the House and being considered by the Senate.  The sheer volume of stories and the ratio of pro-Obamacare to anti-Obamacare stories kind of speaks against Hupfer's point.

Republicans and those against the Affordable Care Act have also had every opportunity to share their stories and encourage others to speak out.  Their comments, even after the news broke about the social media post, have still been drowned out by those singing the praises of the Affordable Care Act.

Hupfer's response poo-pooing the overwhelmingly pro-ACA stories and the personal nature of some of the comments and what people shared just underscores how much the GOP doesn't care about what people think when it comes to health care.  For Republicans, it seems the problem with Obamacare is that it has become one of the signature accomplishments of the Barack Obama Administration.

When I look at this kerfuffle, I think it shows that there's much more support for the Affordable Care Act than support for the Republican alternatives.  I think that Republicans will regret the attempts to repeal and replace the legislation.

I also see a party that made a big mistake on social media trying to dig its way out of it.  That's also a cautionary tale in this 21st century political world.  Also, even if Obamacare isn't exactly perfect, it's still way better than anything the Republicans have dreamed up, and they've had years to concoct a plan.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

AP Study Shows Democrats Underrepresented in Indiana House, Indiana U.S. House Delegation

The Associated Press confirmed what Democrats have known for several years and what Republicans have been afraid to admit they know: Indiana's General Assembly districts are gerrymandered.

The AP did a study showing that the vote totals from the 2016 election should have resulted in about five more Indiana House seats and one more U.S. House seat for the Democrats.

The Indiana Senate seats were not analyzed, but a simple look at the map of Central Indiana shows that they are perhaps even more gerrymandered than the Indiana House seats.  Several of the Indiana Senate seats appear to be mostly in Marion County only to have parts jog outward into one of the surrounding counties or vice versa.

Take Senate District 28 for example.  The district consists of mostly Hancock and Shelby Counties, but a long finger of the district knifes into Marion County taking in a narrow swath between roughly I-70 and Washington Street going west to Emerson Avenue.  Senate District 36 on the southside encompasses parts of Center and Perry Townships in Marion County, but it runs a narrow leg into Johnson County.  In fact, all seats not held by Democrats in Marion County are just like this (District 32 excluded), and three of them are some of the closest races in the Indiana Senate.

Back in 2010, I wrote a blog post talking about that election cycle.  It was so critical.  At that time, the Indiana House had a 52-48 majority for the Democrats and the Senate was 33-17.  Democrats also held four of the state's nine House seats.

Republicans won in 2010.  It's now 70 seats in the Indiana House, 41 in the Indiana Senate, and seven U.S. House seats for the GOP.  Elections, they have consequences.

Let's hope as time goes on that those consequences are lessened.  The push can continue for fair redistricting done in a non-partisan manner.

It looked like redistricting was going to change in this state this past General Assembly session, but the bill was shut down by the GOP in the committee hearing process.  It's time to force a vote and to let your legislators know what you want.  Be vocal.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

CBO Releases Report on "Better Care Act" from Senate

When the GOP and the Democrats gather to vote in the U.S. Senate on health care this week, there should be a ton of interested parties.

We knew that millions of people would be adversely affected by the passage of the Senate's health care bill.  The Congressional Budget Office, a non-partisan group, put some human numbers on the bill's effects.

The CBO estimates 22 million Americans will eventually be thrown off insurance.  Deductibles will skyrocket.  Premiums will go up.  Medicaid will be cut.  It's not good, and the outcomes aren't forecast to be good either.

Those in the know have already been on this.  Since the Republicans rolled out the ironically titled Better Care Reconciliation Act, There have been protests.  Just yesterday, protesters were carried away from Todd Young's Indianapolis office.

One protester left in an ambulance.

The way this secret process has gone, it seems that Republicans don't want to hear the truth.  They don't want to look Americans in the eye on health care.  Senator Young is non-committal on the bill, but he is "hoping to get to a yes," according to the Fox 59.

Keep speaking out.  Keep making phone calls.  Susan Collins of Maine is the latest Republican to say she will vote no on the bill.  Keep putting pressure on Senator Young to vote no.  Contact him but please be respectful.

Let's look at what we have and fix it where it needs to be tweaked.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Carmel, Fishers Spend Like They Have It (Because They Do)

Questions are being asked about spending in two Hamilton County cities.

First comes the news that Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard's new Ford Fusion has been damaged.  Brainard says he'll pay out of pocket for the repairs.  So kind, Jim.  After all, on his behalf, the City of Carmel is paying $600 a month for that Fusion in a lease agreement.  To put this in perspective, I drive a Chevy Malibu, and I pay much less than $600 a month.  The Indy Star has all the details in this report.  Writers Vic Rykart and Chris Sikich report that Brainard could have negotiated a purchase straight up and saved the city $4,000.

Second is the matter of Fishers and what that city is paying Jennifer Messer, the wife of Congressman Luke Messer.  After an investigation into the records, Bryan Slodysko of the Associated Press found that Messer gets a check for $20K per month from the City of Fishers and does about 26 hours of legal work a week for that cash from Washington.  That's a $240,000 job.

Now, let me caveat this by saying in both cases that Mayor Brainard and Jenniifer Messer have every right to negotiate whatever deals they can get out of the cities they serve.  It just seems like these two Hamilton County municipalities must have stacks of cash laying around if they can simply give it away like this.  

With Indy still struggling to fill its budget hole, maybe the Circle City can ask these two Hamilton County cities for a loan.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Health Care Debate Should Be About People Not Politics

President Donald Trump
The Republicans seem hell bent on attempting to roll back Obamacare prior to the July 4 recess, and it leaves Americans feeling helpless.

High hopes for the Senate at least turning the bill passed from the House side into something remotely palatable have been replaced by concerns that the normally-deliberative upper house of Congress is getting ready to do nearly the same thing. That’s left the future of the Affordable Care Act in peril.

Just yesterday, Anthem announced it was pulling out of the ACA Marketplace with its plans, and who can blame them? The President and Congress have created an uncertainty that any business would be unsure about. Donald Trump is causing health care in this country to collapse…not Barack Obama.

It’s amazing how often Trump wants to blame his predecessor. When Barack Obama rightly pointed out that the failed policies of the Bush Administration were often to blame for what became of the economy he inherited, he was lambasted. Trump seems to get a free pass on things when he whines on Twitter. Still, he seems determined to roll back every single thing President Obama did in his time in office. As Trevor Noah put it on the Daily Show, Trump keeps metaphorically hitting “Control-Z” on everything Obama.

At this point, all we can hope is that enough Republicans refuse to be sheep. There are definite hopes. John McCain sounded frustrated over the way the GOP was trying to ram this bill up the rear of Americans. He rightly noted that Republicans complained about the process Democrats took to hammer out the Affordable Care Act, and that, frankly, was much more of a normal process with hearings, amendments, and votes. Republicans just decided to be the party of no back then.

You can also hope that others out there that have shown a little resistance such as Olympia Snowe or Susan Collins or Jeff Flake understand exactly what this means. Perhaps even Todd Young can be persuaded not to let a hastily negotiated bill by a homogeneous small group of Republican Senators to go through.  Details of which are just leaking out as this posts.

This is NOT about politics folks. People’s lives are at stake. People like me with pre-existing conditions such as asthma, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. My late mother with her Parkinson’s Disease and arthritis would have been sorely effected by whatever is decided. And there are tons more people out there worse off than we were or are.

Obamacare was never perfect, but it was a good start.  The Affordable Care Act should have been tweaked and fixed but Republicans didn't want that.  They wanted whole hog repeal and replace.  That's why we are where we are.  They may get their repeal, but they were never ready to replace.

Again, for God sakes, this is not about politics. Hit the brakes a bit and let’s work this out for the American people, Mitch McConnell. But, if Mitch doesn’t come to his senses, Republicans, don’t be sheep.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Republicans Scramble to Hold On to Two Republican Seats in Special Elections

Republicans are practically giddy that Karen Handel defeated Jon Ossoff in the special election runoff in Georgia's 6th Congressional District.

I want to congratulate Handel. A win is a win is a win, and she won.  Democrats put a lot of chips on this one, and Republicans mobilized and got it done.

Still, there are some signs out here that are not so bad for Democrats.  First of all, this isn't just any seat.  This is Newt Gingrich's old seat.  In 2004, George W. Bush won the district by 41 points over John Kerry.  Just this November, Tom Price, now a member of the Trump cabinet, won the district by over 20 points.  In Georgia's 6th, it's hard to overturn over 40 years of Republican rule...only Watergate did that.

Ossoff also raised a lot of money. Much of it was from outside the district, but he also outraised Handel inside the district, and Handel relied on outside donors for almost all her campaign cash.  She even got some late PAC help. A real effort by Republicans this week mobilized the troops and tried to suppress the Democratic vote with a pro-GOP PAC taking out of context a story from Barack Obama's autobiography.  Those are all tactics now.

This is really the beginning for Handel, who will face a lot of scrutiny as a new member of Congress over the next year and a half or so.  She'll probably face a crowded primary and perhaps even Ossoff again in November of next year.

A footnote to all of this is that Democrats also lost a race in South Carolina last night.  Ralph Norman defeated Archie Parnell by three percentage points in a race that was much tighter than expected.  Democrats paid little attention to this race in comparison to the Georgia race.  Mick Mulvaney, now a member of the Trump Administration, won the district by 20 points in November. Cook Political rates the district as a +9 Republican district.  That's a baseline of nearly 60 percent for the GOP.

So, in short, the Republicans spent a lot of money simply to hold on to two seats they already comfortably had won in November.  If there's any such thing as a moral victory, I think the Democrats can claim it.

Still, elections have consequences and the tape reads that the GOP held both seats on Tuesday.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Spotlight Back on Indiana Senate DIstrict 29 for 2018

Sen. Mike Delph
Indiana Senate District 29 will be back on the ballot in 2018, so that means the referendum on Mike Delph will be back on the ballot as well.

Delph has been a little more quiet than normal since having his wings clipped by his own caucus after he revealed information that happened in caucus back in 2014.

Taking you back, Delph revealed that the discriminatory House Joint Resolution 3 that would have amended the Indiana Constitution to make same-gender marriages illegal was dead via Twitter.  For that, Delph was banished to sitting with the Democrats by Senate President Pro-Tempore David Long and was removed from his leadership roles in the caucus.

Delph also is getting primaried...or at least will have a primary opponent.  According to Abdul-Hakim Shabazz's Indy Politics website, Carmel-based city planner and architect, Corrie Meyer, is running on the Republican ticket.

Democrats are running J.D. Ford again.  Ford ran a teriffic campaign in 2014 pulling in 46 percent of the vote in the district that includes a large part of Hamilton County, part of Boone County, and parts of Washington, Pike, and Wayne Townships in Marion County.

Any way you slice it, Delph will have to work hard again to stay in office.  You would have to think that the blue parts ot the district have become more blue, and I can't imagine Delph is any more liked now than he was in his district four years ago.

If the Democrats are ever going to make any progress in the Senate, this is one of those seats they have to have because it is winable...especially with Delph in the seat.  We'll see how this one plays out in both the primary and the general.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Honest to Goodness, Indiana Now Pence's Fast Cash ATM Button?

That cha-ching sound you heard was Mike Pence hitting the cash register before returning to Washington.

That's right, Pence did a quick run home to raise some money for his own PAC at a max $5,000-a-person fundraiser at the Mariott downtown Friday.  As has been well pointed out by both Lawrence O'Donnell and Rachel Maddow, it's highly unusual for a VEEP to have his own PAC when he is not running for anything.

Of course the other news is that Pence has lawyered-up to represent him in the many messes the Trump Administration has made so far.  Again, as the Vice President, Pence cannot use government funds to pay for his personal lawyer.  So, as Lawrence O'Donnell and Rachel Maddow have pointed out, he had to create this PAC in part to pay for one, his attorney and two, a possible run at the top of the ticket in 2020.

When he needed a quick hit on the ATM, Pence returned home to Indiana to get that quick cash.  Congratulations, Hoosiers, we're now the "fast cash" button on Pence's ATM settings.

Actually, when I heard $5K was the top of the line, I was sort of shocked.  He's kind of low balling it.  Eric Holcomb will be part of a 10K a plate dinner at Forrest Lucas's abode on June 27.  For that $10K, you get to sit down for likely a piece of dry chicken and some sort of asparagus or something (hopefully they go for steak) at a roundtable dinner with Holcomb.  The Star report is here.

Maybe Lucas tried to organize something for Pence, but Karen Pence couldn't attend and there would be other ladies present?  I don't know.

Anyway, I'm sure Pence took some cash back with him.

By the way, our friends over at Indy Republican also took a good look at the issue.

UPDATE:
The Wall Street Journal reports that Pence will not use PAC funds to pay legal fees.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Politics Doesn't Have To Be Nasty

I had not been to a political fundraiser in a while, so I attended Marion County Surveyor Debbie Jenkins's fundraiser earlier tonight at the Carpenter's Union Hall in Beech Grove.

It was a great event.  I love catching up with people at these events.  I caught Mayor Joe Hogsett as he was leaving, and he did not deck me for my blog post last week.  I didn't think he would.  In fact, he was his normal jovial self.

The fun part of the night came as I was leaving.  Edwards Drive-In's food truck catered the event, and I was going to get a pork tenderloin for the road.  About six or seven of us, including Democratic candidate for Sheriff Kerry Forestal and former City-County Councillor Doris Minton-McNeil got caught underneath an awning waiting for our food as a thunderstorm hit.

It poured.  Being the largest person around, I tried to help keep people dry hoping not to blow away.  Still, after the day, it was kind of a refreshing way to end it.

Not all politics has to be nasty, and there wasn't a nasty word spoken at the fundraiser.  In fact, everybody seemed very concerned about Congressman Steve Scalise and those injured in the shooting earlier today.  Here we were though...six or seven Democrats stuck under an awning getting soaking wet while waiting for food.

I was wet to the skin by the time I got in my car, but I didn't care.  We laughed, joked, had fun, and enjoyed the company of others.

It's really the small things in life that bring a smile to your face.  For me, politics brings me together with my friends, and it doesn't have to just be Democrats.  Last week, I had a blast talking to the Republicans at the Decatur Central Lions Club 4-H Fair.  After some good-natured ribbing, the conversation turned to families and life.

Politics aside, we're humans first.

I continue to send my thoughts and best wishes for a speedy recovery to those injured in the shooting at the Republican Congressional Baseball Team practice this morning.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

In Memoriam: Phil Denton (1956-2017)

Let me start this off by saying that I didn't personally know Phil Denton.  I had heard of him, and I knew of his value to the Indy gay community.  Still, I don't ever recall shaking his hand and meeting him.

Still, I want to thank him.

Denton, a longtime activist in the Indy LGBTQ+ community, passed away this past week at the age of 60 just as the annual Indy Pride celebration kicked up.  He was the owner of Greg's, one of Indy's oldest establishments catering to the LGBTQ+ community.  Having purchased the bar 25 years ago, Denton changed the name to Greg's from Our Place in 2002 to celebrate the life of his friend, Greg Powers.

If you're not gay, you have no idea what it's like to have a safe environment where you can be yourself. Since 1980's opening, Greg's or OP's or whatever it's been called, has been one of Indy's safest places for gay people to be, well, gay.  It's Indy's oldest gay bar.  Besides all of that, Greg's has always been at the forefront of activism for LGBTQ+ individuals as well as all those charitable causes they helped support in Indy, and Phil has been that driving force.

Hopefully, the wonderful bar on 16th Street where a person of any orientation or gender identity can go to be himself or herself will continue.  With the loss of a couple of other establishments in town, we can't afford to lose this historic cultural hub.

Again, I didn't know Phil, but I think his heart was on display if you've ever been in his establishment.  It is a place of welcomeness and open arms and minds and hearts.

Thanks for being there for the community, Phil. You have served us well.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Is Joe Hogsett Looking at 2020 in 2017?

Mayor Joe Hogsett
Joe Hogsett's position on the Paris Accords could actually give us a window into what the Mayor of Indianapolis might be thinking about three or more years down the road.

Hogsett gave good lip service and said the right things about Indianapolis adopting the right kinds of policies to help prevent climate change, but he stopped short of the more hard language to say how we'd get there.  He refused to sign the Climate Mayors Agreement.  As one of my friends put it, "Caution over leadership."

That could be a good way to describe Hogsett's position on not only this but also some other more liberal ideas such as raising the minimum wage for full-time city employees.  The Democratic leadership of the City-County Council is backing it, but Hogsett says he'd rather balance the city budget before looking at raising the city employees up closer to a living wage.

He said the right things but didn't push the sanctuary city thing too far.

Clearly, Hogsett is balancing things out.  Why this cautious approach on seemingly slam dunk proposals for Democrats?  After all, these proposals would largely be popular measures in Marion County where the political pool gets more and more deeply blue.  There are no countywide Republican officeholders, and it's getting harder and harder to find candidates for the elephant party each election cycle.

Liberals can be elected in Marion County, but can they be elected statewide?  Few have tested the waters. Now let me be clear, Hogsett has shown leadership in many areas, but the more controversial the subject might be...the more he seems to dance that line.   Better to be CAUTIOUS, right?

Hogsett has to be looking down the road and keeping his political options open for 2020.  All indications the 60-year-old well-known statewide Democrat will run for a second term in 2019.  With all but the crime issue, he has done a spectacular job.  I'd say the chances are very good he would win that second term.  The next year, however, that Governor's Office may be calling his name.  He could run for that office and not leave his current job.

Eric Holcomb, despite what many believe to be a good start to his tenure, is only at 54 percent approval in two different polls since election day.  An unpopular incumbent could be at the top of the ticket for President if Donald Trump doesn't get himself impeached.

I'd continue watch these more left-leaning issues to get a barometer of what Hogsett might do in the future.  Then again, I could be way off base and Hogsett is just trying to be a strong executive, but I believe that he still might have a desire to make one more statewide run.

Now that the Mayor is probably mad at me...

Donnelly Running Ads for Reelection Campaign

Sen. Joe Donnelly
It appears that in the early going of the 2018 campaign that Joe Donnelly is not leaving anything to chance.

Having already been the subject of ads against him, Donnelly, who does not even know his opponent yet, is out with some early ads to try to define himself in these months before the Republicans began to truly mobilize against him. It's smart politics. Donnelly's advertising hits hard on his record and talks about the Senator's accomplishments in office.  

From the beginning, the Indiana Senator has been accessible and has been talking about more than just the issues that dominate the national news cycles. Donnelly has been trying to improve things for veterans since taking office. He's also been engaged in Indiana's problems with drugs such as heroin and opioid abuse.

Donnelly's problems electorally are going to come from the fringes of both parties. Right wingers will call him a liberal and try to tie him to Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. Those on the far left attack Donnelly for things like his positions on abortion, his slow conversion to supporting same sex marriage, and his vote to confirm Neil Gorsuch.

The point of all this is Donnelly is starting early, and for a seat the Democrats must hold on to to capture the Senate in 2018, it's a good thing. The earlier the better, I say.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Tallian Takes on Hill on Legalization of Marijuana in Indiana

Senator Karen Tallian
Former gubernatorial candidate and Indiana state Senator Karen Tallian went after Attorney General Curtis Hill's positions on the legalization of marijuana in an op-ed released by the Indiana Senate Democrats.

Hill detailed his positions in an Indianapolis Star piece published on June 1 begging presumably the Indiana General Assembly to not legalize marijuana.  In the process, he runs through a myriad of greatest hits (no pun intended) of those opposed to legalization...you know...it's a gateway drug that warps your mind.

Well, Tallian is having none of it. She writes...
I was dismayed by the recent inflammatory Op-Ed from Indiana’s new Attorney General regarding marijuana reform laws. His portrait of “money-hungry profiteers…with dollar signs in their eyes” lining up at the doors of the Indiana legislature sounds like a firebrand sermon preaching hell-fire and brimstone.

Having submitted marijuana reform legislation, and monitored every proposal that has been filed, I have some experience in what is in the legislature. Although there is a lot of citizen interest, most of the lobbyists roll their eyes at the thought of marijuana legalization in Indiana.

But that is not the end of the story. The AG’s editorial cautions us against “flirting” with any reforms. Indiana’s prosecutors have most vehemently opposed any reform actions, sometimes resorting to what can only be described as self-serving deceit.

Marijuana Reform is simple, even if one does not support legalization.

We should stop putting our kids in jail, or giving them criminal records, for possession of a substance that is legal in many other places. Current laws make it impossible for someone convicted of a drug crime as a teenager to find a job once they have completed school. We penalize our youth for their lifetime for being busted in high school.

The “gateway” drug theory is simply not even a valid argument. Marijuana is not heroin. Mr. Hill’s “citations” regarding addiction, impaired driving, and crime are misleading at best, and totally fail to give the real conclusions of those studies.

It is true, we have an opioid problem in our society. A huge part of it is attributable to prescription drugs, and the situation is not relevant to marijuana reform. Further, and to the contrary, much research shows that marijuana may be used to help addicts “come down” from more serious drugs.

Now that some states have allowed for it, medical research is blossoming and supporting the cause for medicinal marijuana. Double-blind laboratory studies have proven positive effects in epilepsy, and more research is being done all the time. Research should be encouraged at our state medical institutions, but that too is illegal. Something that could be alleviated through reform laws.

Finally, and we know this as a nation, prohibition of a substance that is accepted by such a huge portion of society has never worked. I could have written an entire Op-Ed on this subject alone.

This year the General Assembly took a step forward in medical options for Hoosiers by legalizing cannabidiol oil for certain epileptic children. I hope the members of the General Assembly continue down the path of options, and not the fear mongering coming from our Attorney General.
To be continued in the General Assembly.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Recent Poll: Hoosiers Cautiously Approving of Holcomb

Governor Holcomb
A majority of Hoosiers think Governor Eric Holcomb is doing a good job according to a recent poll by the Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, and I think Holcomb has largely earned the accolade.

The Indianapolis Republican stands at a 54 percent approval by Hoosiers to go with with the General Assembly's 49 percent approval rating.  Another 56 percent of Hoosiers think the state is on the right track in the poll conducted by Fabrizio Lee & Associates.  All of this was more secondary to the headline of the poll showing that over 70 percent of Hoosiers believe cold beer sales should be expanded and 65 percent support Sunday sales.

The overarching headline of the poll is more good news for Holcomb.  As you may remember, he signed the Indiana General Assembly's Ricker's Convenience Store loop hole fix bill reluctantly asking the General Assembly to look at Indiana's antiquated liquor laws.

Back to the Governor's approval rating.  I am really surprised the number is just 54 percent.  It would seem Hoosiers like their Governor but just aren't sure to make of him quite yet.  That should be some decent news for Indiana Democrats as they look ahead.  There must be something holding Holcomb's numbers back, and that very well could be Donald Trump.

Eric Holcomb did a far better than average job marshaling the state through his first Indiana General Assembly session. Obviously, I have my ideological differences with the man, but he made it clear that he's not as ideological as many thought he would be. He also showed that he has some backbone of his own and won't necessarily be a pushover for Brian Bosma and David Long as many thought he might.

Let's face it though, Holcomb hasn't really be truly tested yet. Mike Pence didn't get tested until the entire RFRA thing hit, and he failed the test. Liquor laws, government transparency and a couple other areas seem to be where Holcomb differs from his General Assembly majority. Given the opportunity, he caved on the liquor laws, on solar power, and on expanding restrictions on abortions. He also moved forward to make the Superintendent of Public Instruction position an appointed rather than elected position. None of these were particularly big moments.

His highlights of his first few months in office were the way he moved swiftly to help East Chicago residents affected by lead in their water. He also pardoned Keith Cooper for a crime he clearly didn't commit over the objections of Attorney General Curtis Hill.

Time will tell what Holcomb does from here, but, as I've written before, his start has been promising. There's a long way to go to 2020 and the next time he'll face the voters.