The Brutal Republican Power Grab of Indiana Senate Bill 621 (SB 621)

This is an Indiana Senate Bill targeted at Indianapolis and designed to take away a great deal of political voting power of Indianapolis residents. If you are a resident of Indianapolis proper, READ THE TEXT of this bill and see the direct impact this bill has on you. Hell, even if you’re not an Indianapolis resident (Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville) you should be opposing this bill. The bill has passed the Indiana Senate and is poised to go through the Indiana House of Representatives, so contact your Representative. Contact info for your legislators is at the bottom of this post.

I’ve mentioned this bill before in another post, but let me break it down more completely.

It does several really heinous things:

1) removes “at large” city county council seats
The goal of this is clear – to reduce Democratic representation on the city-county council. Indianapolis’ city council districts are gerrrymandered like CRAZY. There are far more Democrats than Republicans in Indianapolis, but Republicans have rigged the districts so well (?) that they keep council seats election season after election season. The only way that Democrats get on the city-county council is through “at large” seats where voters can finally put the people they actually want to represent them in office. Eliminating these “at large” seats is terrible for both parties and serves no justifiable purpose from a pure government point of view, but it definitely helps the Republicans continue to have unfair respresentation in Indianapolis city government. (And a side note – there’s also some serious homophobia driving this. Zach Adamson getting elected to an At-Large City Council seat in Indianapolis really terrifies Republicans, so much so that they are trying to eliminate his seat altogether.)

2) makes changes to the Indianapolis goverment roles
The paragraphs about county treasurer, county auditor, and county assessor and controllers are hard to parse – essentially it gives the mayor a lot more power and removes power from other officials and from the city-county council, which means you have less representation.

3) reduces the amount of time someone must reside in Indianapolis before running for elected office.
There’s never good justification for reducing the amount of time someone should live somewhere before running for political office there. In Indianapolis we have a carpetbagger problem with Republicans who don’t live in Indianapolis moving into the city (sometimes from Hamilton County and other surrounding wealthier counties, but also from outside central Indiana) specificallly to try to get elected office in Indianapolis, where they can try to influence politics for Democrats who have been living in Indianapolis all of their lives. It’s a “have your cake and eat it too” win for Republicans, who don’t want to actually live in Indianapolis, but who want to control the politics here.

4) makes counting absentee ballots more difficult in key counties and eliminates ballots from being counted after polls are closed.
Those three counties in the last paragraph are listed for a reason – they’re heavily Democratic. Forcing absentee ballots to be counted in a central location makes it more likely that ballots will be eliminated, and helps the Republican party.

Indiana Senate Bill 621 (SB 621)

Here is the full text of the bill:

Local government issues.

Provides that the consolidated law enforcement department of a county having a consolidated city is a division of the department of public safety under the direction and control of the director of public safety.

Eliminates the requirement that the city-county council approve the director and deputy appointments of the mayor of the consolidated city.

Eliminates provisions that allow the city-county council to require the capital improvement board of managers to make payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTS) for deposit in the consolidated county fund.

Allows the mayor of a consolidated city to appoint two additional members to the metropolitan development commission, and eliminates the appointments of the county board of commissioners (consisting of the county treasurer, county auditor, and county assessor).

Allows the controller of the consolidated city and county to allot amounts appropriated to an office, department, or agency of the consolidated city or county.

Effective January 1, 2016, reduces the membership of the city-county council from 29 to 25 members by eliminating the members elected at large.

Requires a candidate for mayor of the consolidated city to reside in the city for at least one year (instead of five years) before taking office.

Requires a candidate for member of the city-county council to reside within the council district for at least one year (instead of two years) before taking office.

Provides that if the division of the county into city-county council districts is reviewed by a panel of judges, the clerk of the court must keep a record of the method and process of selecting the panel and make the record available for public inspection and copying.

Provides that in Marion County, a township board consists of five (instead of seven) members. Provides that members of the initial five member township board are elected at the November 2016 general election.

Requires absentee ballots in Marion, Lake, and Allen counties to be counted at a central location unless the county election board unanimously adopts a resolution that: (1) requires absentee ballots to be counted at individual precincts; and (2) states the county election board’s basis for adopting the requirement.

1) To figure out your district and state legislators visit this link: District Look Up and enter your address. Contact information – usually a phone number and the legislator’s website – is listed. Call their 1-800 number, or visit their website and find contact information for an email.

2013 Update: This bill was passed by the Indiana State Legislature and signed into law by Governor Mike Pence.

Continue ReadingThe Brutal Republican Power Grab of Indiana Senate Bill 621 (SB 621)

Indianapolis’ disastrous downtown parking meter deal

This has been a hot topic on facebook and with local blogs for the last couple weeks or so. Mayor Ballard had come up with a deal to privatize parking meters downtown and in the Broadripple Area that basically gives away the baby with the bathwater. The deal is a 50-year contract with a private company to install and maintain the meters, and they will reap the profits from said meters over that time. Prices on the meters will go up. Free nights and weekends will go away – you’ll pay at the meter from 7 am to 9 pm. Residents in Broad Ripple will be required to buy parking permits to park in front of their homes.

Basically the deal is done but will require the city-county council to approve. That has suddenly become more difficult due to some analysis by urban planning guru Aaron Renn of Urbanophile, who looked closely at the details of the deal and wrote two articles, one about how the deal is bad public policy: Parking Meters and the Perils of Privatization

And the other is how this particular deal sucks so bad:

Indy’s “Son of Chicago” Parking Meter Lease to Be a Disaster for City
Lots more detail in both those articles on how everything shakes out. Post the articles which have been circulating widely among policial wonks, many more people have contacted the city-county council to complain about the deal, and they were forced to postpone a discussion in the Rules Committee about it in order to address some of the complains with a response. Downtown businesses are starting to realize how deleterious the affects will be on their business, according to the Indiana Business Journal.

There will apparently be a hearing on September 20th after the regular city-county council meeting.
The city’s “response” to Urbanophile’s articles, which doesn’t offer any arguments of substance and mostly picks nits about the level of detail Aaron got into in his articles, is here:

PDF download – Parking Meter Modernization Will Improve Infrastructure and Spur Economic Activity

Thankfully, Aaron Renn assessed the response and picked that mother apart as well:
Indianapolis Parking Meters – The City’s Response

Contact information for the City-County Council, should you be interested in registering your opinion.

Continue ReadingIndianapolis’ disastrous downtown parking meter deal

Revolt (or something) at the Statehouse

If you know anything about local Indiana politics, you’ll understand why this video is really damned funny.

UPDATE: As I was watching this, I was struck at how prescient local artist and commentator StAllio! was when he wrote about the event planning for this shindig a month ago:

if you even know what all that means, you’re probably one of the event’s organizers. i don’t see this protest attracting a lot of protesters nor much media attention. the whole thing is too vague and ephemeral for tv reporters, who won’t have a clue how to cover the thing. and in today’s economy, i don’t see the typical taxpayer getting too riled up about “the executive and legislative revolving door”–these days, people are more worried about just finding jobs and making ends meet. if this were a focused protest centered around, say, the mess at the CIB, i could see it being a moderate success. but a kitchen-sink protest of complaining about “corporate welfare” is doomed to failure.

I should have quoted him when I wrote this this morning, but I hadn’t had any coffee yet.

Continue ReadingRevolt (or something) at the Statehouse

Mary Ann Sullivan for State Representative

Mary Ann Sullivan is the Democratic candidate for my district – Indiana House District 97. She’s running against ‘cut and run’ Jon Elrod, who was going to leave the District high and dry to run against Andre Carson, but then ran back to District 97 when he realized he couldn’t beat Andre.

I’ve met Mary Ann several times and she’s the smart, capable person we need in HD 97 – someone who will actually serve the people and not use the office as a stepping stone to the next job.

Continue ReadingMary Ann Sullivan for State Representative

It’ ain’t me you’re lookin’ for, babe.

Over there at stAllio!’s digs, he’s been keeping a good hand in at critiquing the local political situation.

Just to sum things up a bit for you out-of-towners – Indianapolis has a bunch of dirty cops; after a string of high-profile drug shootings, Mayor Ballard frantically tries to keep it together; and Jon Elrod quit his District 7 race like a little girl and went running back to District 97.

ANYWAYS, stAllio! had a particularly insightful take down of radio personality Abdul Hakim-Shabazz’s recent major public malfunction: “what this town needs are a couple good police beatings.”

Abdul apparently didn’t have any adequate defense to stAllio’s post, so he shot back with this:

Go get a drink and relax. You are way too uptight. I thought you would have mellowed out after getting married.

To which I pop my head up from gardening the front flower beds and pronounce a particularly insightful: “What? WTF is he on about?”
I guess he thinks Ben Berg and I are the same person? I kinda wish, actually. He’s a better writer than I am, and a cool local artist. I do have a lovely piece of his art in my home:

Evil Fever by StAllio!

Abdul, perhaps you should lay off the coke a bit.

Continue ReadingIt’ ain’t me you’re lookin’ for, babe.

March 11 District 7 Special Election

I’ve been saying I’m going to write about the March 11th special election, and I haven’t forgotten that. I actually have had a REALLY long post written about it since Friday, but I’ve revised it 10 times and can’t quite get out what I really want to say… so I’m starting over.

Hopefully you’ve all figured out by now that Julia Carson’s District 7 seat as a U.S. Representative is being filled by a special election on March 11th. Whomever wins will still need to campaign again to be chosen in this May’s primary race and to be re-elected in November if they are the candidate.

The two contenders for the seat are Democrat André Carson and Republican Jon Elrod. Elrod is currently my rep in the statehouse, having upset Ed Mahern for 97th District in 2006.

So, where do I stand? As I mentioned in a comment on a previous post, I’ll be voting for André Carson, although he’s not my favorite candidate, and I’ll be supporting another democratic candidate in the May primary.

I really don’t believe Carson has enough political experience to be a U.S. Representative yet. His only other elected office has been a few short months on Indianapolis’ City-County Council. He has no experience in higher Indiana offices, no experience at the Indiana Statehouse, all of which should be prerequisites for an office at the federal level.

There are several people much more qualified for this office than Carson, some of whom actively sought it, like David Orentlicher, who is our representative for the 86th District in the Indiana Congress.

Why Carson over Elrod?

I’ll get to that, but let me start off with some of Elrod’s good points:

Elrod does talk a good game on gay issues. Many gay people in Indianapolis are campaigning for Elrod because he stands out as a lone Republican voting against SJR-7 and against other homophobic legislation in the Indiana Statehouse, and I can see that’s a great thing. There are several gay households in our neighborhood that have Elrod signs in their yards.

However, these same folks are studiously ignoring that Elrod hired a notoriously anti-gay company to build his website – a company that has actively lobbied for SJR-7 and for other legislation destructive to the gay community. I don’t think that’s a deal-killer as far as voting in my eyes, but it does suggest that Elrod doesn’t have a complete awareness of gay issues, or who he might accidentally be in bed with politically in the Republican party.

Elrod also really gets himself out there. I held a long conversation with him in my front yard when he was running in 2006 for District 97, and numerous other people in our district also reported talking to him. He’s definitely a “get out and meet the people” guy. I’ve talked to him twice since that initial meeting, too.

So what’s wrong with Elrod?

I’m not voting for Elrod because I strongly believe that he’s gay.

Yep, you heard that right.

I really, really think that Jon Elrod is gay, and I’m voting against him for that specific reason. I have no real, verifiable concrete evidence that Jon Elrod is gay. None whatsoever. I have no smoking gun, no secret lover, no rumor or innnuendo from within the gay community. I have nothing but instinct.

That man sets off my gaydar at 5 miles away. I’m not kidding.

I’ve been out and active in the gay community for over 20 years. My gaydar is a finely tuned, high performance machine at this point. When it occasionally misfires – and I admit it does – it always because people fly under the gaydar; never because I’ve had a false positive. I never suspect someone is gay when they aren’t; I always suspect they’re straight when they’re gay. I suppose it’s possible that Jon Elrod is straight and I’m mistaken. But I really don’t think so. Not at all.

There’s also not much evidence to contradict my belief; he’s good-looking, single, definitely metro-sexual, and I’ve never seen a girlfriend/beard, although there might be one.

So… IF Elrod is gay, shouldn’t I be voting for rather than against him?

In theory, yes.

Vote for a gay man? In a heartbeat – I’d be thrilled to.

Vote for a gay Republican? – that’s conceivable. If I thought he was the right guy, I just might. I don’t cross the aisle often in my voting, but it’s definitely not off the table, depending on the person.

But vote for a closeted gay Republican? Absolutely fucking not. I’d rather cut off my own arm and beat myself in the head with it.

In the year 2008, there’s absolutely no reason why anyone running for public office should be in the closet, even in Indiana. Especially in Indiana. There’s so much at stake for gay people in Indiana that it would be an utter betrayal of trust to be a closeted elected official, and I really, really believe Elrod is.

What I don’t get is why I’ve never heard this elephant it the room (if you’ll pardon the pun) discussed in the gay community.

I CANNOT be the only person who thinks Elrod is gay. So if all these other gay people are supporting him, are they doing so also suspecting that he’s gay, and wanting to have him in office because of that, despite the closeted status?

I sure hope the hell not, because the very idea makes me sick to my stomach, it’s so disgusting. The self-loathing involved in doing something like that would be overwhelming to me, and one of the most pitiful things for a gay person to do that I can imagine.

I really don’t believe that Jon Elrod is a true friend to the gay community of Indianapolis, and I don’t believe he’s the best person for the job of U.S. Representative for District 7.

Continue ReadingMarch 11 District 7 Special Election

Thoughts on the Jesus MCC Bilboard Campaign

Awhile back, I wrote about the second part of Jesus MCC’s anti-discrimination campaign here in Indianapolis, involving six provocative billboards. At the time, I said “I like it!” without putting a whole lot of thought into the matter.

Soon after that, I caught sight of one of the billboards, at 38th and College. I have to admit, it’s pretty impressive live.

billboard at 38th and college

Then Scott posted a more thoughtful response on his blog (in part):

However, the Bible IS open to interpretation, so I guess if the straight fundies are going to use it to diminish the gays, then the gay fundies have every right to use the same tool. And on the heels of solid activism that led to the stalling of SJR-7, our state’s anti-gay marriage amendment, I’m glad to see that this gay community is finally waking up and getting a little bit loud, even if some of it is being done through a church. At least there’s movement here.

Still, I can’t imagine that there’s going to be a winner in this argument, MCC isn’t going to change the minds of the likes of Miller, Bosma, Hershman, [insert name of favorite republican fundie here]. Instead, they’re either going to be even more pissed off at us or just dismiss it right from the start. And that makes me ask: What’s the point?

And after considering his thoughts, I commented there with this:

You gave this much more thought than I did – I saw the billboards and thought “Ha! That’s such a strange interpretation. That’ll piss off the fundies!”

I think there’s some value in it because it re-frames some of the debate in radically different ways, and puts the Miller crowd in the position of defending their interpretation of the bible rather than constantly using it as a weapon.

For people who think the bible is set in stone and their interpretation is the only one that exists, the idea that someone can read something different in the bible is a big problem. It’s easy for them to bash atheists – we’re just sinners. But forcing examination of scripture is something else.

Similar to what happened with SJR-7 – we were able to shift the debate about the amendment from “gays are immoral” to “that second paragraph is deeply flawed” and the fundies suddenly had to play defense – something they clearly aren’t used to and don’t know how to do.

Then for those of us who are non-believers in Christianity, we have a role to play also – in pointing out that we don’t believe in their imaginary bearded friend in the sky, and no one can make us.

Not long after that, the two of the six billboards around town were vandalized – as Bilerico and numerous sites have reported.

Defaced Jesus MCC Billboard

Indyness recently posted her thoughts on the Jesus MCC billboards – she’s very critical of the project, and it made me consider the whole matter more closely, which I’m very grateful for.

First, this campaign goes way beyond sparking debate. The minister has written a book on this subject and clearly has an agenda to push and a book to sell. He’s using the church as his platform. I hope the church signed up for this. I bet his publisher is ecstatic.

Second, there are many people in this church who are desperately seeking approval. For them, that’s what this campaign is about. Not debate. It’s about “Please, please, please accept me”. I think that the church and the community needs to address this psychological state that some members of the community find themselves in. Personally, I’m not begging for acceptance from anyone. I’m a productive member of society. That should be enough.

Third, I’m concerned about the safety of the members of this church. This church has made itself a target by doing this campaign. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t take risks. I just hope that everybody realizes what they signed up for…

Indyness’ point about the minister writing a book is a new to me, and something I didn’t realize, although I don’t know that it would especially bother me – the potential market for his book is pretty limited, frankly. I’m not going to run out and get a copy because of this campaign, and I doubt Eric Miller will, either. Even if the whole campaign is just a cynical ploy to sell books, it advances my agenda, so I can’t complain.

I’m not interested in getting anyone’s acceptance. My concern is this house. Despite our careful financial and legal arrangements, if something happened to me, Stephanie would be forced to sell this house to pay off the taxes on my estate, and she would lose much of my assets that are left to her, and possibly part of her own – all because we aren’t able to get legally married. That PISSES ME OFF. It’s just not fair. My hard work should count as much as any heterosexual person’s – I worked to get this money, and my wife should be able to keep it, the same as any heterosexual person.

(Even when I explain this to my understanding, pro-gay heterosexual friends, they don’t understand it. I have to go over it again and again – when the light bulb finally goes on and they understand, the realization is amazing to them. I’m astonished that even the most liberal, pro-gay people don’t really get this point. They think the whole gay marriage drive is just about doing the right thing – they really have no idea there are tangible benefits to getting married that they enjoy and we don’t.)

The reason all of this could occur is because some asshats with their arbitrary religious rules have control of the statehouse, and they’re able to use their Bible as a weapon. I’m interested in taking that weapon away from them. Anything that challenges the lock that religion has on our legal system in this state is okay by me, even if it’s coming from the direction of challenging their belief system itself.

I know that just being a productive member of society should be enough, but if logic came into it, homophobia and religious nutiness would have disappeared long ago.

I know a few Jesus MCC members, but not as close friends, so I can’t say what their motivations are; I don’t know if they’re desperately seeking acceptance or not. I also can’t say whether they know what they’re in for with this campaign. The two members I know best are Zach and Chris – and Zach was an IYG member many years ago when I was a volunteer for that organization. From some general statements Zach has made, I have a good idea that he’s seen his fair share of homophobia, and isn’t exactly a babe in the woods.

I’m very glad that Scott and Indyness thought about this more carefully and thoroughly than I did, even though I might disagree with them on some points. I glossed over the whole thing in a pretty flip way, which was pretty cavalier of me.

Continue ReadingThoughts on the Jesus MCC Bilboard Campaign

I got called the D-Word

No, no, not “difficult.” The other D-Word. The one that’s the equivalent of the N-word. You know… the one that if you had the balls to say it to my face, you’d be riding to the hospital in an ambulance. Yeah. THAT D-word.

And who busted out this lovely phrase? Only our Indianapolis’ Finest — [link redacted because Abdul hid the blog when he got in trouble with the law] our esteemed law enforcement officers at IndyUndercover.

Gee, I wonder why homicides are at a record high, petty theft is up 50% and we’ve got a major drug war on our hands? Could it be because our police force are sitting at home with their penises in one hand, typing furiously at the computer with the other, trying to intimidate Indy residents out of speaking their minds, and at the same time libeling every elected official in city government? I feel so safe with these guys “serving” and “protecting” me.

Okay, really, I do realize that IndyUndercover isn’t actually law enforcement — it’s a right wing hit site set up to try to influence the local elections (witness the date it was set up, the topics of conversation). Still, you’d think that actual law enforcement would be offended that these fakers and propagandists are out there defaming their name.

Bite Me

2019 Update: It turned out that the libelous IndyUndercover blog site was run by malicious Indianapolis blogger, public nuisance and noted homophobe Abdul Hakim-Shabazz. He got outed by the police when he revealed the name of a confidential informant who was working with arson investigators and she almost got killed.
Continue ReadingI got called the D-Word

Indy Undercover

I mentioned Indy Undercover on IndyScribe, but I’ve now read several of the posts, and want to comment here on it separately.
Indy Undercover a site about law enforcement issues in Indianapolis, purportedly written by an law enforcement officer. It’s getting lots of traffic and comments from other people who claim to be law enforcement officers in the city, and the tone of the site is hyper right-wing and very, very anti Democrat.
There are a couple of blog comments that reference this past year’s Human Rights Ordinance — specifically that officers felt the ordinance trumped their concerns about the consoliation of the IPD and the Sheriff’s Department. But the comments are virulently homophobic, which is really alarming. These are the people who are supposed to serve and protect us? Yikes, yikes, and double f*&king yikes.
UPDATE: After the 2006 November election, it was revealed that the Indy Undercover website was not run by anyone from the Indianapolis Police Department, but rather by Indianapolis radio personality Abdul Hakim-Shabazz.

Continue ReadingIndy Undercover

I really want to be proud of where I live

But it’s really hard to do when my elected officials embarrass the crap out of me every time I turn around. Turns out the Evan Bayh and Richard Lugar are both at the top of the list of politicians who take sleazy free vacations from lobbyists. Way to represent, guys.
And because I was in the hospital when it went down, I haven’t had a chance to blog about my very own city-county council representative, Patrice Abdullah. He’s a democrat. I voted for him. I actually took off work early one day, back when he was running for office, to go to our neighborhood meeting to talk to him and ask him where he stood on gay rights issues. He assured me that he didn’t believe in discrimination. But he recently voted against a change in Indianapolis’ Human Rights Ordinance that would protect gay people from being discriminated against, claiming his Muslim beliefs meant that he was expected to discriminate against gay people.
Guess what Patrice? You’re not going to be on the city-county council in the next election. I may not be able to do anything about the retard in the Oval Office, but I can single-handedly get your ass kicked to the curb, and I will be doing exactly that.

Continue ReadingI really want to be proud of where I live