Friday, March 30, 2012

Playing politics with public safety

Posted By on Fri, Mar 30, 2012 at 6:30 AM


I learned a long time ago from a very wise man that the only problem with playing games in politics is sometimes you come across people who can play better than you. I strongly suggest the Indianapolis City-County Council keep that in mind as it navigates the waters of Public Safety Director Frank Straub's "confirmation" hearings.

It goes without saying that Dr. Straub has been a lightning rod for change and criticism from Democrats and Republicans for recent events at IMPD. Although I have always and will continue to argue that getting mad at the Public Safety Director for the actions of some rogue law enforcement officers is like getting mad at the exterminator you called to solve your infestation problem.

Has Straub committed any of the offenses below?

  • Straub wasn't arrested for sexual assault in February 2010.
  • Straub didn't steal $500 from an arrestee in March 2010.
  • Straub wasn't investigated by the FBI for public corruption.
  • Straub did not use excessive force against Brandon Johnson.
  • Straub was never charged with arson.
  • Straub never strangled a resident in a fight.
  • Straub did not discharge his weapon during a domestic dispute.
  • Straub never hit 4 motorcyclists, killing one and injuring two others.
  • Straub did not wreck a police vehicle and then take it to a body shop in order to hide the damage.

If he did, I must have missed something.

But let's say for sake of argument, that the Council refuses to re-appoint Straub, here's the question, now what? That doesn't mean Straub can't stay. Under municipal code the Mayor can keep Straub in the position until he finds someone else and the Council can't make him hire anyone. Even Straub critic City-County Councilor Vernon Brown admitted that during Straub's reappointment hearing last year.

So what will they do, cut the funding in the budget? Contrary to popular opinion, Indianapolis has a strong-mayor/weak-council form of government. In other words, the Council can pass a budget, the Mayor can veto it and unless they override it with 20 votes, which as we saw during the smoking ban debate isn't very likely to happen, nothing would change. Under state law if a municipality fails to pass a budget then the budget from the previous year goes into effect and Straub's budget would practically stay the same subject to changes by the administration.

And here is something else to keep in mind, what's to stop the Indiana General Assembly, which may be even more Republican next year than it is now to stop from amending the UniGov statute so the Mayor doesn't have to go the Council to get his appointments confirmed? The Governor doesn't have to deal with that, so why should the Mayor of Indianapolis have to go back to the Council on an annual basis to get his major appointments approved? It's one thing to do that once, when that person is appointed, or perhaps re-appointed at the beginning of a second term, but annually? If I were the chief executive officer of the city I wouldn't put up with that.

And, if I know Mayor Greg Ballard as well as I think I do, neither will he. Let the political games begin.

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Abdul recaps General Assembly 2012

Posted By on Mon, Mar 19, 2012 at 7:00 AM


For the past seven years I have covered the Indiana General Assembly and seven times at the end of each session, I scribble down a few thoughts about what was good, what was bad and what was downright ugly about lawmakers and their actions. This year is no exception. So without further adieu, let's begin, shall we ...

The Good

- Right to Work – although a lot of people saw this legislation as anti-union, I always viewed it as pro-freedom. Under Indiana's "right to work" law, no one can be forced to pay union fees as a condition of employment. This does not mean no one can join a union. It simply says they can't be compelled to pay fees. And if the union is doing its job and providing quality service, people will pay for it. And before we go down the freeloader road, I need to remind you that when a union is formed in the workplace, it can decide whether to become the exclusive representative of the entire workplace or just represent members only.If it chooses the former, then that is the price you pay. And just for the record, Indiana has already had a number of companies give it a second look to relocate now that it is a right to work state.

- Taxes – In an age where states are going broke left and right, please tell me the last state to not only guarantee all taxpayers a refund, but also phase out the inheritance tax? If you work hard to build wealth for your family, shouldn't it go to them when you die and not the government? And when the government has extra, shouldn't it go back to the people who they took it from in the first place?

- Education – This is an area where lawmakers actually did some good across the board. From fully funding full-day Kindergarten, to establishing two official school enrollment count days, instead of one, so the money can better follow the student, to capping the number of credit hours needed to graduate from a state college or university to 120 (4 years) without a good reason, these are good measures that will improve education.

- Smoking Ban – Philosophically I oppose these things, but the ban passed out of the Legislature was extremely reasonable. It eliminates smoking in most places and leaves it in the places where you would expect to find it. Now use your brain and go make an informed choice about whether you want to be exposed to secondhand smoke.

The Bad

- Mass Transit – This is one of those measures that should have gotten to the floor for a vote to let Marion and Hamilton County residents decide whether they wanted a tax increase to pay for mass transit. And don't believe the hype, but there was enough politics going on in both Democratic and Republican camps as to why this didn't move forward. The more overriding issue is that this was an election year and no one wanted a primary challenge saying how they voted for a tax increase, even if it was just an authorization to do so. The good news is there is always next year.

- Right to Resist – This was one of those bills where I could see both sides of the issue, but preferred to err on the side of law enforcement. SB 1 gives Hoosiers the right to resist law enforcement, including up to using deadly force, if the public safety official is entered their home illegally. I am also for your right to defend your home from unlawful entry, but we usually don't know if an officer has entered your home illegally until after the fact when we are in court. So I worry about that newspaper headline about an officer who is killed because things went south real fast and real quick.

The Ugly

- Creationism Bill – This bill would have allowed for creationism to be taught in school. Although I don't believe in creationism, I don't have a problem with it being taught in school, as long as you're teaching more about the business in the Garden of Eden with that snake and the apple. If we were talking alternate theories of creation, including the "Giant Spaghetti Monster Theory" I'd have less of a problem, but we weren't.

- Specialty Plates – Yes, Indiana has far too many specialty plates, but choosing the one from the organization that supports gay teens was not the brightest place to start. All that legislation did was make a political party that looked like it was hateful and out of touch look even more hateful and totally out of touch.

- Girl Scouts – And speaking of out of touch, State Representative Bob Morris, wins a badge on this one.Not only did he manage to make himself look like a laughing stock on the local, state and national stages with his written letter that the girl scouts promote a "pro-abortion/pro-homosexual" agenda, but he also did more to help Girl Scout cookie sales than probably anyone else in the country. I guess ugliness does have a way into turning into something pretty.

Abdul-Hakim Shabazz is an attorney, the editor of IndyPolitics.Org and a frequent political analyst for RTV 6.

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