Sunday, October 28, 2012

Risky to talk religion on campaign trail

Posted By on Sun, Oct 28, 2012 at 9:00 AM

The controversy that has erupted around Republican Richard Mourdock's comments about abortion and rape has been fascinating and - like many of you - I'm eager to see how the dust up actually affects Hoosiers' views as they vote in the Indiana Senate race.

We'll learn the latter soon enough. The election is Nov. 6 - and we might get a preview next week when the Howey/DePauw Indiana Battleground Poll releases its final survey results, which will include a measure of the race between Mourdock and Democrat Joe Donnelly.

What makes the storm most interesting to me is that the position Mourdock expressed about abortion was no surprise. He has consistently spoken out against abortion and he supports just one exception for the procedure - when the life of the mother is at risk if she continues her pregnancy. He does not make an exception for the victims of rape and incest.

That view is in line with many Republicans and consistent with statements Mourdock has made throughout the campaign.

Where Mourdock created real controversy is when he opted not to simply state his opinion on the public policy question about abortion and instead veered off into the religious philosophy that underpinned that view. That's a risky thing for any politician to do.

Here's what Mourdock said at a televised debate last Tuesday night in New Albany:

I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.

Mourdock probably could have stopped after the phrase "gift from God" and let that explain his reasons for opposing abortion in nearly every situation. The idea that life is God's gift is not a new thought or phrase in the abortion debate and is a sympathetic point of view even by some who believe government shouldn't make the choice.

But when Mourdock said that pregnancies that occur after a rape are "something that God intended to happen," well, he raised questions that the next day even he could not fully answer.

The problem is that explaining one's own faith is highly difficult. An individual who worships God in whatever faith has come to a set of values and beliefs typically formed over years through life experiences, religious teachings and mentoring, and sometimes - but not always - in depth study and reflection.

Each journey is unique and an individual's resulting belief system is complex and often evolving. For many, religious views - and their intersections with public policy - transform as their lives, the world and their faith leaders change.

And so when Mourdock struggled on Wednesday to explain how he could believe that God could intend a pregnancy resulting from rape and not intend the rape itself, many of those listening just did not understand. It did not square with the views of God and faith they had established through their own lives.

During a long and often emotional press conference, Mourdock was asked again whether he believed that God "intended" a pregnancy after rape to occur. This time, Mourdock said that called for an answer "above my pay grade."

Then, in my view, Mourdock further complicated the situation when he said that, "I believe God controls the universe. I don't think biology works simply in an uncontrolled fashion."

I have no doubt that these are Mourdock's beliefs as he felt them in the moment. I found him to be sincere in his words as well as his effort to help voters understand those views. I think that I even felt him struggling a little with the concepts he was trying to convey.

I know there are plenty of Hoosiers - and people nationwide - who applaud Mourdock for standing up for his religious beliefs and call him courageous for sharing them publicly. This is not an insignificant number of people and they are certainly an important part of the electorate.

But they do not make up the majority of voters that Mourdock needs to be elected.

That's the problem with bringing faith overtly into a campaign. Laying out a religious argument may work when trying to win over a friend to your position and can be effective from the pulpit. However, faith is in so many ways just too personal and the journey too distinct to be effective as a campaign strategy.

After all, among any group of anti-abortion voters, you will find varying personal reasons for their strong opinions on the issue. Many will be driven by faith - but not all. Some people who seemingly share religious philosophies may have different nuances on their pro-life views - such as whether to allow abortions for people who are victims of incest.

Similarly, those who profess to support a woman's right to choose are a disparate bunch as well. They include those whose own religious views might prevent them from personally having an abortion but who oppose government intervention in the area. And the group includes those who worship no God and have little, if any, moral opposition to abortion, viewing it instead as just another medical procedure.

Candidates debating these difficult issues may be best to tie their arguments to a public policy position. Venturing into explanations of the religious philosophy that brought them to that view is risky and often just unnecessary.

It's something Richard Mourdock has now experienced firsthand - and it's something that could cost him votes he needs to win the election.

Lesley Weidenbener is managing editor of, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.
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Ballard's Budget Veto

Posted By on Sun, Oct 28, 2012 at 4:00 AM

A few weeks ago I wrote on these pages that the City-County Council Democrats should just sign off the Mayor's introduced budget and give him full ownership of it. Instead of listening to me, they decided to do their own thing, which included talking $15 million in payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) from the Capital Improvement Board. The end result was a mayoral veto.

The Mayor officially announced this past Friday that he was vetoing a portion of the Democrats' budget. The two biggest vetoes were the vetoing of a transfer of $32 million from the county treasurer to the county general fund. This means that funding to the county offices (Prosecutor, Auditor, Surveyor, Clerk, Sheriff, Courts, etc) will have to reduce their budgets by about 14 percent starting in January.

The second major veto was of what are known as Character 3 funds in the Council Democrats' budget, those are used for contracts and also $100,000 for redistricting. The Mayor did tell the Council that he would agree to restore the funding, provided the Democrats take out the money for redistricting.

Democrats have balked at the idea, accusing the mayor of going after public safety. They also say the mayor's move is illegal. They cite state law which says the mayor cannot veto the appropriation of an office that is created by the Indiana Constitution. The mayor's office says it is not vetoing any budget, but merely exercising another provision of state law, which allows the mayor to veto any appropriation of money or levy of a tax. And, the mayor's people add, they are merely talking about the direction of where money will be sent.

This is a very interesting game of budget chicken. Democrats don't have the votes to override a mayoral veto, they need 20. There are 16 Democrats on the Council and they would need four Republican votes. Council Minority Leader Mike McQuillan tells me his caucus won't vote to override the veto. And if someone decides to go to court, the case would have to be taken out of Marion County, since the judges are funded from the county and they would have to overhear the case.

Another interesting sidebar to all this is that there is a two-month window that the mayor and council have to negotiate. Under state law, the council and mayor cannot tinker with the budget between Nov. 1 and Jan. 1. However, they can use the window to negotiate a more effective deal. Since the Democrats can't override a veto and Mayor Ballard tells me he is perfectly happy with the budget as it is now, it will behoove Council Democrats to start moving toward the Mayor's position. Of course, had they just listened to me in the first place then none of this would have ever have happened. Oh well, there's always next budget year.

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Friday, October 26, 2012

What would it take for you to ride?

Posted By on Fri, Oct 26, 2012 at 10:09 AM


A lot has happened since I last posted. It seems that a lot of work is being done on the ground, by individuals and organizations, to move Indianapolis transit forward. Every few days I hear of a neighborhood transit meeting, or a public input session or some other form of transit event. Though I most often agree that this is the best way of getting things done, and am not an advocate for top down approaches to local issues, it is more realistic that the government needs to get on board this issue before any real change will come about.

Public transit improvements need to be made on a large-scale level and the changes are not something that can be done in small steps. Local efforts are doing a significant job in awareness and outreach, but local efforts are limited when it comes to legislation and policy change. Luckily, just a couple of weeks ago, the City-County Council unanimously voted to approve the IndyGo proposed budget and many improvements to the system are on their way.

But is that enough?

Granted, it is a huge step in the right direction, but are the increased frequencies, new routes and the transit center going to change your mind or your lifestyle enough to get you to choose the bus over your car?

I hear a lot of comments like "who cares?!" or "no way I would ride the bus, it's too..." (fill in the blank with your adjective).

I have to think that if the demand side of public transit were there, the supply side would be forced to make improvements..i.e. if more residents were choosing the bus as their main mode of transportation, the government would have to respond with improvements.

It's the classic chicken or the egg scenario. Does ridership need to increase before more funding will be allocated or does there need to be a greater investment made before more people step foot on the bus?

What will it take for more people to ride? I wish I knew.

What I do know is that there is one week left for the Commuter Connect Challenge and if you log your commute via alternative transportation, you are automatically entered to win 500 dollars.

Maybe that's enough incentive for you to try it out.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Lugar warned us ...

Posted By on Wed, Oct 24, 2012 at 4:00 PM


Like most people, I thought it was impossible for Indiana's U.S. Senate campaign to get any stranger.

I was wrong.

Tuesday night at the second Senate debate, Republican Richard Mourdock touched off a national firestorm when he talked about abortion and rape. He also demonstrated why politicians rarely are renowned theological scholars.

"I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God," Mourdock said during the debate. "And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."

After the debate, Mourdock tried to clean up the mess he'd made. He said that God obviously wouldn't be an accomplice to rape, but – well, let's let him try to explain what he meant.

"What I said is God creates life. As a person of faith I believe that," Mourdock said.

He added, "Does God want people raped? Of course not."

What I think Mourdock meant – and it's hard to know for sure when the "logic" part gets ripped this violently out of the word "theological" – is that God never would disapprove of or disavow a child, even one conceived during the most horrific circumstances.

But it really didn't matter what Mourdock mean.

His strange marriage of stridency and verbal clumsiness produced a reaction that was volcanic.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who just had done a campaign ad supporting Mourdock, sprinted faster than Usain Bolt in distancing himself from the Indiana Republican's comments.

"Gov. Romney disagrees with Richard Mourdock's comments, and they do not reflect his views," Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said, almost before the crowd had cleared out of the hall following the debate.

Democrats pounced.

Mourdock's Democratic opponent, Joe Donnelly, weighed in at a press conference following the debate.

"Rape is a horrible crisis, an unspeakable crime, and I can't believe that my God, or any God, would intend it to happen," said Donnelly, who also opposes abortion but makes exceptions for incest, rape or when the mother's life is in danger.

State Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker was even more succinct.

"Do we need any more proof that Richard Mourdock is an extremist who's out of touch with Hoosiers?" Parker asked.

And John Gregg, the Democratic candidate for governor, couldn't wait to tie wrap Mourdock's comments around the neck of the GOP gubernatorial candidate, Mike Pence.

"I was shocked by Richard Mourdock's comments regarding survivors of rape. Rape is rape, and statements like these rub salt in the wounds of sexual assault survivors everywhere," Gregg said.

"Unfortunately this extreme way of thinking has found its way into our political discourse more and more. Hoosiers have a choice in this election between honoring the Mitch Daniels truce on social issues, and the uncompromising, Pence-Mourdock Tea Party extremism on display tonight. Congressman Pence did not stand up when Mourdock attacked Richard Lugar in the primary and he did not take a stand against Todd Akin this fall."

Akin was the Missouri congressman and U.S. Senate candidate who caused a similar controversy by arguing that women couldn't become pregnant through "forcible rape."

By Wednesday morning, Mourdock was trending number one on several search engines – a first step toward becoming a national punch line – and Pence also had to distance himself from his fellow Hoosier Republican's comments.

Pence did so with uncommon force.

"I strongly disagree with the statement made by Richard Mourdock during last night's Senate debate. I urge him to apologize," Pence said.

Mourdock didn't quite apologize.

At a Wednesday press conference, he said that he had spoken from his heart about his faith in God. He said he abhorred violence and rape. The closest he came to apologizing was when he took a shot at the people who disagreed with his statement.

He said he was sorry that so many people "mistook, twisted, came to misunderstand" what he said.

Near the end of Mourdock's brutal and successful battle to unseat Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., in the Republican primary, Lugar said that Mourdock didn't have the temperament to work effectively in the Senate, a body that reveres courtesy, respect and discretion.

At the time, other Republicans distanced themselves from Lugar's comments.

Right now, I suspect Lugar is fighting the temptation to tell them, "I told you so."

John Krull is director of Franklin College's Pulliam School of Journalism, host of "No Limits" WFYI 90.1 FM Indianapolis and executive editor of, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Reflections on the final presidential debate

Posted By on Tue, Oct 23, 2012 at 8:00 AM


The third presidential debate had a clear winner.

Moderator Bob Schieffer.

The longtime CBS newsman managed to keep the candidates pretty much on time and on topic — and likely will be the only journalist to moderate a presidential or vice presidential debate this year to emerge from the process without enduring withering criticism.

Perhaps Schieffer had an assist from the candidates.

Although this last presidential debate included its share of sniping from candidate to candidate, it lacked the drama and the fireworks of the first two.

In this Monday night showdown in Boca Raton, Fla., Republican challenger Mitt Romney spent a good part of the evening agreeing with the foreign policy of President Barack Obama. Time and again — on use of drones, on Egypt and elsewhere — Romney said he agreed with Obama's policies.

When Romney did take issue with Obama's foreign policy, the former Massachusetts governor said he would have done what Obama did – only sooner or more forcefully or, as Obama noted in a withering aside, "louder, as if that would have made a difference."

Indeed, Obama scored most of his points in talking about the way he and his administration approached the world. At no other time during this campaign has Obama appeared this self-assured and this, well, presidential.

Again and again during the debate, Obama summoned up sound bites that conjured up Old Glory unfurling.

"I think America has to stand with democracy," the president said about his response to demonstrations in Egypt.

At another point, Obama said: "America remains the one indispensable nation in the world."

Too often, Romney seemed flat-footed and out of his depth.

Sometimes, he tried to respond to Obama's criticism by reciting names and facts about countries around the world – without connecting them in anything that resembled a coherent narrative. At other times, he appeared almost petulant and complained that the president was being mean to him.

"Attacking me is not an agenda," Romney said early on – and then repeated a variation of the line later in the evening.

Most of the time, Romney just tried to change the subject back to jobs and the economy, where he felt more sure-footed and scored more successes.

In some ways, this a pity, because Romney began the debate on a provocative note – one that both took aim at Obama's greatest foreign policy success, the killing of Osama Bin Laden, and separated him from the foreign policy of the last Republican president, George W. Bush.

Romney talked at the beginning of the evening about the complexity of the world and the threats to the America's interests and about how the United States needed to adopt a more nuanced approach to foreign policy.

"We can't kill our way out of this mess," Romney said.

A little while later, he further separated himself from Bush's foreign policy by saying that he would not lead the country into any other adventures like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That was an intriguing moment – one in which the two candidates to be the leader of the free world could have discussed in a public forum the morality and effectiveness of the two wars that have consumed the past decade.

But the moment passed.

Obama slashed at the wavering nature of Romney's foreign policy statements over the past few months and years.

Romney gave an uneasy smile, disengaged from foreign policy discussions and dragged the conversation to the U.S. economy.

And another opportunity was lost.

So, who – other than Schieffer – won?

My gut tells me Obama, but it was close.

Obama benefitted from the fact that he seemed more assured about foreign policy and about using presidential power than Romney.

The timing also seemed to work in the president's favor. If we think of elections as a kind of sale, Obama had his two strongest debate performances closet to the point of purchase.

But that does not do full justice to Romney's achievement. Three weeks ago, his campaign seemed headed for an early autopsy.

These debates, though, brought him and his campaign back to life. If nothing else, Romney was able to use this time on the national stage to establish himself as a reasonable alternative to the president and a likable man – one who cares about this country and has thoughtful responses to its problems.

In short, Romney used the debates to close the stature gap with a sitting president – no small achievement.

This race started close and it will end close – in part because these debates did what they should do. They gave us clear glimpses of two gifted but flawed human beings who want to lead us.

But the debates are over, and now it's up to us.

John Krull is director of Franklin College's Pulliam School of Journalism, host of "No Limits" WFYI 90.1 FM Indianapolis and executive editor of, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

You can watch last night's presidential debate and the two previous meetings at C-SPAN's Debate Hub.

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Don't forget your school board election

Posted By on Tue, Oct 23, 2012 at 4:00 AM


This election cycle in Indiana has pretty much been consumed by the race for the U.S. Senate. Let's face it: the President has pretty much conceded the state to Mitt Romney. And while Democrat John Gregg is a great candidate on paper, something just got lost in the translation and his campaign is sputtering in the final two weeks as opposed to Mike Pence's well-oiled machine. And with so many of us talking heads are looking for Lugar Republicans that we don't talk much about anything else. Allow me to change that as I divert your attention toward races a little closer to home, the race for school board.

There are numerous candidates running for these seats in IPS, Pike, Washington, Lawrence, Wayne, Decatur, Perry and Franklin Townships. School board races are some of the most important, but rarely get the attention they deserve. Even someone as politically astute as I am tends to focus on the bigger races, i.e. IPS. But that doesn't mean that what's going on in the Township schools isn't any less important. How many schools did IPS lose to the state under this current school board? Remember the big transportation debacle in Franklin Township schools? Or perhaps the former Wayne Township School Superintendent who got a $1 million payout after he left. These incidents might not have occurred if school boards were in place that actually put the students and taxpayers first instead of the school administration or their heads up their rear ends.

And it doesn't have to be anything controversial to get you to pay attention to these races. Schools are the lifeblood of a community. They determine home and property values, the location of new employers, and a variety of quality of life issues. And in an era of more choice, more competition and most importantly, more accountability, it is important that the citizens who are the managing partners for these school districts are the right people for the job.

It is unfortunate that school board elections are in the same year as presidential elections. I would much rather prefer that school board races be done during the same year as municipal elections. That way voters can focus solely on local matters and save the state and national issues for another time. However, it is what it is. So with that said, find out who your school board candidates are and then find out where they stand on the issues. What do they think about more choice and accountability? Do they think schools need more money or just need to do a better job of managing what they have? What is their plan to increase parental involvement? Do they think full-day kindergarten should be mandatory? What is their plan to increase post-secondary education preparedness? And here's a good one, the Indiana Department of Education is getting ready to issue letter grades for each school in Indiana. If that doesn't give you an indication of how well these school boards have been doing, I don't know what will. So make sure when you go to the voting booth and flip the ballot over and pick your school board candidates. Why should Romney, Obama, Pence, Johnson, Gregg, Boneham, Mourdock, Donnelly and Horning get all your attention?

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Enabling greater independence for people with disabilities

Posted By on Mon, Oct 22, 2012 at 4:00 AM

Dear Nuvo Editors:

Federal law prohibits individuals with disabilities from owning more than $2,000 in assets at any given time or they lose their benefits. Retirement savings, homes, cars and other basic items that everyone needs to live their everyday lives are effectively off-limits. This prevents individuals with disabilities from building independent lives and creates a model of perpetual dependence on federal assistance for a lifetime, which is unfair to all Americans.

There is a bill before the U.S. Congress that has wide bipartisan and bicameral support that allows people with disabilities to save for their future for education, housing, transportation and job training expenses, and create incentives to employment. The Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE Act) (S. 1872/H.R. 3423) is a bill that has earned the support of over 50% of the US House of Representatives and 30% of the Senate. This legislation will allow for more independent living for members of the disability community and will not cost taxpayers one cent.

I feel strongly that individuals with disabilities deserve the right to save for their future just like every other American, and the ABLE Act does just that. The ABLE Act could fund a variety of essential expenses for individuals like education, employment training, housing, healthcare, and transportation. It would also help individuals with Down syndrome be able to be independent and not have to be dependent on public benefits for everything.

In Indiana, I want to thank Representative Andre Carson, Dan Burton, and Joe Donnelly and Peter Visclosky, for cosponsoring this very important legislation. It is the right thing to do for all people with disabilities and their families in Indiana. I want to ask Senators Dan Coats and Richard Lugar to cosponsor the ABLE Act. I would also like to ask Congressman Mike Pence and Todd Rokita to cosponsor the ABLE Act.


Lisa Wells, Executive Director Down Syndrome Indiana
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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Thumbs down: Satellite voting blues

Posted By on Wed, Oct 17, 2012 at 4:01 AM

Thumbs down: Satellite voting blues

One of Indiana's many talented blues musicians needs to write a song called "Satellite Blues." The three-member Marion County Election Board split along party lines and failed to achieve the unanimous approval necessary to enable satellite locations in the county's northern and southern regions. County Clerk Beth White highlighted concerns about voter confusion due to changes in an estimated one in three polling location. Also, she noted overcrowding issues with 19 sites across the city in the primary election earlier this year ahead of recording-breaking attendance during the first week of early voting, which began Oct. 8 and lasts through noon on Election Day eve, at the City-County Building. "My view is that satellite voting is a solution in search of a problem," Patrick Dietrick, the board's GOP representative, said in an email. "That is, any voter in Marion County who is unable to, or chooses not to, vote on Election Day has ample opportunity to vote early and in person at the centrally located and easily accessible city county building. This is even more true due to the extended, early voting hours that Clerk White has enacted."
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Presidential debate takes adversarial route

Posted By on Wed, Oct 17, 2012 at 4:00 AM

The world's worst-kept secret stopped being a secret at the second presidential debate.

That secret?

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney really, really don't like each other.

For a little more than 90 minutes on a stage at Hofstra University, the president and the Republican challenger took advantage of the town hall format to joust over job creation, economic growth, taxes, energy policy, gender equality, national security, education, guns and even the country's misconceptions about each of them.

It was a substantive debate - probably the most substantive in the past 20 years. Both men were on their games. Both hit their marks like professionals - each, for example, said nice things about wind energy producers in Iowa and Colorado, two battleground states both men would love to win.

And both scored points.

Romney hit Obama hard on the issue of job growth, noting again and again that 23 million Americans were unemployed and that the unemployment just had dropped below 8 percent for the first time in more than 40 months.

Obama countered by arguing that 5 million new private sector jobs had been added on his watch and that the jobless numbers had been creeping upward for more than 30 months. That, though, probably was cold comfort to the Americans who don't have work - or who feel that their jobs are not secure.

Obama pounded Romney hard on his tax and budget proposals, which the president said would cost $8 trillion. Obama said Romney couldn't or wouldn't say what deductions or loopholes in the tax code he would eliminate to make up the difference.

Then, turning to the Republican, Obama said that Romney had been a very good businessman and should know better.

"You wouldn't have taken such a sketchy deal," the president said. "And neither should the American people, because the math doesn't add up."

The president addressed Romney as he spoke with something that resembled contempt. And Romney glared at him with something that resembled loathing.

Nor was that the only exchange in which the candidates displayed personal animosity toward each other.

When Romney answered a question about Libya by saying that Obama had traveled to Las Vegas for a fundraiser and Colorado on a political trip, Obama glared at him. Moments later, Obama said that he found "offensive" the suggestion that he or anyone on his "team" would play politics with a national tragedy after they had lost members of that team.

Their handshake at the end was perhaps the most perfunctory in the history of presidential debates.

In a way, the two men's mutual antipathy is refreshing.

One thing that turns many Americans off about political campaigns is that they find them phony - that politicians don't believe the mean things that they say about their opponents and that they don't care about the mean things that get said about them.

To many citizens, this makes their leaders seem less like human beings and more like more than robots.

This is particularly true with two men as detached and disciplined as Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

The illusion that these candidates are something other than flesh and blood got dispelled Tuesday night. These guys not only genuinely don't like each other and don't trust each other, they seem to actively detest each other.

To be sure, some of their scrapping may have been posturing. After the last debate, each candidate - particularly Obama, who lost the first one - doubtless had been coached by handlers to be assertive. Each man spent a lot of time trying to convince America that he was the alpha male and that his microphone in fact was bigger than the other guy's.

But a lot of the animosity was real. These guys see the world in different ways. Both love their country. And each is convinced that the other guy would be a disaster in the White House.

Who won?

That's hard to say. Each candidate said things that will energize his core supporters. Each worked hard to woo the dwindling number of undecided voters.

Each hit the other guy hard and each withstood some massive shots.

Romney closed the stature gap with the president. And Obama reminded voters of why they liked him in the first place.

The last presidential debate is Oct. 22.

I wouldn't expect it to end with these two guys doing a duet of "Kumbaya."

John Krull is director of Franklin College's Pulliam School of Journalism, host of "No Limits" WFYI 90.1 FM Indianapolis and executive editor of, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.
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Haiku News

Posted By on Wed, Oct 17, 2012 at 4:00 AM

Americans wake
up to the climate crisis
just in time to fry

the amazing Mitt
Romney says whatever it
takes to get your vote

one of three pussies
released from prison; other
two left to fester

Cali squirrel tests
positive for plague; just so
the moose don't catch it

as Cummins lowers
revenue forecast, shares fall,
diesel engine cools

IU tuition
costs can be frozen at their
current crippling rate

5-hour Energy
to open Wabash plant where
workers never sleep

holiday hiring
up, meaning consumers plan
to buy useless stuff!

Speaking of, mini
iPad will create stampedes
of iSychophants

giant eyeball found
on Florida beach better
not be a cyclops'
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Monday, October 15, 2012

Council budget raids board funds

Posted By on Mon, Oct 15, 2012 at 11:00 PM


You would think that if the voters of Marion County entrusted you to be a partner with the mayor in balancing a $1 billion budget and closing a $65 million loophole, the least you could do is act in a responsible manner. Unfortunately, that message was lost on Indianapolis City-County Council Democrats.

On Monday night, and along party lines, they passed a budget balanced, in part, by taking $15 million in payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) from the Capital Improvement Board. Just so you know PILOTS are used to collect revenue from non-property-tax-paying entities, like utilities and hospitals, which still use government services. And while the Council is acting within its authority to levy a PILOT, it did not follow state law while doing it, so this is only going to cause future problems, both legal and otherwise.

Here's why:

Under Indiana law, the same rules that apply to assessing and collecting property taxes must also apply when collecting PILOTS. That means the property subject to the PILOT must be assessed by March 1 of the year prior to collection. So if the Council was going to collect a PILOT next year, they should have assessed the property by March 1 of this year. That didn't happen; the Marion County Assessor completed the assessment earlier this month.

Second, anytime property is assessed, notice must be sent to the owner offering the opportunity for appeal. That the CIB not receive proper notice is not the only problem. A legal question remains unsettled as to who is responsible for Lucas Oil Stadium. Back in 2005-06, there were issues as to whether there were enough funds to build the Stadium. To make it happen, the Daniels administration sold the idea of a food and beverage tax to the doughnut counties. In exchange, the state took over the property, even though the CIB manages it. So if the state is the owner and the CIB, the property manager, why is the CIB getting stuck with the bill?

And speaking of the state, we now enter the most troubling part of the entire deal. To get the $15 million, the Council wants the CIB to dip into its cash reserves. The problem with that is those reserves are used for construction, and to pay back future loans which are coming due. By attempting to take that money, not only is the council putting the CIB back on the road to bankruptcy, it is really ticking off Indiana lawmakers that had to bail the agency out back in 2008. It is so bad that Sen. Luke Kenley (a Noblesville Republican and state budget God) has said if the city takes money from the CIB, they can pretty much forget about mass transit or any other financial help for projects. Because the whole reason for state assistance was to get the CIB out of financial trouble.

But what did Council Democrats do at the end of the day? They did something that is illegal and will do nothing but create ill will on the other end of Market Street. And it still, unlike the Mayor's budget plan, does not help address the long-term needs of the city of Indianapolis. And it sets a horrible precedent because now when the city runs short, the council can ignore state law and levy a PILOT against any not-for-profit whenever it feels like, regardless of the impact on the charity. And to add even more insult to injury, the Council is taking the entire $15 million for the city budget, when if they really wanted to be fair, they would only take the city portion of the PILOT and then distribute the rest to other local governments like schools. They complain when the mayor used TIF (tax increment finance) dollars for the city and didn't distribute it. Way to go guys. With partners like these, who needs enemies?

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Candidates for governor stick to script - mostly

Posted By on Thu, Oct 11, 2012 at 1:33 PM

John Krull, executive editor,
  • John Krull, executive editor,

It's a good thing the first debate of Indiana's 2012 gubernatorial campaign wasn't billed as a drinking game.

If it had been, the audience likely would have been hammered by the 25-minute mark.

I started out trying to keep track of how many times Republican Mike Pence mentioned his Roadmap for Indiana, Democrat John Gregg uttered the word "bipartisan" and Libertarian Rupert Boneham said the word "empower." But after the tally reached triple digits and my third pen ran out of ink, I quit counting.

That's one of the downsides of having three media-savvy candidates - two former radio talk show hosts and a reality TV star - in the race. If nothing else, these guys know how to stay on message.

That much was clear in their Wednesday night encounter - the first of three debates scheduled for different parts of the state - in Zionsville.

For most of the night, there were few surprises and - until relatively late in the debate - even fewer fireworks.

Pence did his best avuncular Ronald Reagan imitation, right down to the aw-shucks head tilt. Gregg did his best avuncular Wilford Brimley imitation and looked for much of the evening as if he were trying to make a meal of his mustache.

And Rupert - well, he's an original, a wild-eyed, straggly-haired guy who scatters stray statements of surprising depth and insight among stacks upon stacks of almost nonsensical sentence fragments.

Pence came into the debate the frontrunner and he left it that way.

It was clear from the opening moments that Gregg was eager to go on the attack and paint Pence as a mean-spirited extremist ideologue.

Pence, though, demonstrated that he's an elusive target. He didn't give Gregg any openings and even turned the Democrat's calls for bipartisanship back on him. At least twice, Pence said that he agreed on some issues with each of his opponents.

Instead of giving the audience the snarl Gregg wanted him to show, Pence purred.

At last, in the final segment of a supposed Lincoln-Douglas-style section of the debate that neither Abraham Lincoln nor Stephen Douglas would have recognized, Gregg could wait no longer. In response to a question Pence posed about how the candidates would guarantee balanced budgets for the coming years, Gregg lurched forward with an attack.

Gregg threw one haymaker after another, assaulting Pence for not showing up for work in Congress, for not passing any legislation while he was in the U.S. House of Representatives and for being a divisively partisan attack dog with an unhealthy focus on social issues.

It wasn't effective. Pence had set a trap and Gregg walked right into it.

After thanking Boneham for actually answering the question, Pence counter-punched with devastating effect.

Calling Gregg by his first name and recalling that they had been friends for many years, Pence said: "You're not sounding like yourself these days."

Pence then defended his record and landed his own shot. He said that, in five of the six years that Gregg had been speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives, the state hadn't passed a balanced budget.

Other than Gregg's late and clumsy defense of his own record of balancing budgets, that pretty much ended the skirmishing.

In the rest of the debate, the candidates stuck to script.

Pence touted a Chamber of Commerce-approved plan for more vocational education. Gregg whispered endearments to the teachers' unions by saying that teachers had been shut out of the education reform process. Boneham hit the Libertarian sweet spot by attacking the centralization of government.

Gregg and Boneham said they opposed the state's new right-to-work law. Pence supported it.

Both Gregg and Boneham endorsed a hybrid approach to Indiana's participation in the new health care reform law. In perhaps his one less than completely disciplined moment of the night, Pence delivered a full-throated and anguished cry of opposition to the law.

Curiously, on a night when Gregg again and again invoked Pence's fascination with social issues, none of the candidates focused much attention on Pence's call for a family impact statement on all new Indiana laws - a new and sweeping extension of government power.

Perhaps that will come at the next debate.

If that encounter is like the one Wednesday night, it might not be a great evening for political discourse.

But it could be a great night for bartenders.

John Krull is director of Franklin College's Pulliam School of Journalism, host of "No Limits" WFYI 90.1 FM Indianapolis and executive editor of, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.

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