On Monday night, Indianapolis City-County Council Democrats unveiled their proposed maps for new council districts.
(I know: We already have a map of new council districts that Mayor Greg Ballard approved on the morning of Jan. 1, right before his term expired and he was sworn in for a second one. But, as I spelled out all this in a previous column, Democrats said those maps were illegal, and proceeded to draw their own.)
One could argue, however, that whoever drew the map the Democrats presented, most likely favors Republicans because the map dilutes the minority-voting base, which traditionally votes Democrat, by dispersing potential African-American voters throughout more districts instead of enabling voting majorities in minority strongholds.
The Democratic map protects every incumbent by keeping them within their district boundaries and not moving them. Currently, Democrats control the council 16-13. But if you remove the at-large councilors from the equation, Republicans have a 13-12 majority. And had it not been for the usual insanity that has marked Beech Grove as of late, that number would be 14-11 because Republican Susie Day would probably not have lost to Democrat Frank Mascari. But I digress. It seems odd that Democrats would purposely draw maps to protect Republican incumbents. Granted, incumbency does not guarantee a win, but it does make it easier to run.
Now I know what you're thinking: Abdul, the fact that the Democrats' map protects Republican incumbents simply shows they were drawing maps without taking into political party affiliation. Okay, then help me out with this one: Why would Democrats draw a map that actually treats minorities worse than Republicans?
The GOP map, by consolidating Democratic councilors José Evans and Angela Mansfield into the same district, does set up a challenge where a representative of color could potentially be lost. But overall, the GOP provisions for African-American voters is much more robust than what the Democrats offer. The Republican-drawn map features eight districts where minorities are the voting majority: districts 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14 and 17. In each of those districts, African-Americans and Hispanics make up more than 50 percent of the voting population.
With the Democratic map, unless I'm missing something, there are only three districts where the voting age African-American population exceeds 50 percent: districts 8, 10 and 11. To be fair, districts 15 and 18 are at 46 percent and District 6 is 39.87 percent. So, on a good day we're looking at six minority-majority districts.
If one employs a measure whereby the black, voting-age population equals at least 30 percent, the Democrats' map has more districts meeting that standards than the Republicans: Eleven to eight, respectively. But again, the GOP plan offers minority voters controlling interest of more districts than the Democrats.
And the Democratic map does not give us data on the Hispanic population.
Republicans drew six districts where the Hispanic population is at least 10 percent of the population. The largest is District 10 where Hispanics make up close to 24 percent of the population. If the Democrats' map reduces the chances for African-American representation from the Republican map, Lord only knows what it's doing to my brothers and sisters whose ancestors are from south of the border.
The good news in all this is that Mayor Ballard will veto this map, which is ironic. Some Democrats like to say the mayor is insensitive to the needs of blacks and other minorities. Who would have thought he would be the one who be coming to their rescue?
As some you know, I am not from Indianapolis. I am from that big city about 180 miles north on I-65, Chicago. Now when I say Chicago, I do not mean a milquetoast suburb, I mean I am from the city part of the city, the southside. I grew up near 79th and Western. Went to White Sox games. And did all the stuff that city kids do. I also rode the bus to high school and to just about anywhere else. And even when I moved to Europe for a few years after I graduated, my life was buses and trains, in fact I didn't own a car until I was 23. I had to get one because I was moving to a place where mass transit really did not exist.
I bring all this up because local leaders in Marion and Hamilton County are about to head over to the Statehouse next January and try to get a referendum in front of the voters so Local Option Income Taxes (LOITs) can be used to pay for it. It gets a little technical but the way LOITs work is that they can only be used for certain purposes and it takes Legislative approval to allow them to be used for mass transit. And part of that will be a referendum.
If I had my way, I'd just give the locals the authority to raise taxes and move the money as they see fit and referendum would not be necessary, my only requirement would be transparency and accountability. I am not a fan of referenda, per se. I philosophically believe that we hire elected officials to do a job and we hold them accountable. That said, if a referendum Is what it takes to get this to happen, so be it.
And I will say if I was in the voting booth, and saw the question in front of me, I would likely vote yes. For two reasons, first by my rough guestimate, the increase in LOIT would likely cost me and Lovely Mrs. Shabazz less than $200 annually and that's on the high side. For us, that's a date night out with dinner, drinks, and whatever event we go to. I am willing to stay in that night and watch something on Netflix and order pizza if it means more ways for people to get to work.
What finally sold me on the mass transit issue here in Indianapolis is that if people don't have a means to get to where the jobs are then that means there will be more of them on the public dole. And that means more welfare, more social services, more food stamps and lot of other things that I really don't enjoy paying for. Also when we have a stronger economy we can get stronger families, which means a better society overall. And here's a thought, expanded bus service can also be used by high school students. The school districts can buy year-round bus cards for their juniors and seniors. The kids can use the bus to get to school and then use it to get to their part-time jobs. The hits just keep on coming.
The best social program is gainful employment. It solves a multitude of issues. And if we can have increased bus and rail service in Central Indiana we can move more people to where the jobs are. Time to get on the bus!
This past summer I was downtown walking toward the Capitol
when I ran into Richard Mourdock. We hadn't seen each other since the primary
and so we stopped to chat. I congratulated him on his win and told him that
although I was a big Richard Lugar fan, I wished him well. I also shared with
him a story.
The first U.S. Senate campaign I ever covered as a reporter was the 1996 race in Illinois. The storyline paralleled a lot of what happened here in Indiana. Longtime U.S. Senator Paul Simon was stepping down leaving the seat open. Democrats nominated then Congressman Dick Durbin and Republicans had a contested primary pitting Lt. Gov. Bob Kustra against moderate Republican and a state representative from the Chicago suburbs, a guy named Al Salvi. Salvi would have been the 90s version of the Tea Party. He was pro-life, pro-gun, pro-home school, anti-tax and just about anti-everything else.
Salvi galvanized the far right, called Kustra a RINO ["Republican in Name Only"] and everything else but a child of God and managed to win. He shocked the establishment by scoring a victory. And just when we thought things couldn't get any worse back then, he shocked everyone again by running a horrible campaign and ever since then, Dick Durbin has the been a U.S. Senator from my home state.
Does any of this seem familiar?
While I don't recall Salvi ever having a "rape/abortion/God's will" moment. The fact is that he never moderated his positions or more importantly, his rhetoric, he went on lose by a healthy 56 to 44 percent. You would have thought that any sane, rational political person would realize that the strategy you use in a primary isn't always the best one to use in a general election.And that is what the problem has been for Republicans for a while and it all came to a head in last week's election.
GOP associations with the crazy tea party crowd have paid their dividends. In a year with unemployment near 8 percent, Republicans managed to not only lose the presidency, but also Democrats had a net gain of two seats in the United States Senate. And, as my progressive counterpart Democrat Kip Tew noted, had it not been for 2010 redistricting, Democrats would have recaptured the U.S. House.
Republicans can no longer afford to be the party of angry, bitter, white men. The big reason being there won't be enough of them. America is changing and becoming a more diverse society. The GOP needs to understand. And instead of talking about forcible rape and God's will, the party should be talking about economic empowerment. No, I take that back, the party should be talking to blacks, Latinos and women about economic empowerment.
Barack Obama's campaign did one heck of an outreach, making an emotional connection with voters, making them feel like they had a stake in his re-election. Mitt Romney did not do that and the GOP at the U.S. Senate level didn't help matters much either by running so many extremists who have no real appeal to that moderate/middle-of-the-road voter. And what is the end result, a re-elected Barack Obama and more Democrats in Congress.
Oh well, there's always 2014. Maybe someone will learn moderation is not just a virtue, but a winning strategy as well.
With the slew of recent polls in the race for the U.S. Senate here in Indiana, I thought it was time to put them all in perspective as we go in Election Day.
First, here is a summary of the most recent polls since the debate.
If you average all these polls out here is what you get:
So, what is a voter to believe? By this count it looks like Donnelly goes to the U.S. Senate. Maybe, but keep a few things in mind.
First and foremost, any professional pollster will tell you that all polls are a snapshot in time. They tell you what people are thinking that day. All polls have their strengths and weaknesses. You could argue that the Howey poll was done in the midst of Mourdock's comments regarding rape and abortion. You could argue that Mourdock's poll oversampled adults 55 and over since they were 56 percent of his voter survey. You could argue Rasmussen uses landlines and not cell phones. Ultimately, what we take away from polls depends, in part, on what we bring to them. However, the bigger the sample size and the more reflective the sample is of the general population, the more reliable a poll tends to be.
If you are a Donnelly supporter, you probably like the results. If you are a Mourdock fan, you will likely do everything in your ability to try to discredit the pollsters. If you're a Libertarian, you want to make sure Andy Horning's name was mentioned in the survey.
Here is what I take away from these polls and others that I have been privy to. This race has gone from likely Mourdock to probably Donnelly. By my guestimate, Donnelly is probably in the 3-5 point margin of victory realm. The best hope Mourdock has to win are the early votes that have been cast in his favor and how big Mitt Romney and Mike Pence win over Barack Obama and John Gregg.
Now this is the point where someone chimes in and says "the only poll that counts is on Election Day." And you would be correct, to a point. I would argue the only polls that count have been the ones that have been cast since Mourdock made his comments. If his support has dropped off since then, he is going to have a very hard time making up the ground in a race that up until 46:20 in the last U.S. Senate debate was his to lose.
We'll know Tuesday night.