Friday, May 16, 2014

Don Bates Jr. has some big problems

Posted By on Fri, May 16, 2014 at 2:27 PM

Candidate Don Bates - COURTESY OF INDY POLITICS
  • Courtesy of Indy Politics
  • Candidate Don Bates
If you haven't paying much attention to the Republican race for State Treasurer, don't feel bad. I have and one of the candidates has some major issues.

I am talking about Don Bates, Jr. He has some serious issues and for some reason thinks blaming the media will make them go away.

Bates, who ran for the U.S. Senate in 2010 and Congress in the 6th District in 2012, is challenging Marion Mayor Wayne Seybold and Kelly Mitchell, who works for the current treasurer, in the GOP primary. Delegates to the state convention in June will pick their candidate to face a Democrat to be named later.

What are his issues? Well, Bates was sued by his former church alleging fraud in a land transaction involving the state of Indiana. The case is set to go to trial in August, a month before the campaign season begins in earnest. The suit was filed back in 2010. I took a trip over to Randolph County and spent two hours reviewing the file. Bates says the lawsuit was frivolous, but it has never been dismissed in the four years it has been pending.

In addition, Bates has been the subject of foreclosure proceedings which he says were the result of a bank error involving his home loan modification. Bates produced a letter from the bank saying there was an issue with the modification, but has never produced an order from the court dismissing the foreclosure.

And if those two weren't enough, another shoe is dropping: Delinquent property taxes. According to the DLGF website, since 2003, Bates has been delinquent six times in paying his property taxes on his home on Gray Lane in Winchester and each time was hit with a penalty for late payments. Bates was late in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2009 and 2010. The late payments totaled more than $7,500, not including the 10 percent penalties.

There is also an issue of whether he has been representing himself as financial planner on the campaign circuit even though his license expired in January.

The Bates team has tried to portray this as an attack on his faith and some of his supporters accused me of doing the "bidding" of his opponents and being a Muslim who hates Christians. They obviously aren't aware that I love bacon, scotch and cigars and married a Baptist. So, for starters, I'm not a very good Muslim.

As far as the "bidding" of his opponents goes that's another allegation that's way off base. Now I would be less than honest if I didn't say I have friends who work for Seybold and Mitchell and I have some who are strong supporters of Bates. I have no dog in this fight. What I do have is a job to write about interesting political stories - and a candidate for state treasurer who has been the subject of foreclosure, a lawsuit by his former church alleging fraud and delinquent property taxes is interesting, to say the least.

None of this is fabricated; this is all in public records. And as I have stated before, if the Bates folks are smart, instead of going after people like me, they will have him go public and address ALL these issues once and for all and get them out the way once and for all. I am happy to provide them with a forum.

Because guess what I'm hearing from delegates? They don't want another Charlie White situation on their hands. So instead of blaming the cigar-smoking, whiskey drinking Muslim for his problem, I suggest Bates behave like the conservative he claims to be and start taking some personal responsibility.

Abdul is an attorney and the editor and publisher of IndyPolitics.Org. He is also a frequent contributor to numerous Indiana media outlets. He can be reached at abdul@indypolitics.org.
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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Racial Sensitivity 101

Posted By on Thu, Mar 6, 2014 at 4:00 AM

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In the past week, I have had to deal with stories where a North Central Indiana tea party "leader" used a tamale reference with regards to a Hispanic state lawmaker. A white Indianapolis restaurant owner dresses in blackface as part of New Orleans-themed Fat Tuesday celebration. And in Bedford, at a high school semi-final basketball game where the locals faced a predominantly black school from Indianapolis, as part of the festivities some of the students came out in safari garb chasing gorillas.

For those of you who get it, I will let all that sink in for just a moment.

Yes, in 21st century America this type of nonsense still takes place. Even more ridiculous: When these folks got called out on the carpet in social media, they can't grasp the fact that they might have done something inappropriate.

Now, before someone tries to accuse me of being hypersensitive, let me put all that to rest. One of my favorite films is Mel Brooks' "Blazing Saddles." That should clearly demonstrate that not only do I have a pretty good sense of humor, but I also don't offend easy.

Now back to the topic at hand.

Like I said, I do not offend easy and do think there are plenty of times where people look for race when it is really not an issue. I can tell you a ton of stories from my college days where black students who did poorly tried to accuse the professor of being prejudiced, when in fact the only real bias the instructors had was against laziness and poor work. I also think a person can have an issue with President Barack Obama, but that does not mean they are going home at night, taking the sheets off the bed, cutting two holes in them and then heading off to the local cross burning.

But seriously, dressing up in blackface and putting on gorilla costumes when the black basketball team comes to town? Really? And then you don't think you've done anything wrong? That to me is the bigger sin in all these controversies. Everyone is entitled to exercise some bad judgment on occasion, however when it is pointed out, the very least a person can do is pull a "my bad" and not do it again. There is no need to call the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, but there is a need for people to be more aware of the world around them.

Face it folks, as much as some people may not like it, America is a lot more brown and black than it used to be. And that's a good thing. It shows that as a country we can grow and evolve over time and celebrate our diversity while still maintaining our universal values of freedom and liberty. However, that only works when we don't do stupid things like use tamale references when talking about a Hispanic lawmaker.

That type of behavior doesn't get you anywhere. The only thing it gets you is called out because at the end of the day you look like either a racist or an idiot and neither is a very good option.
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Thursday, February 6, 2014

The legislative halftime report

Posted By on Thu, Feb 6, 2014 at 4:00 AM

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Well, it's that time of session again. It's the point where lawmakers hit the halfway point and political talking heads like me offer an assessment of what's good, what's bad and where the jury is still out. So here we go.

SB 176 - Allows for a local referendum in Indianapolis and most of the surrounding doughnut counties on whether to increase taxes 1/10th of 1 percent to expand bus service and increase economic opportunity in the region.

HB 1002 - Provides $400 million in additional money for road projects across Indiana. The bill was amended to add $24 million for locally funded road projects.

HB 1351 - Provides for random drug testing for welfare recipients and tightens the rules for can be purchased with food stamps. If you're on the government dime, we reserve the right to make sure you're not blowing our money on blow.

SB 168 - Would allow limited wine and beer sales at the Indiana State Fair for the first time since 1947. Maybe Sunday sales will be next.

HB 1004 - Expands early childhood education opportunities by allowing low-income families access to vouchers for preschool. A good education is the best ticket out of poverty and the sooner, the better.

Bad

HJR-3 (the marriage amendment) - Although the Indiana House removed the ambiguous second sentence this is still a bad idea. And what makes it even worse, HJR-3 supporters can't take a hint and are going to try and include it back into the amendment once it hits the Senate.

HB 1403 - This would limit apartment inspections by local governments into apartment complexes. I'm not so sure about this one, some mega apartment complexes are just magnets for crime and other problems so if we limit inspections, are we just adding to the problem.

SB 91 - This would eliminate Indiana's participation in Common Core, a set of national education guidelines. Supporters say Indiana will adopt its own standards, but this could complicate things under the No Child Left Behind Law and cost Indiana quite a bit of cash.

Jury Still Out

HB 1001/SB 1 - Repeal of the business personal property tax. The House version would allow counties to opt out of levying the tax. The Senate version would only impact businesses with less than $25,000 in inventory, which is 71 percent of businesses. The problem has been how to replace the revenue for local governments and schools. Both the House and Senate will have to work out a compromise on their respective versions. Don't be surprised if you see a hybrid of the two where counties will get the chance to opt out of the tax for small businesses and the state will pick up the replacement revenue for a defined period but eventually phase out the subsidy.

Of course there are a lot of other bills out there, but these were just some of the highlights that caught my attention. There is ample opportunity between now and the end of session for good ideas to bad, bad ideas to get better and the jury to come back unable to render a verdict. Remember, it's only halftime.

Abdul is an attorney and the editor and publisher of IndyPoltics.Org. He is also a frequent contributor to numerous Indiana media outlets. He can be reached at abdul@indypolitics.org.
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Monday, February 3, 2014

Diary of a Happy Black Pundit

Posted By on Mon, Feb 3, 2014 at 4:00 AM

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Recently I was in the press box at the Statehouse with my esteemed editor from NUVO, Rebecca Townsend, and while we were waiting for lawmakers to take up their next bill, she asked me an interesting question: How did I develop my political attitude? I thought I'd share my answer with you here. Let's be honest, it's not every day you come across a guy named Abdul-Hakim Shabazz with a conservative-libertarian political bent.

In fact, in my younger days you would have probably mistaken me for Bobby Seale or Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. provided they had a jheri curl and wore a Members Only jacket. I freely admit I was a lot more liberal in my teenager years. I wasn't quite ready to lead the Black Liberation Army, but we were moving up the ranks rather quickly.

So what happened?

In the late 1980s, my Dad's government obligations had us relocate to Europe. We lived in West Germany and I attended college in Munich. While there, I did a lot of traveling, particularly behind the old Iron Curtain. Most revealing for me was a trip to Prague in what used to be Czechoslovakia. We were taking a tour of the city when I saw hundreds of people in a line outside of store. I asked the tour guide what they were in line for? I thought they were there for concert tickets, but it wasn't, it was shoes. He told me people stand in line for hours for shoes and are lucky to find two the same size. To add insult to injury, this was during the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Revolution so there were giant banners of Lenin all over the place.

That image was fresh in my mind when I came back to the United States to finish my education. I was attending Northern Illinois University, in DeKalb, Ill., right outside Chicago. I had discovered talk radio and was listening to WVON-AM, the urban talk station out of the city on which I heard a steady stream of people complaining about how miserable their lives were and how white folks wouldn't give them anything. After seeing real poverty abroad, I couldn't believe how people here whined that they weren't getting enough food stamps and government assistance. I found it annoying but that's not what pushed me over the edge.

What sealed the deal for me was my attempt to join a "black" campus organization. My Dad had encouraged me to join one of those groups, so I decided to follow his advice and re-establish my "roots." The first meeting was like something out a bad John Singleton film. Here I am in a room full of young students, who for most were the first generation of their family to go to college, so they are under tremendous pressure. And the fact they are city/urban kids going to school in predominantly rural environment didn't help. So what message do they get from the cast extras from a "Different World" who were running the meeting? Instead of one of encouragement and support they get the "You know these white people don't want you here. They just want your money and then they will kick you out. The only people that really care about you are us. Any questions?"

That is when I politely stood up and said, "You Negroes cannot be serious!" And left. I could not believe the idiocy I was hearing. Instead of encouragement and support, these guys were perpetuating the victim mentality. These kids needed hope and reassurance, not fear mongering.

I switched my major from engineering and computer science to broadcasting, excited that way I could bring a different message of self-empowerment and assurance to folks who truly needed it. There was no need to wait on anyone to do something for you when you are perfectly capable of doing it yourself. And to top it off, there was nothing more fun than writing a television commentary or newspaper column to tell the poverty pimps and enablers that they were full of you know what.

The same thing was true for graduate school, law school and most of my professional commentator life. I have been preaching the message of self-reliance, individual liberty and personal responsibility. And embedded in that is an empathy for individuals who are truly in need that we as a society should do all we can to help lift them up so they can stand on their own two feet.

Yes, I get a lot of grief for having my opinions, but I came by them honestly and I don't apologize for them. I truly believe the best political philosophy is one that believes the answers to society's problems lie in the individual who doesn't sit around waiting for others or the government to do something for them and then complaining when it doesn't happen.

I've thought this way for 20 years and I honestly think if more people did, this world would be much better off, or at least mine would.

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Monday, January 20, 2014

Abdul's MLK Day message same since '96

Posted By on Mon, Jan 20, 2014 at 4:00 AM

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Some MLK Day Reflection

(I originally wrote this piece 18 years ago right after I got my Master's Degree from the University of Illinois. I always feel a need to reprint it as we mark Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Thanks for indulging me.)

Recently I had a conversation with a black friend of mine and she told me something I found was a bit disturbing. We were arguing over crime and how to deal with it when she told me, "Abdul, your attitude is typical of middle-class black folk." I asked her to tell me what that meant. She then went on to say as middle-class blacks tend to move up the socio-economic ladder, they forget their origins, and treat poor blacks the same way whites do. I have to say I was a bit taken back by all this, because I was being attacked for my status in life which I had no control over. So I told her that she really needed to get grip and maybe the weave in her head was too tight and slowing the flow of oxygen to her brain.

I, for one, find it rather annoying that I'm accused of being insensitive just because I have a low tolerance level for crime, welfare, and people reproducing who shouldn't. And I'm not saying these problems are exclusive to poor black neighborhoods so get that attitude out of your head right now. What I am saying is that attitudes of individual responsibility, self-reliance, and hard work are not the exclusive property of white folks.

Why should I send my children to horrible schools and stay in crime-ridden neighborhoods? What possible point could there be to prove? That I'm a well-to-do idiot? I don't think so. I'm sure there would be some thrill in moving my furniture in my house in the middle of the night so no one will see and steal it later that day while I'm out working. Many middle-class blacks feel a sense of guilt at having made a measure of success for themselves while seeing the fellow "brothers and sisters" left behind. The logic being older middle-class blacks can remember when they were shut out of the "mainstream" by whites and don't want to return the favor.

I, for one, have no such guilt because there's a big difference between closing the door on people because of race, which has nothing to do with behavior, and having serious concerns about people who haven't learned how to honor the social contract, which does have a lot to do with behavior. This is not to say that poverty and bad behavior are soulmates; both my parents grew up poor in the rural south, however they didn't hop in the horse and buggy and do drive-by shootings either. What I am saying is blacks who are doing well should not make excuses or feel responsible for those who don't. I personally am shocked at stories I hear of people voting against their own interests (particularly economic) for the benefit of someone else, especially when the end result is counter-productive.

But I know what you're saying, "Abdul, other ethnic groups work together why shouldn't we?" I am not saying blacks shouldn't work together. What I am saying is that if you're in a balloon that's going down, the first thing you do is get rid of the dead weight. I am all for helping people who want to better their situations, but the only way people will ever make any real achievement in this world is when individuals decide they want to take personal responsibility for their actions and take charge of their destiny. And accommodating bad behavior is not the way to make that come about.

That was my attitude back in 1996. Funny how some things don't change.
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Monday, January 6, 2014

Priorities for 2014

Posted By on Mon, Jan 6, 2014 at 4:00 AM

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I thought about doing my usual top 10 list of stories I thought had the biggest impact in Indianapolis in 2013, but with a new year coming up, why not do something different and pontificate about the future as opposed to dwell on the past.So, for this column, I have decided what things Indianapolis should do for 2014 so it can, as my favorite Indiana Governor likes to say, go from good to great.

Crime

* Crime will always be part of life in any city, however in 2013 we saw the largest increase in homicides in five years. We're adding more police, but, if you dig deeper into the murder numbers, you'll find an interesting statistic.According to IMPD, as of December 2013, nearly 80 percent of the victims and perpetrators had violent felonies on their records.And the average age of the suspect was 26.This clearly says someone is not only breaking the law, but getting out early.Republican State Senator Jim Merritt is introducing legislation that would require mandatory minimums for violent crimes committed with guns.Maybe if some of these guys weren't getting back on the street early, a few more people might be alive.

Families

* You can't address crime without addressing families.And as much as the individualistic conservative finds this thought offensive, if people aren't going to parent, unfortunately the community is going to have to.However, government can partner with the faith-based community to help reach young people so they don't become 26-year old murders with prior felony convictions.Churches and other not-for-profit faith based groups should have their doors open after school and on weekends to provide kids with a safe place.For funding, Indy should tap into the business community.

Jobs

* Of course, a city can't function unless it has more taxpayers. And the only way you get more taxpayers is to create more jobs. One big problem is connecting individuals with the jobs that are there. You've heard of the skills gap, where people don't have either the technical skills to qualify for a position or the soft skills (interviewing, resume writing) to land the job. The city, Indy Chamber, Employ Indy and Ivy Tech should do "Township Roadshows" where they not only do job fairs in every township in Indianapolis, using employers who are hiring in those townships, but also have the resume writing and job interview seminars to go along with it.

Those are the three areas Indy really should focus on to take the city to the next level. Of course there are the other things we usually talk about, mass transit, roads and infrastructure, parks and green space, bike lanes, etc.I didn't go into any detail about them, not so much to ignore them, but those issues are always in the backdrop and it goes without saying the city needs to take a look at them.

But if Mayor Greg Ballard and the Indianapolis City-County Council can focus on those three areas in 2014, they'll both have plenty to brag about in 2015, which by the way is an election year.

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Solving the panhandling problem

Posted By on Mon, Dec 16, 2013 at 4:00 AM

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On any given day, before I do my evening radio show on WIBC-FM, I may walk across Monument Circle from the Emmis Building to Starbucks for a venti breve latte. I did that last Friday and had the pleasure of seeing not just one panhandler begging for money, but three: one in front of Emmis, one on the south side of the Circle and one in front of Starbucks.

My first instinct was to run to the mall and buy them all blankets so they could stay warm and I wouldn't have to look at them. Unfortunately that wouldn't solve the problem. Luckily, that night on the radio program our guest was Indianapolis City-County Councilmember Jeff Miller.

Miller has been working on this issue forever. His latest proposal would prohibit panhandling at intersections and within 50 feet of where financial transactions take place. Unfortunately, the society for street performers, or whatever the name of the interest group that advocates for bad musicians, complained the ordinance was too restrictive and would ban people playing music poorly from bothering the rest of us.

So Miller has come up with a solution. The ordinance would be amended to set up "performance zones" in Downtown. During some of the cultural events on Mass Ave. or near Georgia Street the zones could be set up where musicians could play and the rest of us would not have to be bothered. I think it is a good idea and the Council should implement it.

I don't understand what part of "panhandling is harming Downtown" that some people just don't get. I am a firm believer that most of the people who don't think panhandling is an issue, don't spend a lot of time Downtown. And they don't realize what impact panhandling has on business, especially if customers won't come into your establishment because of someone standing there shaking a cup and begging for change.

I enjoy asking critics of any panhandling crackdown if they would like for the beggars to stand in front of their homes or businesses and ask for change. If you can't figure out what the answer is, I'll give you a hint, it isn't "yes."

I've said this before and I will repeat it again, panhandling costs Indy money. It costs our tourism and convention business nearly $3.5 million in tax revenue that can be spent on police, fire, roads and neighborhoods. Six active proposals, worth more than $19 million are in jeopardy because of panhandlers. Nine organizations have said they may not come back because of panhandling, and those groups are worth about $53 million in visitor spending. And over the past 10 years, Indy has lost 10 conventions worth $6.3 million in spending due to panhandling.

So let's do some math. Which is more important? Some scam artist begging for change or nearly $80 million in economic activity? It's time to move forward by moving out the panhandlers.
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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Indiana's Tea Party does it again

Posted By on Thu, Dec 12, 2013 at 4:00 AM

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I was getting ready to write another column about that wild wacky Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz and her efforts to do everything she can to demonstrate why the office should be an appointed one instead of an elected one when a leader of the Tea Party in Indiana provided me with manna from heaven. He drew an analogy between Nelson Mandela and Adolf Hitler.

The name Greg Fettig might not sound familiar to many of you, but I have covered his antics since 2010. He helped lead the charge to defeat Richard Lugar in May 2012 primary that led to Democrat Joe Donnelly's November victory. Fettig also wrote the book, "Tea Party on Safari, The Hunt for American RINO." I am sure can find a copy out there since it ranked number 2,585,665 on Amazon's best seller list.

As most of us were engaging in behavior typified by thoughtful human beings and mourning and reflecting on the loss on one of the most iconic figures of the 20th century who spent nearly three decades years in prison for fighting against apartheid, a political ideology so reprehensible that it doesn't exist anymore, Fettig decided to go down the road that few sane men would tread.

Mandela, as you all know died last Thursday at 95. He received worldwide praise for his battle against apartheid and peaceful reconciliation with the white South African government. He served 27 years in prison for fighting against the South African government but was released in 1990. He served as president from 1994-1999.

In his Facebook posts, Fettig, who has also been affiliated with FreedomWorks, attacked Mandela for his affiliation with Communist Party in 1962. He wrote, "So all the accolades and tears glorifying Nelson Mandela. It seems to me that people are either ignorant of fact or believe the means justify the end. Mandela was not the man the LEFT proclaim him to be."

After being called on the carpet by sane individuals, Fettig then goes on to say, "I am being attacked by ignorant (people) who don't know all the facts. I suppose had Hitler died today they would all be crying stating that he built a great highway system and innovative military equipment."

This is why Republicans can't have nice things and appeal to broader sections of the electorate because for too long they have been in bed with the extremists like Fettig in an effort to win elections and unfortunately too many people start believing their own press.

Now of course, this will be the point where Tea Party folks start coming out of the woodwork and accuse me of labeling them all with a broad brush. I was willing to cut you guys some slack on Fettig until I read the Facebook posts of another Tea Party "leader," Monica Boyer from the Warsaw area.

Her response to Mandela's passing, "I wish I knew more history. I need to redo the 90s. I realize I don't know much about Nelson Mandela. Hey don't knock me. I was in love during those years studying Brian Boyer. I got an A in that class. It is certainly confusing reading the news... I can't tell if he was good or bad. His picture looks like he would be a sweet, gentle man... but that's the only opinion I have. I'll pay attention in the next class."

If this is what is passing for the Tea Party in Indiana these days, I'll take a strong cup of coffee any day.

Abdul is an attorney and the editor and publisher of IndyPoltics.Org. He is also a frequent contributor to numerous Indiana media outlets. He can be reached at abdul@indypolitics.org.
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Monday, December 2, 2013

Pizza & Turkey

Posted By on Mon, Dec 2, 2013 at 8:00 AM

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Although Thanksgiving has come and gone and we are now officially, officially (yes, I know I used the word twice) in the holiday season, I wanted to make sure I did not let too many days go by without commenting on what literally could have been labeled the biggest controversy of the season so far, the Elkhart Pizza Hut manager who refused to open on Turkey Day.

You might have seen this story on the national news. Tony Rohr was the manager of a Pizza Hut in Elkhart. He got orders from his bosses that they were going to be open on Thanksgiving. He refused. He told his bosses that it was wrong to be open for Thanksgiving, citing the employees, and he wasn't going to open the store. Rohr was then reportedly told was told to write a letter of resignation. Rohr says he was fired. Once the story hit the national press it spread like wildfire.

It got so bad that the corporate owners of Pizza Hut "encouraged" the franchisee to hire Rohr back. Last I checked, Rohr had not made any decision.

A lot of people have labeled Rohr a hero, saying he is standing up for the worker and traditional family values. Rohr says he is not a hero. That much I fully agree with, he is the problem.

First of all, Rohr is an employee. That means he doesn't get to make the final decisions. Those belong to his boss, or in this case the franchise owner. Unless the bosses are asking him to do something illegal, unethical or in clear violation of company policy; his job is to do what he is told or get another job.

But Abdul, he's standing up for the workers that you and your fat cat elitist friends are always trying to step on! Doesn't matter! What if it wasn't Thanksgiving, but another day of the year? Or for that matter what if you owned a business and one your managers just decided they weren't going to open your establishment? Rohr's problem is that while he may have thought he was standing on principle, he forgot he was playing with somebody else's money.

The only way I could probably give him some cover is by knowing exactly when he and the staff were notified that they were going to have to work Thanksgiving. If it was two days before, that's one thing, and I can understand the frustration. If it were a month before, that's an entirely different story altogether and my cup of sympathy runneth empty. There were a lot of people who worked Thanksgiving Day, police, fire hospitals, gas station clerks, bartenders and even radio talk show hosts.

Rohr's job should not have been to decline to open, but as a smart manager, tell his bosses why he thought what they were doing was wrong, and then comply with their wishes and then be there to tell them he told them so when the whole thing falls flat on its face. But to refuse was wrong and he should have been fired.

And remember, Rohr has 10 years in the pizza business so he can go open his own store and then just wait for the employees to return the favor some day.
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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Time, trend lines work against HJR-6

Posted By on Tue, Nov 19, 2013 at 4:00 AM

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A few years ago if you asked if I thought the amendment banning same-sex marriage in Indiana would easily pass the electorate, I would have said, "Sure." Today, I am not so sure.

As we all know, attitudes on this issue have moved faster than Glenda Ritz running out of a State Board of Education meeting, and the latest three polls show that if this were to go to the electorate, the initial odds favor the opponents of the amendment.

* On Sept. 24, Freedom Indiana released a poll showing two-thirds of Hoosiers oppose the amendment. The actual ratio was 64 to 36 percent of 800 registered voters surveyed.

* A Nov. 14 poll by WISH-TV and Ball State University showed 58 percent of 600 Hoosier adults surveyed opposed the ban while 38 percent supported it.

* A poll commissioned by the Indiana Family Institute in October said 62 percent of the 504 likely voters surveyed said they support the amendment while 33 oppose it.

So we have three polls staring us in the face. Let's assume all three are valid, even though my friends at the Indiana Family Institute have yet to release their crosstabs. So what's the average?

According to my math, 51 percent of Hoosiers oppose the amendment while 45 percent support it. Of course this is where the standard line comes in "the only poll that matters is the one on Election Day."

This trend really should not surprise anyone. As CNN recently reported, more than 1 in 3 Americans live in a state where same-sex marriage is legal, Hawaii and my home state of Illinois were the last two to join the club. Gallup released a poll back in July showing 52 percent of Americans supported legalized same-sex marriage and 41 percent opposed. It's worth noting that back in 1996, 68 percent of Americans opposed same-sex marriage.

Now before marriage amendment opponents get too excited, they should realize they have their work cut out for them. GOP internal polling prior to the last election had the marriage amendment question polling at about 56 percent. Also, as anyone who has taken Politics 101 knows, mid-term elections are a little bit of a different creature and turnout is a lot lower than in years when presidential elections are held.

In fact, marriage amendment supporters are counting on lower voter turnout to save the day. Unlike 2008 when Barack Obama was on the ticket and voter turnout was 62 percent, supporters say this election will be more like 2002 when there was no gubernatorial or U.S. Senate candidate at the top of the ticket. Voter turnout in that election was only 39 percent.

The counter to that, however, is that marriage amendment opponents have Megan Robertson — one of the smartest political operatives in the state — on their side. She helped Congressman Luke Messer, R-Ind., get elected in a crowded 2012 primary, but her real claim to fame came with the crucial help she provided Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard in his 2011 quest for re-election. That race had 12,000 more straight-ticket Democratic voters heading to the polls than Republican, but Ballard beat Melina Kennedy by 8,000 votes. So somebody did something right.

Of course all this could be made moot if my friends in the Legislature do the right thing and figure out a way to kill this thing. The polls indicate that support will only continue to erode as time goes on.

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

What Voter Disenfranchisement?

Posted By on Tue, Nov 5, 2013 at 4:00 AM

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When Marion County Clerk Beth White announced she was running for Secretary of State Monday, she made voter engagement and disenfranchisement a main platform item. She said that Indiana's Voter ID law has turned people away from the polls and is one of the most restrictive in the nation. She even said if she had the authority, she would repeal it.

Luckily, the facts don't seem to bear out White's characterization of Voter ID.

Looking at the last few statewide elections, here's what I found with respect to turnout.

* 2012 - 58% 2.07 million
* 2010 - 41% 1.52 million
* 2008 - 62% 2.14 million
* 2006 - 40% 1.54 million
I then decided to check Marion County's voter turnout since logic would seem to dictate that more voters would be disenfranchised by voter ID since it has a larger percentage of elderly, minorities and the poor who are supposed be most likely to be impacted.

* 2012 - 56% 361,000
* 2011 - 30% 181,000
* 2010 - 37% 216,000
* 2008 - 55% 381,000
* 2007 - 26% 166,000
* 2006 - 33% 203,000


One would assume that Voter ID would have kept people from the polls and the number of voters would have dropped because, but as you can see that is not necessarily the case; if anything the percentages have been pretty consistent or either increased from the last similar election. Please note, that 2008 was a special year with the first credible Black candidate on the ballot. I would submit to you that voter ID isn't likely to keep voters away from the polls, but candidates and issues.

It is no big secret that mid-term elections bring out fewer people than Presidential years. Primaries bring in fewer voters than general elections.

Ironically local referendums like the ones that deal with school construction are a lot more likely to bring out voters than any other issue. So to say that voter ID disenfranchises voters is a bit suspect. We can throw in the fact that voter ID has been the law of the land in Indiana for nearly seven years. There have been 12 primary and general elections since then, not to mention a couple special referendums. If you haven't taken the time to go procure a photo ID by then, maybe voting isn't a priority for you and staying away from the polls is a good thing.

If there was ever a case of voter disenfranchisement, I would take you back to the 2007 May primary in Indianapolis where several polling places either didn't open or opened late because the Clerk's office dropped the ball on having enough poll workers and approximately 3,100 voters were never able to cast their ballots. That ladies and gentlemen is disenfranchisement. I wonder who was running elections at that time? I don't think voter ID was the problem then.

I have no problem with showing an ID to vote. Identification is a part of our life in a mobile society. Also, if you have to show ID to get food stamps or some other government assistance, what's wrong with showing ID before you vote. And I have no problem with tweaking the law to protect college students, but to say Voter ID is keeping people away from the polls is silly. Odds are these are the same people who are too lazy to comply with law after seven years and probably have no business anywhere near a polling place.
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Monday, October 28, 2013

Ten Questions for Glenda Ritz

Posted By on Mon, Oct 28, 2013 at 8:00 AM

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Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz says she has filed suit against the State Board of Education in the name of openness and transparency. That's great, because I've got some questions I'd love for Ritz to answer with openness and transparency.

Back in August, Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson announced a tentative $14 million settlement between the state and the Indiana State Teachers Association and National Education Association.

ISTA and the NEA were accused of engaging in a "Ponzi-like" scheme where they would sell health insurance plans to teachers and school districts and then use the proceeds to fund their disability programs while misleading schools and educators about how much they had in their accounts.

At the time I argued the entire matter showed once again why teachers unions can't be trusted to do anything but look after teachers unions, but it also raises some questions concerning the current superintendent of public instruction, Glenda Ritz.

Ritz served on the board of ISTA during the time in question as well as served the head of the Washington Township Educators Union in Indianapolis. In those capacities as a board member and union head, Ritz would have had a fiduciary duty to look out for the best interests of her members.

This in turns raises several questions...

1. Did Ritz have any knowledge that ISTA and the NEA were engaging in what the Secretary of State's office called a "Ponzi-like" scheme?

2. If so, when did Ritz first become aware of the scheme and what was her reaction?

3. Was she involved in any active or passing selling/promoting of the ISTA-NEA health insurance plan to her bargaining unit in Washington Township schools?

4. Did Ritz herself purchase the health insurance plan that that was pushed by ISTA?

5. Once the scheme was discovered, did she speak out against it, either as an ISTA Board member or union president?

6. Will Ritz demand that ISTA and the NEA fully refund all teachers and school districts for the original $28 million that was lost in the scheme, as opposed to the $14 million that both sides have initially agreed to settle?

7. Are there any other ticking time bombs out there regarding ISTA that teachers, school districts and the taxpayers should know?

8. Will Ritz make public any and all correspondence (memos, emails, etc.), electronic and otherwise, regarding the ISTA-NEA alleged "Ponzi-scheme?"

9. Does Ritz think teachers and the public can trust ISTA and the NEA?

10. Will the answers to any of these questions ever see the light of day?

Of course critics will try to dismiss these questions as the rantings and sour grapes of a Tony Bennett supporter, but that does not change the fact that millions of dollars were funneled away from school districts and teachers and used in a scheme that at best was irresponsible and, at worst, securities fraud.

How many times has the "pro-education" crowd lamented the loss of funding due to property tax caps and state budget cuts, but when it comes to the teachers union practically stealing from Hoosier teachers and school districts all we hear are crickets and tumbleweeds.

The current superintendent of public instruction has a responsibility to disclose to the public and her fellow teachers what she knew and when she became aware of it.

If she wants government to be open and transparent, at the very least she should start with herself.

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