Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Tully: Bart Peterson's Indianapolis

Bartland, Happiest City on EarthFresh off of skewering Dan Burton, Julia Carson, and the communications director of the Democratic Party, the Star's Matthew Tully turns his sharp pen to Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson and his recent "State of the City" address.

Indianapolis is not supposed to be ungovernable. It should not look like pre-Giuliani New York City, a cesspool of crime and bad government. How did this happen?

The Mayor Welcomes You to Fantasyland
Matthew Tully

I want to live in Bart Peterson's Indianapolis.

It sounds like a wonderful place -- a world where things such as crime are "challenges" and perhaps even "opportunities."

I want to live in Peterson's Indianapolis because, judging by his State of the City address Tuesday, it's a fantasyland where the mayor can say, "It's kind of fun to look back at 2006."

You have to hope Peterson didn't write that line. You have to hope some starry-eyed aide slipped that one in. Because any mayor who finds joy in a year of massive crime and desperate for-sale signs seems to be whistling a happy tune during a mournful wake.

Of course, Peterson was giving a State of the City speech. So it's no surprise that he would paint a rosy picture of the city.

He talked of saving the planet in part by trying to "minimize waste," even though the city's recycling program barely exists. He talked of "building a modern public transportation system," without giving a clue of how the city could undertake such a task. Even when he talked about increased crime rates or problems in the schools, he called them national trends, as if that would make us feel better.

The speech was probably no worse than the usual State of the City address. The rule for such speeches is to highlight the good and downplay the bad. And when you talk about the bad, call it a "challenge" or, as Peterson did, an "opportunity."

I should have skipped Peterson's speech. There was probably no way he could have impressed me. I arrived in a really bad mood after reading all morning about the city's latest horrific crime.

Still, I expected more from the mayor on the day after a woman was abducted in broad daylight from a Downtown parking garage and raped.

Maybe I was hoping Peterson would crumple up his speech and turn into Rudy Giuliani, pushing aside his Boy Scout shtick to show he's as mad as the rest of us about everything from homicides to graffiti.

Instead, Peterson offered another carefully stage-managed, rah-rah event at which his staff, city workers and political friends applauded politely and frequently as he talked about the arts and the Colts.

This was Bart Peterson's Indianapolis, a place where a Super Bowl victory erases all of our other problems.

The crux of the mayor's speech came when he pledged to spend $5 million a year on crime-prevention programs. That's not a bad idea, but you have to worry about a mayor whose vision has been reduced to, "Let's spend more."

And it's hard to take Peterson's latest plan to fix the city too seriously, given his empty promise back in 2003 to address property taxes that had skyrocketed. Or his underwhelming plan to attack abandoned houses. Or the "war" on crime.

Halfway through his speech, Peterson talked about "the Indianapolis Way." That's when people "come together."
It sounded great.

But lately, the Indianapolis way seems to be for people to move out of the county.
I understand those who have done so. They wouldn't have had to if Indianapolis felt anything like the city Bart Peterson spoke about Tuesday.

I can remember, when younger, walking with my family from Union Station to Monument Circle to eat dinner. It was dark when we walked back, but the city was clean and the streets were safe.

Clearly, you couldn't do this sort of thing today in Bart Peterson's Indianapolis. People seem to get mugged all the time, even state senators.

A lady was attacked and raped in a downtown parking garage. When I was in high school (over a decade ago, admittedly), I attended a state convention held at the Hyatt downtown for a high school club. We parked in the garage under the building, and it was safe. Such places don't seem to be safe anymore.

Things seem to have spiraled downhill a lot since those days. Again, I ask, what happened? Who is to blame? What can be done?

Maybe Bart Peterson needs to read Rudy Giuliani's book, and perhaps the book that was Giuliani's blueprint in cleaning up New York City.

That might be some real material for a State of the City address, and the basis for a plan to set things right again.

Then again, Peterson might have to start out by cracking down on things like graffiti and pea shakes. It might be too much to ask the Mayor to tackle such huge challenges as those.

Questions about the Lanesville Connector

An editorial this week in the Corydon Democrat by Tonya Windell raises very real and pressing questions about the proposed five-lane "connector" road to go from the Lanesville I-64 interchange up to State Road 64, just west of Georgetown.

While Windell's main concerns are with the local opposition to the road (she doesn't think it should be built), I find the road itself (regardless of whether it should be built or not) to be emblematic of a broader problem with development in Harrison County.

Never, when these plans are undertaken, is serious consideration given to other consequences that will follow from the new road. It's all fine to build a shiny new five-lane highway, or a subdivision with a hundred new houses in it.

Such developments are always cheered, and usually fast-tracked through county government, sometimes by trampling over the voices of locals. Yet little thought is given to what such developments will entail.

A new road like this will mean more subdivisions. More subdivisions mean more residents and more families. More families mean more children. More children mean more students. More students mean bigger schools.

How often, when new developments are green-lighted in Harrison County, are such consequences considered? Very seldom, it seems.

Does anyone ask, at zoning meetings, whether the schools will have the capacity in five or ten years to educate the children that will grow up in those subdivisions?

Do the county's school corporations coordinate effectively with development authorities to know (from subdivision approval and zoning for new construction) what sort of school capacity they will need in a decade or more?

This new road will lead to more development (and more development will come to Harrison County whether it is approved or not). It will lead to more subdivisions (we'll be getting those anyway). It may lead to more commercial businesses along the road and at the Lanesville interchange.

Development is not a bad thing, far from it. But unplanned development has the potential to create very real problems down the line for the county and for the communities and towns across it.

Unless more coordination accompanies development in Harrison County, our beautiful county will become victim to ugly suburban sprawl.

With proper planning, services like schools can keep pace with development.

Without proper planning, the county will always be one step behind of development and will always be rushing to catch up. Services will be strained. Schools will be overcrowded.

We need to get ahead, and plan ahead. It worries me that we aren't doing more of that sort of coordinated planning.

Where is Baron?

Baron Paul Hill Still no word on where Congressman Baron Hill will be when Bush is in town.

Will he be at the school, to honor the accomplishments of Silver Street's students and to celebrate the very real achievements of the No Child Left Behind Act?

You know, the legislation that he voted for but said he was against during the campaign?

Will he be with the protesters outside, showing his solidarity with the opposition to the Iraq War?

Baron has said he is opposed to the war. He harped on it during the campaign, and he voted to denounce sending reinforcements to troops already in Iraq.

Or will he run and hide, and be nowhere to be seen while Bush is in town?

The 9th District wonders.

Where do you stand, Mr. Hill?

Are you with the President, or are you against him?

Or are you hiding?

More on the Bush Visit

The News & Tribune has pieces on increased security and police for the visit, the ubiquitous protesters that will be clamoring outside, and the school itself (whose remarkable achievements are the reason for the presidential visit).

The Courier-Journal, meanwhile, has its traditional gripe piece about how the visit will snarl traffic.

This is par for the course for the CJ. They had the same focus when Bush came to Sellersburg in October.

They did not find the complications to traffic to be newsworthy when Bill Clinton came to town, nor when Barack Obama was recently here.

I am sure that it has nothing to do with their editorial slant.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Good Grief, Charlie Brown!

Good Grief, Charlie Brown The House has, in rather bipartisan fashion, voted down legislation that would raise the tax on cigarettes as a part of a plan to provide health care to more than 850,000 Hoosiers that presently lack health insurance.

In the construction and partisan ram-through of their budget bill (complete with vote-buying), Bauer and the Democrats had pretty much killed the Governor's health insurance proposal in revenge for him critiquing their proposed budget.

Now, this vote by the House has probably killed the measure for good.

Granted, the bill that was defeated differed from that proposed by Daniels in key ways.

The measure that was defeated was proposed by Democrat Charlie Brown of Gary, and involved the creation of a new government program to provide health insurance.

The Daniels plan relied upon the private sector to accomplish the same goal, and would not have relied upon expanding government.

Regardless of such distinctions, the cigarette tax hike is basically dead for the legislative session.

For a measure so controversial and likely to anger smokers (as I have discussed earlier), neither party had the political will in the end to push it through.

EDIT: Also discussed here and here.

Democrats Pass Fraud-by-Mail Bill

Not content with merely the current level of fraud present in absentee voting, House Democrats have rammed through a bill that would authorize voting by mail (previously discussed here).

It passed on a party-line vote. Fortunately, the Republican-controlled Senate will likely kill this fraud-by-mail, err, vote-by-mail legislation.

Fresh off of their triumphs in rewriting House records, rewriting House rules, and their leader holding shady fundraisers during the legislative session, there is no limit to the brazen behavior of Pat Bauer and his gang.

Indiana already has a vote-by-mail system. It is called absentee voting and is deeply flawed and vulnerable to all manner of fraud and mischief.

Given the problems with the absentee voting system, why would anyone in their right mind want to mandate that everyone vote in such a manner?

Surely, the Democrats don't want to expand the opportunities for shenanigans and mischief by requiring voting by mail.

Do they?

And if they don't, why didn't they try to fix the absentee voting system, vote-by-mail as currently in place in Indiana, before trying to force it upon every voter in the entire state by a party-line vote?

AT&T Adding Jobs

I'm willing to bet that the Democrats won't want to talk about this.

They certainly won't want to admit that AT&T is bringing those jobs to Indiana because of legislation passed last year by Governor Daniels and Republicans.

*start sarcasm*

Trouble not your mind with positive news!

Things in Indiana have never been so bad!

It's certainly worse than when we were coasting along on autopilot for sixteen years while swirling around at the bottom of the toilet bowl...

*end sarcasm*

"Follow the Rules"

The Evansville Courier & Press joins the chorus decrying attempts by Pat Bauer and the Democrats to further trample upon the rules of the House.

Although Friday's vote discrepancy didn't affect the outcome - 51 votes are necessary to pass or conclusively defeat a bill or amendment - Bosma was right to blow the whistle, file a protest and demand accurate vote-counting.

The accuracy and integrity of public records, particularly something as basic as the Legislature's records of its own roll-call votes, never should be in question. Hoosiers have the right to expect that.

When you so blatantly break the rules as the Speaker has, people tend to start taking notice.

Monday, February 26, 2007

President Bush to Visit New Albany

President George W. Bush The big bopper, George W. himself, will be in New Albany on Friday. He will visit Silver Street Elementary and make some comments about the No Child Left Behind Act, which will soon be up for its five-year reauthorization.

I wonder if Baron Hill will be present, since the congressman spent the past two years dumping on George W. Bush for anything and everything under the sun.

And let's not forget that Hill seems to take considerable issue with the No Child Left Behind Act.

Though he voted for it, Hill said during the 2006 campaign that it was a deeply flawed bill and that he was against it despite his original vote.

In fact, he said that only voted for it because it contained an obscure "Small Schools Initiative" that was his idea, a provision that didn't benefit this district much.

So, will Baron attend to bask in the presence of the President?

Will he come perhaps to observe firsthand someone with conviction actual conviction?(Whatever else may be said about him, Bush sticks to his guns.)

Will he display his hypocrisy of flip-flopping for all to see?

EDIT: Also in the Courier.

Rewriting History

No longer content with what amounts to bribery or with legally-dubious fundraisers, the Indianapolis Star has reported that House Democrats have expanded their list of powers and immunities to include rewriting history.

Breach of rules provokes wrath

Call it the case of the disappearing vote.

During a roll call on an amendment in the Indiana House on Friday, Rep. Dave Cheatham, D-North Vernon, voted no.

Which was strange, since Cheatham wasn't even in the House. Instead, he had asked to be excused to attend a funeral in Southern Indiana.

Republicans noted the vote and complained. Then they noticed something even stranger. Though they had a copy of the roll call showing Cheatham's vote, the public record had been altered and a new roll call -- this time showing Cheatham had not voted, along with a few other mysterious changes -- had taken its place.

House Minority Leader Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, was furious.

"It's just as if it never happened," he said angrily.

House rules bar members from voting for another member. It happens frequently, though, when a representative has stepped away from his or her desk for a few minutes. That scenario, Bosma said, was one thing; voting for a member not even in Central Indiana was another.

And, he said, it was even worse to then change the official record. That can be done -- and occasionally is, when a member has accidentally voted the wrong way -- but there's a parliamentary process that must be followed.

In this case, Bosma pointed out, there was no process at all. Just the whim of the majority.

"What else is being changed around here?" he asked, saying that Republicans may have to examine the archived video of every vote taken this session to ensure that the public record is accurate.

"Follow the rules," he scolded Democrats. "Think twice before we go any further down this path."

Rep. Chet Dobis, a Merrillville Democrat, was presiding over the chamber at the time, while House Speaker B. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, was meeting with the governor.

Dobis, known as a stickler for following the rules, told members that, from now on, they shouldn't ask someone to push their vote button for them from across the room, let alone the state.

Coupled with their behavior in reaction to the governor critiquing their budget, it seems clear that the Speaker and his party stand for nothing but the naked use, and now abuse, of the power entrusted to them by the people of Indiana.

Mike Sodrel Introspective after Defeat

Mike Sodrel

"Millionaire Mike"

Been meaning to blog about this earlier, but I haven't had time.

Last Sunday, the Courier-Journal had a nice piece about Mike Sodrel and his post-election doings. Notably, Sodrel doesn't know whether he will run again. As I have said before, the GOP field for the 9th District begins and ends with Sodrel until he decides whether or not he wants to take another run at the seat.

The district is still stinging from the last campaign, with its veritable orgy of negative ads from both sides. It will probably backlash at whoever goes negative in 2008, Republican or Democrat, be that Baron Hill or Mike Sodrel or someone else.

The Sodrels In 2006, I think, both sides relied too much on the mixture of national money and national advice. You tend not to get the former without accepting the latter.

I've heard the national campaign advisors (of both parties) likened to "young punks" that sweep into a congessional district for the few months before the election, who don't understand it, and who "napalm the village" with negative ads and then leave the candidates with the smoldering runs after election day.

Both Baron Hill and Mike Sodrel got burned by such people.

Anyway, Sodrel seems surprisingly introspective and centered, despite going through the campaign firestorm and then narrowly losing. It will be interesting to see what he does going forward.

Out of Congress, Sodrel still looking ahead

New to Washington, to the House, Mike Sodrel introduced himself. A couple of colleagues assumed a political background.

Truck driver, Sodrel said he corrected them. He offered even to whip out his license.

Yet Sodrel was accused in last fall's re-election bid of being more the limo-riding type. A label stuck of Millionaire Mike. Sodrel neither congratulated Baron Hill -- who beat Sodrel by about 10,000 votes -- nor refers to him by name.

But Sodrel also claims contentment, as if he had felt trapped by the same trappings that inspired him. He passed on a post-defeat job in the U.S. Department of Transportation because, obviously, he'd have to remain in the zoo that D.C. can be.

"This is home," Sodrel said of Southern Indiana. "I rented an apartment there (Washington). I didn't buy a house, I didn't buy a condo."

Then again, Sodrel returned last week to Washington and he expects occasional visits. He noted that he maintains privileges there, as an ex-congressman. More importantly, he may announce soon he wants the 9th District seat back.

Sodrel, of Floyd County, must sort out both the district's wishes and his own. Is he convincing, all right, as a regular guy? Is he too conservative or not conservative enough? He cannot run without being called names. He cannot serve without too many days away from home.

Sodrel is 61 with seven grandchildren on whom to dote and the family truck-and-bus business to assist, which he managed for a generation.

And, yes, he remains willing to drive in a pinch.

Sodrel is indeed rich enough to indulge himself, plus famous enough to receive speaking invites. "To some extent, I'm a resource they haven't had before," Sodrel said, glad for the occasional forums. "I'm somebody who just lives here, one of the folks in the neighborhood."

Sodrel is more than that, of course. He is the Republicans' presumptive nominee in 2008, a winner of about 100,000 votes in '06 despite losing. President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney campaigned for him. The GOP is invested heavily in Sodrel.

"People in the party love Mike Sodrel," said Glenn Murphy Jr., secretary of the 9th District GOP organization. "They love what he did for them."

They must wait until April or May, perhaps, until Sodrel answers the question he is asked every day. "Yeah, gentle pressure," he said he feels.

Sodrel seems not consumed by what-if. He may or may not crave to resume what he describes as an absolutely unique experience. The contrast between then and now appears big, should appearances matter most. "If what you are is internal, it (now) is just another phase of life," Sodrel said.

He entered politics already successful and fulfilled. He said he would re-enter it not to make others happy but to be true to a sense of mission. He suggests he didn't fail, he just ran out of time. He scorns those who remain in power because they can. "I never intended to stay forever," Sodrel said.

During a recent lunch conversation, Sodrel talked to friend Greg Fitzloff about a promising future, not a pitiful past. "Not that I was surprised, but everything we talked about was what was ahead of him," said Fitzloff, formerly president of the chamber of commerce.

Sodrel said his wife of 39 years, Keta, prefers the role of grandma to the one of congressman's wife. Another family friend, Marie Robertson, wonders if the Sodrels aren't better off now. "Mike is not hurting," Robertson said.

National issues -- the Iraq war, particularly -- dominated the 2006 vote. Robertson attributes Sodrel's loss more to Bush's unpopularity than to Hill's popularity. Sodrel said he was advised to distance himself from Bush; instead, he welcomed the president to Sellersburg in the campaign's stretch. "I guess I'm not enough of a politician," Sodrel said.

He was enough of one, though, to attack Hill as Hill attacked him. He was enough of one to raise his campaign treasury, rather than to hit himself up for cash as he had in 2004 (when he unseated Democrat Hill) and in 2002 (his first challenge of Hill).

Sodrel also is enough of one to want to remind people that he procured money for Ohio River bridges, for the Ohio River Greenway and for myriad roads, including a better one to and from tourist-heavy Starlight. Politician-like, he grabbed dollars for his district while denouncing pork-barrel spending.

To spotlight his conservative stripes, Sodrel offers how he led Congress not to cough up $25 million to set up a federal boxing commission. Don't sweat it, he said he was told. "Twenty-five million is a lot of money in Southern Indiana," Sodrel said.

Sure, Sodrel said, he would have liked to do more. Will he ask for another chance? "I'm not being coy," he said. "I really don't know."

Hoosier Soldier Dies in Afghanistan

Nothing to pundit. Appears to not be related to combat.

From the Courier-Journal.

Indiana soldier dies in Afghanistan

FRANKTON, Ind. -- A Central Indiana soldier who died in Afghanistan had gone to that country last month as part of the American anti-terrorism effort.

Army Pfc. Jason D. Johns, 19, of Frankton, died Wednesday in Bagram of what the military said was a non-combat-related injury. A spokeswoman for his unit, the Fort Bragg, N.C.-based 82nd Airborne Division, said his death remained under investigation.

Johns was born in Florida, but his family moved to Madison County when he was an infant, said his father, Jeff Johns. He grew up near Frankton with his two brothers and a sister before moving to Florida to live with his mother for several years.

Johns returned to Indiana as a sophomore at Frankton High School. Before his senior year, he dropped out and obtained his GED, then enlisted in the Army in October 2005.

"He really blossomed when he went into the Army," said Johns' father, who lives in Alexandria. "You could hear the maturity."

Johns was a computer/detection systems repairer, working on equipment such as night vision goggles, according to Steve Lawson of the Army Recruiting Battalion in Indianapolis.

"He knew he was going to be deployed as far back as December, but didn't know when he'd return," Jeff Johns said. "I know he wasn't really thrilled about it, but it was expected. It was his duty. In his field, he never expected to be off-base."

Johns is the 14th person from Indiana to die in Afghanistan or Pakistan since U.S. operations began there in late 2001. Since February 2003, more than 60 Indiana military personnel have died after being sent to the Mideast for the war in Iraq.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Build a Better Budget

The Indiana StatehouseThe Indianapolis Star is disappointed in the sham that "Patty" Bauer and the Democrats railroaded through the House earlier in the week--laughingly called a "budget"--and says so in its Sunday editorial.

I doubt the Speaker will even read it, though. He's too busy being "celebrated" at a legally-questionable and ethically shady fundraiser.

Build a better budget
House-passed plan still needs a lot of work

Our position: State budget that passed the House needs substantial revision to better address Indiana's fiscal needs.

State Budget Director Chuck Schalliol has declared that "there are too many problems" with Democrats' spending plan that passed the House last week. At about the same time, House Speaker Pat Bauer and his fellow Democrats were busy hacking into a proposed cigarette tax increase in response to Gov. Mitch Daniels' criticism of their property tax reform efforts. Numerous spending proposals, in the meantime, continue to compete for a limited pool of revenue.

Budget season is back at the Statehouse. And so is the political posturing that comes with it.

Amid the sparring, there are four issues that the governor and the legislature must seriously confront to return the state to proper fiscal footing. Moving in the right direction on these points is critical to building an honestly balanced budget:

Property taxes

Gov. Daniels and House Democrats at least agree on one thing: The state must finally hold the line on property tax relief subsidies, which grew three-fold from the 1996-97 fiscal year to 2005-06. Yet, neither the governor nor the House leadership has fully dealt with the issues that drove state leaders to heavily subsidize local governments.

In refusing to increase the level of property tax relief written into the state budget, Daniels cast light on Indiana's antiquated property tax system and the lack of transparency in local government spending, two of the state's toughest long-term fiscal challenges. But he's not offered clear direction in how to solve those problems.

Although not going as far as the governor, House Democrats acted sensibly in offering annual subsidy increases of 3 percent in the next budget -- far lower than the average 8 percent annual increases of recent years. Yet, the House leadership failed to pass the property tax reforms contained in HB 1007 and didn't include local government reform measures in the budget.

The House budget also fails to deal with the prospect of a 15 percent hike in property taxes this year.

After four decades of unsuccessful property tax relief packages, it's time for state leaders to heed the advice of Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute Research Director Mark Brown to use this session to move toward true reform of local government and property taxes.

School funding

The House budget, sure to undergo major revisions in the Senate, would increase state funding for public schools by 3.8 percent each year. Daniels proposed a 3 percent increase in his original budget.

Both should consider questions about the relationship between increased school spending and academic performance raised by the Government Efficiency Commission in a report issued this year.

The share of school operating funds devoted to classroom learning declined from 72 percent to 67 percent between 1995 and 2005. Which means more dollars are going to areas where the effect on academic performance is "nebulous or impossible to quantify," according to the Efficiency Commission.

School districts also are given too much latitude in the level of financial reporting. Poor financial record-keeping abounds. For example, the state Board of Accounts cited Washington Township in 2006 for a litany of problems with its internal controls, including failing to keep proper records on equipment bought with federal subsidies.

Such problems make it unlikely that general funding increases will improve student achievement, raise the level of educational attainment in the state, or curtail the dropout crisis.

The state already targets funding to the poorest school districts through its complexity index. Changing the rest of the funding formula to shift more dollars to classroom learning and investing in early-childhood learning would greatly improve the odds that young Hoosiers will graduate from high school and succeed in college.

Medicaid

House Democrats spotlighted another long-term fiscal problem: growth in government spending. But their proposal to flat-line the state's share of Medicaid spending isn't realistic.

While annual growth in Medicaid spending by states fell from 6 percent in 2005 to 3 percent in 2006, proposing to hold spending level for the next two years fails to take into account rising health-care costs. Government health-care spending is expected to increase 7.5 percent annually from 2008 to 2016, according to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, as more baby boomers age into the system.

Even Daniels, who promised to limit Medicaid spending increases to a 5 percent annual clip in the current budget, and proposes to do so again with the next two-year budget, hasn't been entirely successful in holding down costs. The state portion of Medicaid spending will increase 9 percent this fiscal year.

One factor in the growth lies with the poor eating and smoking habits of Hoosiers, especially among the uninsured. Those issues could have been addressed through Daniels' plan to provide insurance for low-income Hoosiers, which included a 55-cent cigarette tax increase. But, in an act of political revenge last week, House Democrats shamefully cut the tax increase by more than half.

Any long-term reform of Medicaid will require the intervention of the federal government, which contributes 65 cents of every dollar in overall spending on the program. But the governor and legislators need to adopt efficiency measures and take steps to improve Hoosiers' health to limit cost increases.

Preparing for recession

Daniels paid proper attention to the need to restore state government's fiscal condition by proposing to hand back $286 million owed to local governments and universities in the next fiscal year. His plan to pour 8 percent of revenues into reserves in the next two years also would be a wise move.

House Democrats, in contrast, have shown little interest in boosting reserves. Besides failing to offer catch-up payments to local governments, they have proposed an array of unnecessary spending items.

One example: A proposed General Accountability Office replicates watchdog efforts already charged to the state auditor and budget director. Its creation is merely payback to Daniels for government reform plans that have angered Democratic insiders.

As the governor and lawmakers from both chambers complete the budget in coming weeks, it's essential to eliminate wasteful spending proposals that spoil the current bill. They also need to target education dollars where they will do the most good, take on serious property tax and local government reform, and set a realistic target for Medicaid expenditures.

Two years ago, the General Assembly passed a reasonably responsible budget, reversing a trend of accepting shoddy spending plans that left the state with an unhealthy balance sheet. It's no time to retreat.

Experience has now shown that it seems to be too much to expect adherence to campaign fundraising rules--let alone a reasonably responsible budget or fiscal responsibility of any kind--from Speaker Bauer and the Democrats.

If a political party will betray what it says to be its own principles on things like Medicaid and health care simply to spite the governor, then I guess that they should not be expected to produce a responsible or coherent budget that addresses the serious and real problems faced by Indiana and by Hoosiers.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Everybody Loves Reagan

Viva La Reagan Revolucion Or so a recent unscientific survey in the News & Tribune reports on President's Day week.

The breakdowns:

1. Most want to have dinner with? Bill Clinton, at 24%. Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln follow in a distant tie for second.

2. Least want to have dinner with? George W. Bush, at 37.5%. Bill Clinton was second at 22%.

3. Give another chance at office? Bill Clinton, at 25%. Gerald Ford was second at 20%.

4. Which was the smartest? Thomas Jefferson, far and away, at 38%.

5. Which was funniest? Reagan dominates, at 51%.

6. Most handsome? JFK dominates, at 60%.

7. Was the most misunderstood? Jimmy Carter, at 19%. George W. Bush was in a close second at 16%.

8. Was the most powerful or influential? Franklin Roosevelt, at 31%. George Washington got only 13%. Reagan got 21%.

9. Was the least influential? Jimmy Carter tied with the only Hoosier President, William Henry Harrison, at 19%.

10. Was the most misguided? George W. Bush dominates at 49%.

11. Was the most progressive? Franklin Roosevelt, at 25%. There was no most conservative question.

12. Was the most honest? Honest Abe Lincoln, at 35%. Jimmy Carter was second at 23%.

13. Most out of place in the White House? George W. Bush, at 23%. Jimmy Carter was second.

14. Was the most "natural" in office? Ronald Reagan edges Bill Clinton, 22% to 20%.

15. Was the best with international relations? Ronald Reagan edges Richard Nixon, 22% to 20%.

16. Was the best on homefront issues? Franklin Roosevelt dominates, at 30%. At 14%, Reagan was a distant second.

17. Was the best speaker? Reagan dominates, at 37%.

18. Which would you most like to erase from history? George W. Bush far and away, at 53%.

19. Was most forgotten by history? Chester Arthur, at 17%, narrowly beats Millard Fillmore and William Henry Harrison.

20. Was the most famous? Abraham Lincoln dominates, at 38%.

21. Had the best hair? JFK, at 38%.

22. Was the most hip? Bill Clinton, at 64%.

23. Was the worst speaker? George W. Bush, at 69%.

24. Would you like to be friends with? Bill Clinton, at 30%.

25. Would you want to marry your daughter or sister? Jimmy Carter tied Gerald Ford at 21%. Bill Clinton got 3%.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Democrats Ram through Budget

House Republicans

"If you don't find that unwholesome I guess we differ, because I do find that unwholesome."

They had to break the rules and resort to bribery just to pass it on a razor-thin party-line vote, but Bauer and the Democrats have managed to ram their budget through the House last night.

If Brian Bosma walked up to you, and offered you two dollars to vote for a Republican, he would be guilty of bribery and all manner of offenses. He'd be in a lot of trouble. He might go to jail.

But when Patty Bauer walks up to a fellow Democrat (fresh out of a questionable fundraiser), and offers him two million dollars for his district to get him to vote for something, it's "governing" and such things "have to be done."

Jackie Walorski (R-Lakeville) called it a "shenanigan." Jeff Espich (R-Uniondale) called it "unwholesome." Such careful and measured words barely begin to cover it.

The budget that the Democrats have passed is not honestly balanced.

It was passed through party-line votes, thuggery, rules-bending, and bribery.

It cuts Medicaid by giving no provision for natural growth in program costs.

It contains no provision to start providing health insurance for the 850,000 Hoosiers that presently lack it.

It contains no provision to address the property tax hike currently faced by Hoosier landowners.

Yet it finds room to authorize the issuance of $700 million in bonds for university construction at places like Ivy Tech, where Speaker Bauer is a vice president. Don't forget that Democratic big contributor / candidate for governor whose architecture firm builds buildings for universities.

The Senate will now have to clean up the mess that Patty Bauer has created in throwing a tantrum in response to the Governor's constructive criticism of the Democratic budget.

Senate Approves Full-Day Kindergarten

Patty Bauer While much focus has gone into the budget that the Democrats railroaded with bribery through the House yesterday, the Star and the Courier have articles on full-day kindergarten's passage out of the Senate.

Given that, until now, the only real challenge to Daniels' kindergarten initiative came from within the Senate and from the GOP itself, the passage of this bill out of the Senate is a great victory for the Governor.

Unfortunately, the Daniels kindergarten initiative is now in the hands of the vindictive and spiteful Patty Bauer.

The Speaker might see fit to complete his transformation into an easily caricatured cartoon villain and useful political foil to the well-meaning governor by yet killing the full-day kindergarten legislation.

Given that the Democrats have already seen fit to screw over 850,000 Hoosiers who are uninsured by denying them health insurance, it is but a small step from there for Bauer to stamp his feet, threaten to take his hairpiece and go home, and kill the all-day kindergarten bill too.

Pointing the Way: Hoosier Guardsmen May Be Going to Iraq

The Indianapolis Star reports today that the 76th Infantry Brigade, an Indiana National Guard unit, may be mobilized for deployment to Iraq next year.

Brad Ellsworth, it seems, is concerned at making sure they will be fully equipped to deploy.

A worthy worry, but one that sort of rings hollow when accompanied by the votes of Baron Hill, Brad Ellsworth, Joe Donnelly, Pete Visclosky, and Julia Carson against the deployment of reinforcements to Iraq.

The disconnect is particularly egregious in the case of Baron Hill, who voted to send the troops to war but now opposes sending them reinforcements.

Now, Democrats like Hill and Ellsworth fuss over ensuring the units are fully outfitted to complete a mission, a mission that they have voted to say that they oppose.

Indy Star Slams Bauer & Co.

The Indianapolis Star's editorial page today slams B. Patrick "Patty" Bauer and the Democrats for eviscerating a plan to provide uninsured Hoosiers with health insurance, simply to get a petty partisan poke in at the governor.

I've posted similar such sentiments, and here's the Star's take:

They got revenge, and look who loses

Our position: House Democrats descended into irresponsible level of partisanship in dispute with the governor over the cigarette tax.

There are serious professionals doing serious work -- people like state Health Commissioner Judith Monroe and Dr. Craig Brater, dean of the Indiana University School of Medicine -- to improve Hoosiers' poor health.

Then there are Democrats on the Indiana House Ways and Means Committee, who on Tuesday cut by more than half a proposed cigarette tax increase designed to help provide health insurance for low-income Hoosiers.

Why slice the proposed increase from 54.5 cents a pack to 25 cents? Was it a principled argument against higher taxes? Was it out of concern about the cost of creating a new entitlement?

No, it was merely to poke at Gov. Mitch Daniels, who last week had the audacity to associate the word "whopping" to a new corporate income tax that Democrats were trying to push through the House.

Here's what House Speaker Pat Bauer had to say after his colleagues flattened the cigarette tax plan: "We took the governor's Whopper and made it a patty."

You would think that after 37 years in the General Assembly, Bauer would have matured by now. But that's sadly not the case.

So now a health plan -- one initiated by the governor and the previous beneficiary of bipartisan legislative support -- is in jeopardy because Bauer and his thin-skinned pals had their feelings hurt.

If Bauer wants to see what real pain looks like, he should talk to a few of the estimated 850,000 Hoosiers who live without health insurance. Even at 54.5 cents a pack, the tax increase wouldn't have been enough to cover everybody, but it would have helped substantially more Hoosiers than the plan now moving to the House floor.

The higher cigarette tax also would have had greater impact in reducing the number of smokers in Indiana, especially among teenagers. That's a point that Brater and Monroe have made passionately in recent weeks.

And Indiana, with the second highest adult smoking rate in the nation, desperately needs to wean more people from cigarettes.

More working Hoosiers with access to health care. Fewer people killing themselves with nicotine. A healthier population, which in time translates into lower insurance premiums and taxes for the general public.

Bauer and his buddies had those benefits to weigh on one side of the equation. On the other, was the opportunity to soothe their own bruised egos while firing off a wild partisan shot.

No one who's spent much time watching the General Assembly over the years is too surprised by where Bauer landed given such a choice.

Score it Pat and the Partisans, one. Hoosiers and their health, zero.

Right on.

It's good to see that the Star is willing to call Speaker Patty on his hypocrisy and his small-minded vindictiveness.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Baron's "Me Too" Bill List

Slow news day. Nobody wants to anger their county sheriff by cutting their pay, but the General Assembly is drawing up a clever scheme to double its salary and guarantee an automatic pay increase.

So, bored, I wandered over to the website of my Congressman, Baron Hill. It's still not updated with anything useful. As of this posting, the usual boilerplate common for every representative remains in place. I guess that the House website-making gnomes have not worked down the alphabet to Hill yet.

The legislative page doesn't offer much hope that Mr. Hill has been any more active than the web-maker gnomes. He hasn't sponsored any legislation as of this posting.

Baron Hill has, though, co-sponsored seventeen pieces of legislation (as of this posting; it was eleven almost a month ago, so there are six new ones).

Despite saying that "health care is a constitutional right" (and I still can't find it in the Constitution), he has proposed no legislation to that effect, nor has he proposed any Constitutional amendments.

As I have said before, co-sponsoring legislation is like signing someone else's homework. Let's look at what sorts of stuff Hill has signed his name to.

1. H.RES.27 : To institute a Pay-As-You-Go rule in the House of Representatives for the 110th Congress. Under Republicans, pay-go rules mean less government spending, because Republicans are never willing to raise taxes. Under Democrats, pay-go is an excuse and even a license for tax increases under the pretense of maintaining a balanced budget.

2. H.RES.90 : Congratulating Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears and Tony Dungy of the Indianapolis Colts on becoming the first African-American head coaches of National Football League teams to qualify for the Super Bowl. Sleep soundly in the knowledge that no one else you voted for to go to Congress would have co-sponsored a resolution like this. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

3. H.RES.97 : Providing for Operation Iraqi Freedom cost accountability. Nothing as popular as investigating or attacking war profiteering, I guess.

4. H.RES.130 : Congratulating the National Football League champion Indianapolis Colts for winning Super Bowl XLI and for bringing the City of Indianapolis and the State of Indiana their first Lombardi Trophy. See #2.

5. H.R.1 : To provide for the implementation of the recommendations of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. I feel safer already.

6. H.R.2 : To amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to provide for an increase in the Federal minimum wage. Nearly killed by House Democrats who don't want to have to cut taxes to give help to small businesses. I look forward to paying more to buy stuff at places like McDonald's and Wal-Mart; I doubt that people already making more than $7.25 will get any pay increase as a result of it.

7. H.R.4 : To amend part D of title XVIII of the Social Security Act to require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower covered part D drug prices on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries. Because ordering the government to set price controls on drugs is such a good idea. It worked great in the 1970s to control inflation. Oh wait.

8. H.R.5 : To amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to reduce interest rates for student borrowers. I am glad that the Democrats will now further subsidize the higher education system. After all, it is the home of their biggest defenders, some of whom probably couldn't find gainful employment elsewhere.

9. H.R.6 : To reduce our Nation's dependency on foreign oil by investing in clean, renewable, and alternative energy resources, promoting new emerging energy technologies, developing greater efficiency, and creating a Strategic Energy Efficiency and Renewables Reserve to invest in alternative energy, and for other purposes. Translation: The Cut Tax Breaks on Big Oil Bill.

10. H.R.327 : To direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to develop and implement a comprehensive program designed to reduce the incidence of suicide among veterans. To maintain his VFW endorsement in the future, Hill can always be counted on to sign his name to legislation designed to help veterans, particularly when it has already been written by someone else.

11. H.R.365 : To provide for a research program for remediation of closed methamphetamine production laboratories, and for other purposes. Good idea. Credit to Baron. Now, he needs to learn how to pronounce methamphetamine when he comes home to tout it. He couldn't do it during the campaign.

12. H.R.634 : To require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint coins in commemoration of veterans who became disabled for life while serving in the Armed Forces of the United States. See #10.

13. H.R.714 : To establish reporting requirements relating to funds made available for military operations in Iraq or the reconstruction of Iraq, and for other purposes. An alarm clock to remind Congress in case nobody is carrying out #3.

14. H.R.800 : To amend the National Labor Relations Act to establish an efficient system to enable employees to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to provide for mandatory injunctions for unfair labor practices during organizing efforts, and for other purposes. This bill eliminates the secret ballot requirement for the vote to establish a union in a given business. Given that ballots are secret for a reason, namely to eliminate the possibility of coercion from either the employer or the union, this seems to me to be a bad idea. A secret ballot is at the very foundation of American democracy. Baron Hill is wrong to support legislation that subverts such a basic right as the secret ballot.

15. H.R.926 : To prohibit the provision of Federal economic development assistance for any State or locality that uses the power of eminent domain power to obtain property for private commercial development or that fails to pay relocation costs to persons displaced by use of the power of eminent domain for economic development purposes. Another outgrowth of that awful Supreme Court Kelo decision that allowed government to utilize eminent domain for private benefit.

16. H.R.976 : To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide tax relief for small businesses, and for other purposes. Small business tax breaks required to get the Republicans in the Senate to sign off on increasing the minimum wage.

17. H.R.1008 : To improve public awareness in the United States regarding safe use of the Internet through the establishment of an Office of Internet Safety and Public Awareness within the Federal Trade Commission. I feel safer already, what with Baron Hill striving hard to protect the clean sanctity of the invention of Al Gore.

Lee Hamilton Scolds Congress, Dems

In a recent guest column in the News & Tribune, former Congressman Lee Hamilton has taken it to his own party over their behavior now that they are in the majority.

The best parts:

...I was somewhat disconcerted to see that the new Democratic majority in the House, which certainly understands the sting of unfair treatment, has on occasion yielded to the temptation of its newfound power to shut down Republican participation. It did so during the vaunted “first one hundred hours,” barring Republican amendments to the package of bills it had prepared in order to make good on Democrats’ campaign promises.

This was neither a good precedent nor, as it happens, all that necessary: Having passed its bills in a hurry, the House now has to sit around and wait for the Senate to act. It also cost it the benefits of legislative vetting that a robust debate offers — as Democrats discovered when it became clear that the wording of a proposed ethics law forbidding members from flying in private planes meant that those who were pilots could not fly their own aircraft.

Then House Democrats did it again, preparing a budget to keep the government running for the rest of the fiscal year that allowed no GOP amendments. Again, there were arguments to be made defending their actions: Time was short, and leading Democrats pointed out that the entire exercise would have been unnecessary had the GOP-dominated Congress acted on such a measure last year.

But let’s be honest: The majority can always come up with reasons for taking shortcuts that allow it to act. That’s not the point. The point is that in our democracy, the process is every bit as important as the legislation it produces. Fairness and trust should be the coin of the realm.

Congress represents everyone, not just those who voted for members who happen to form the majority. Allowing the regular order of hearings, amendments and debate to flourish — with fair restrictions to keep it wieldy, if necessary — would go a very long way to healing the scars of the last few years and make it less likely that Capitol Hill will return soon to the ugly bitterness that cost it so much public good will and led to legislative stalemate.

I somehow doubt that Baron Hill and Nancy Pelosi are listening.

I also wonder if Pat Bauer will take any lessons on this from the Democrats in Congress.

Bauer, like Pelosi, has hastily passed flawed bills on strict party-line votes, blocked virtually all minority input, and thus produced bad legislation that will get rewritten or redone entirely by a more deliberative Senate.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Democrats Gut Plan to Insure the Uninsured

So, once upon a time, there was a political party that said it stood up for the poor. It said that it wanted everyone to have health care. It said that everyone should have health insurance.

It called itself the Democratic Party and, if recent events are any indication, it must no longer stands for or wants any of those things.

As the Indianapolis Star reports, the Democrats have decided to take their hypocrisy to new levels.

Pat Bauer has thrown tantrums before. He angrily stamped his feet over so-called property tax relief, and threatened to take his toys and go home.

Because the Republicans objected to the Democrats effectively trying to starve Medicaid by allocating it no new funds in the budget, because the Republicans don't like their amendments being defeated in party-line votes, because the Republicans questioned the fuzzy math in an unbalanced Democratic budget, because the Republicans offered constructive criticism, and because the Republicans objected to income tax increases, the Democrats are now willing to further harm the less fortunate in Indiana by trying to kill Mitch Daniels' program to give them health insurance.

They really cannot take constructive criticism, or criticism of any kind.

The Democrats so hate the governor, and they so hate Republicans, that they will harm the people of Indiana and they will betray what they say to be their own principles just in order to attempt petty stunts to get at the GOP.

They even gloat about it afterwards.

"We took the governor's Whopper and made it a patty."

Translation: We took a plan to insure the uninsured and we destroyed it.

Just what kind of man is Pat Bauer?

He's a very small one, and it has nothing to do with his height.

Clouds Without Rain

A worthy letter to the editor appeared in the Courier-Journal on Sunday, regarding the recent vote by the House of Representatives to denounce President Bush's plan to deploy reinforcements to Iraq:

There is a saying, "It is like clouds without rain." Our newly elected Congress has decided on making a non-binding resolution against our troops and the President. What does that actually mean?

To me it means clouds without rain, people without honor, and leaders without a backbone. There is a wave of opinion about the war. I respect someone's opinion to disagree with the President. I do not respect leaders who cannot stand for what they believe.

There are many politicians voting against the President's plan who only a short time ago were calling for the exact same thing and also voted for the Iraq war. There is another saying that goes, "You have to stand for something or you will fall for everything." I will stand with the President, fighting evil. I speak this as a veteran, not a politician in a comfortable Washington office.

ALLEN SMITH

New Albany, Ind. 47150

I bet that Mr. Smith might have choice words for his congressman (Baron Hill), who in voting for the war but now opposing reinforcements is just the sort of person described in the last paragraph.

More on McGoff

The Matt Tully and the Indianapolis Star in general are practically gushing today about the news that former Marion County Coroner John McGoff will challenge 5th District Congressman Dan Burton in the Republican primary.

It's no secret that Tully and more widely the Star have it in for Dan Burton. His missed votes for golf incident in January was the last straw for them, and McGoff has given new fuel to the fire.

Such primary challenges create a political minefield, so it is no surprise that various Republican county chairman (and state officials) are couching their statements about the McGoff challenge in careful language. Frugal Hoosiers almost stepped in it.

In a competitive district, such Republican fratricide would be suicidal and would open the seat to a Democratic challenge. But I might go so far as to wager that a lawn chair could win in the 5th District, if it had an "R" after its name.

The primary challenge of this sort is a serious thing, since it will be of more consequence than Election Day itself, and one that will require careful toeing by every Republican of consequence involved in that district.

I don't know the intricacies of Republican relationships in the 5th District, so I won't hazard a prediction on the outcome of that primary beyond what I have already said. I strongly suspect that whoever wins the primary will win in November of 2008.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Party-Line Bipartisanship

Democrats cry and whine when they get feedback and constructive criticism of their budget proposals. They attack it as a bad thing, a departure from the bipartisan spirit pledged by Mitch Daniels and promised by both sides at the start of the session.

But they sure love to vote down Republican amendments on party-line votes. They sure love to ram through their budget proposals on party-line votes.

That worked so well for Pat Bauer on "property tax relief" (it went down in flames because his own allies opposed him) that the Speaker decided he'd try it again. Heavven forbid the other party ever actually vote for anything when he puts it on the floor of the House.

The Courier-Journal reports that the Democrats are trying the same partisan ramrodding tactics with the state budget.

What is it that the quotation says?

Ah, yes.

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Was Baron Hill Listening?

During the 36 hours that the House debated Iraq before they voted, when Baron Hill read his prepared statement, Vietnam vet and Texas Congressman Sam Johnson also spoke.

Unlike Baron Hill, Johnson spoke against the so-called non-binding resolution, and he spoke quite eloquently.

Watch the whole thing. It's six and a half minutes, but worth every second.



The seats on the far side of Congress, where the Democratic majority sits, look to be rather empty, disgracefully so.

The Democratic members paraded to the floor to read their prepared texts, to perform their political stunt for the cameras, to dance for the benefit of their left-wing supporters / puppeteers, and then leave.

As Mr. Johnson points out, the damage that the Democrats caused in their political stunt will be lasting, unfortunately.

Was Baron Hill listening when Mr. Johnson explained this? I doubt it. He was probably eating with some lobbyist at a fancy restaurant, or living it up at a reception at a law firm marveling at how many people came to see him.

Congressman Johnson's words still echo in my mind:

"The pain inflicted by your country’s indifference is tenfold that inflicted by your ruthless captors."

Way to go, Baron.

It's a Horse Race!


Matt Tully's column today follows the race to be Democratic candidate for governor.

With Bart Peterson ruling out running, it seems other candidates--like Jim Schellinger--will soon be out of the starting gate to join Richard Young.

The Senate Minority Leader has an, interesting let's say, record to run on.

I'm sure that there will be interesting things in Schellinger's past too.

Tully: McGoff to Challenge Burton


It's almost official. According to Matt Tully, former Marion County Coroner John McGoff is going to challenge Dan "Bogey" Burton in the Republican primary for the 5th Congressional District.

But cheer up, Congressman Burton. You'll never lose in the general election, and neither will McGoff if he beats you. And if he does, you'll still be able to play golf full time on your generous Congressional pension.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Unexpected Development

A political consultant writing in the Howey Political Report thinks that some of Indiana's Congressional districts will again be a battleground in 2008, and that (of course) Democrats shall prevail as they always have and always will. No news there, and no spin.

Oh wait, did I mention that he was a Democratic consultant? Yeah.

Hot Shots, Part Deux


Rejoice, Democrats. No longer need you be disheartened by the decision by the illustrious mayor of Indianapolis to spurn you by not running for governor. No longer need you pine for the candidacies of Pat Bauer, John Gregg, or Vi Simpson. No longer need you snicker (to hide your worry) about the candidacy of Richard Young. There has come an architect, and he (hopefully) has a plan.

So say Matt Tully and Brian Howey, at least. It seems that Jim Schellinger, the head of an Indy architectural firm famous the whole world over (one half of the merged whole was once 214th in America alone), will throw his hat into the ring.

He will provide valuable leadership and experience in the design of pretty structures, the sorts of things Indiana needs after already balancing its budget and already creating all those new jobs to fill shiny new buildings.

Architects know a lot about government, particularly whose palms to grease with contributions to get their edifice complexes satisfied. What with Schellinger's status as a star Indy contributor for Peterson, he should have no trouble running and campaigning.

Trouble not your mind with stray thoughts of any differences that might arise from contributing money to a campaign and actually being a candidate in a campaign.

Tully:

Another likely candidate is Jim Schellinger, president CSO Schenkel Shultz, an Indianapolis-based architecture firm.

Schellinger has not publicly announced his interest in the race, but he has met with numerous key Democratic leaders -- from former Gov. Joe Kernan to Mayor Bart Peterson.

Schellinger serves on the Indianapolis Capital Improvement Board and has been one of Peterson's top campaign contributors.

Howey:

Democratic sources are confirming that CSO SchenkelShultz CEO Jim Schellinger will seek the Democratic nomination for governor in 2008. Schellinger joins Senate Minority Leader Richard Young as a candidate who will likely face Gov. Mitch Daniels. CSO SchenkelShultz is an architectural firm developing civic projects, education facilities (K-12 and higher education), corporate headquarters and office structures, corporate interiors, justice applications and aviation facilities. CSO and SchenkelShultz, which merged under Schellinger's leadership in 2005, both have long established histories in Indiana; the companies were founded in 1961 and 1958 respectively. Schellinger, who joined the firm in 1987, is a registered architect with 20 years of experience in programming, planning, project management, design and construction. As President of CSO Schenkel Shultz, Schellinger takes a hands on role with each and every project and brings a passion for finding ways to combine the best in architectural planning."

Since the field probably isn't finished filling out yet, it still looks like there's going to be a regular barn-burner over on the left.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Remember, Bipartisan Goes Both Ways

Leslie Stedman does her weekly column about the brewing budget battle in the General Assembly.

Forget all of those party-line votes by Democrats to defeat amendments proposed by Republicans.

Forget that the Democrats couldn't pass their own property tax bill because two of the speaker's key allies voted against it.

Forget Pat Bauer's tantrum after that, blaming the whole thing on Republicans, and declaring the issue dead unless Mitch Daniels intervened.

Nope, it's the Governor that's ruining the bipartisan atmosphere in Indianapolis.

How did he ruin it, you ask?

Did he ruin it by praising its increase in education spending?

Nope.

Did he ruin it by praising its funding for all-day kindergarten?

Nope, not that either.

So, then how did he ruin it?

Why, by questioning Pat Bauer's plan to raise corporate and individual income taxes, that's how.

How dare the governor balk at a tax increase.

How dare he praise the Democrats for parts of their budget and question others.

Isn't that bipartisanship? Compromise? Agreeing on some things and disagreeing on others?

Not in the book of Pat Bauer and the Democrats. They don't control the Governor's office and they don't control the State Senate but, by gosh, it's their way or the highway.

Maybe the Speaker will now just stamp his feet angrily, blame it all on Republicans, and declare the budget dead.

Quote of the Day

“Bipartisan usually means that a larger-than-usual deception is being carried out.”
- George Carlin

Hill: Iranian Rifles Are "Circumstantial Evidence"

Steyr rifle of the kind sold to Iran and later found in Iraq.
The Courier-Journal has an article today about a talk made by Baron Hill to a gathering in New Albany concerning Iran.

It seems that Mr. Hill--who voted for the war in Iraq, who voted to send troops into Kosovo, and who just voted to denounce sending reinforcements to our troops in Iraq--is afraid that things with Iran are going the same way as they did with Iraq.

Things like war and foreign relations are too complex to be further muddled by a clueless, third-rate, partisan-hack congressman. Such things are best left to the experts.

People with decades of experience who know what they are talking about. People like, say, Senator Dick Lugar or Lee Hamilton.

Just this week, years of delicate negotiations with North Korea culminated in what appears to be an agreement that will dismantle the North Korean nuclear weapons program.

For several years, the United States, through (and later with) its European allies, has been engaged in similar negotiations with Iran.

The United Nations has even recently unanimously approved increased sanctions on Iran because of its defiance of the world over its nuclear program.

It is strange that when the Bush administration makes serious diplomatic victories, victories for the United States and not just for one political party, you never see Democrats talking about them.

Disarming Libya? Not a word.

Unanimous U.N. resolution on North Korea? Nope, nadda.

Unanimous U.N. resolution on Iran? Not a peep.

Agreement with North Korea? Deafening silence from the seats on the left.

At no time has the President threatened to bomb Iran or invade Iran. As is the standard diplo-speak, nobody in the White House will rule out using force.

But then, few in Washington are the people that will ever rule out running for president to get into the White House either. Such are the usual dances.

All of the talk of bombing or invading Iran has come from the Democrats, in the form of them threatening not the wacko Holocaust-denier President of Iran, but instead threatening the President of the United States.

The United States has a complex and troubled relationship with Iran. Reckless talk by Congressional Democrats does not help resolve it.

Such talk is not a contribution to serious discourse in America, and it does not contribute to international efforts (presently all diplomatic) by America and many other countries to ensure Iran does not get nuclear weapons.

I'm sure it goes over well with his left-wing base in Bloomington when Baron Hill says that he's worried that Bush might attack Iran, even if Hill wouldn't vote for it (forget about that vote last time, after all). But that's fodder for the base, which is not what this country needs with the challenge presented by the Iranian nuclear ambition.

And, now, I don't know what Baron Hill calls "circumstantial evidence." But some of the evidence that I have seen about Iranian involvement in Iraq seems pretty darned incriminating.

For example, in late 2004 the Austrian gun maker Steyr-Mannlicher sold 800 high-powered sniper rifles to Iran. Nasty rifles that can kill a guy in body armor a mile away, and can penetrate armored Humvees.

The United States protested this sale at the time, but the Austrian government approved it anyway. In fact, the left-wing Austrian political parties opposed the sale. The USA later put sanctions on the Steyr company in 2005. It was something of a scandal in little Austria. You can read all about it in the left-of-center German magazine Der Spiegel.

According to the British newspaper the Daily Telegraph, it now turns out that about 100 of these very rifles, the ones sold to Iran by Austria, have been found in raids by US troops on insurgent positions in Baghdad.

It is estimated that 170 British and American soldiers have been killed by those rifles (by comparison, "only" 128 Americans died on the Lusitania). The first such casualty happened only 45 days after the rifles arrived in Iran.

And you can bet that the guys using those rifles didn't learn how to use them by going out hunting for deer with their dad on the weekend. People aren't born with the sorts of skills needed to kill a soldier from almost a mile away. Someone teaches it to them.

I've seen enough of those CSI shows to know what sorts of things can be learned from bullets. It tends to be pretty incriminating. You can learn a lot from a bullet, let alone from a pile of 100 of the guns.

But that's not incriminating enough for Baron Hill. Nope. That's just "circumstantial evidence."

On Friday, Baron Hill voted to denounce sending our troops reinforcements.

On Saturday, he said that the Iranian guns that are shooting at them were "circumstantial evidence."

If those rifles are just circumstantial evidence, I shudder to think of what real evidence would look like to Congressman Hill.

Hill concerned Bush may attack Iran
He says case being made similar to Iraq
By Harold J. Adams

U.S. Rep. Baron Hill, D-9th District, said yesterday afternoon that he is concerned President Bush might order military action against Iran.

The Bush administration has been making the case that Iran is involved in some of the violence dogging U.S. troops in Iraq.

"There are a lot of similarities between what happened before (the invasion of) Iraq and what's happening now with Iran," Hill told a gathering at New Albany's Division Street School.

Asked to elaborate, Hill recalled the evidence presented in 2003 to justify going after Saddam Hussein.

"The evidence that was presented to me was not accurate," he said.

Regarding evidence of Iran's involvement in Iraq, Hill said, "It's circumstantial evidence and we need better evidence than that."

A lot of congressmen, "including this one," are concerned about the Bush administration's intentions, he said. "We ought to be very careful before we do it all over again in Iran."

We don't want to "do the same thing" in attacking Iran "and find out none of that evidence is true," Hill said.

Responding to a question, Hill said, "If the president went into Iran, I think Congress right now would do everything in its power to put a halt to that."

Congress can't prevent the administration from ordering a preemptive attack, he said.

"The question really becomes can Congress really stop him from continuing," Hill said.

There is debate over the legislative branch's constitutional authority to intervene, Hill said.

His comments came a day after the House approved a nonbinding resolution expressing opposition to the president's plan for a surge of additional troops into Iraq, and on the same day that Republicans blocked a similar vote in the Senate.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

In the End, There Can Be Only One...

...and the possibilities for the identity of the one are dwindling rapidly.

Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel has filed for reelection, effectively ruling out a campaign for governor. (Hat tip to Ollie Morton's Doorkeeper.)

And, removing all lingering doubt, Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson has confirmed that he will not be running for governor either. (EDIT: Larger, later, article from the Star here.)

Thus the field shrinks again.

For all of their snickering about the troubles of Marion County Republicans in finding a challenger to Peterson, the Democrats seem to be having a lot of trouble in finding a challenger to Mitch Daniels. Running for governor is a lot more expensive and requires a lot more preparation than running for mayor.

Who is left? Tom McDermott, Jr.? Imagine the muck that could be raked from any politician from Lake County. Tim Roemer? Gone Washington and stayed there. Vi Simpson? Mitch Daniels should be so lucky. Baron Hill? Probably the best they have. Richard Young? Already in, such as he is. John Gregg? Wants to hear his own name. Pat Bauer? Ditto.

Of those candidates, only Hill has run for statewide office before. Granted, it was for the Senate and he was defeated (he was also young and much less experienced at campaigning then), but no one else has statewide campaign experience, which makes him far and away the strongest potential candidate in a rather weak field.

Baron Hill to G.I. Joe: No Reinforcements for You

The Seymour Tribune provides this handy transcript of Baron Hill's statement in Congress on the recent vote on a non-binding resolution denouncing sending reinforcements to American soldiers in Iraq:

Madam Speaker, our brave men and women in Iraq have answered every call, accomplished every task, and won every battle. Our brave men and women in uniform have fought valiantly. They have executed their mission with quiet dignity and with honor that is worthy of praise. In looking back at all our military has done, there has been no task that these brave men and women haven't accomplished. They have risen to every occasion.

However, we are not here today just to applaud our troops' performance. We are here today to ask if the surge direction that the President is taking us in is the right direction for our troops, the right direction for our country, and the right direction for the people of Iraq.

The answer is unequivocally no.

For the last four years of this conflict, the President has relied on the judgment of his military experts to execute this war and to follow their advice. Now, at this critical hour, he has chosen to ignore their expertise and advice.

The Joint Chiefs have unanimously disagreed with the surge. General James T. Conway, Commander of the Marine Corps is quoted as saying, "We do not believe that just adding numbers for the sake of adding numbers, just thickening the mix, is necessarily the way to go." General John Abizaid has met with every Divisional Commander and asked, "If we were to bring in more American troops now, does it add considerably to our ability to achieve success?" They all said no. General Colin Powell has said the surge will not work. General Wesley Clark, Ambassador Holbrooke, Oliver North, Michael Vicker, Lawrence Corb, Richard Haas, have all said that the surge will not work. And, the list goes on and on.

Why does the President, Madam Speaker, choose to ignore expert after expert, soldier after soldier, who say the surge will not work? Even General Petraeus has said, and I quote, "The way ahead will be neither quick nor easy. And undoubtedly there will be tough days. We have a determined, adaptive, barbaric enemy. He will try to wait us out. Any such endeavor is a test of wills. And there are no guarantees."

Madam Speaker, as former Secretary of State James Baker has said, "There is no magic bullet to solve the problem of Iraq. No single answer, no quick fix."

From this microphone over the last two days, my colleagues on the other side have decided to frame this debate about the success and failure in Iraq. That debate is for another day. Today the debate is about the wisdom, or lack of wisdom, for the surge.

The President and members of his party need to listen to the experts who they have relied upon in the past. To do otherwise cast doubts about to whom the President is listening.

Madam Speaker, I firmly believe that this "surge" in troops is the wrong policy, at the wrong time, and in the wrong war. The actions that need to be taken to help the Iraqi people and to ultimately bring our brave men and women home safely is not as simple as rushing more troops to the front lines.

Vote for the resolution. Vote no to the surge.

Though our forces will undoubtedly accomplish their mission of securing Baghdad and other hostile regions, we are still implementing an incomplete policy. Much more is needed to responsibly bring our sons and daughters home.

As I noted earlier, Mr. Hill will vote to authorize the deployment of more troops when it is a Democratic president asking for them. He'll even authorize sending troops in the first place. He did, after all, vote to authorize this war in the first place.

But when reinforcements are needed? When General Petraeus, the smartest guy in the United States Army, says that's what he needs? Then, as far as Baron Hill is concerned, G.I. Joe is just out of luck.

Congressman Baron Hill will vote to send you to war. And if the president is a Democrat, he'll even vote to allow more troops to be sent. But forget about reinforcements if the Commander-in-Chief happens to be a Republican.

Democrats Present Budget Proposal

The Courier-Journal and the Star have articles about the Democratic budget proposal.

In Washington, whenever Republicans failed to give some or other government program a full percentage increase in line with other programs, the Democrats attacked it as a budget cut. If a program isn't growing, it must be being cut, right? Heaven forbid that a program's funding grow by only two percent and not four percent, after all.

What then, should be made of the budget proposed by Hoosier House Democrats? A budget that includes no new funding for Medicaid? Not a penny? Not even a percent? Wouldn't that be, by the verbiage established by Democrats in Washington, a budget cut? A deep cut, even? Did Pat Bauer just propose a budget with cuts in Medicaid?

Those poor people on Medicaid. If only they had a powerful interest group to defend them in the General Assembly budget process. You know, like the teacher unions. That's a powerful lobbying and interest group, and Bauer saw fit to give them generous funding increases.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Bauer Spins It, Star Bites

The Indianapolis Star has opined today that the governor should do more to get the House to pass property tax relief, swallowing the Speaker's spin hook, line, and sinker.

One of the Star's columnists, RiShawn Biddle, got it right. The only person that needs to do more to get the House to pass property tax relief is B. Patrick Bauer.

A good start for Bauer might begin with getting his two close allies to support his legislation, since they are the ones that sent it to defeat. The problem with that, of course, is that they see his legislation as a stealth tax hike that does not provide real and lasting property tax relief.

Another possibility might be actually allowing input from House Republicans, instead of defeating their proposals and amendments in party-line votes. It's entirely possible that the Republicans might not like the stealth commuter tax hidden in the bill that would strangle rural schools, for example.

House Republicans might not like other parts of Bauer's legislation. They might have better ideas that would actually improve the bill. Instead of shutting them out by demanding party-line votes on procedure and enforcing partisan shutouts, Bauer might ask the Republicans for their opinions and their ideas.

This, of course, would be a revolutionary act from the Speaker. I guess that it's much easier to stamp your feet angrily, throw a tantrum, and declare that the whole thing is dead.

Spinmistress Spanked

Both Matt Tully and Frugal Hoosiers take it to Indiana Democratic Party blog mouthpiece Taking Down Words.

I am inclined to think that if someone is on the payroll of the Democratic National Committee, works as the communications director of the Indiana Democratic Party, blogs from their workplace (the Indiana Democratic Party), and has the Indiana Democratic Party website link to their blog, it's not too much to call their blog "the Indiana Democratic Party’s blog."

Daniels in Jeffersonville

Attending kindergarten, no less. He took time along the way to tout his full-day kindergarten initiative.

Yesterday, the Corydon Democrat--still owned by the family of the late Governor Frank O'Bannon--editorialized in favor of all-day kindergarten. If the O'Bannons' newspaper will support something being advocated by a Republican governor of Indiana, that's serious bipartisan support.

Who would have thought that a governor so hated and vilified by Hoosier Democrats might find support from such an unusual quarter? Maybe, just maybe, Mitch Daniels might be doing something right with this all-day kindergarten thing.

EDIT: Also an article from the News & Tribune, with pictures, and a second CJ article, also with pictures.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Democrat Stealth Tax Hike Down in Flames

Pat Bauer

An unhappy Speaker.

The Indianapolis Star and the Courier-Journal both report today on the House voting down the proposed Democratic so-called property tax relief bill. You know, the one with the stealth commuter tax hidden in it that would likely hurt rural schools and communities.

Speaker Pat Bauer (D-South Bend) was quick to blame Republicans for the defeat, and to pronounce the issue "dead" unless Governor Daniels applies pressure to Republicans to get it passed (this despite being able to bring the issue up again if he wants for another vote). The problem with that allegation, however, has largely gone unnoticed (unsurprisingly) by media coverage.

The bill was not defeated by Republicans. All of the Democrats were present for the vote, but two of them voted against it (three Republicans missed the vote).

The only folks that Pat Bauer has to blame for the defeat of his tax hike and stealth commuter tax disguised as "property tax relief" are inside of his own party.

In fact, his party blocked every effort by Republicans to contribute to the bill, defeating most amendment proposals made by Republicans on largely party-line votes earlier this week.

I suppose Bauer was right to lash out. It must be awfully embarrassing to have all of that legislative work and political wrangling get flushed down the toilet by two members of your own party.

It must be even more embarrassing still for it to have been defeated at the hands of two of your closest allies, as Frugal Hoosiers noted here (and again here).

Of course, I suppose it is entirely possible that Bauer, crafty political strategist he, sought to defeat his party's own legislation so that he could attempt to blame Republicans for the imminent property tax hike facing Hoosier landowners:

"Gosh, folks. We sure tried hard, but those mean old Republicans want you to pay more in property taxes, and Your Man Mitch won't lift a finger to make them let us give you property tax relief..."

The governor has been reluctant to delve into the political minefield of dealing with property taxes. There are no easy solutions, and it would be easier for Bauer and Democrats to attack anything Daniels proposes. Much easier, for example, than defending their own tax hike and stealth commuter tax hiding in property tax relief garb.

That's a win-win for Bauer.

If the legislation passed, he got to claim credit for property tax reform (having earlier entirely shut out Republicans from the process of drawing up the bill as noted above).

If it failed, he could blame its failure on Republicans and demand that they solve the problem (never once called on it in the media), then attack and demonize them when they tried.

Either Pat Bauer has a shockingly poor level of control over his own caucus, or maybe--just maybe--he wants to deliberately punt this political football to Daniels and the Republicans in hopes that they will fumble it.