Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Making of Enemies

This is a commentary about the Fishers Town Council, and how they seem to be generating, not just political opponents, but political enemies.  I draw a fairly sharp distinction between the two.  An "opponent" by my way of thinking, is someone with whom you have a reasonable, and respectful, difference of opinion.   An "enemy" by contrast, has gone beyond mere opposition, and is characterized by a determination to overcome the other side.

I think I have tended to be an "opponent" of much, but not all, that the Fishers Town Council has done and stands for.  As an example, I tend to be wary of throwing tax incentives and other taxpayer dollars (such as TIF districts) at future developments without some pretty firm evidence that the development is a "good thing" and will generate positive dollars for the community.  After all, it IS the taxpayer's money.  In this, I tend to differ in degree from the majority of the Town Council, but at least two members of the Council have recently shown a willingness to dissent somewhat along my lines of thinking. 

But the Town Council has so angered some people, over some issues, that they have made, and are making, rank enemies, not just opponents.  Indeed, many if not most of these enemies are within the ranks of the Republican Party, in areas which vote heavily Republican.   The first sign of this was when Scott Faultless backed a young challenger to council incumbent Art Levine in the 2007 Republican Primary, a primary fight which was surprisingly bitter.  Perhaps this cowed Mr. Levine, but he seems to follow the lead of Mr. Faultless since then. 

About the same time, the Battle of Geist was happening.  An area heavily Republican  and well-to-do, they were angered by the Council's blunt determination to forcibly annex them, a process over which Geist residents had little say.  The annexation went thru, and now those folks are Fishers voters.  They believe, with some merit, that their taxes will rise, and for little or no additional services.  Geist residents felt, and still feel, that they were wantonly put upon by the Town Council members, none of whom they could vote for ... then.  By the Geist belief, it was all about their taxes, period, which the Council coveted to cover a rising amount of bond debt.  They felt lied about, and lied to.  Many of them have become hardened opponents of the current Council, when they could have been allies.

But it seems the Town Council did not learn.  They are now proposing a "merger" with Fall Creek Township (the eastern part of Fishers and adjacent unincorporated area) which would eliminate township government (which is independently elected), give the township's tax money to Fishers, and in one stroke, incorporate ALL of the unincorporated area into Fishers.  Needless to say, many residents in the unincorporated area, who see no need for any of this, are not too pleased.  The large majority of those people are Republicans.  Of the 3 township appointees to the merger study committee, 2 voted against the merger plan. 

The merger is up for public hearing on November 29, 2010, at 7:00 p.m. at Hamilton Southeastern High School.  I urge all interested citizens to attend.

Another way the merger has angered people, is that there is already a pending legal petition signed by 1700 Fishers voters to have a referendum on changing Fishers from a town form of government to a city.  The Town Council has refused to even discuss having this referendum, even tho they were legally required to approve it.  The CityYes committee which submitted it asked that it be set for a vote on November 2, 2010, which obviously has passed.  They show no signs of EVER letting it be voted on.  Indeed, this has led to speculation that the merger is just a way to try to prevent the "city-town" referendum and keep the same form of government, without an elected mayor, and other changes. 

Isn't this the height of political arrogance?  Has the Town Council forgotten that they are supposed to be the servants of the community, and not its masters?  Do they fear a public vote that much?  For better or worse, the people have ultimate power, and right, to determine their own form of government.  And that sort of arrogance makes people angry, and turns them into enemies, not just opponents. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Knee-jerk politics

Election Day rolled around Tuesday and I spent all day in and out of the polls.  I spent a part of the day at a couple of Hamilton County polling places with Democratic Secretary of State candidate Vop Osili, you know, the guy with the funny name who also was endorsed by the FOP, firefighters, teachers, and most major newspapers.  You know, the guy whose opponent couldn't seem to follow the very election laws he was trying to get elected to enforce.

People like Vop when they meet him.  He is bright, engaging, smart, articulate, and has a brilliant smile and easy manner.  So I was pleased when voters at strongly Republican precincts greeted him (mostly) with smiles and "pleased to meet you!"   I thought maybe they really "got it" this time, and the polls and pundits were wrong.

Until we talked to a perky 20-ish blonde voter, who seemed delighted to meet a candidate.  Then with a confused smile, she sheepishly asked if Vop were Democrat or Republican.  When told Democrat, she got more confused.  When further informed that Vop's opponent was under felony investigation for voter fraud, she looked even more confused, and said, "But he's a Republican, isn't he?" as if that excused everything.  Stunned, we let her go on her confused path to the voting booth.  

Sadly, that young woman actually turned out to be typical for Hamilton County.  While Vop led the statewide candidates in Hamilton County, returns indicate the drop-off for White was small, perhaps 8%.  I am still stunned that any informed, intelligent voter could or would vote for a potential felon to safeguard their elections, and that party label was all that mattered for far too many.  

But conversely, I also spoke to many Republican precinct workers, probably the most involved people in their party, who did NOT vote for Charlie White, but voted for one of the other two candidates.  They put principle and facts first, and should be commended.  But they seem to be a tiny fraction of the whole.

Lest anyone think this is a partisan diatribe, Democrats, buckle your seatbelts, you get it next. 

Some readers will already know the shameful story of the 5th District congressional race on the Democratic side in 2010.  An intelligent, articulate physician by the name of Nasser Hanna, midwest born and raised, and a Fishers resident, was preparing for a mighty battle against Dan Burton.  He raised money, criss-crossed the district many times, and made thousands of phone calls.  But he had a primary opponent, Tim Crawford, who was in fact no Democrat, but a Republican poll worker and Tea Party member.  Crawford raised no money, made no appearances prior to the primary.  Crawford won, handily.  His victory was attributed to ballot position and not-too-subtle racism.  After the primary, Crawford's sole campaign appearance, with the Hamilton County Democratic Women, went so badly for Crawford that he briefly promised to resign, then backed off that, never to be seen or heard from again.  Crawford remained on the ballot.

No Democratic leader that I know of would admit to voting for Crawford, and I certainly did not.  But while Democrats had no GOOD choices, Crawford was certainly not our choice.  Personally, I voted for the Libertarian candidate, feeling he was the only one in the race who actually had an intelligent thought.  But rank and file Democrats in Hamilton County appear to have voted in lock-step for Crawford, as his vote totals were nearly identical to the base party vote.  There was one exception.  An unknown voter in my home precinct wrote in, "A Real Democrat please".  Bless you my neighbor! 

I cry SHAME! on any Republican who voted for Charlie White and SHAME! again for any Democrat who voted for Tim Crawford.  You did not do your homework as voters.  You voted for party label with no clue as to what the candidate stood for, or what baggage he carried.  Those were ignorant, petty votes, and your party and your community will suffer for them.  Voters simply must do a better job of educating themselves and voting intelligently.  Party label is not enough, never has been, never will be.  

Friday, October 1, 2010

Charlie White saga continues

Indianapolis TV station WRTV-6 is reporting that the Hamilton County Prosecutor WILL ask for the appointment of a special prosecutor in the Charlie White voter fraud investigation.   The Channel 6 report is here:  As those who pay attention will note, I was the one who first called for this action, followed by Democratic State Chairman Dan Parker, and Democratic Secretary of State candidate Vop Osili. 

Additionally, several people have asked to see the map that I used to illustrate just how far outside of his district Charlie moved, which also illustrates how far he had to go from his real home to vote in the May 2010 primary.  Well, I only have it in PDF format, which I cannot figure out how to post here, and I don't know how to convert it, so unless someone can teach me how, you will just have to email me and ask for it. 

Charlie is now doubtless going to have to hire a criminal defense attorney, and this will lead to a huge distraction from his race for Secretary of State.  Also, the Town of Fishers is investigating the repercussions on its official actions.  

Much as Charlie and the Republican Party would love for this to be "no big deal" and go away, it just is NOT going away, but seems to get more and more serious every day.  I personally have spoken to many Republicans who will vote Democratic or Libertarian in order to show their distaste for Charlie's actions.  Good for them.  We don't need a law-breaker as a law-maker. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Law-breakers should not be law-makers

This week I have had occasion to expose some misdeeds of a local politician, not just for misconduct in his current office, but something so significant that it should disqualify him from holding any public office.

Of course, the politician is Charlie White, Hamilton County Republican Party chair, member of the Fishers Town Council, and Republican nominee for Secretary of State.  Mr. White moved out of his Town Council district, but claims he was unaware that he was out of his district.  Frankly, that notion (that White was ignorant of his own district) is preposterous for many reasons, not the least of which is that his new home is completely across town from his district, and also is the district of Council President Scott Faultless, with whom White has openly fought in the past, but also because White helped draw those districts.  He then served illegally, and was paid, for seven months.

As offensive as that seems, it is not the worst.  After he moved, White, who is an attorney, voted illegally in a precinct he did not live in, using a false voter registration at his ex-wife's address.  Even if White had an excuse for the other misconduct, does he expect anyone to believe that he did not know where he was at when he went to vote?  Does he think that we will not question his conduct?

No, the evidence is strong that he did this intentionally, so that he could hang onto office in his political base.  If it was intentional, then White may well be a felon.  Look at the following provision of the Indiana Code:

IC 3-14-2-11
Voting in other precincts
     Sec. 11. Except as provided by IC 3-10-10, IC 3-10-11, or IC 3-10-12, a person who knowingly votes or offers to vote in a precinct except the one in which the person is registered and resides commits a Class D felony.  (emphasis added)
Now, Charlie White is claiming that he did not realize when he moved the beginning of March 2010 that he  was outside of his district.  But when he voted 2 months later in the May primary, he knew for a certainty that he did not live at his ex-wife's address miles from his new home.  It is this near-certain knowledge that is of the most concern.  Other than that, this would probably be only a local matter, of not much concern in a statewide race.

But, Charlie White either knowingly broke the law, and thought he could get by with it because of his position, or he is the most ignorant, careless politician imaginable.  Either way, he broke the law.  Law-breakers should not be law-makers.  Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, independents, none of you should consider voting for this person.  There are other choices, chose someone to enforce our election laws who does not break them himself.  

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Myth of Fishers

One of the consistent themes brought forward by supporters of the Fishers Town Council is the claim that Fishers has the lowest property tax rates in Hamilton County and thus shows what a wonderful job they are doing, and/or how this shows how a "town" form of government, which has no elected Mayor, is superior to a City form of government, which of course does have popular election of a Mayor.

The problem is, it does not seem to be true.

At least according to a report of the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance, which has issued a report on local property tax rates for 2010.  That full report is available here:

Fishers has two different basic tax rates, one for the half of the city in Delaware Township (the half generally west of I-69) and Fall Creek Township (the east half).  For Delaware Township, the Fishers effective property tax rate for a homestead is 0.95%.  For Fall Creek Township, it is 1.01%. 

Ok, that doesn't sound too bad.  But compare to Carmel, with which Fishers' town leaders have had a running feud.  Carmel's homestead tax rate is 0.91%., LOWER than both Fishers' township rates.  Worse, from the viewpoint of Fishers Town Council President Scott Faultless, in the "All other property" category, which includes virtually all business property, Carmel comes in at 1.75% and Fishers - Fall Creek comes in higher at 2.07% and Fishers - Delaware comes still higher at 2.08%. 

Carmel and Fishers are similar in many ways, except for their form of government.  True, there are criticisms of Carmel for its large bond debt, but Fishers has a large bond debt as well, as do the schools of both communities.  Plus, as shown by a recent newspaper article, Carmel has about 3 times the assessed property value of Fishers, most of that business property, which lessens the tax impact of the building boom the City of Carmel is on.  Or perhaps having a single leader, a Mayor, is better at attracting businesses (which pay higher taxes) , than the leaderless Town of Fishers. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Note on causes of the current financial crisis

I will make some notes of my own, as an attorney who formerly was in-house counsel for a sub-prime lender, and who now represents lenders in foreclosure and bankruptcy cases. Being a Democrat, that gives me something of a unique perspective.

To my knowledge, government NEVER "caused" or otherwise gave incentives to lenders, esp. non-bank lenders, to make sub-prime or otherwise risky loans. That is a conservative urban myth. Lenders made such loans BECAUSE IT MADE THEM MONEY TO DO SO.

Prior to massive de-regulation which allowed insurance companies to become investment houses, hold mortgages, and also bet against them, all of the risk factors were separated, creating real market incentives to minimize risk. Along came deregulation, and the scene of insurance companies with excess capital deciding to become lenders (Conseco is one slightly non-apropos example). Risk evaluation went out the window with the discovery of marvelous tools of greed called derivatives. Then you had insurance on the derivatives (credit default insurance) and turned both of those into items that could be traded, mostly without regulation or even market oversight. Even derivatives were re-packaged into derivatives of derivatives, and NO ONE KNEW WHAT THEY WERE WORTH OR WHAT THE RISK WAS. In short, they were selling empty air, making valuable trade items out of bad loans with an unknown default rate.

It's more complex than that of course, but that gives an idea. To get a better notion, read the current best-seller "The Big Short". So, lenders could make any sort of bad loan, without documentation in many cases, and sell it for high value with no risk to themselves. It was the AIG's and Bear Stearns and Goldman Sachs of Wall Street that turned this into a global mess out of pure greed.

For the conservatives who are against any sort of government regulation of just about anything, the reality of this is their worst nightmare. Their dogma caused the current financial mess, and they cannot admit it, even to themselves.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The role of Democrats in Hamilton County

I have long-standing roots in Hamilton County, my great-great grandfather moved to the little crossroads of Baker's Corner in 1866. I know that Hamilton County is Republican territory, at least it always has been, and yet, I am an active Democrat. What does that mean for someone who lives in a traditionally Republican area?

I have met so many people, who said "I thought I was the only Democrat here!" And for a very long time, there has indeed been a sense of isolation for Democrats in Hamilton County, and a struggle for identity and acceptance, that yes, we too have something valuable to contribute to public life and public issues.

There are those of the "other" party who look in horror at us, as if we were men and women from Mars. Fortunately, those are few and far between. But they exist. They are shocked if a Democrat knocks on their door, or tries to offer them literature at the polls, or has the audacity to speak at a public meeting. To these folks, we Democrats are vermin, not quite human, not really fellow citizens who look at political questions a little differently.

Democrats and Republicans need to learn how to talk to each other for the public good.  This can be a problem when majority Republicans refuse to listen, simply because they are the majority and they think they don't have to listen.  Democrats then get angry, and sometimes say things they should not. 

To be sure, both parties can also have their little internal feuds.  The "famous" flying gavel incident in the Fishers Town Council a couple of years ago is one (link from YouTube available upon request) and some of the internal Republican feuds in Carmel are likewise entertaining.   Democrats sometimes have their little turf wars as well, especially when people forget that a minority party has to stick together to even try to accomplish anything. 

One of the few bi-partisan efforts in Hamilton County is CityYes, the movement to move Fishers (population approx. 75,000 and the largest municipality in Hamilton County) from a "town" form of government to a "city".  Yours truely is the chair of that committee, website found at  Other officers of the committee range from quite conservative to moderate Republicans to independent.  All of us agree that becoming a City would benefit Fishers, especially in the area of planning and business development.  But this irks supporters of the current town structure, some of whom can be quite unpleasant.  There are even some prominent Republicans who would publically support this movement, but for the venom and bile which would be heaped on them by some of their fellow Republicans (not a majority), so they remain largely in the background for the moment. 

CityYes is an excellent example of how Democrats and Republicans can work together in common cause for the public good.  But that very bi-partisanship makes some people a little crazy.  "Don't tell people you are a Democrat, or they won't support you!" a few say, fearing the reaction of the mean people, and ignoring that many of the supporters of CityYes are Republicans.  Frankly, Democrats could not get this passed on their own, even if all Democrats were behind it, which they are not, any more than all Republicans are opposed to it. 

Some Democrats are so afraid of even admitting that they are Democrats in Hamilton County that they vote Republican, giving a new meaning to the old term "RINO" - Republican in Name Only.   Other Democrats react with anger and bitterness at everything Republican, making them the counterparts of the Republicans who are the "venom and bile" people I referred to.  That is unacceptable in either party. 

President Obama in his campaign spoke often of the "politics of personal destruction", and lamented the same, stating correctly that we need to get away from those practices for the good of all.   He is totally correct.  But, the politics of personal destruction is alive and well in Hamilton County. 

That must change, for the good of the whole community. 

The author is the President of the Hamilton County Democratic Club and chair of CityYes PAC.  The opinions expressed are solely that of the author, and not those of those organizations, nor any other person, group, or political party.