Thursday, December 26, 2013


In a ruling dated December 23, 2013, the judge of the Hamilton Superior Court No. 2 has issued a 26-page ruling on Charlie White's Petition for Post-Conviction Relief, denying all of White's claims. White, a former member of the Fishers Town Council, bought a home outside of his Town Council district prior to his nomination as Republican Party candidate for Indiana Secretary of State, but changed his voter registration to his ex-wife's house located in his council district rather than his new Saxony home near Olio Road in Fishers.

A September 2010 news conference was conducted by me, revealing these facts and calling for appointment of a special prosecutor. Following appointment of two special prosecutors, a Hamilton County Grand Jury indicted White, then in office as Secretary of State, on 7 felony counts, including false voter registration and voting in the wrong precinct. White was later convicted by a jury of 6 of those 7 counts.

The current ruling is after months of legal maneuvering and testimony.   Most of White's claims were dismissed by the court, being nothing but a rehash of arguments which had been presented before and failed.  But the meat of White's arguments, resulting in considerable court testimony, was White's claim that his defense lawyer, former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, committed "ineffective assistance of counsel" by not putting on certain witnesses.

The Judge, in reviewing the witnesses that White claims he wanted to put on, including both his current and former wives and a convicted felon as "expert", found that there were serious issues with the testimony of each of those witnesses and their credibility which made Brizzi's decision not to put them on the witness stand reasonable.

I will not rehash the entire decision, but here it is:  White PCR ruling

White now has to consider whether or not to appeal this ruling, or begin serving his sentence, which is home detention, probation, a fine, and 30 hours of community service.

Hopefully, this will put this story to an end.  But it continues to be an object lesson in the arrogance of some of those in power, particularly in one-party communities, where some feel that they can do whatever they wish with impunity.
UPDATE 12/31/13:  White's attorney has filed a Notice of Appeal and a Motion to Stay Execution of Sentence.  The case will now return to the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Friday, November 22, 2013

John F. Kennedy - a Remembrance from 50 years ago today

50 years ago today - November 22, 1963.  I was sitting in Miss McGowan's 6th grade class at Meridian School in Kokomo, Indiana.  Second row from the window, next to last seat, that is how well I remember this day.  Our principal, Mr. George Dunbar, came into the class looking white as a ghost.  He whispered something to Miss McGowan, who was visibly shaken.  He then announced "The President has been shot."  Gasps, but cheers from one boy a couple rows over, quickly subdued by threats of immediate violence from other students.  I was sent to a basement storage room to get an old radio and copper wire to use as a ground and antenna.  We set that up, and listed to Walter Cronkite.  I recall so clearly Cronkite's voice as he announced that the President had died.  Very few events in my life have moved me so strongly.  Rest in Peace, John F. Kennedy, you were taken from us far too soon.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Strange Bedfellows and Stranger Taxes

It has been said that politics makes strange bedfellows.  And this was never clearer locally than in the last two weeks, when I spoke at two public hearings against the proposed Fishers 1% food and beverage sales tax.  Also opposing the new tax were a wide variety of residents from all parts of the political spectrum, Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, and even Tea Party.  I had a young man from a Tea Party group re-tweeting my Twitter posts from last night's meeting, and yes, we found ourselves completely on the same side on this issue.

Even odder, the majority of the Fishers Town Council seems determined to enact this new tax no matter what residents say.   Council President John Weingardt made a strongly-worded statement in support of the new tax.  He cited property tax reduction, not economic development, as his reason.  This is despite the fact that some residents, notably renters, would not benefit from property tax reduction, minimal at best, but would pay the new higher sales tax.

Former Council President Scott Faultless also made a strong statement in support of the new tax, but dismissed property tax relief and cited economic development as the reason for the new tax.  Faultless claimed, without specifics, that Fishers needs the new tax to land a proposed $100 million new development that needs $25 million in new infrastructure.  Faultless did not specify how a new tax raising $1 million a year would pay for $25 million in infrastructure, or why capital improvement bonds, the usual vehicle for such improvements, could not be used.

And I did something unusual, I praised Council member Stuart Easley for making a very honest and candid remark at last week's public hearing.  Easley said that the new tax would be "one more tool in the economic development toolbox", which means there is no specific reason for it, they just want the money.  Easley also claimed he has consistently opposed such a tax in the past, but is undecided this time.

The only council member who is strongly opposed is Renee Cox, who is also running for Mayor.  Another Mayor candidate, another former council president, Walt Kelly, is also opposed.  A third Mayor candidate, town manager Scott Fadness, has made no statement of which I am aware and is in a very awkward spot on this issue as a town employee.  Some believe it may have been Fadness' advice to the council that they ask the General Assembly for this power.  It should be noted that several members of the council majority are openly supporting Fadness for Mayor, notably Pete Peterson and John Weingardt.

The upshot is that not only can the council majority not identify how the new tax would be used, they cannot even agree on WHY it should be adopted, or if it should be used for "economic development" - a term that could mean almost anything - or for property tax reduction, by substituting one tax for another.  The council has rejected a similar tax in the past, and should do so again.

This tax will come to a vote at the council meeting on December 2.  If you want your voice heard, and few enough have spoken out, you can write, email, or call the members of the Town Council before then.  And if they ignore your wishes, vote them out when they seek re-election next year.  After all, this would not be the first time the majority of the council has been on opposite sides from the public on a major local issue.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Fishers Considering a New Tax

The Fishers Town Council is considering enacting a new 1% tax on food and beverage sold in Fishers.  The reason given is to raise about $1 million a year for economic development.

However, this is already raising controversy.  Fishers apparently asked the General Assembly to give them this power, leaving open who is behind this and why.  Fishers proposed budget for next year is about $80 million.   The Fishers Chamber of Commerce is saying they support this, but some local bar and restaurant owners are not happy. And Town Council member and announced Mayoral candidate Renee Cox has issued a statement today that she opposes adoption of this tax.  The other two candidates for Mayor are not known to have issued any public statements yet.

There will be a public hearing devoted to just this issue next Tuesday night, November 12, at 7:00 p.m. in Town Hall.  Any resident of Fishers may attend and be heard.

While I have not made a final decision on this myself, I tend to be opposed.  Frankly, I have not heard a good rationale for this tax.  There are no details at all about how this would be spent.  Would it end up being a slush fund for whatever the Town/City government wants?  And who decided to ask the state legislature for this special authority in the first place?

Details, details, the devil is in the details.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Corruption, Slander, or Rumor

A story in the Indianapolis Business Journal, (link here) about the announcement of Scott Fadness, current Fishers Town Manager, to be the first Mayor of Fishers, quickly turned into something else in the "comments" section.

A poster only identified as "Jen" posted the following:

Fadness has almost raised $100,000 because he, John Weingardt (Fishers Council President) and Pete Peterson (Fishers Council VP) have been forcing vendors to donate to their PACs. The vendors have been told that if they do not PAY then they will not be allowed to PLAY in Fishers!!! If you do not believe me, look at Fadness's campaign finance reports. Almost all vendors that do or want to do business in Fishers. Really, is that what our Town has become?!!

However, as an attorney, there is almost nothing in here which, if true, the authorities could use to investigate. What vendor?  When did this "force" happen? Who made that communication?  Was it just in a fundraising letter, or in person?  Details, details, there are no details.

The implication here is that vendors are being told they MUST contribute to a certain PAC (Political Action Committee) to do business with Fishers.  If so, that could well be a crime, extortion.  If this is just vendors feeling as if they SHOULD contribute to get alone with the "powers that be", that may be a political issue, but probably is not a crime.   I referred to this in one of my most popular blog posts in April 2011, "Is  Fishers for Sale?".

But if this poster is just repeating what he or she heard, or is escalating that for political reasons to make an accusation of a crime?  You might want to see a good lawyer.  Accusing someone of a crime, without good reason, could well get you sued for what is called slander (or libel) per se.   

Or the poster could just be reporting rumor.  Or someone else is anonymously trying to start trouble.  That is dirty tricks, disreputable but not illegal.

IF I knew that this was true, with PROVABLE FACTS, then something might happen.  But you have to have the "Who, What, When, Where, and Why".  As most people know, I have turned in at least one politician about whom I had actual evidence that a crime appeared to have been committed, and let the legal system take its course.  But at this point, the accusations are just that, without even the slimmest facts to investigate.

Do local politicos, especially incumbents, solicit vendors?  Yes, and as I said, I have criticized them for it.  At the very least, it puts the vendors in a tough spot, and at worst, well then you get the kind of accusations "Jen" has made.  There have long been rumors of "Pay to Play" politics in Hamilton County, but never hard evidence.  And as a lawyer, I am all about the evidence.  Particularly when you accuse someone of breaking the law.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

New Fishers Downtown: A Disconnnect

The Town of Fishers is building a new downtown.  The first stage of that has been to cut down mature trees decades old in front of Town Hall and adjacent to the post office, in preparation for construction of a mixed-use residential and retail building.

I hear two completely different discussions on this project.  Town employees and insiders all love the idea. But pretty much every ordinary citizen I have spoken with disagrees with it in varying intensity, all the way to outrage.  Let's take a look at this particular project, and the disconnect between town government and citizens.

Town leaders think this is "economic development".  Having been largely unable to land large employers (Geico and 1000 new jobs went to Carmel when Fishers was trying to land them), town staff seems determined to "play small ball" to use a sports metaphor.  They want the new downtown to appeal to younger professionals who can afford an somewhat upscale apartment near government, retail, and food venues.  This has been referred to as a "work live play" theme for millennials.

So they basically gave public green space to a developer to do the first stage.  And the second and subsequent stages will proceed east to Lantern Road, where the Fishers Redevelopment Commission, headed by Wayne Crane (former head of Reorganize Fishers, the merger plan that was defeated badly at the polls last year) is quietly buying up private property.

But literally every single private citizen I have spoken with hates this.  I don't know if they are just resisting change, or if they feel that everything is rammed down their throats, or what, but they are upset.  All of these people claim the first they knew anything about this was when the trees were being cut down.

But the Town DID hold public meetings on this plan, it has not been a secret.  And there is the problem. What the Town does just does not penetrate the public awareness prior to a decision being made.  They can post it on the Town web page, and publish it in "Town Talk", but this is not enough to connect with most people.  I have a suspicion that most issues of "Town Talk" go directly to the trash bin unread.

Local government frankly has done a BAD job of involving citizens.  They just go do their thing.  The elected officials mostly don't care enough, because it is so enormously difficult to replace them.  And they tend to live in an "echo chamber" of other insiders who repeat what they want to hear, without talking to John Q. Citizen who has a busy life, who often thinks something quite different.

The challenge here is mutual. Local government MUST do a better job of citizen involvement, somehow.  I note they have hired Dan Domsic, late of the Current in Fishers, as "community outreach coordinator".  I wish him well, he has some big challenges.  BUT, citizens MUST do a better job of learning what government is up to, what it plans to do, how it plans to pay for it, and get involved to make their voices heard.  Many don't care enough, and don't even vote in local elections.

And that is a huge part of the disconnect between Town Hall and citizens.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Fishers: Scandals, issues and stories

The community of Fishers is approaching an historic milestone:  Its first-ever city election and its first Mayor. But as we sort through the transition to a city, we might do well to think about some things that have happened in the last few years.  Some of them may continue to be issues, some not, but all are cause for reflection.   So, in no particular order:

1.  Council districts.  Council members have self-dealt for their own advantage for years in drawing council districts.  If they moved out of the district, they redrew the district lines.  There were two notable instances of this, starting with....

2.  The strange case of Scott Faultless' Geist home.  About 2005, it was said that then-council president Scott Faultless had moved into a fancy new house adjoining the south shore of Geist Lake.  The problem was, that property was not in the town limits of Fishers, and there were no adjoining connections to the town as required by state law.  In a very sudden, and strange, move by the Town Council, they annexed 4 different parcels, INCLUDING THE LAKE BED, and then Faultless' home.  Then they redistricted to include it.  That home was the only Geist home for years that was "in Fishers".  People still mutter that if this wasn't illegal, it should have been.  It certainly was bending the rules for power's sake.    And even stranger....

3.  The never-ending case of Charlie White.  In September 2010, it was revealed (by me) that Town Council member Charlie White did not live in his Delaware Township council district as required by law, but had moved all the way across town to Saxony.  White resigned, admitted he "made a few mistakes, I will learn from this" and thought no big deal, after all he was a member of the Fishers Town Council and the GOP candidate for Secretary of State.  However, the Hamilton County Prosecutor asked for and got two special prosecutors to investigate possible criminal charges.  In the meantime, White was elected Indiana Secretary of State.  After assuming that office, a Hamilton County Grand Jury indicted White on felony charges, and White started changing his story.  White would ultimately be convicted of 6 felonies, including vote fraud and perjury, and was removed from office.  He is currently trying to overturn his convictions, by attacking his defense attorney as incompetent, former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, who is himself under investigation.

4.  City Council districts.  State law requires the current Town Council to draw the new City Council districts.  Unlike the at-large nature of the Town Council, there will be 6 real neighborhood districts and 3 seats at large.  But the Council has not yet acted, and has rejected suggestions for citizen involvement in drawing the districts.  Given their history of self-dealing (there is a LOT more than stated above!), it would be a REALLY great idea if they did this.

5.  Geist annexation.  Starved for a tax base due to the "bedroom" nature of Fishers, the Faultless-led council decided to annex the Geist area as a source of new tax revenue.  Geist residents were not happy.  Faultless, never one to pass up an opportunity to make enemies, started spewing lies about Geist that they did not "pay their fair share", called them "freeloaders" and worse, all of which was funny, as much of Geist existed prior to Fishers' explosive growth.  Instead of finding a "win-win" way to bring them into Fishers, Faultless, with allies Stuart Easley and others, fought a scorched-earth campaign to annex, which they eventually won, state law being totally one-sided on this issue.  But Geist residents have not forgotten.

6.  The 2011 Council election.   Backed by a combination of people who were all unhappy with the council majority, the 2011 GOP Primary in May 2011 saw all but one contested seat for Town Council, unprecedented for Fishers, which normally had no contests at all. Geist United Opposition leader Pete Peterson narrowly beat a Faultless-Easley backed opponent in a Geist district, and Renee Cox upset incumbent Eileen Pritchard, also in a very tight race.    In the fall election, two Democrats sought a council seat and the clerk-treasurer's job, but were defeated by wide margins in a very low turnout election.

7.   The 2012 City referenda.  This was without a doubt the biggest political fight in the history of Fishers. Pro-City proponents had organized as "CityYes", a bi-partisan group, two years after I called for Fishers to become a City in January 2007.  After submitting petitions in May 2010 asking for a November 2010 vote, the Faultless-led council stalled, and came up with a "reorganization plan", with a committee chaired by prior Town Council President Walt Kelly, who is now a candidate for Mayor.  The Reorganization Plan would have merged Fishers and Fall Creek Township and resulted in a figurehead mayor appointed by the council. Outraged unincorporated citizens and pro-City Fishers residents banded together to defeat Town Hall's proposed Reorganization and turned Fishers into Indiana's newest City.  I personally am very proud of the significant role I played in this movement, and thank all the people who worked so hard to make it happen.

8.  Fishers lack of an adequate tax base.  This was talked about a lot during the 2012 referendum campaign. Fishers has a poor history of economic development, and has a real problem growing the business property base sufficiently, which hurts not only itself, but HSE schools as well.  Partly this is a lack of executive leadership, partly the "committee" nature of town government, and some other things, such as overuse of TIF districts (a long, boring, but important subject for economic development and local government finance). Carmel, the same size population as Fishers (just over 80,000) has TRIPLE the tax base of Fishers. Recently Carmel is landing large new employers while Fishers bleeds jobs.

9.  The 2014 Mayor's race.  This is just starting to get off the ground, but GOP candidates for Mayor are crawling out of the woodwork.   Some have announced, some not, but the named candidates at present are:

  • Walt Kelly, former Town Council president for over twenty years until he resigned and Scott Faultless took over;
  • Town Manager Scott Fadness;
  • Town Council member Renee Cox, the only council member who supported the change to a City;
  • Former Greenfield Mayor Brad DeReamer, who has announced for City Council, but also stated he might switch to the Mayor race.  
Have any comments or suggestions for additional columns?  Feel free to leave them here, on my Facebook page, or by email to  

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Citizen comment and involvement

One of the better things the Fishers Town Council does (and I have often been critical of them) is to hold regular council meetings in the evenings.  They also live stream the regular council meetings from the town website, and council minutes are also available in a pretty timely manner.

They do not however, routinely allow citizen comment on anything other than those things legally required to be open to public hearing, such as budgets and annexations.  Many other units of government DO allow, within reasonable limits, citizen comments.  Some even have a short "open mike" period for citizens to raise issues, or to praise something good.

As Fishers transitions from "town" to "city", I would urge the local government to be receptive to more citizen involvement and comment.  A good way to start would be the "open mike" suggestion, and citizen involvement in the transition to becoming a City, such as citizens being involved in drawing the new council districts, something the current council members are WAY too personally interested in.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Charlie White sues Carl Brizzi

According to this article in The Indiana Lawyer just published, defrocked Secretary of State Charlie White has sued the attorney who defended him in his vote fraud trial, former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, alleging legal malpractice.

It should be recalled that Brizzi rested the defense without presenting witnesses, a common defense tactic used to test the legal sufficiency of the State's case.  The jury convicted White of 6 out of 7 felony charges, and he appealed.  However, White later dropped the appeal, pursuing instead a "post conviction relief" action in Hamilton County alleging ineffective assistance of counsel and selective prosecution.  That matter is scheduled to be heard August 15th.

Brizzi has recently been the subject of another malpractice suit by a high-profile client who was a public officeholder (as stated in the article) plus he has been implicated in a bribery charge by his former deputy, David Wyser, who is under Federal charges and has reached an agreement to testify against Brizzi.

It is not known at this time how Brizzi's problems will help White in his efforts to get his felony convictions overturned.  One of the issues that keeps popping up in my mind is that White, also an attorney, would have had to agree to Brizzi's strategy of not putting on witnesses.  But we will see how that plays out in Court.

The never-ending saga of Charlie White.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Thoughts on marriage equality

I have had a day to try to digest yesterday's U.S. Supreme Court rulings on the subject of marriage equality, and I want to share a few thoughts.

First, the Supreme Court most carefully did NOT fully-legalize same-sex marriage.  What it DID do is state that all marriages recognized by the several states are created equal, for the purpose of Federal taxation and other benefits.  To be sure, the majority opinion authored by Justice Kennedy (a moderate-to-conservative judge, if you believe in labels) did use "equal protection" language that might be referenced in future debates and litigation about same-sex marriage.

The Court did inch slightly towards full legalization in the California Proposition 8 case, by letting the trial court decision that the Prop 8 ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional stand.  But that is of zero legal weight, except if you live in California.

There are a ton of thorny legal issues raised by the incremental nature of yesterday's rulings.  If two lesbians get married in New York (which recognizes gay marriage) and move to Alabama (which does not) are they married under Alabama law?  Under Federal law?  Both?  Neither? (I have to give credit, this was raised by Justice Scalia in his rant, pardon, "dissent" to the DOMA ruling.)  And the equal protection part of Justice Kennedy's reasoning will lead to further legal challenges on that ground against states that ban same-sex marriage.

If I had to predict, I would expect within the next decade, that marriage will be between any two consenting adults. As as a hetero male of advancing years who has lived his whole life in Indiana, that is how it should be.  The State has no business telling anyone who they can love and commit to.  Nor is it the right of our neighbors to take that right away, no matter what their personal beliefs.

Friday, May 31, 2013

TIF Districts: Part I, What is a TIF district?

There has been a lot of debate recently in many communities over something intended as an economic development tool, called "TIF Financing" or "TIF Districts".  This is a debate that has raged in Carmel, Indianapolis, and more recently, Fishers.

But what is this thing called "TIF"?  That is an abbreviation for "Tax Increment Financing".   Basically, the appropriate element of government in charge of economic development establishes a "TIF District", that is supposedly in need of either economic development, or re-development.  It was originally intended for blighted areas, but the actual use has expanded far beyond urban blight.

The way it works, is say ABC Developer wants to build a $50 million dollar project, but they want help from the local government as an incentive to build in an particular community, or area of the community.  The local government can sell bonds to help the developer.  These bonds are repaid by the taxes on the increased value of the TIF district, above what the base value was prior to the development.  In fact, the taxes on the increased property value go ONLY for repayment of that debt, until it is retired.

And that is one of the controversial issues with TIF Districts.  In this case, economic development DOES NOT ADD TO THE TAX BASE, and doesn't go to other units of government that depend on the tax base, such as schools.  And many of those bond issues are pretty long-term.  So if TIFs are over-used, one of the negative side effects is to harm school financing.

Complicated, isn't it?  And the Town of Fishers has actually posted a pretty good short brochure about TIF financing, which you can get here:

As communities compete for economic development, TIFs are one of the tools they use.  But they can be quite controversial.  An IBJ article this week shows the strong arguments that have arisen in Carmel over use of economic development incentives in general, and TIFs in particular.   Similar arguments have waged for some time in Indianapolis, and are of more recent discussion in Fishers, which will be the subject of a future article in this series.

So what is the proper role of government in using incentives for economic development, and TIF districts in particular?  There are many differing views, and some of those will be explored in this series.  I hope this provides food for thought in readers concerned about their community's development.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Susan Brooks challenged by Tea Party

Recently, Carmel businessman David Stockdale announced he would seek the Fifth District Congressional seat currently held by freshman Representative Susan Brooks (R-Carmel).   Stockdale's candidacy is being openly promoted on the Indiana Tea Party's Facebook page.

What is remarkable about this is that in reality, it is impossible to find a member of Congress further right than Susan Brooks.  She has voted the GOP party line on 157 of 158 votes, 99.4% of the time.  This is despite her constituents telling her during the election last year that they wanted her to work across party lines to solve problems in Washington.  But the reality is, in her short time in Congress, she has not done what the voters who spoke to her expected.

So WHY is the Tea Party challenging Brooks?  They cannot possibly object to her voting record.  Perhaps it is her relative silence in parroting Tea Party rhetoric.  Or her willingness to actually have a dialogue with those with whom she disagrees.  Brooks recently met with a women's group who advocates more and better gun background checks for example.  But Brooks has an "A" rating from the NRA, which is violently opposed to such checks.  Curious.

A note, I also saw a sign for "Lugar for Congress", meaning Fishers realtor Jack Lugar, who ran in the last cycle as well.  Is this a sign of another wide-open GOP primary in 2014?  Time will tell.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Do Hamilton County voters care about local issues?

Yesterday, voters went to the polls in the Noblesville and Hamilton Southeastern School districts to vote on approval of bond issues, and accompanying tax increases to pay for them.  One would think, given the passion often shown for school activities, that this would have large-scale voter involvement and high turnout at the polls.  Right?


Voter turnout yesterday was a meager 10.4% of the eligible voters.  Only 10,547 souls out of a possible 101,390 bothered to cast a ballot.

Given the issues, borrowing tens of millions of dollars and resulting in higher property taxes, one would expect, regardless of position, that interest would be high.  But it was not.  Obviously.  Worse, the two political parties struggled to fill poll worker positions.  In my own experience, more than half the usual workers that I recruit in Fall Creek Township declined for one reason or another.

Sadly, this is not new.  In the 2011 municipal elections, only 15.85% of eligible voters participated in the fall election.  Since many offices went with light or no opposition due to the one-party dominance in Hamilton County, one would think the primary at least would have had a high turnout.

Wrong again.  Primary turnout in 2011, despite some hotly-contested races, was only 14.62%.

And here are some more depressing turnout figures from past local elections:

  • 2009 HSE Schools referendum, 18.46%
  • 2007 municipal elections, 20.20% (much of that in Carmel, where every race was contested)
  • 2003 municipal elections, 24%
Not only do people not appear to care, it appears to be getting worse.  And I don't have a clue what to do about it.  This is a pretty affluent, and well-educated county.  People should care, and get involved.  But few enough do, and the others watch, or not.   

Not good enough.  There are more reasons than I can list to pay attention, get involved, and vote.  But people are NOT paying attention to the government closest too them.  That is sad, and bad for us all.  

Monday, February 25, 2013

Charlie White, Yet Again

Long-time readers of this blog will recall a number of posts from the beginning of the Charlie White saga, but not in the last year.

To refresh the memory, Charlie White, then a Fishers Town Councilman, was in 2010 the GOP nominee for Indiana Secretary of State.  But in September 2010, a certain attorney/blogger/activist (me) held a news conference on the steps of the Fishers Town Hall revealing that Mr. White did not live where he was registered to vote, and that his new residence was ... oops... outside of his Fishers council district.

White promptly resigned from the Town Council, claiming he had made a "few mistakes", and that he would learn from those mistakes, at least tacitly admitting that the "residential boo-boo" was correct.   White's Democratic opponent Vop Osili (now a member of the Indianapolis City-County Council) did his best to make political hay out of this, but to no avail, White was elected Secretary of State by a large margin.

But this was not the end.  There were election contests and political maneuvering galore.  Then a bomb dropped.  The Hamilton County Prosecutor asked for, and got, two special prosecutors appointed to investigate White.  After White and his family testified before a Grand Jury, he was indicted on seven felony counts, from voter registration fraud, to voting in the wrong precinct, to perjury, to mortgage fraud.

At the end of January and beginning of February 2012, White went to trial in Hamilton County.  A jury of his peers found him guilty on 6 of 7 counts, and under Indiana law, he was no longer Secretary of State.  White filed an appeal, but oddly, a few months ago he dropped his appeal, claiming he would file a "post conviction relief" motion in the trial court, before Judge Steve Nation, who heard the original case.  Supposedly, White would claim "ineffective assistance of counsel" against his former friend, former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, who used the common defense tactic of not putting on witnesses, in order to challenge the sufficiency of the State's case.  Or perhaps, just maybe, Brizzi knew something we don't about what that "evidence" would be, and could not ethically put it forward.

But, as of right now, White has never filed that motion.  So the special prosecutors filed a Motion to compel White to begin serving his sentence, which was mainly home detention and a fine.  White's new lawyer promptly sought to depose several people, including a couple of real estate people, White's ex-wife's current husband, and the State Police detective who worked on the case.  The prosecutors have opposed those depositions.

Judge Nation is going to have to sort all of that out.  But why, would you ask, is White fighting a home detention sentence, when he could have gotten jail time?  That is a pretty easy answer.  White is an attorney, and it is pretty unlikely that the Indiana Supreme Court would allow him to practice as a convicted felon.  White's law license is currently suspended.  White has to defeat those felony charges, or he may never practice law again.

White was investigated, tried, and convicted in a Republican county where he was the Republican chairman, before two juries who presumably would lean in his direction politically, and tried and sentenced by a Republican judge who was a former prosecutor.  So did White get a fair shake?  Absolutely.  But we will have to see what the latest legal proceedings will bring.  A scheduling conference is currently set for February 27th, so stay tuned.  The saga continues.
UPDATE 3/7/13:  Judge Nation has set a formal hearing on post-conviction relief for August 15, 2013.  This is despite the fact that the docket does not show that White's attorney has yet filed a motion for post-conviction relief.  The saga continues.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Deadlock? Or differences?

People complain about deadlock in Washington, with Republicans controlling the House and Democrats holding the Senate and the White House.  It seems that the two parties agree on nothing and are largely incapable of compromise.

And it is true, the parties seem more polarized than in a very long time.  It HAS been worse in the past, notably the period leading up to the election of 1860 and an unpleasant time known as the Civil War. That time too reflected two wildly different views of society and the role of government, so that compromise, the lifeblood of governance, became impossible.

But are these simply the rough-and-tumble of two parties contesting for power?  Or are these more deeply-held beliefs?   Perhaps some of both.  But at the national, and perhaps the state level, it does seem that the parties hold totally different philosophies of government, how it should operate, and whom it should serve.

  • Democrats believe in the greatest good for the greatest number.  Republicans say they believe that too, but only if it benefits corporations and the wealthy, whom they call "job creators".
  • Democrats believe that government belongs to all citizens and should serve all of us.  Republicans believe that benefits for wealthy elites benefit all of us, eventually.
  • Many Republicans believe in being armed to the teeth, with any and all weapons a person can afford.  A lot of Democrats like guns too, for hunting, target shooting, and home defense, but don't believe in armed anarchy.  
  • Democrats believe that women should make their own reproductive choices, and that abortion is a personal moral decision, not that of the government.  Republicans believe government should prohibit women from making these choices.  (The reversal of the usual roles in what government should and should not do is ironic, and noted at length by many). 
  • Democrats believe in a higher tax structure for the wealthy and lower for the middle class, or a progressive tax structure.  Republicans complain that the wealthy pay too many taxes, and the poor too few.  
  • Democrats believe in making voting easy.  Republicans believe in making voting hard for people they don't agree with, under the pretense of "preventing voter fraud".  Unless of course it is one of their own caught committing vote fraud.  

I could go on and on.  And there IS more than a little sarcasm here.  Not all Republicans, nor all Democrats, believe all of these things, either way.   But there is more than sufficient truth that these ARE the kind of differences that make compromise so hard in Washington.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Yet another business leaves Fishers

Yet another in a recent string of businesses leaving Fishers has been announced.  Keihin North America has announced that it is leaving the Crosspoint Office Park in Fishers and relocating its headquarters to Anderson. Their corporate announcement is here:

The Fishers Town Manager and Town Council's major recent initiative has been the "downtown" redevelopment, which features the somewhat controversial idea of placing apartments and retail shops in the green space in front of Town Hall.

It seems to have escaped their attention that "economic development" means moving businesses and jobs INTO Fishers, not out.  Economic development is something the Town has sorely lacked, leading it to have only about one-third the assessed property value of neighboring Carmel.  Further, the new downtown would not add to the tax base in any meaningful way, as it would be supported by bonds paid for by a new TIF (tax increment financing), which dedicates the increased property tax revenue of the area into paying off the bonds, not to the general public treasury.  

Perhaps the Town administration should work on filling in the considerable amount of vacant space for business development by attracting businesses to USA Parkway and the Exit 5 Office Park.  These areas are in the geographic heart of Fishers, with interstate access.  Since business property pays three times the property tax rate of residential property, that seems the best way to grow the tax base and create jobs in Fishers.  

Whether or not the recent election of new leadership on the Town Council will change this direction in a positive way has yet to be seen.  Time will tell, and doubtless will have an impact on the 2015 election for the first Mayor of Fishers.  

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Future of Hamilton County Democrats

I have given this some thought recently based on the results of the last few elections, and comments made to me by fellow Hamilton County Democrats.  While our numbers continue to increase, the stark fact is that we are a minority party in Hamilton County, holding no county offices and no offices in any of the major cities of the county, Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, or Westfield.  In fact, we struggle to put candidates on the ballot.  I don't remember the last time a Democrat ran for a county office other than judge.  When we do get candidates to run, usually for city or township office, the county Democratic Party gives no official support, because they have no support to give.

So here are some thoughts on where we go from here.

1.  We MUST fill precinct committeeperson spots.  And those people need to be "community organizers" for their neighborhoods, not just people who fill precinct election worker spots twice a year.

2.  We must have a regular and ongoing fundraising system.  There are between 35,000 and 50,000 people willing to vote for the right Democratic candidate, couldn't we average $1 per year from these voters?  No money means the party has no resources to support candidates.

3.  Once fundraising is established, obtain and staff a county headquarters, where candidates and activists can work and hold meetings.

4.  Improve communications.  And this should be not only from the county chairman to the precinct committeepersons, but to all active supporters, and in the other direction, from the grassroots up.

5.  Hold regular meetings.  If nothing else, make these organizational brainstorming sessions.

6.  Give grassroots volunteers something to do!  Hold an event just to be holding an event.  Hold regular phonebanking to support ongoing fundraising. Have a pitch-in dinner.

7.  Grassroots training for precinct committeepeople and other activists.  Teach them how to reach out to their neighbors with the Democratic message.

8.  Put candidates on the ballot, even if the odds seem long.  This is a tough one.  A lot of qualified folks are reluctant to put their names on the ballot when they know the odds are long.  But the Libertarians do a better job of this than we do, and they are a tiny fraction of our numbers.

Some of these suggestions are for the county party leadership.  Some are for the grassroots rank-and-file.  And this is certainly not an exhaustive list of all that could, or should, be done.  But with party reorganization coming up in March, this is absolutely the time to have a discussion about this and other issues.