Friday, September 04, 2015

Three Colts Fans Injured By Falling Debris At Lucas Oil Stadium


Something went wrong when stadium officials decided to open Lucas Oil Stadium's retractable roof at last night's pre-season game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Fans heard a loud popping noise before objects began raining down on fans below. The Capital Improvement Board confirmed three fans were injured by falling debris, two of whom were transported to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The Capital Improvement Board released the following statement regarding the incident:
“With approximately two minutes remaining at half time at the Indianapolis Colts vs. Cincinnati Bengals game this evening at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, there was an occurrence with the movement of the retractable roof. The roof was in process of being opened for the second half of the preseason game. A bolt from the fixed structure sheared and dropped into seating section 248 (located in the northwest corner of the lower seating bowl). Once the stadium authorities were notified, the movement of the roof was stopped immediately.
On-site medical personnel deemed all injuries to be non-life threatening. One female and one male were attended to by I.U. Health medical personnel and then transported to a local hospital for further evaluation. The third person was a male who was treated and released on site.”

Now CIB officials release a statement saying a full roof inspection by experts is being performed to ensure fan safety:
"The Capital Improvement Board and the appropriate contractors are assessing the causes of the incident during the roof operation at last night’s preseason game," reads a statement released on behalf of Barney Levengood, executive director of the Capital Improvement Board. "The safety of everyone who attends and works events at Lucas Oil Stadium is our top priority. Once the full inspection of the roof has been completed, more information will be made available."

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Star Columnist Tries And Fails Badly To Sell Me On Blue Indy

The Indianapolis Star recently brought on board a new columnist to take the place of Erika Smith. Suzette Hackney finds her way to Indianapolis from Detroit by way of Cleveland just like Smith, and her commentary is just as head-scratching as Smith's proved to be during her short tenure at The Star. Hackney discredited herself in an earlier column on the issue of Blue Indy when she chastised folks who have problems with the fact that our mayor illegally awarded the French company with a 15-year monopoly on the right to offer electric car sharing services in Indianapolis, along with public assets reaching well into the tens of millions of dollars to subsidize its operations.

Today she pens a column ostensibly for the purpose of selling Indianapolis residents on the value of the service after she took one of the cars for a spin on its inaugural day this week. After reading about her experience, there's little she had to convey about her experience that would entice anyone to want to run out and rent one. She begins by telling us about how convenient and easy it was for her to sign up for the service online at home, which she says took her about twenty minutes. But when she attempted to reserve a car to rent at a charging station nearest to her home, she learned she couldn't do it. That's when she learned after waiting around a few hours and trying again later that she could only enroll to use the service by driving to one of two locations downtown where there are kiosks.

So Hackney has to get in her car, drive downtown, find a parking space near one of the two kiosks and find out why she couldn't reserve a car from home. When she entered the kiosk to enroll, she was directed by an ambassador for Blue Indy, who helped her connect via a video Internet connection to another ambassador in Paris, France to assist her in enrolling for the service. The ambassador required her to repeat the entire process she spent twenty minutes at home earlier in the day doing while stood in a kiosk in the sweltering heat. Finally, she says Jorge (the ambassador) helped her secure the membership card she required to rent a Blue Indy car.

As she proceeded to run several errands with a Blue Indy car, she watched as the meter clicked ticking away at 40 cents per minute. Because the cars are electric and make no noise, she said a feature that's supposed to cause the car to chirp so pedestrians and bicyclists know your car is approaching them was not functioning. When she attempted to listen to the car's radio, there was a ticking noise that sounded louder than the music, another glitch that was yet to be worked out in the car.

Surprisingly, Hackney was pleased with the service. Not even the shock of a $72 bill after only three hours of use seemed to bother her. "Overall, the BlueIndy experience is just what I expected it to be — a convenient, green and relatively inexpensive way to make short trips around town," she wrote. "I had the car for nearly three hours, and it cost me $72." Ouch! "Most folks wouldn’t or shouldn’t keep the car that long — it’s not meant to be a long-term rental option," she added. "New transportation technology has arrived in Indy, and even on the first day was mostly at its finest," she concluded. Where in the hell does Gannett find these people?

Jury Finds Ex-Colts Player Not Guilty Of Rape

Josh McNary
Marion County prosecutors charged Indianapolis Colts linebacker Josh McNary with rape, criminal confinement and battery against a woman who accompanied him to his downtown apartment last December. Today, a jury found him not guilty on all counts after deliberating for no more than two hours. The Colts placed McNary on leave under the NFL's exempt list as soon as it learned of the charges against him last January, which prohibited him from playing or practicing with the team. It's unclear where his career in the NFL goes after this.

Council Members Outfoxed By Ballard Administration On Corrupt Vision Fleet Agreement

So much for the role our Indianapolis City-County Council members play in protecting the public from a corrupt mayor intent on entering into one-sided agreements with political cronies that cost city taxpayers dearly. The council took Mayor Ballard's administration to court after it learned it had illegally entered into a no-bid, 7-year, $32 million contract with Vision Fleet, a company that didn't exist before the signing of the agreement more than a year ago, to lease a fleet of electric and hybrid vehicles that are ill-suited for many city employees, including public safety officers, who were expected to drive them and figure out how they could re-charge them at their homes without burning their houses down. The council's attorney laid out a very compelling legal argument that the contract was void at the moment it was entered into because so many state and local public bidding rules were ignored.

This week, the council and the administration announced they had reached an agreement with Vision Fleet under which the City would not purchase the 213 remaining cars left to be purchased under the agreement under the terms of the 7-year lease agreement without putting the opportunity out for bid under the normal bidding requirements for leasing vehicles. The administration ran out and leased close to a hundred more of the 212 cars the City has now taken possession of after the council challenged the legality of the 7-year lease agreement. The same day the Mayor's office announced it has reached a formal agreement with the council to end the litigation it filed to have the lease declared null and void, the City put out for bid a four-year lease agreement for the remaining 213 cars, the bids for which are due back within thirty (30) days on October 2, 2015.
RFP-14DPW-598  Four (4) Year Term Contract to provide an Electric Vehicle Program to the Consolidated City of Indianapolis - Marion County, through the Indianapolis Department of Public Works, Fleet Services Division.
Due Date: 10/2/2015 at 12:00 Noon (EST) - Buyer: Wendy Thanisch (Wendy.Thanisch@indy.gov
Questions Due: 9/23/2015 at 12:00 Noon (EST)
Since Vision Fleet already has the existing contract, albeit illegal, you can bet that no other company will have the ability to meet the specifications set out in the bid requirements on such short notice and Vision Fleet will wind up just bidding against itself. The discussion the council insisted was needed to determine which city agencies and employees were suited for using electric and hybrid vehicles was never had and how this contract will impact IMPD's ability to hire additional police officers the public was told would be hired with the monies raised from the 10% local income tax increase never occurred. That's to say nothing of the civil and criminal liability of members of the Ballard administration that our city council members seemed to casually sweep away after all of the bluster we heard from them earlier when they first learned of this corrupt deal.

Isn't it true the administration is already reneging on budget commitments to hire the new police officers promised by this latest tax increase just like happened the last time we raised income taxes by 65% supposedly to hire more police officers but somehow wound up with even fewer police officers?

Hat tip to Had Enough Indy.

UPDATE: The sad state of affairs is amplified by news that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has convinced a federal judge to nullify his four-game suspension over the Deflategate scandal, but we can't get a judge in Marion County to nullify illegal contracts entered into by our corrupt mayor to defraud city taxpayers.

Illinois' Death Spiral

Decades of one-party rule in Springfield and Chicago have produced such a fiscal basket case that higher taxes may no longer be an answer to keep the state and its largest city afloat. Nonetheless, that's the solution of choice Mayor Rahm Emanuel is asking his city's residents to swallow, and its the preference for the state's Democratic-controlled legislature. Emanuel is now asking his city council, all of which are members of his Democratic Party, to approve a half billion dollar increase in property taxes, the largest property tax increase in the city's history. And the tax increases don't end there. Emanuel also wants to impose a new garbage tax collection tax, a new tax on taxi fares, including the increasingly popular Uber ride service and new taxes on electronic cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products. All of these tax increases are needed the mayor says just so the city can afford to make a pension payment that is due next year for police and firefighters.

Chicago, like the state of Illinois and a number of other local governmental entities in the Land of Lincoln, has been borrowing money every year to plug a perennial budget hole because government employees were granted more generous pension benefits than state and local governments could afford to pay. The proverbial chickens have now come home to roost. Legislative attempts to cut pension benefits have been struck down by the Illinois Supreme Court, which says the state's constitution doesn't permit lawmakers to cut pension benefits once they've been offered to public employees regardless of whether there is money to pay for them. For years, lawmakers have kicked the can down the road by issuing bonds to cover pension payments it couldn't afford, along with tax increases. The state's Supreme Court has backed the politicians into a corner to force them to raise taxes to the levels it will take to support the pension plans they've approved over the years since both the state and Chicago officials have stretched their borrowing authority to a point of no return.

The state is now three months into a new fiscal year, and the Republican governor, Bruce Rauner, and the state's Democratic controlled legislature have yet to reach a budget agreement. A temporary income and corporate income tax adopted under Rauner's predecessor to help close the budget hole expired on January 1. Rauner has insisted on budget cuts to close the budget hole because he fears higher taxes will only escalate the exodus of businesses and residents out of the state to avoid paying ever burdensome taxes. The state is facing a federal court order to restore payments to providers of care for those with disabilities and the state's lottery has stopped making payments to large lottery winners while the budget mess gets sorted out. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that both Illinois and Chicago have entered a death spiral and bankruptcy might be the only practical solution to get out from under debt obligations they can't possibly make up for by simply raising taxes again and again. Indiana residents can take solace in the fact that whatever misgivings they might have about its own elected leaders they have managed our state's fiscal affairs much better than our neighbor to the west.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Carmel Attorney's Unexplained Paid Leave Leads To Change In City's Employment Policy

A couple of weeks ago, Carmel City Council members received an e-mail from Mayor Jim Brainard indicating the city's attorney, Doug Haney, had resigned effective August 18, 2015. By the next day Mayor Brainard was singing a different tune. He told members of the media, including Advance Indiana, that he had not accepted Haney's resignation and that he was on paid leave. Mayor Brainard said the leave had nothing to do with Haney's work for the city and privacy laws prohibited him from explaining further. Haney is paid a salary of $121,430 a year.

WRTV Call 6 investigator Kara Kenney inquired further into the circumstances of Haney's paid leave. Kenney found no provision in the city's personnel manual permitting paid leave for employees under such circumstances. Faced with questions, a spokesperson for the mayor, Nancy Heck, told Kenney the city employee manual will be updated to reflect a practice that she says has been utilized in the past. "However, until that policy is in writing and officially added to the employee handbook, it is the decision of the Mayor that civilian employees placed on paid administrative leave must use their accrued paid time off for compensation," Heck said. "Carmel has put several civilian employees on 'paid administrative leave' in the past several years."

Heck did not provide examples of circumstances supporting the granting of paid leave. "Heck said she could not provide specific examples due to privacy reasons, but said the previous cases involved leave that was non-disciplinary in nature, and deemed in the best interest of city operations," Kenney reported. Haney's abrupt resignation, followed by a quick reversal of that decision, came one day after a heated city council meeting where council members debated adding a new human rights ordinance to the city code that protected Carmel residents from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as other traditionally protected classes of persons. Haney returned to work on Tuesday.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

The Star Suddenly Discovers Neighborhood Opposition To Blue Indy

After months of cheer leading for the illegal monopoly Mayor Greg Ballard unilaterally gave to Bollore's Blue Indy electric car sharing program through the theft of public assets, The Star's John Tuohy finally acknowledges in a story tonight that there is legitimate neighborhood opposition to Blue Indy that's not driven by the partisan politics he's assigned to the criticism to date from members of the Indianapolis City-County Council.
“They just showed up one day tearing up my front yard and put these chargers in,” McCarthy said. “I feel like these cars, parked there all day, are going to devalue my property. I put a lot of money into this house.”
Despite the protests of McCarthy and other residents, businesses and City-County Council members, Ballard and BlueIndy will roll out the controversial electric car rental service during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Downtown on Wednesday . . .
The program has been 16 months in the making and dogged by criticism, much of it from council members who contend the city is illegally ceding right of way to the private company and inappropriately subsidizing the operation with $6 million in city funds.
But most of the recent complaints have bubbled from the neighborhoods as work crews — without warning — began digging trenches on prime parking spots to make room for electric cables, chargers and kiosks. Each of the stations has five spots reserved for the compact, four-seat plug-ins.
Chas Navarra, a 60-year-old health care worker, was alarmed when a station went up near his home in the Old Northside neighborhood at 13th and Alabama streets.
“I live in a historic neighborhood, and I’ve got a rental car business in front of my house,” he said. “What’s the difference between having this and Hertz or Avis parked out there? How is this going to be good for my (property) valuation?”
Navarra has organized a petition drive on Facebook called “Stop BlueIndy NOW” with 32 likes, and he has contacted council members Joe Simpson, Zach Adamson and Christine Scales, all critics of the way the city has implemented the program.
Navarra said he was never told the chargers would be built on his block and was shocked by the size of the operation.
“When it smacks you on the forehead like that, it’s really something,” he said. “Do we even know if these chargers are safe or if children should be playing around them?”
Several Democratic council members held a press conference this morning to express their opposition to the deal. Talk is cheap. Mayor Ballard accused the council members of just making stuff up when they suggested spending on program like Blue Indy has resulted in fewer dollars being spent on public safety despite the 10% income tax increase that took effect for that very purpose in January, the umpteenth time Ballard has raised taxes and fees during his two terms as mayor. It's hard to believe this phony got elected originally on a anti-tax message.  

Russell Taylor Reaches Plea Agreement With Feds In Child Exploitation Case


The man former Subway spokesman Jared Fogle hired to run his Jared Foundation, a nonprofit organization he formed to help combat childhood obesity, has entered into a plea agreement with federal prosecutors under which he admits to 12 counts of child exploitation and one count of distributing child pornography. The crimes to which Russell Taylor had copped a plea carry a prison sentence of between 15 and 35 years. Under the terms of the plea agreement, Russell cannot ask for a sentence of fewer than 15 years. The plea agreement also helps explain how law enforcement was aided by Russell in bringing charges against Fogle. A press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office describes Russell's crimes:
According to the facts Taylor admitted in the written plea agreement filed today, on multiple occasions between March 2011 and April 2015, he used multiple hidden cameras in his residences to produce child pornography involving 12 minors. He knew that the victims in these images or videos were under the age of 18 years. He also knew their identities.
Taylor and his friend Jared Fogle discussed among themselves the fact that Taylor was secretly producing sexually explicit videos of minors in Taylor’s current and former residence. Fogle chose to benefit from such production by obtaining access to a significant amount of such material over the time period. However, Fogle did not produce any of this material himself.
None of the minors in the videos were aware that they were being filmed. Rather, Taylor produced the videos using multiple hidden cameras set up in his residences and oriented to show them nude, changing clothes, or engaged in other activities.
Taylor also obtained from the Internet and provided Fogle with child pornography he downloaded from Internet sources which may be classified as commercial material produced by other persons. The unidentified victims in these commercial images and videos were as young as approximately six years of age.
During the investigation, Taylor admitted that child pornography was recovered during a search of his residence, where it was found in computer equipment, storage devices, cameras and other media analyzed by the Cybercrime Section of the Indiana State Police.  This included the material involving child victims 1 through 12 as well as the commercial child pornography.
All of the images and videos included a lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of the relevant minor victim, while some material also included other sexually explicit conduct depending upon the minor involved.
On multiple occasions, Taylor provided Fogle with access to the images or videos by sharing them on a computer that Taylor owned. They frequently travel together for business trips. Taylor and Fogle were close friends. Taylor also provided Fogle with some images and videos through text messages and a thumb drive.

Council Allows Vision Fleet A Do-Over On Illegal Electric Car Contract

The Indianapolis City-County Council had the Ballard administration nailed to the wall for entering into an illegal contract with Vision Fleet, a company that sprung into existence for the sole purpose of executing an extremely one-sided contract with the City to lease a fleet of electric and hybrid cars that left the City few, if any, remedies to unwind. Despite the fact the contract was void as a matter of law because public procurement laws were ignored in their entirety, and the council had filed a declaratory judgment lawsuit to have the contract so declared, we now learn the council has folded and allowed the mayor's office and the company to complete a do-over to make what was clearly an illegal contract legal.

Fox 59 News says under the terms of an agreement reached between the council, mayor's office and Vision Fleet, a new 4-year contract will be executed in place of the void contract, the fleet of electric and hybrid cars to be leased by the city will be frozen at the 212 vehicles of which the city has already taken possession, and the city will be let off the hook for the remaining 213 vehicles it contracted to lease under the terms of the original 7-year lease. In addition, all future acquisitions of vehicles must be undertaken through the normal competitive bidding requirements mandated by state law, a process the administration sidestepped entirely when it first entered into the contract. The fact that civil and criminal laws were broken in the process is all forgiven. I guess we won't find out the identity of the political insiders who own a beneficial interest in Vision Fleet either, no thanks to federal and state prosecutors who refuse to investigate what was clearly a corrupt and illegal undertaking by Mayor Greg Ballard.
“All parties acknowledge that the public interest is best served when substantial contracts such as these are procured through an open and competitive process whenever such a process is possible,” reads the new agreement in stark opposition to the streamlined non-competitive manner in which the Ballard Administration awarded the original contract to Vision Fleet, a start-up with no other customers, in 2013.
“On behalf of the Mayor’s Office and the City-County Council, it is our mutual desire to put our public disagreements over the Vision Fleet contract behind us,” reads the joint public statement which dismisses the lawsuit council members filed against Ballard to force compliance with city purchasing rules and a re-examination of the original agreement.
I would once again extend my invitation to all of the corrupt pols in Chicago to relocate to Indianapolis where you can steal, bribe and profiteer to your heart's content at the public's expense without fear of prosecution and even manage to get a pat on the back by our local useless media, which seems more interested in aiding and abetting the politicians and their political cronies in the theft of public assets than exposing them.