A Pox on Thy House (and Senate)

I am in an utterly foul mood. I guess that’s what I get for following the news.

In the last few days, lawmakers from near and far have engaged in a contest to see who can offer the stupidest laws while ignoring constituents’ most pressing problems. A couple of days ago, I reported on some craziness from Tennessee and South Dakota, opining that those states’ legislatures were making a bid for the coveted “worst” title; several comments here and on Facebook attempted to reassure me that Indiana lawmakers would come through to win that accolade before the session was over. They were right–although North Carolina just made a gutsy play. Their legislature just voted to establish a religion and declare the state exempt from the Establishment Clause (and, presumably, the Supremacy Clause).

Indiana’s intrepid lawmakers have been working overtime to exasperate reasoning people. Is gun violence a worry? Let’s require an armed person in each public school. What could possibly go wrong there? (As Matt Tully noted, the NRA and the Indiana Legislature are a match made in hare-brained heaven.) Is a family planning clinic prescribing a (legal) pill to induce early abortions? Require the clinic to meet standards devised for surgical facilities. Pill, surgery–same thing, right?

What really has me gritting my teeth and contemplating a move out of state, however, is what our retrograde legislature is doing to Indianapolis.

In the last few days, the Indiana General Assembly has taken pains to remind us that home rule is a foreign concept. The Republican Super-Majority, in a display of really breathtaking arrogance, has reminded residents of Indianapolis and its collar counties that they don’t like cities and they really don’t like democracy.

Mike Young’s bill to create an “imperial Mayor” is sailing through (although we all know it will be repealed the day after Indianapolis elects a Democrat as Mayor); and lawmakers have once again derailed the measure that would allow us to decide for ourselves whether we want mass transit enough to pay for it.

The Indiana legislature has long been dominated by rural and small-town interests. Legislative hostility to Indianapolis is simply a fact of Indiana life. That doesn’t make it any less infuriating. At the Statehouse, there is an absolute lack of sympathy for–or understanding of–urban issues. It’s bad enough that most of our lawmakers really do not care about Indianapolis’ problems; what’s worse, not only do they refuse to address our issues, they won’t allow us to tackle them either.

The imperial mayor bill is an invitation to corruption. While most of the media attention has been on the proposal to eliminate the at-large council seats, the most dangerous parts of the bill give the mayor control of the Development Commission and remove council oversight of many–if not most–spending decisions. It effectively removes important checks and balances on administrative behavior at a time when local media oversight is virtually non-existent. Actions by the Development Commission can move big money; for one thing, the Commission can ensure successful financing for a project that would otherwise be unable to secure such backing. The current appointment structure was intended to prevent decisions based upon cozy relationships and political connections rather than sound principles of land use. The imperial mayor bill will facilitate cronyism.

The refusal to allow Indianapolis citizens to decide for ourselves whether we want mass transit is the most infuriating action taken in a legislative session that has produced plenty that is infuriating. The notion that a study committee is needed is laughable–Central Indiana transportation organizations have studied the matter for the last twenty years. Let’s call it what it is: a giant “fuck you, Indianapolis” from the General Assembly to the region that generates the bulk of the state’s tax receipts.

And let’s call the Indiana Legislature what it is: an embarrassment.


  1. I just E-mailed a message to Matt Tully about his article this morning; thank you for adding to it. The term “imperial mayor” reminded me of D.C. Stephenson’s days here when he was national Imperial Grand Dragon of the KKK and ruled Indianapolis, Indiana and a number of other states. It took one murder here to bring all of them down; how many murders have we seen in this city alone since January 1st? They seem to have no meaning as the NRA wines and dines our legislators. We already have Emperor Pence taking charge of the state; I’m sure he believes his push to lower taxes will ease the pain of increased property taxes. Our property taxes help support public schools; I questioned Mr. Tully if these increases would pay for arms and training of a teacher or principal in each school to protect thousands of students in this city. The GOP nationwide has become power-crazed and it is no more evident anywhere than here in Indianapolis and Indiana. With their continued “leadership”, we are doomed.

  2. I would add to the list of hare brained efforts Scott Schneider’s work to roll back Common Core–which is being led by an Indianapolis member of the Assembly. The rural members are not alone in being out of touch.

  3. Sheila Kennedy on Indianapolis Imperial Mayor Legislation on A Pox on Thy House (and Senate)

    I copied and pasted this listing from your Recent Comments list.

  4. A move out of state is risky at best, Sheila! Quite a few of the states on this side of the Mississippi River seem to have taken leave of their senses. Even on the yonder side of the river, you’d be advised to pick carefully.

    Make that a pointy tin foil hat. Tennessee has its Campfield and he just gets farther out there by the minute. His constituency is near North Carolina, where an “official” religion has been proposed so that they won’t have to pay attention to anybody else about anything!

    Holy cow! This wacko stuff rubs off from one state to the next, so be careful which state you select.

  5. Believe it or not, Sheila, but I believe Governor Pence is being the voice of reason in the whole armed-guard debate. It isn’t an inherently bad idea (I’m pretty certain IPS has dedicated IMPD officers in most of their schools, and so do many of the Marion County township schools outside of IPS’ district, though usually in an off-duty capacity). He said the details for a schools’ security should be left up to the school board, and I believe that as well.

    You’re right on the MDC. As one of the neighborhood activists said at the committee hearing, a majority mayoral appointment means neighborhood groups who oppose the mayor’s buddies might as well wave the white flag of surrender and not even bother trying.

    Short of a miracle of a halfway decent bill coming out of conference, I believe efforts should be focused on the Governor’s office in persuading him otherwise. Stress that this isn’t just a power-grab in a partisan sense. But that it is too much power, in an already strong mayor-weak council system, for any mayor to have. Regardless of party.

  6. This is why I left tht God forsaken state 7 years ago and have not looked back since!

  7. Stationing a security/police officer in a school was mentioned above. While many high schools have done that for years, people need to understand that if you have 1000 students who hear and own the message that they are responsible for watching and listening for threats, you have 1000 pairs of young eyes watching listening for trouble. That’s a pretty good staff learning taking responsibility for their own security. When someone brings a weapon into a school, it is usually the kids who blow the whistle. If the school makes a production out of showing the presence of a security/police officer, it sends the message for those 1000 eyes to relax, and that the officer will “handle it”. That is is worst message to send, because there is no way that a security/police office can substitute for those 1000 pairs of eyes and ears. You can easily make the case that a high school is actually more dangerous in that situation, depending on how the security/police officer presence is presented.

    Remember that the Connecticut shooter shot out the glass in the front door, and if there had been a solid front door, it would have been a lot more difficult to get in, and maybe time enough for the police to intervene. But a glass front door is no way to protect any building. Of course that would be a one-time expense for the schools instead of a long-term cost of an armed officer whose presence implies that the kids don’t have to be responsible for security.

  8. Ms Kennedy makes an important distinction in SB621, one that I’d forgotten about, between the at-large bit and the other elements.

    I feel at-large in any legislative body is a silly concept that can go away. The other power-grab elements are worrisome. There should be a decent balance of power between Council and mayor, tilting in favor of the Council to diffuse power and curb excess.

  9. Oops – hey, about that morning-after pill – our state constitution already has protection against this kind of thing. The part we never use, that says laws must be general rather than specific. The morning-after law would have to apply to any medication or procedure carrying the same likelihood of a medical outcome requiring hospitalization. I bet this would include every dentist’s office.

    We have a perfectly good constitution if we would only stop ignoring it.

  10. I can’t fault other elected leaders in Indianapolis being wary of the Indy Connect plan. It is the creation of yet another taxing entity who will be able to write bonds they likely can’t pay off and who will refuse to levy the appropriate tax rate upon the residents under their control. As with the GM/Chrysler ruling, and the recent Stockton, CA ruling, both corporate and municipal bonds are no longer safe for conservative investors.

    Most people don’t grasp the bond issue, and with the easy of personal bankruptcy and the recent Wall Street bailouts, so long as the loss is “shared,” most average folks just don’t care, or don’t even know. The simple fact is that ten years down the road, Indy Connect could say “We don’t care about the money, we are making three rail lines!” So long as the initial bond issues bring in the money, it will go through. Then ten years after that, when the system is technically bankrupt, bond holders will take the entity to court. Eventually a federal judge, and maybe even the USSC, will rule. They could rule that investors are idiots for buying municipal bonds and they aren’t going to rule that a true tax levy, say an additional 5% of income, be used to pay for the bonds. They may rule that the bond holders will get paid, but instead of making just residents in Marion and Hamilon Cos. pay, they will “spread the hurt” and levy a smaller income tax across the broader region, if not the entire state.

    It won’t matter if there is tax protection written in the bill for the counties not involved, because as we have seen over and over, the only thing that really counts is what a federal court ends up ruling in the end. They may as well pass the bill, let the voters vote, and let the suckers who buy Indy Connect issued bonds get left holding the bag in ten or twenty years (given how courts seem to be ruling).

  11. There were no “armed guards at Columbine.” There was one armed deputy sheriff assigned to either the high school itself, or maybe the entire school district. He was in his vehicle with an unarmed security guard eating lunch. More details available at the official state report:


    Pages 28, 34 and on detail the police response.

  12. Eugene, the abortion inducing pills mentioned in SB 371 are NOT the morning after pill. It is a set of 2 pills which can be taken up to about 20 weeks into the pregnancy and can cause some rare, but severe medical issues.

    No one is trying to ban the morning after pill or restrict its current use.

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