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Praise The Lord, But Please Keep The Ammunition Away From The Guv

ShooterThe Department of Administration website informs us that the state is accepting bids for, um, a million bullets.

We recently posted a photo of the Guv shooting at a target in the Middle East during his trip there last month.

You do the math.

Crikey.

The TDWs will be hiding out in a remote, undisclosed location for the duration of Mitch Daniels' term. We may be thick-skinned and impervious to GOP tirades, but our body armor isn't looking so structurally sound these days. Nice knowin' ya.

New Addition: TDW Links To Advance Indiana, Apologizes Profusely For Delay

NewJust a quick note to let you know that we've added Gary Welsh's Advance Indiana site to our blogroll. Although we often spar with Gary on political issues, it's undeniable that he's doing some great shoe-leather reporting, and his addition to the TDW blogroll is long overdue.

We'd been planning to add Advance Indiana and a few other sites when we reconfigured our link lists, but we haven't gotten around to that in the past couple months, and it's really unfair not to let people clickety over to Gary's blog from ours. Especially since he's been kind enough to direct his readers to TDW for quite a while now.

Anyway, go enjoy. Disagree. Converse. But know that he's doing some mighty fine work over there.

Campaign Update: The Month Of May Wouldn't Be Complete Without "The Brizzi 500"

Brizzicampaignlogo_1Speaking of Carl Brizzi, do you want to get down with Steve Hilbert and Beurt SerVaas at a GOP fundraiser? Then mark your calendar for the oh-so-originally named "Brizzi 500" on May 26. It's being billed as "A Different Kind Of Race." Which could be a reference to a number of things.

Want to see who else is on the host committee? You know the drill: Download Brizzi5002.pdf

What He Meant To Say: Daniels Tries To Set Record Straight In South Bend

FootinmouthNot sure how we missed this gem from the South Bend Tribune's "Quibbles & Bits" column yesterday, but it's pretty funny to watch the ol' Guv try to talk his way out of the bad publicity he's been getting after his negative comments at the St. Joseph County Lincoln Day Dinner:

"What's a little distortion among friends?

"'Only in your town, and I'm tempted to say only at your newspaper ...'

"So said Gov. Mitch Daniels on Friday as he expressed his bemusement -- not amusement -- over South Bend's interpretation of his recent statements about the city's anemic economic development record.

"According to Daniels, all he meant to say was that South Bend is too important a city to miss out on Indiana's growth, and to encourage his target audience -- Republicans attending an annual pep rally -- to get to work on development.

"Alas, he said, his words were distorted and then used to pit him against a city that he really, really does like.

"Really.

"Your mission, he continued, is to convey an unambiguously positive message to the city -- and try not to distort it, would you?

"To The Tribune's best memory then, here is the governor's message: 'Happy Mothers Day to all the moms of South Bend.'

"Or was it, 'Happy Mothers Day to all the moms in South Bend.'

"Wait, was 'Moms' capitalized?

"Governor, we're trying."

Clarification, Please: How Many More Hoosiers Actually Are Working Now?

CountvoncountGolly, we sure hate to keep doing this to the Department of Workforce Development and the Governor, but for God's sake, could someone please tell us how many more people are employed in Indiana over this time last year?

From the mouth of the Guv himself (in the earlier blogged Fort Wayne Journal Gazette story about his economic promises) comes this quote: "Indiana is on a hot streak. We have 85,000 more Hoosiers working than last year."

And yet, just a few short weeks ago, DWD put out a release with this quote from Commissioner Ron Stiver: "Compared to this time last year, 75,000 more Hoosiers are employed."

It's not like you guys aren't all working for the same team, so please, on behalf of the Hoosiers you serve, learn to count. Then send out the talking points with the correct, matching data.

Back Off: Aggressive Brizzi Campaign Kids Asked To Leave Moms, Children Alone

Videocamera1We try not to spend a lot of time focusing on the petty antics of political campaigns, but we just heard that some of Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi's campaign hobbits pulled an inappropriate stunt at a press conference this morning.

Democrat Melina Kennedy, who's challenging Brizzi, held a media event with several mothers and children to show support for an ordinance she's backing to keep sex offenders out of city parks. Whatever you might think of the proposal, we hope you'll agree that while it might be okay to stake out an opponent's press conferences with video and audio equipment (most spies just like to hang out and listen), it's not okay to do so when children are literally in the picture.

The Brizzi hobbits already have photographed Melina, her husband and their two young twins and posted those photos on a blog. That was questionable. But video-taping supportive mothers and their unsuspecting kids for future campaign commercials? Not so smart, kids. Do unto others.

To her credit, Melina politely asked the hobbits to refrain from video-taping the event, which they eventually agreed to do. However, they claimed that they had a right to be there and to do what they wanted.

That's a fair point, especially given our liberal stance on free speech and expression. However, he who calleth the press conference runneth the press conference, and it's nothing new for candidates and pols to exclude certain members of the media -- and most certainly members of the opposition party -- from their events.

Would you like a real-life example?

Last week, we hear through the grapevine that Corey Smith, the husband of former Indiana Criminal Justice Institute executive director Heather Bolejack, tried to get into the Governor's press conference announcing his recommendation that Bolejack and an ICJI deputy director be terminated. Smith was politely but forcefully excluded from the event. We'd guess the TDWs would receive much the same treatment were we to try to attend one of the Guv's availabilities.

So, there's plenty of precedent to exclude folks from media events, but the Brizzi issue is more about decency than politics. The hobbits are a young crew, and they might not understand how things work, but in our world, there are certain things that are or should be off-limits. Taking video footage of mothers with their children for future political use is one of 'em.

We're glad they ultimately decided to back off, but the point is that they shouldn't have had to be told. This is politics, and it can be brutal for the candidates, but if Brizzi's folks are going to pull tricks like this, maybe they belong instead working in the devil-may-care world of reality television.

Revolving Door: Another Guv's Office Aide Calls It Quits, Heads To Private Sector

Revolvingdoor_1Another legislative affairs director in the Guv's Office is calling it quits. Mike O'Brien, who took over after Jennifer Thuma left last year (not necessarily of her own accord, according to the rumor mill), started today as a senior public affairs consultant at BoseTreacy, an Indianapolis lobbying shop.

Anyone got the inside scoop on this one? From what we hear, Mike has a very good reputation at the Statehouse and around town.

So, who's the next to leave? And with whom will they replace Mike? Questions, questions. It's not like there are going to be too many folks lining up to work for a guy who acts like he owns the office.

Losing The "Human Factor" At FSSA: Columnist Looks At Roob's New Approach

Fssa_4Hat tip to the TDW field correspondent who forwarded this excellent column from yesterday's Fort Wayne Journal Gazette about the loss of the "human factor" in social services under Mitch Roob. It's a long piece, but it's very well done:

"FSSA Secretary Mitch Roob, plucked from the private health care industry by Gov. Mitch Daniels, is spearheading a plan to turn over the state’s entire eligibility process to a private, for-profit corporation. He looks to technology to guide people through the public assistance maze, largely replacing caseworkers. Applicants will connect with call centers or go online to complete assistance forms.

"The winning contractor stands to earn up to $1 billion over 10 years.

"Advocates for the poor fear that losing the human factor will scare confused and troubled poor people away from the system. And there doesn’t appear to be a Plan B to catch those who fall out of the safety net or to catch everybody if the safety net can’t stand the stress.

"The decision to privatize has been widely publicized. But Roob has said little about how an overhauled system will work, citing confidential contract negotiations. A public hearing on the contract is set for June 30, and it is scheduled to be signed July 5. The contractor will take over shortly after that.

"In a just world, huge changes in the way our most vulnerable citizens receive the public assistance that keeps them alive deserve a thorough airing in a public forum. With Daniels' blessing, no legislative oversight and a slam-bam contract-approval process, that's not likely to happen.

"The state is offering financial incentives to the winning contractor for cutting costs and moving people off public assistance rolls. Hoosiers should demand to know how the state plans to safeguard the poor, who must depend on a company whose first priority isn’t likely to be their welfare.

"So far, Roob is asking Hoosiers to trust him to make decisions on behalf of Indiana's weakest citizens, promising that they won't be denied access to public assistance. That's a lot of trust."

Toll Road Debate Is Less Sexy But No Less Important In The Courtroom

In_toll_rd_4The Indiana Toll Road lease deal finds itself back in the courtroom today. Pat Guinane of the Times of Northwest Indiana reports that all the legislative sizzle has turned into a bit of a dramatic fizzle. This, of course, makes the lawsuit no less interesting to us. But most gawkers tend to prefer heated debate on the House floor to lawyers arguing about grammar:

"Lease challengers, led by West Lafayette farmer and activist Steve Bonney, plan to call a retired Notre Dame economist in an effort to show that the lease isn't as a big a financial boon as Gov. Mitch Daniels and other supporters contend.

"Bonney also is on the witness list, along with a handful of other Hoosiers who launched the lawsuit last month. Testimony also could come from yet unnamed officials representing local governments owed money by the state.

"Lease challengers contend that the deal is unconstitutional because the proceeds won't be used to clear state debt, including money owed to local governments, and a $8 billion shortfall in a pension fund for teachers hired before 1996.

"State officials on Thursday testified that such debt has nothing to do with the Toll Road.

"First and foremost, South Bend Superior Judge Michael Scopelitis must decide whether to declare the case a public nuisance lawsuit, which could require plaintiffs to post a bond of up to $3.8 billion.

"The decision could come this week. The full trial, if there is one, could start in June."

Looking Back: Fort Wayne Paper Analyzing The Guv's Campaign Promises

Helpwanted_2The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette brings us the first in an occasional series about the Guv's campaign promises and how well he's living up to those self-imposed public expectations. The inaugural story focuses on jobs and the economy. As expected, Daniels says things are going swimmingly. What say ye, Indiana? Remember that this is the guy who told everyone last year that $9 an hour jobs are "excellent." Though he didn't balk at handing out a $180,000 contract to one of his buddies over at FSSA.

"During the 2004 gubernatorial campaign, Gov. Mitch Daniels distilled months of travel into nearly two dozen proposals meant to steer Indiana’s economic comeback.

"And 16 months into his tenure, Daniels has enacted almost every one of those ideas while adding more initiatives along the way.

"But the real question is whether these changes have produced results – and which measurements most accurately show whether the economy is in neutral or speeding around the corner.

"'At a minimum, we've stopped the bleeding, and we’re starting to see some innovation,' said Kevin Brinegar, president of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. 'To what extent that is Mitch Daniels or the Chamber or the legislature is a very debatable point since there is always the opinion that things would have improved anyway.'

"With declining approval ratings and slim economic gains until now, Daniels has only recently started trumpeting the state’s economic progress – including positive references to jobs numbers virtually every day."

The story briefly mentions the Guv's failed "Buy Indiana" plan, which looks good on paper because he changed the definition of an Indiana company his first day in office. Truth be told, he's sent more than $775 million in contracts to out-of-state companies since taking office, and we're set to witness another big export of taxpayer cash when a non-Indiana company receives the $1 billion Medicaid deal from FSSA.

The piece also focuses on comparing jobs numbers, which is all well and good until you realize that those numbers are people, not inventory, and the people haven't noticed any big change.

See, it doesn't matter how many Toll Roads you sell or time zones you change: If you can't bring good jobs with benefits here (we've seen time and again that the IEDC is about as useful as you-know-what on a bull), and if you can't make Hoosiers' lives better at the kitchen table level, you're going to be perceived as a failure.

Blame whomever and use whatever numbers you want, Guv, but at the end of the day, Indiana's still trailing the national jobs recovery, and the folks down at the working man's level? They look to you to fix things. Instead, you've created a third as many jobs as your immediate past predecessor. Aiming higher, as always.

Star Editorial Puts Child Death Numbers In Perspective, Sets Stage For Next Year's Data

Thumbsdown_2The jury is still out on former Marion County juvenile court judge Jim Payne, who's now leading the state's effort to cut child abuse and deaths. But if his new department doesn't do something to decrease the numbers, we can guess what the Star's verdict on Payne's "leadership" is going to be:

"While it is still too early to assess the Daniels administration's efforts to overhaul the child protection system, the latest report on child deaths by adult fault is far from encouraging.

"The state Department of Child Services says 57 children died from abuse or neglect in 2005. That is exactly the same number reported by the federal government for the previous year, when Indiana recorded the nation's worst rate of fatalities due to child abuse.

"In state government's defense, it should be noted that the 2005 figure covers the period from July 1, 2004, to June 30, 2005. The Department of Child Services, Daniels' flagship for attacking child endangerment, did not go into business until July 1, 2005.

"Another grudging piece of good news, at least according to the state, is that the underreporting of deaths found to have occurred in 2004 has since been rectified, meaning that the dimensions of the problem are better known than before.

"The magnitude of the answer is now being tested.

"Creation of the separate agency, headed by former longtime Marion County juvenile court judge James Payne, has focused energy and strategic attention on child protection as never before. More than 100 new caseworkers have been hired. Training has been increased and education requirements raised. The statewide network of offices is being streamlined.

"Yet the toll persists. Will a full year of operation by the state's reconstituted system produce a substantial cut in this number that shames Indiana? The moment of truth is at hand, and not just for the department.

"Local law enforcement, judicial and social services personnel, along with the general public, must reflect the heightened crisis mentality Payne has tried to project. And the governor and legislature must not let tight budgets stall the push, started by a blue ribbon task force under the O'Bannon administration, to meet the national standard for caseloads by adding not 100 but several hundred caseworkers. Unless reorganization is joined with recommitment and resources, a grim statistic will remain far above its only acceptable level -- zero."

Inn Or Out? Star Picks Up On Feathers Ruffled Over Indiana Dunes Proposal

IndianadunesNot to be overly critical of the Star, but this story has literally been making headlines in Northern Indiana for the last few months. And not just headlines up there. It's also been on the wire a couple times. Anyway, for what it's worth, now Central Indiana knows about the controversy surrounding a proposal for a new Inn at the Dunes.

Consider this your Monday morning "What do you think?" question:

"Opponents say there are ample hotel rooms in Chesterton, the town where the park is located, and nearby Portage.

"They also contend the state did little research in putting together its proposal for the inn.

"'Developers probably looked at that proposal and said, 'Woo-hoo, the candy store is open,'' MiHalo said, adding that the state does not have to do an environmental study because no federal money is being used.

"State officials and some tourism boards argue that an inn could open up the park to another generation of enthusiasts, while boosting tourism dollars.

"'Parks are there for recreation, enjoyment and for educating the next generation,' [DNR Director Kyle] Hupfer said. 'If you don't get the next generation in to see the facilities . . . there's not going to be a next generation to protect them.'

"Speros A. Batistatos, president and chief executive officer of the Lake County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said environmentalists have gone too far.

"'To me, they're almost enviro-zealots. They've pushed it so far that it doesn't make any common sense,' he said. 'Here in Northwest Indiana, we continue to allow a very small group to take hostage one of the greatest resources we have.'

"Hupfer likens the notion of a private developer building an inn to other privately run concessions at state parks, such as boat rentals and golf courses, and says the state's other inns have proved to be successful.

"'They would be happy if nobody visited the dunes,' Hupfer said of the Save the Dunes Council."

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