Thursday, December 30, 2010


This Indianapolis Observer was oblivious to this morning's magnitude 3.8 earthquake (Thursday, 30 December 2010 at 07:55:21 a.m. at epicenter -- 75 km NNE of Indy).

Anybody else notice it?

More online.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Indy's Mini-Marathon is Sold Out, Again

The 500 Festival has announced that the 35th running of the Mini-Marathon was sold out as of 28 December, with 35,000 entries from all 50 states and nine countries. The event is scheduled for May 7, 2011.

Registration remains open for the 5K run until 31 March 2011 -- or until the date the maximum field of 4,000 is reached.

The Mini is the nation’s largest half marathon with 35,000 runners and walkers. This is the tenth consecutive year the event has sold out.

The 500 Festival Mini-Marathon Expo, open to the public, takes place on 5 and 6 May at the Indiana Convention Center. Participants pick up their race packets and visit the booths of more than 80 companies and vendors.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Get Those Electronics Into the Trash This Week?

Effective 1 January 2011, Indiana households, public schools, and small businesses will no longer be allowed to mix unwanted electronics with municipal waste that’s intended for disposal at a landfill or by burning or incineration, according to the City of Indianapolis. This ban is implemented in cooperation with state law.

Indianapolis and Marion County residents can dispose of unwanted electronics such as computer monitors and equipment, televisions, printers, DVD players, and fax machines through the City’s ToxDrop program. The program is opened to all City residents to drop off their electronic and household hazardous waste to be recycled and/or disposed of properly.

Electronics (everything from cell phones to computers) may contain hazardous materials such as lead and mercury. These materials, if buried in a landfill, can contaminate groundwater and cause serious health issues for people.

Residents are limited to disposing of five computer systems per visit. ToxDrop locations are open year round and the service is free of charge. For more information about the ToxDrop program, go online or call 317:327-4TOX (317:327-4869).

ToxDrop Locations and Times
Belmont Avenue Collection Facility - 2700 South Belmont Avenue - Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9 a.m. - 11 a.m.
IMPD Training Facility (located near Superior Court 13) - 9049 East 10th Street - 1st and 3rd Saturday of each month, 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Perry Township Government Center - 4925 South Shelby Street - 2nd and 4th Saturday of each month, 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Traders Point Collection Facility - 7550 North Lafayette Road - 1st and 3rd Saturday of each month, 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Polite Puppy Club

The Humane Society of Indianapolis promises both family-friendly and dog-friendly training classes for your four-footed family members of the canine variety.

The Polite Puppy Club is for 2- to 4-month old dogs. Tweener Club enrolls dogs 4- to 6-months old. The Obedience Level program is for dogs 6 months and older.

Those interested in visiting long-term medical facilities or educational programs with their dogs should sign up for the Therapy Level Program.

Ten sessions are $165, and 16 sessions are $225. For information on what's included and how to register your pet, go online.

The Humane Society of Indianapolis also offers private training and behavior lessons. They're $75 per hour at your home or $50 per hour at the shelter.

Oh, they offer cat training too. (Who knew?)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Catch the Titantic Before It Steams Off

The blockbuster "Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition" takes you on a journey back in time to experience the legend of Titanic like never before. The galleries in this exhibition feature over 240 real artifacts recovered from the ocean floor along with room re-creation and personal stories, each highlighting a different chapter in the story of the Titanic's maiden -- and final -- voyage.

But it closes 16 January at the Indiana State Museum, 650 West Washington Street, Indianapolis, so don't wait much longer to see it.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Terry Border: Bent Objects

Indianapolis artist Terry Border turns everyday objects into works of art by giving them “human” forms and personalities. Border animates these formerly mundane objects (such as food, toys, and household items) in light-hearted ways that help viewers relate to these “Bent Objects.”

They'll be on exhibit in the Art Gallery in the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center at University of Indianapolis, 1400 East Hanna Avenue, Indianapolis 17 January through 11 February.

The exhibition, open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., is based on Border’s book Bent Objects: The Secret Life of Everyday Things.

Some of his objects are pictured here, and you can see more samples of his work on You Tube.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Toys 2010 at Gallery 924

There are just two days -- tomorrow and Wednesday -- left to see the "TOYS 2010" exhibition at Gallery 924 of the Indianapolis Arts Council, 924 North Pennsylvania Street, Indianapolis.

The invitational holiday art exhibit, sponsored by Primary Colours, features invited artists each of whom interpreted the theme. It comes down 22 December.

Primary Colours is a nonprofit arts organization that facilitates interaction between visual artists and the community.

The photo shows a detail of "Steam Train" by Justin Cooper, mixed-media on wood completed in 2009.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Story You Didn't Read in The Star

A former manager in The Tampa (Florida)Tribune sports department pleaded guilty in January 2010 to charges he stole the identity of a one-time friend and colleague to apply for credit cards and buy a house. By pleading guilty to a charge of grand theft, Tom Brew (pictured) faced a maximum five-year sentence, but he was sentenced to two months of probation.

Brew is assistant sports editor at The Indianapolis Star.

There's more on Ruth Holladay's blog.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Spa to Reopen at Conrad Hotel

Conrad Indianapolis says it has reached an agreement with Indiana entrepreneurs to re-open the hotel spa, reports Inside INdiana Business. Todd and Cindy Leuck will invest $400,000 to launch The Spa & Salon at Conrad, which is expected to open by the end of March. In September, Spa Chakra filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

The Leucks are "second generation hair designers" from Lafayette with more than 25 years of experience in the hair industry, according to their website.

This Indianapolis Observer finds it odd that the first "purpose-built" Conrad in the entire chain has been without a spa for this long, and also that it was unable to maintain its own restaurant on site (Capital Grille is a chain franchise). These are probably two of the reasons it wasn't able to get five-star status in AAA (or any other) ranking scheme.

(Photo courtesy of the Conrad Indianapolis)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Law Enforcement Study Commission Hearings

This evening, Darryl Pierce, Ron Hicks and John Conley told the Law Enforcement Study Commission about the events of the day K-9 Officer David Bisard crashed his police cruiser into a group of motorcyclists, killing one and seriously injuring two others, reports Gary R. Welsh in his blog, Advance Indiana.

"These three men could not have done a better job of explaining the events from a factual standpoint for the first time. Their testimony totally discredits the report Public Safety Director Frank Straub and IMPD Chief Paul Ciesielski issued to support their demotion of the three officers and other actions taken in the wake of the incident."

Read more here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Do You Have a Soft Spot for Homeless Pets?

Volunteers are an ongoing need at Indianapolis Animal Care & Control (they donate more than 18,000 hours each year). Doing what? Dog walking, grooming & bathing, kennel cleaning -- yeah, just about anything.

Check out the website and see if this commitment to community service is for you! (Fido and Fluffy will thank you.)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Central Indiana Home Sales Down

Home-sale agreements in the nine-county central Indiana region dropped 17.5 percent in November compared to the same month a year ago, according to a report released Monday morning by F.C. Tucker Company.

The decline marked the seventh straight month that year-over-year home sales have slumped in central Indiana.

Read more here.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Tully is Clueless?

In today's commentary in The Indianapolis Star, Matthew Tully outlines his reasons why Mayor Greg Ballard won't win re-election. They are police scandals, crime, his status as an incumbent, the Democrats' county majority and his "apolitical" stance.

Say what?

This Indianapolis Observer wonders why he didn't mention the elephants in the room! You know, that herd of mistakes that includes big bucks to the Simons for the Pacers, big bucks (via Lucas Oil Stadium) for the Colts, big bucks to Buckingham for NoSo, big bucks to ACS for the parking meter lease, big bucks (still to come) for the towing contract, big bucks to hire Frank Straub, big bucks for....

Meanwhile, the library has to cut back and IndyGo continues its decline. IPS is a shambles.

Well, you get the idea. Too bad Tully doesn't get it!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Indiana State Fair Stays at 17 Days for 2011

The Indiana State Fair Commission today approved the State Fair Board’s recommendation to continue the State Fair’s 17-day format into the foreseeable future, reports Inside INdiana Business.

The switch from 12 days to 17 days first took place in 2009. The decision means the fair will continue to start five Fridays prior to Labor Day for at least the next three years. Dates for those fairs are as follows:

- 5 – 21 August 2011

- 3 – 19 August 2012

- 2 – 18 August 2013

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Andy Warhol at the IMA

You'd better get a move on if you want to see the exhibit "Andy Warhol Enterprises" at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, 4000 Michigan Road, Indianapolis.

The exhibit examines Warhol’s lifelong exploration of commerce, consumerism, and the business of art making. With artwork ranging from shop window designs and commercial illustrations of the 1950s to his groundbreaking paintings of consumer products and stars of the 1960s, and ultimately to his ventures into television, film and magazines of the 1970s and 1980s, Andy Warhol Enterprises serves as a window into the world of commerce and art, and the ways that Warhol intentionally blurred the lines between the two.

Or as he put it, "Good business is the best art."

The IMA will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on 1 January -- a good thing, since the exhibit closes 2 January. Exhibition admission is $14, with children 6 and under admitted free (as are IMA members).

Image Credit: Andy Warhol, Self-Portrait, 1963-64, Acrylic and silkscreen ink on linen, 20 x 16 in. (50.8 x 40.6 cm); The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection, Contribution (c) The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. 1998.1.810

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Holiday for Strings

Combine lunch, music and a bit of shopping on 15 December when the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra Association hosts “Holiday for Strings” at the Hilbert Circle Theatre on Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis.

ISO Principal Harp Diane Evans (pictured) will perform, lunch will be served and unique holiday gifts will be available for purchase. Tickets range from $50 to $75, and proceeds benefit the ISO.

There'll be two shopping periods in the boutique and Symphony Store, one beginning at 10:30 a.m. and the second at 1:30 p.m. Lunch is served at noon.

The event is open to the public. To make reservations call the ISOA office at 317:262-4068 or send an email to the office at (reservations deadline is 10 December).

(Photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Freeman Leaving Martin University

Controversial Martin University President Algeania Freeman will retire 31 December after three years at the school, officials said late Monday morning (6 December).

The report on notes that former NCAA executive Charlotte Westerhaus will serve as acting president while the predominantly black university conducts a nationwide search for a new leader.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Ballard's Delusions

"Mayor Greg Ballard says he is running for a second term because people think he's been such a great fiscal steward. Say what?" -- Gary R. Welsh

"Ballard has to be delusional if he thinks he is going to be able to win re-election running as some sort of fiscal conservative who has been a responsible steward of our tax dollars." -- Paul K. Ogden

This Indianapolis Observer thinks the upcoming primary contests should be great fun to watch. If only the future of our favorite city weren't at stake....

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Crime Novelist to Speak at Butler

Elmore Leonard (pictured) will speak at 7:30 p.m. Monday (6 December) in Clowes Hall, Butler University, 4600 Sunset Avenue, Indianapolis, as part of the Vivian S. Delbrook Visiting Writers Series. Admission is free.

Leonard, a crime and suspense novelist, is the author of Glitz (1985), Freaky Deaky (1988), Tishomingo Blues (2002) and Road Dogs (2009). Films made from his novels include Hombre (1967, starring Paul Newman), Valdez is Coming (1971, starring Burt Lancaster), Get Shorty (1995, starring John Travolta), Jackie Brown (1997, starring Pam Grier, from the 1992 novel Rum Punch), Out of Sight (1998, starring George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez) and The Big Bounce (2004, starring Owen Wilson).

Leonard has written several screenplays, including Joe Kidd (1972, starring Clint Eastwood) and Mr. Majestyk (1974, starring Charles Bronson). The current FX network series Justified, about a U.S. marshal named Raylan Givens, is based on his novella Fire in the Hole.

Friday, December 3, 2010

GOP Searching for New County Chair

According to the Indianapolis Times, "[D]uring [Tom] John's tenure [as Republican chairman for Marion County] , the GOP lost every countywide race in 2010, the number of straight Democratic Party votes in Marion County soared and Republicans have been caught up in an ever expanding culture of corruption."

This Indianapolis Observer thinks John (pictured) will be a hard act to follow.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Vonnegut Library Gets More National Press

"Now open on weekends and open full-time in 2011, the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library has been a labor of love for volunteers like President Julia Whitehead and her board, which includes all of Vonnegut's children and friend Morley Safer. Although its collection is still taking shape, it features a virtual reliquary of Vonnegut's personal effects, many of which will be familiar to readers of his novels."

Read the rest of Matt Sledge's report on the Huffington Post.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Conner Prairie by Candlelight

'Twas the night before Christmas more than 174 years ago and you and your family are in Prairietown helping prepare for the holidays! Visit homes in Prairietown in a family-friendly, 60-minute guided tour. Join the Ullman's Hanukkah celebration and meet the German Pennsylvania Santa Claus. Join the Rowdies at the bonfire to warm up your hands in the cool night air.

Stay as long as you like at the Campbell's holiday party! Dr. George Campbell is the founder of Prairietown and the only college-trained physician; he and his wife love to meet visitors and entertain them at the family home during the holidays. Join in singing, dancing, good conversation and partaking of cookies and drinking chocolate. Hopefully, Dr. Campbell won't be called away to attend to a patient in the midst of the festivities!

All this takes place at Conner Prairie by Candlelight, the annual weekend celebration at Conner Prairie Interactive History Park, 13400 Allisonville Road, Fishers. Tours begin every 10 minutes between 5 and 8 p.m. 3,4,10,11, 17 and 18 December. It's $14 for adults and $12 for youth (ages 2-12). There's an additional fee if you intend to stay for dinner.

Reservations are required by calling Guest Services at 317:776-6006 or 800:966-1836.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Indy on a Downward Spiral?

"Once, Indianapolis was a place where visionary and determined leadership across the community and across parties transformed an overgrown small town and backwater state capital known as 'India-No-Place' into arguably the best performing large Midwest city and one of the few holding its own or even leading the rest of America. Today, as this contract [selling off the parking meters for 50 years] helps illustrate, Indianapolis is more and more just another city. That’s disappointing. I certainly hope for the best, but it will be interesting to watch Indy’s performance going forward in this new civic era for the city."

This from The Urbanophile, a blog by Aaron M. Renn, an urban analyst.

Sigh! This Indianapolis Observer reluctantly concurs.

Sheila Suess Kennedy has penned an opinion piece for The Indianapolis Star (printed 6 December) saying much the same thing: "[T]he fact that Indianapolis gave an insider a sweetheart deal is less distressing than the fact that this transaction was yet another piece of a longer-term trend." You can read "Let's not lose our soul" here, at least until it disappears.

Monday, November 29, 2010

It's A Wonderful Life

Nothing says the holidays like the 1946 film It's a Wonderful Life. Sure, you can see it on the small screen anytime, but why not drive downtown and view this classic movie on the big screen the evening of December 2?

A silent auction begins at 5 p.m. in the United Artists Theatre on Circle Centre's fourth floor, 49 West Maryland Street, Indianapolis.Items include gift certificates to downtown restaurants, hotels, attractions, museums and more. The movie starts at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets are $5 and include movie ticket and all festivities. All proceeds will benefit Downtown Beautification.

The evening is sponsored by Indianapolis Downtown, Inc., and Regal Entertainment Group - United Artists Circle Centre 9 Theatre.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

First Parking Meters, Now Towing Contracts

It's gonna be difficult to park in Indy in the coming decades. Not only has the Ballard administration sold off the parking meters in a sweetheart deal with known miscreants, he's working on selling off the towing concession. The inevitable? It's gonna cost you more to park and more (much more) to redeem your vehicle if the privateers tow it off.

Read some of the info on Paul K. Ogden's blog here.

And, this Indianapolis Observer notes, all this is taking place in a city with lousy public transportation.

Maybe Mayor Ballard is trying to "drive" everyone with a car out to the suburbs for good!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Major Props to Sen. Lugar

"Senator Richard G. Lugar, an Indiana Republican who played that role long before it had a brand name, is standing against his party on a number of significant issues at a politically dangerous time to do so."

Thus sayeth The New York Times in a feature headlined "Charting His Own Course Against Prevailing Winds".

"Now, in the heat of the post-primary lame-duck Congressional session, he is defying his party on an earmark ban, a bill that would create a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants, a military spending authorization bill and an arms control treaty with Russia.

"He even declined to sign a brief supporting state lawsuits against President Obama’s health care law because he saw it as political posturing."

Lugar is a former mayor of Indianapolis.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Rogue Traffic Court Judge Suspended

"William E. Young will be suspended for thirty (30) days from office without pay, and the costs of this proceeding will be assessed against him."

Read the whole decision of the Indiana State Supreme Court here.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Indianapolis Honors Its Literary Native Son

"Vonnegut’s writing was filled with references to his Midwestern roots and to the tight-knit families he met growing up here."

That's from today's story in The New York Times about the new library in Indy honoring Kurt Vonnegut.

Note: it's in the Times, not The Indianapolis Star. Hmmmmm.

Words of the Week: Qui Tam

"Indiana has a civil forfeiture law which says that in a civil forfeiture action, the prosecutor can deduct law enforcement costs including attorney's fees, and the remainder is to be paid to the Common School Fund. In the last 2 years, the 92 counties in Indiana only paid $95,000 into the fund pursuant to the civil forfeiture fund. They kept all the rest of the money."

So, Paul K. Ogden has filed a qui tam lawsuit against 89 of the state's 90 prosecutors. ("A qui tam lawsuit basically is a taxpayer lawsuit to recover state money that was wrongly misappropriated or not paid that should have been paid to the state and was not.")

Marion County is, of course, the biggest scofflaw. Read more on his blog.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Get Over Yourself?

Matthew Tully's column this morning in The Indianapolis Star on the backlash against TSA's groping at airports shows that he doesn't get out much. (It's here, at least until it disappears behind the paper's paywall.)

If he were a road warrior, or even a semi-frequent flyer, he'd know that the new "feel up" screenings are not only intrusive and personally offensive but ineffective. There's not one recent terrorist attack that would have been stopped by this (all originated overseas, where the TSA does not operate).

This is just a new layer of "security theater" provided courtesy of our amateur (or, as Tully notes, $25,000/year) TSA employees. Even pilots and flight attendants are just saying "no" -- and no one has more "exposure" to airplane terrorist attacks than those two categories.

It's the TSA that should get over itself!

For a discussion of the controversy by someone who actually is a security expert, start with this commentary on Bruce Schneier's blog, "Schneier on Security".

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Indy's International Festival is Underway

Indy's annual International Festival is underway in the West Pavilion of the Indiana State Fairgrounds, 1202 East 38th Street, Indianapolis.

The festival's open to the public from 2 to 9 p.m. tomorrow (19 November), 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday (20 November) and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday (21 November).

Come see the world without leaving home (and bring your appetite: there'll be authentic, traditional cuisine from around the globe).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The City Has Sold Its Birthright. Twice.

So the City has no problem issuing $98 million in bonds to support the No-So project while at the same time City officials say it is too risky to borrow $6 million to buy and install parking meters? Who are they kidding? See Ogden on Politics for more.

Let's see: we gave away the parking meter income, and now we're borrowing to finance private development. We let Bisard get away with murder, and rail about the recent decision of the Police Merit Commission. What's next, Ballard? How low can you go?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Senator to Lobbyist and Back Again

"Dan Coats, then a former senator and ambassador to Germany, served as co-chairman of a team of lobbyists in 2007 who worked behind the scenes to successfully block Senate legislation that would have terminated a tax loophole worth hundreds of millions of dollars in additional cash flow to Cooper Industries."

The New York Times explores Sen. Coats' moves among the Washington power elite:
"Senator to Lobbyist and Back Again".

"There is no rule that would keep Mr. Coats from voting on issues that he handled as a lobbyist, and he does not intend to recuse himself when former clients are affected by his votes."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ah, Cady! Where are you when we need you?

"Once upon a time the news media could be counted on to ferret out corruption of our politicians. Nowadays, they're in bed with them. "

On the one hand, this report from Advance Indiana. On the other, Dick Cady's book, Deadline Indianapolis.

This Indianapolis Observer wonders when Indy will regain its luster. Right now, it's sinking into the muck under the weight of insider deals. (Yes, Ryan Vaughn, I do mean you.)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Autumn Art Fair at Garfield Park

The Third Annual Preview Show and Autumn Art Fair at the Garfield Park Arts Center, 2432 Conservatory Drive, Indianapolis, features hand-created items ranging in cost from 50 cents to $500 from 60 regional artists.

Groups and individual artists from Indianapolis, Brown County and Central Indiana are now displaying their unique wares at the Preview Show in the GPAC lobby. These items and more go on sale at the Autumn Art Fair to be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 20 and 21 November. There's free parking, admission is free and there'll be artist demonstrations, too.

Available items for sale include ceramics, china, collages, drawings, fiber arts, glass, gourds, jewelry, leather, monotypes, mosaics, paintings, photos, poetry and sculpture.

Participating Artists are:

Faten Ali-Munger, Len Bibeau, Linda Booker, Brown County Artisans (Pete Bullard, Linda Comstock-Teel, Jerry England, Shelley Frederick, Lynne Lynch Hughes, Sharon Jungclaus-Gould, Tom Lowe, Mary Pendergrass, Ruth Wert, Gene Cooper, Garfield Shakespeare Company (Joe Cook, Brad Jones, and more), Sean Gray, Sylvia Gray, Mary Lee Griffin, Rick Greiner, Mary Ann Habeeb, Debbie Heidelberger, Christine Heisler, Herrons & Egrets (Mac McCrary, Jeanne Scheuring, Diane Werblo), Marti Icenogle, Indiana Gourd Society (Bob and Emily Dillard, Joe Lee, Karen Niemeyer, Emily Wallace, and more), John Jarvis, Frances Annich Johnson, Steven Keller, Anne Kominowski, The Manualaires (directed by Spencer Lloyd), Megan Martin, Valerie May, Lynne Medsker, Penny Nangle, Pam O’Rourke, Cheri Platter, Kenton Ridenour, Karla and Michael Ries, Mike Rogers, Connie Simmonds, Martha St. Clair, Mike Taylor, James Tharp, Susan Threehawks, Charles Ver, Leo Ware, Daniel Westfall, and Richard Williams.

(Photo courtesy of the Indiana Gourd Society)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Privatization Does Not Signal Utopia

It is human nature that today's generation of political leaders will gladly mortgage the future with a multi-generation contract in return for upfront cash...and

See Ogden on Politics for more on "how privatization was derailed by political contributions, the revolving door and long term contracts".

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Another Outrage

"If you thought the stench of political corruption in the Daniels and Ballard administrations couldn't get worse, it just did."

And, why? Read it at Advance Indiana.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Drummers Converge on Indiana

An estimated 6,200 drummers and percussionists from around the world are in Indianapolis for the Percussive Arts Society International Convention, which runs through Friday. Indianapolis is playing host to the event for a third time, reports Inside INdiana Business.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

An Electric Violin?

Experience the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra cabaret-style with electric violinist, Drew Tretick, featuring great movie scores. The evening begins at 8 p.m. 20 November in the Athenaeum Auditorium, 401 East Michigan Street, Indianapolis. Tickets are available online.

An Indiana native, Tretick is well known for his expressive performances as a weekly featured attraction at the Downtown Disney Resort in California.

Following the performance, join in the ICOnic After Party at the Rathskeller, also in the Athenaeum.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Butler's Nutcracker

The Butler University Ballet’s annual performances of The Nutcracker will be staged 2-5 December Clowes Memorial Hall on the Butler campus.

Attending the holiday ballet is a family tradition. Both children and adults will be dazzled and delighted by glorious scenery and costumes, spectacular dancing and magical moments. Envision twirling with the snowflakes and waltzing with the flowers while waiting for the dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Nutcracker Prince. Enjoy Tchaikovsky's magnificent score performed by the Butler Ballet Orchestra and the Indianapolis Children's Choir under the direction of Richard Auldon Clark.

Tickets ($17-$28.50) are sold at the Clowes Hall box office and through Ticketmaster.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Why the Public Supports the Merit Commission

"[T]he public is concerned about what they perceive is a growing crime problem in this city, notwithstanding statistics the administration is constantly spewing in an attempt to convince them otherwise." (from Advance Indiana)

Uh, huh! Watch your back, Mayor Ballard!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Note to the IBJ Fact Checkers:

Add this info to your database:

Eugene Collins Pulliam (3 May 1889 - 23 June 1975)

Eugene Smith Pulliam (7 September 1914 - 20 January 1999)

Myrta Jane Pulliam (born 20 June 1947) is the granddaughter of Eugene C. Pulliam and the daughter of Eugene S. Pulliam.

Which isn't the genealogy you published for her in today's Indianapolis Business Journal supplement.

Mayor Jets Off to Austin

According to Inside INdiana Business, the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce is sending a 70-member delegation to Austin, Texas this weekend as part of a leadership exchange program. Mayor Greg Ballard will open the event with a speech about the Central Indiana Council of Mayors.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Dick Cady Nails Indy

The only thing missing from Deadline: Indianapolis is an index.

The first thing any of us want to do when we pick up such a detailed exposé of our hometown is check for our name and then look for the names of all the people we think should be in there. But, Deadline: Indianapolis has no index, so you've just got to read it.

And what a page-turner it is, full of money, sex and power games -- yes, these are the "stories behind the stories at the Pulliam press".

No, your Indianapolis Observer didn't make the cut (whew!), but Cady (a former reporter and editor at The Indianapolis Star) includes lots of familiar names: Richard G. Lugar, Steve Goldsmith, Keith Bulen, Winston Churchill (no, not THAT one), Morty Dock, ESP and ECP, Virginia Dill McCarty, Barry Goldwater, Ed Delaney, Bill Moreau, and many, many more. The connections outlined and the stories told are chilling (the FBI entanglement in Indy corruption is an eye-opener).

There's a Pulitzer and other journalism awards involved in this tale, but the unfortunate take-away is that political corruption is the default state for big cities such as ours. Exposing it requires a watch-dog press -- something Indy hasn't had since the Pulliams tossed their newspapers into the Gannett maw and walked away with their millions.

Note to Evan Bayh: You might want to check out what Cady says about your time as governor.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Indy Symphonic Choir Concerts Next Weekend

The Indianapolis Symphonic Choir performs Sergei Rachmaninoff's Vespers on 6 and 7 November in two Indy churches.

Hear what has been called "the greatest musical achievement of the Russian Orthodox Church" performed at 8 p.m. Saturday in downtown Indianapolis at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, and at 2:30 p.m. the next afternoon in the newly-constructed Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Carmel.

Tickets are available online.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Fong to Leave Butler reports that Butler University President Bobby Fong will leave the school at the end of the current academic year to take the helm of private Ursinus College outside Philadelphia.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Daniels as the Crocodile

Governor Mitch Daniels again will host trick-or-treaters at the Governor’s Residence, 4750 North Meridian Street, Indianapolis. From 6 to 8 p.m. on Halloween night (31 October), the The governor will pass out assorted candy provided by Indiana companies. Donations include chocolate bars from DeBrand Fine Chocolates of Fort Wayne; chocolate-dipped pretzels from Schimpff’s Confectionery of Jeffersonville; and chocolate-covered mints and fruit jells from Zachary Confections of Frankfort.

Governor Daniels and staff will dress as characters from Peter Pan, with the gov as Crocodile. Unfortunately, First Lady Cheri Daniels broke her foot on Wednesday, so she won't be there.

(Photo courtesy of the governor's office -- it's from last year, when Gov. and Mrs. Daniels dressed up as Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Hatter)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sixth Annual IDADA Members Exhibition

The Sixth annual exhibition by members of Indianapolis Downtown Artists and Dealers Association (IDADA) opens 5 November in Gallery 924, 924 North Pennsylvania Street,

The show, juried and curated by Chicago-area educator and gallerist, Rowley Kennerk. runs through 26 November.

IDADA is a non-profit membership-based organization of studio artists, art galleries and arts-related businesses within the 20 block square of the center of Indianapolis. The prime focus of the group is the creation and marketing of unique and original art.

(Image is courtesy of the artist, Lidia Stetcher; titled "Getting Out of My Comfort Zone", it is acrylic on canvas, 48"x36".)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Follow the Money

"Troubled Las Vegas financier Jerry Slusser hosted a fundraiser last night for Mark Massa, the Republican candidate for Marion County prosecutor."

Read the rest on the Indianapolis Times blog.

and, from Paul K. Ogden's blog:
"Yesterday was one of the most shameful chapters in the history of the Marion County Republican Party. In nearly a party-line vote, the Republicans, on the Indianapolis City-County Council voted to spend $10 million of our tax dollars to help subsidize the billionaire owner of the Indiana Pacers".

Monday, October 25, 2010

OmniSource Indicted

Steel Dynamics, Inc. has announced that its wholly-owned subsidiary, OmniSource-Indianapolis LLC, was indicted 18 October on multiple criminal charges involving the alleged receipt or attempted receipt of stolen property.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Lapidus Plays Jazz

The second concert of the Jazz Fellowship Awards sponsored by the American Pianists Association will take place on at 8 p.m. 6 November at The Jazz Kitchen in Indianapolis. The concert will feature Jazz Fellowship Awards Finalist, Zach Lapidus. Tickets are $30.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cultural Trail's Northeast Corridor

The completion of the Northeast Corridor of Indy's Cultural Trail will be celebrated with a ribbon-cutting at 5 p.m. 5 November at the intersection of Massachusetts and Park avenues, Indianapolis. The Northeast Corridor connects North and Alabama streets to 10th St. and the Monon Trail.

The following speakers are scheduled to make brief remarks:

* Congressman André Carson (D.-Ind.)
* Mayor Gregory Ballard, City of Indianapolis
* Brian Payne, President, Central Indiana Community Foundation, founder/co-lead partner with the City of Indianapolis
* Mindy Taylor Ross, Public Art Coordinator for the Cultural Trail, Art Strategies
* Lori Efroymson-Aguilera and the Efroymson family will be honored for their $2 million contribution to the Cultural Trail with the official dedication of the Efroymson Family Corridor. This corridor connects North and Alabama streets to the newly named Efroymson Alley and ends at College and Massachusetts avenues.

From 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., visit the three new public art installations along this section of the Cultural Trail and meet the artists:

* "Prairie Modules 1 & 2" by M12. M12 member and local artist Stuart Hyatt will be on hand at the sculpture, located at North and Alabama streets.
* "Chatham Passage" by Sean Derry. Sean is unable to attend. Meet Mindy Ross in the alley off Mass Ave to learn more.
* "Care, Don't Care" (pictured) by Jamie Pawlus. Jamie will be at her sculpture located just outside the Art Bank on Mass Ave northeast of College Ave.

Besides, this is a First Friday art gallery opening in the Mass Ave Cultural District. What's not to like?

(Image courtesy of Indianapolis Cultural Trail)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Even More Conflicts of Interest

According to AP reporter Ken Kusmer:

"Indiana's human services agency is paying $5.25 million to a private law firm, including the brother of a key aide to Gov. Mitch Daniels, to represent the state in its fight over a canceled IBM Corp. welfare outsourcing contract.

"Barnes & Thornburg of Indianapolis was hired despite several conflicts of interest arising from the fact that it also represents former IBM partners involved in the welfare deal. Bryan Corbin, a spokesman for the state attorney general's office, said in an e-mail to The Associated Press that 'hiring this firm was a specific request of the Governor's Office'."

This Indianapolis Observer wonders how Mitch Daniels can remain a squeaky clean would-be Republican nominee for president in 2012 while sanctioning such malfeasance.

These two blogs have reasoned commentary on the mess: Advance Indiana and Ogden on Politics.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Colts Players As Role Models -- Not!

According to Advance Indiana, "The [Indianapolis] Star has a list of 12 Colts players who have been arrested over the past 5 years."

Why isn't this Indianapolis Observer surprised?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Indy Symphony Names New Music Director

Conductor Krzysztof Urbański (pictured) becomes the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s seventh Music Director effective 1 September 2011, according to an announcement today by the ISO. At age 28, he is the youngest music director among major orchestras in the United States. Urbański will return to Indianapolis to conduct in concerts on 20 and 21 May, and will lead the ISO in its Opening Night Gala in September 2011.

In April of 2010, Urbański made his U.S. debut with the Indianapolis Symphony and returned for a second visit during Marsh Symphony on the Prairie in June. In September, the ISO’s search committee unanimously voted to appoint Mr. Urbański to the post, and the ISO musicians overwhelmingly supported the recommendation.

Urbański graduated from the Chopin Music Academy in Warsaw in 2007, and in the same year, was the unanimous First Prize Winner of the Prague Spring International Conducting Competition. He works regularly with all the major Polish orchestras, including Sinfonia Varsovia, the National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Poznan Philharmonic Orchestra and served as Assistant Conductor to the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra from 2007-2009.

Urbański, who was born in Pabianice, Poland, and his wife Joanna currently reside just outside Warsaw. He will become an Adjunct Professor of Music (Orchestral Conducting) at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music when his tenure with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra begins in 2011.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Three More Reporters Jump Ship

According to blogger Ruth Holladay, three more "name" reporters have left The Indianapolis Star:

Francesca Jarosz has gone to the Indianapolis Business Journal, Bill Ruthhart heads to the Chicago Tribune and Daniel Lee is leaving for a PR post with Clarian.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Just When You Think Things Can't Get Any Worse...

The state hires Barnes & Thornburg with a contract not to exceed "$5,250,000". To do what? "This agreement is to retain legal counsel to provide advice and consultation on contract administration and interpretation issues relative to the Eligibility Masters Service Agreement between FSSA and IBM for the Eligibility Modernization Project."

Oh, my. Or, as Paul K. Ogden writes in his blog: "The biggest problem though is that the contract sets out the worst conflict of interest I have ever seen in my 23 years of practicing law."

This Indianapolis Observer is once again appalled at the corrupt practices of the state government -- rivaled only by the city government. Where is the Tea Party when you really need it?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Film Festival Runs Through 23 October

Heartland, the annual 10-day celebration of international film, includes movies from Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, Uzbekistan (and the United States).

For more information, including a schedule, go online.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Paul K. Ogden Cuts to the Chase

"Indianapolis residents do not deserve to have their futures and the futures of their children and grandchildren mortgaged by a Mayor who is willing to sell them out to make insiders wealthy in the hopes of winning the next election."

Read the rest here.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Government We Deserve?

"There's a free-for-all in both the Daniels and Ballard administrations to cash in on political insider status as much as possible."

Read the rest here -- it's a comment by the author of the Advance Indiana blog on Paul K. Ogden's blog.

This Indianapolis Observer notes that the only serious investigative reporting is being done on the blogs these days, and NOT in that sorry excuse for a newspaper over at 307 North Pennsylvania Street.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

City-County Council Might Start Doing Its Job?

From The Capital Improvement Board on Monday will begin the arduous task of convincing a skeptical panel of City-County Council members to adopt a budget for next year that includes $10 million for the Indiana Pacers.

Members of the council’s seven-member Municipal Corporations Committee already are expressing discontent about the $73.1 million operating budget CIB officials will present to them on Monday evening. While the committee won’t vote on its recommendation until 19 October, councilors from both political parties said last week they were inclined to reject it.

That could signal a tough ride for the budget in the full council, which is expected to vote on it 25 October.

Read the rest here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

National Livability Challenge Workshop in Indy

Indianapolis has been chosen by CEOs for Cities to host the first US Initiative National Livability Challenge Workshop, to be held at the Indiana Repertory Theatre complex today through 13 October.

With livability defined by CEOs for Cities as “access to art, beauty and nature every day,” the three-day Livability Challenge features presentations from six Indianapolis-based organizations in addition to presentations and workshops lead by a panel of national livability experts. The US Initiative is a nationwide campaign spearheaded by CEOs for Cities to create cities that are of, by and for us.

Sponsored and co-hosted by Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF) and Indianapolis Downtown, Inc. (IDI), the Challenge will feature projects meant to dramatically influence the city’s livability from: The Indianapolis Museum of Art, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Inc., Blackburn Architects, Indy Parks and Recreation, Central Indiana Community Foundation and Indianapolis Downtown, Inc. The invitation-only event will also include input and discussions from approximately 100 local business and civic leaders with a goal of identifying 12 actionable projects that will continue to transform the city of Indianapolis.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Ballard Charges Taxpayers for Campaign Literature

I guess we shouldn't be surprised that the Mayor would use taxpayer dollars to promote his re-election. After all, this Mayor has shown a total disregard for taxpayers, his latest transgressions being diverting property taxes to support of the Pacers and backing an $86 million loan for a private developer who couldn't get a loan on a project deemed to risky.

Read the rest on Paul K. Ogden's blog.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Polar Realms Arrive in Indy

A new exhibit, Polar Bears to Penguins, opens tomorrow at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis, 3000 North Meridian Street, Indianapolis.

Children and families can explore the polar extremes and learn about the ways these two geographic opposites play a role in our environment – even here in the Midwest. Visitors will learn about the ways in which the Arctic and Antarctic regions look the same, but are home to very different animals, plants and people.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Gang Prevention & Intervention Summit

A gang prevention and intervention summit will be held 6 November at Crispus Attucks High School, Indianapolis. Unfortunately, the city lists no time period for this event on its website, but perhaps before the day arrives they will have figured it out.

The summit is co-sponsored by the City of Indianapolis, the Comprehensive Anti-Gang Initiative, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, the United States Attorney’s Office, United States Department of Justice and the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.

Registration for this free, public event is open now through 1 November by calling 317:327-3928 or go online.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Lucas Buys Hilbert Mansion!

The founders of Lucas Oil Products Inc. today announced they are purchasing the former mansion in Carmel of disgraced businessman Stephen Hilbert.

Forrest Lucas, an Indiana native whose company owns the naming rights to Lucas Oil Stadium in neighboring Indianapolis, said he did not know exactly what he and his wife, Charlotte, will do with the 36-room mansion.

By the way: they bought it from CNO Financial Group for $3 million, a steep discount to the original $20 million asking price. (Wonder why Tomisue and Steve didn't just buy it back?)

Poll Workers Needed

More than 3,500 workers are needed to work the 2 November general election in Marion County. If you would like to volunteer to work at the polls on election day, please contact the Clerk's office at 317:327-5100, or you can fill out a form to volunteer by clicking here.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Gallery 924 Opens

The Arts Council of Indianapolis has opened its own exhibition space. Gallery 924, a 1300-square-foot space, is located within the Arts Council offices at (not surprisingly) 924 North Pennsylvania Street, Indianapolis.

The gallery opened last Friday (1 October) with an exhibition by glass artist Ben Johnson (that's one of his works, pictured), which will run through 29 October.

Gallery hours are 6-9 p.m. on "First Fridays", 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through "regular" Friday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursdays.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Remember the Ayres Tearoom?

Take a step back into the 20th Century at Signature in the Indianapolis Propylaeum, 1410 North Delaware Street, in Indy's Old Northside neighborhood.

On 13 October, women who were models at the late, lamented L.S. Ayres & Company will walk among diners at lunch, presenting lovely fall fashions.

Reservations are a must for this special event, which starts at 11:30 a.m. Lunch cost is $18, plus gratuity. Call 317:638-7881. If you can't get there in October, there'll be another chance on 10 November.

Regular lunch hours at Signature are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, and English tea is served from 3 to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Imagining Slaves as Loyal Confederates

"Imagining Slaves as Loyal Confederates: A Dangerous and Enduring Fantasy" is the title of a presentation by Dr. Peter Carmichael at 5:30 p.m. 21 October in Room 450A, Campus Center, Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis. It's a "Barlow Lecture in the Humanities" presented by the Indiana University School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. A reception follows.

His talk will explore the idea of the "devoted black slave" during the Civil War and how the historical memory of this form of human bondage continues to shape contemporary politics today.

"The notion that slaves and whites served together in Confederate armies out of mutual fidelity resonates with large segments of the American public who desire a sanitized Civil War of white heroism," says Carmichael, the Robert C. Fluhrer Professor of Civil War Studies and Director of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania

"In the current cultural wars over 'Southern heritage', those who want to disassociate the Confederacy from the evils of slavery and racism often trot out the idea of loyal slaves defending the South to prove that human bondage forged an unbreakable alliance between master and the enslaved. Extolling slaves as Confederate heroes is a dangerous misuse of history, and unfortunately the practice has been on the rise of late, especially among members of heritage groups who insist that they are the true defenders of Southern history," says the professor.

A 1988 graduate of the Department of History, Dr. Carmichael is also the 2010 recipient of the School of Liberal Arts Distinguished Alumni Award. The Award recognizes alumni who have brought honor to their alma mater by distinguished career of service or achievement or by giving extraordinary service to the School. The Award will be presented following the Barlow Lecture.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Crass Parking Ploy Reframed as "Innovative Modernization"

Does the 25th floor really believe we'll buy this load of bullfeathers? This Indianapolis Observer hopes a huge citizen turnout will quash this monster before it's implemented.

Here's the press release, straight from the Mayor's Office (bold face added by yours truly):

INDIANAPOLIS – The City-County Council Rules and Public Policy Committee will continue its review of Mayor Greg Ballard’s parking proposal during their regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, Sept. 28. The committee will discuss the proposed ordinance and hear updates on the parking modernization effort from Mayor (sic) Michael Huber and Deron Kintner, Indianapolis Bond Bank Executive Director.

Council Rules and Public Policy Committee Meeting

Room 260, City-County Building

Tuesday, Sept. 28
5:30 p.m.

The City has been undergoing a bid process to determine opportunities for efficiencies in the present parking system to include curbside meters and garage parking. On Aug. 20, Mayor Ballard announced the ACS team as the proposed operator of the parking system. If approved by the Council, ACS will provide the City with a $35 million upfront payment, then a continuing stream of revenue from parking meter proceeds and violations. It is anticipated the City will collect approximately $400 million in ongoing revenue share over the length of the agreement as compared to an estimated $37 million if the city were to do nothing.

This innovative public-private partnership will provide a $35 million upfront payment that will be directly invested in improving the City’s infrastructure in the downtown and Broad Ripple areas, along with an increased revenue stream over the life of the agreement. In addition, the proposal will also modernize the City’s parking meters with new meter technology, increase convenience by allowing users to pay with a credit or debit card and spur economic development.

By modernizing the City’s parking system, residents, employees and visitors of downtown and Broad Ripple will have a better parking experience. New multi-space meter technology will enhance quality of life, making parking more convenient for customers by accepting credit cards and increasing available space. Convenience and turnover are key elements of creating a vibrant economic environment.

For more information about the public parking system initiative and to view all submitted proposals, please visit

Monday, September 27, 2010

Indianapolis to Finance...What?

According to, "An upscale Dolce hotel and 75,000-square-foot YMCA are among the tenants slated for a $150 million mixed-use development being built on 10 acres of land Eli Lilly and Co. owns near its Indianapolis headquarters.

"The development, details of which were announced at a Monday morning news conference, also include plans for 320 high-end apartments and 40,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space.

"The city plans to fund the project by issuing bonds...."

Wait! Hold it right there!

The city? The city plans to fund the project? That means you 'n' me, folks! Why do we want to build a hotel and YMCA for Lilly employees?

We can't even keep our libraries open!

More here and here.

Maybe the Parking Meter Sale Won't Happen?

Fox 59 tried to set up a "Face Off" on the issue of the ACS deal, notes Indy blogger Paul K. Ogden. However, no administration official or council Republican would participate.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Art in the Garden

When many people think "garden art," they probably think of gazing balls, garden gnomes, wind catchers and plastic flamingos. The Indianapolis Zoo’s Hilbert Conservatory’s new fall show "Art in the Garden" is sure to change this way of thinking. From today through 14 November. Zoo visitors can get into one of the hottest trends in gardening.

For the show, local artists were asked to create original pieces of art based on their interpretation of "art in the garden." Selected pieces are displayed among the plant material and floating throughout the vertical space of the Hilbert Conservatory above visitors’ heads. Imagination knows no limit when it comes to creating pieces that are unique, appropriate for the elements and emblematic of the combination of art and nature.

Zoo visitors can also check out the 3.3 acres of the DeHaan Tiergarten outdoor gardens, which are home to outdoor art pieces such as limestone sculptures, fonts and ponds, hand-cast bronze animals, metal sculptures, interactive limestone art and more.

This event is free for members and included with regular Zoo admission.

The artists who contributed to this show include Matt Warren, Joanie Drizin, Donna Johnson, Mirvia Sol Eckert, Hector Del Campo, Maryellen Cox and Brian Callahan.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Fire Danger Means No Open Burning

Mayor Greg Ballard signed an executive order yesterday banning open burning in Indianapolis and Marion County.

Under the mayor's order, all open burning in Indianapolis and Marion County is prohibited until further notice.

About half of Indiana's 92 counties, including all in the Indianapolis metropolitan area, have adopted burning bans because of the prolonged dry spell.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

An Evening at the President's Table

“The President’s Table”, a special four-days-only exhibit, opens next Monday at the President Benjamin Harrison House, 1230 North Delaware Street, Indianapolis. Hours from 28 September through 1 October are 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Visitors will view exhibit as part of mansion tours.

The exhibit showcases United States Presidential artifacts from the personal collection of Barry H. Landau, a Presidential historian and author of The President’s Table – Two Hundred Years of Dining & Diplomacy.

Landau will be the featured speaker at “An Evening at The President’s Table” (part of the Mary Tucker Jasper Speaker Series) at 4:30 p.m. 30 September. The reception, dinner and program with Landau takes place at the Harrison Home and the Conrad Indianapolis.

Recognized as one of America’s foremost experts on the Presidency and White House protocol, Landau will regale guests with stories of the rich, famous and politically connected at this special fund-raising event. Reservations are required; call 317:631-1888.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Today is Fiesta Time in Indy

Friday, September 17, 2010

Durham Faces Foreclosure

JPMorgan Chase has slapped embattled financier Tim Durham with a mortgage-foreclosure suit, and is asking a court to order his Geist mansion sold through a sheriff’s sale, reports Greg Andrews at

The New York-based banking company said Durham stopped making payments this spring on a $3.5 million mortgage he took out in 2007. Because the mortgage runs 30 years, Durham had barely made a dent in the principal, despite required monthly payments of $18,329.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Plowman (Finally) Indicted

Former Indianapolis and Marion County, Ind., City-County Councilman Lincoln Plowman has been charged with attempted extortion and soliciting a bribe, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer for the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Timothy M. Morrison of the Southern District of Indiana.

The indictment, returned by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Indiana, alleges that between 11 August 2009 and 22 December2009, while a member of the City-County Council, Plowman solicited an undercover FBI agent to pay $5,000 in cash and to make a $1,000 campaign contribution for Plowman’s benefit. In exchange for the payments, Plowman allegedly would use his official actions and influence to facilitate the opening of a strip club in Indianapolis. According to the indictment, Plowman was a member of the Metropolitan Development Committee of the City-County Council. He was also a major with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Moving Forward in Indiana

"Moving Forward in Indiana: The Facts on Mass Transit and the Impact on Real Estate Development" takes place from 4 to 7 p.m. tomorrow at of Kite Realty Group Trust, 30 South Meridian Street, Indianapolis. It's sponsored by the Urban Land Institute Indiana.

Speakers are Bob Dunphy, transportation consultant and emeritus fellow, Urban Land Institute, and Ehren Bingaman, executive director, Central Indiana Regional Transportation Authority.

Registration information is online. Information: Rebecca Wagner, 317:663-4806.

The Urban Land Institute is a nonprofit education and research institute supported by its members. Its mission is to provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide. Established in 1936, the Institute has nearly 30,000 members representing all aspects of land use.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Library Cutbacks Start Next Month

According to, the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library will close the Central Library on Thursdays and reduce hours at all branches by a collective 26 percent to help reduce a projected $4 million revenue shortfall next year, it announced Tuesday.

The cutback in hours, effective 3 October, should help save about $1.5 million and keep all branches open in 2011, library officials said.

Of course, this is at the same time the city is giving the Pacers $1.6 million for a new scoreboard. (see this)

Why is this Indianapolis Observer not surprised?

What's more important to Indy, after all!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Daniels to Run for President?

According to Newsweek, Indiana governor Mitch Daniels is ready to run for the GOP presidential nod.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Collegiate Energy Summit in Indy

The second annual Collegiate Energy Summit will be held from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 17 September at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, 4000 Michigan Road, Indianapolis. It's hosted by Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R.-Ind.)

It is designed to engage, motivate and encourage collegiate student leaders in efforts to make a difference in America’s energy security. Through workshops run by student, community and business leaders, the event offers opportunities for students to learn from one another’s efforts to organize campus clubs, undertake energy and environmental activities on campus and in their communities, and learn about energy policy and technology.

The Summit is open to all Indiana college students and is free of charge. To ensure adequate space, students are encouraged to register by 15 September. Walk-up registration is also available beginning at 9:15 a.m. 17 September at the IMA.

There's more information online.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Indy’s “Son of Chicago” Parking Meter Lease to Be a Disaster for City

The next couple of generations will pay the price…It’s despicable, the way it went down…I don’t think the aldermen understood the long-term consequences of what they did. – Chicago Ald. Scott Waguespack

These deals are rarely done under the bright light of public scrutiny. Often the facts come out long after the deal is done. – Richard Little, Director of the Keston Institute for Public Finance and Infrastructure Policy at the University of Southern California

Note: This is republished from The Urbanophile.

I previously explained why signing a long term lease on parking meters was a bad public policy idea. Today I’ll show the practical dangers, using the Indianapolis example as a cautionary tale of how a parking meter lease can go wrong and turn into a civic fiasco. Even if you don’t live in Indy, this is relevant to you as your city is likely looking at privatizing parking or other services where these are things to look out for.

I’m not in Indy anymore, so perhaps this should be of no concern to me. But when I see something so terrible about to befall a place I care about, I have to say something. The deal Indy is signing with its vendor (ACS) is so bad and so one-sided, it almost defies comprehension.

Parking Meters Will Be a Cash Register That Never Stops Ringing for the Vendor

The first and most fundamental question is why the city needs to pay a third party vendor so much for something as basic as running a parking meter system. The city says it will get $400 million under this contract. The Indianapolis Business Journal estimated that the vendor would get between $724 million and $1.2 billion. How much of that is profit to the vendor? No one will ever know since according to the contract, the city is specifically barred from learning anything about the cost or profitability of the system, and any information it does get from the vendor has to be treated as confidential with the city’s people signing non-disclosure agreements, unless the law compels otherwise. The city has said the vendor’s profits are no concern of theirs.

But let’s do the math for ourselves to take a quick look. According to Schedule 9 of the concession contract, the operations of the parking system only costs the city $844K/year right now. That’s not very much, and shows that whatever efficiencies might be gained, they won’t be big dollars in the grand scheme of things. Let’s assume this remains constant in real dollars, and inflates at the same 2.5% rate used in the contract. According to this presentation from the city (slide 50), it will cost $7 million to upgrade the system to pay and display and such. So let’s also assume the vendor has to pay that $7 million in capital every ten years, also adjusted for inflation. That adds up to about $82M in operating expenses and $61M in capital expenses for a total cash outlay of $143M.

On a pre-tax basis, this deal is almost pure profit for the vendor, adding up to between ~$600 million and ~$1.1 billion, or a potential profit margin of almost 90% in the high scenario.

The totals would need to be discounted back to find the present value of the profits, but it is very clear that the city is giving away a huge chunk of the system profit. And for what? Collecting quarters out of meters? Doing basic maintenance? Writing tickets? These could easily be obtained on the open market on a simple service contract basis. Denison Parking does the job today in fact, and I haven’t heard complaints. The vendor is assuming Denison’s contract, so why is the city forking over all this money again?

The Timing and Approach Is Flawed

Indy is signing a 50 year deal in a terrible market. We are in the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression. Are asset values likely to be high or low now? It’s obvious. Is now a good time to be selling a house? Clearly not, so why would be it a good time to do a 50 year sale of parking meters? The Toll Road lease was masterfully done at the peak of the bubble. The city is under no pressure to do a deal, but is selling at a time when it will only get fire sale prices.

Also, it does not appear the city engaged an independent financial advisor to look at the deal from the public’s perspective, repeating a key failure in the Chicago lease process. The Chicago Reader noted a Chicago Inspector General’s report critical of that city’s deal: “In its damning report on the agreement, the inspector general’s office concluded that the city may have leased the meters for $974 million less than they were worth. The reason, the report concluded, was that William Blair’s calculations of the system’s value were all done from the perspective of an investor—they were based on what that investor might be willing and able to pay for the meters, not what their value was to the city.”

No financial advisor other than Morgan Stanley (which is in William Blair’s role on the Indy deal) was listed on the city’s parking web site or in a presentation (slide 58) listing the city’s team members. By contrast, Pittsburgh not only hired Morgan Stanley as an investment bank, they hired Scott Balice Strategies as an independent advisor to represent the city’s interests.

Incidentally, Morgan Stanley is the concession holder on the Chicago lease deal. They appear to have fleeced that city. Don’t take my word for it, read the independent financial press, such as this Bloomberg piece, “Morgan Stanley’s $11 Billion Makes Chicago Taxpayers Cry” or in the New York Times: “Company [Morgan Stanley] Piles Up Profits from City’s Parking Meter Deal.” This should be raising major questions about their role in the Indy deal.

The Contract Is Unconscionably Awful for the City

I also read the entire concession agreement. While I’m not a lawyer, I’ve negotiated multi-million contracts on both sides of the table and actually used to work in the outsourcing business, so I’m extremely familiar with the issues from a corporate perspective. I would certainly encourage anyone to do their own due diligence and study this for themselves, but even if I’m wrong on a few of these, the overall thrust is almost surely accurate.

Among my findings:

1. This is the Chicago parking meter lease.The city has said this deal is very different from Chicago’s notorious parking meter lease. But what they didn’t tell you is that not only is this very much like Chicago’s, it’s literally the exact same contract. That’s right, Indy took the Chicago contract, did a Save As, and tweaked it. Check for yourself. Indy’s deal is here and Chicago’s is here. Given that Chicago’s deal is famously one-sided, this is mind-boggling. I estimate that the majority of the two contracts are word for word identical. This tidbit – “the foregoing sentence shall be interpreted and applied in a manner most favorable to the Concessionaire” – gives you a flavor of how the thing goes. And where Indy’s differs, it is often even worse. I never would have believed that possible.

2. The city has no right to terminate the agreement. The contract for this 50 year deal explicitly states: “The City hereby acknowledges and agrees that it may only terminate this Agreement in accordance with the express terms hereof and shall not, in any event, have the right to terminate this Agreement for convenience.” (Section 16.1). The city can only terminate the deal if the vendor defaults, which is virtually impossible. In a deal like Chicago’s meter lease or the Toll Road, where the only payment the government gets is a lump sum up front fee, perhaps there’s some logic in not allowing the deal to be terminated. But with a very modest $35 million up front fee (compared to a deal value of over $1 billion) and with a needed up front investment of only $7 million (according to the city), it’s unconscionable to not have the right to terminate. The citizens of Indianapolis with be irrevocably locked into a terrible deal for more than a generation – and for very little upfront cash.

3. Penalties are often higher than the actual meter value. One aspect of the Chicago deal that was heavily criticized is that when the city shuts down meters, it has to pay a penalty that assumes the meters were fully occupied at all times, regardless of how much they are normally occupied. Believe it or not, Indy even upped the game here. In two out of the four zones, the penalty for closing the meter is more than if the meter is 100% occupied. The closure fee is $15 for Zone 2 & 3, increasing with inflation. But fully increased rate for Zone 2 is $1 an hour for 13 hours a day – you do the math. It’s only $1 an hour for 11 hours a day in Zone 3. Those meters are literally worth more to the vendor bagged than they could ever be operational. These penalties have to be paid regardless of the actual average utilization of those meters. The penalty for the other two zones ($20) is just shy of the theoretical maximum, but still way too high. (See Definitions, “Temporary Closure Fee” and Schedule 5).

4. The vendor gets the rights to collect parking ticket revenue and sell advertising and naming rights. In the Chicago deal, the city gets all of the money for tickets, and retains all the rights and money for advertising and naming rights for itself. In the Indy deal, the vendor gets these rights, though the city has to approve the specifics of advertising. What is an advertising concession for thousands of locations downtown worth? It could easily be more than the meters themselves. This should have been bid to major outdoor advertising firms in an open process to maximize city revenue, not thrown into the parking meter deal, assuming festooning downtown with ads is something you want to do in the first place.

5. Residential permit parking is coming to Broad Ripple. The city says it plans to use the meter proceeds to build a new garage in Broad Ripple. Broad Ripple is Zone 4, and the contract says, “In the event the City builds a public parking garage in Zone 4 during the Term, the City will agree to institute a Residential Permit program for non-metered parking spaces in and around Zone 4 to be administered by the Concessionaire on terms mutually agreeable to the Parties.” Did you know that? The city is contractually obligating itself to specific permit parking policies in that neighborhood. Now perhaps permit parking’s not a terrible idea, but isn’t it something that should be vetted through the normal political process? And be subject to change over time, not locked in for 50 years?

Outside of Broad Ripple, the city has actually limited its ability to establish residential permit parking zones. Per the contract: “The City reserves the right to designate certain on-street parking that are not Metered Parking Spaces as residential parking requiring a Residential Permit, provided that such designation does not materially effect the Metered Parking System in the surrounding area.” How nice of the vendor to agree to this. If it does affect the vendor, they are entitled to compensation. Also, if the city does establish permit parking, the vendor gets to run that too – including getting the revenue from parking tickets.

6. The vendor even gets revenue from tickets written by IPD or other city agents. The vendor has the right to write tickets on the system, but the city also has the rights. And even if the city writes the tickets, the vendor still gets the money: “The Concessionaire shall have the exclusive right to collect and retain all Parking Violation Revenue during the Term in accordance with Enforcement Policies and Procedures, regardless of whether such Parking Violation Revenue resulted from Parking Enforcement conducted by the Enforcement Operator or the City’s designated law enforcement officers.”

The city retains the cost of adjudicating parking tickets, however. It does get to judge the validity of tickets, but disturbingly, the contract actually specifies the judicial outcomes it expects: “The City shall remain responsible for the adjudication related to the Parking Enforcement; provided that such adjudication shall be consistent with the historical practices of the City, including a consistent level of parking tickets that are dismissed or appealed.”

Incredibly, the city even owes money to the vendor if the public starts appealing tickets at a rate more than 30% more than currently, regardless of whether the appeals have merit or not (Section 7.8). It’s considered a “Compensation Event.”

Add this up and what it means is the vendor can write tickets, gets to have the revenue counted to it (minus the revenue share), and if the vendor just starts writing bogus tickets to inflate its own revenues, and the public protests them, the vendor gets even more money. That’s right, the vendor can literally print money for itself simply by writing as many tickets as it feels like.

Another hugely risky item. One other change from the Chicago deal is that the city is agreeing to indemnify the vendor against any court ruling that the vendor can’t write tickets or collect parking ticket revenue (Section 12.2). Someone is challenging the Chicago lease by saying that since the city transferred the meters by bill of sale (just like Indy), it’s a private business now and the city’s police powers can’t be used to enforce parking rules for the benefit of a private company. I believe this is still being litigated. I’m not sure what the law would be in Indiana, but if similar claims were raised and ended up being successful, the city could be on the hook for possibly hundreds of millions of dollars.

7. The vendor automatically gets the right to any new meters, but the city has to pay to remove any meters. In the Chicago deal, the city has to negotiate with the existing vendor for new meters outside the existing concession area, but is free to take its business elsewhere if the vendor won’t match what a competitor would offer. In Indy, any new meters are automatically enrolled in the new deal. (Section 7.7) I didn’t see where this was limited to the four specified zones, so it might in fact apply to any meter in the city.

However, if the city removes a meter, they have to pay a meter removal fee. In the first year, this is $15,400 per meter in Zone 1. I didn’t see any provision for offsetting adds and removes, meaning if the city adds three meters and removes one, the vendor gets the three new ones automatically and the city is still on the hook to pay for the one they removed. What’s more, the city is also on the hook for any lost parking ticket revenue the vendor would have gotten off that space too.

To show how one-sided this deal is, if the city adds more than 10% new meters, the vendor actually has the right to reject them. That doesn’t mean that the city can take its business elsewhere though. Rather, it puts them into a special category where the vendor runs them, but the city is responsible for the costs of setting them up (Section 7.7). That hardly sounds like what we’ve been told that all the risk is outsourced. By the way, Chicago has these types of meters too, but the vendor is only entitled to a 15% management fee for them, whereas in the Indy deal, they get a full revenue share.

8. Temporary closure policies are worse than Chicago’s. There’s a cost associated with closing meters for more than a very small temporary closure allowance. The Indianapolis closure allowance is worse than Chicago’s. In Chicago’s system, closures of six hours or more are treated as an entire day while those less than six hours are ignored. In Indy, anything greater than four hours is treated as a full day closure. In Chicago, Central Business District meters can be closed under the contract for up to 8% of the days without penalty. In Indy it is only 6% (see Definitions, “Temporary Closure Allowance”).

9. Will festival and events organizers see new fees? Section 7.6 says, “the Concessionaire shall charge, collect and retain the applicable Temporary Closure Fee from any Person (other than the City), in advance, in respect of any Temporary Closure requested by such Person.” What this sounds like to me is that if anyone other than the city wants to shut down meters, they’ve got to pay the vendor, and pay in advance. Does this mean anyone who wants to hold a festival or event downtown – even on a Saturday, since meters need to be fed then under the new contract – will have to pay this parking fee? And since the city has a revenue share, is this a stealth tax on those events? It’s not clear to me, but the contract explicitly says valet parking operators have to pay up.

10. Even the city has to pay to use the spots. As part of this program, all city issued parking placards are cancelled (Section 3.19). Now clearly this program has been abused in the past, but it seems legitimate that city vehicles on official business should be able to park on the city’s own streets for free. But I couldn’t find any provision of the deal that allows city owned vehicles to be parked in these spots for free even on city business, other than emergency response vehicles during an actual emergency. The contract does talk about an “employee parking program”, but the city or the employees will be paying for it. This is even more revenue for the vendor.

I could go on and on, but these are the highlights and should establish pretty clearly how bad this contract is for the city. It’s one of the worst I’ve ever seen. Even the Force Majeure clause is one way and only provides an out for the vendor, not the city.

An All Around Bad Deal

I’ll again reiterate that this deal is simply bad public policy. Because none of the parameters of parking policy can be changed unless they make the vendor even richer, the city has de facto frozen its parking policy for 50 years. This even applies to areas people probably have no idea of, like requiring permit parking in Broad Ripple.

An example. Imagine the city wanted to take 20% of its metered spots and replace them with electric car charging stations, making them free and reserved for electric vehicles in order to encourage that transition? Can’t do it. (If the city did that, it might fall afoul of the even worse Adverse Action clause I didn’t get around to).

Another example: Maybe the city decides it wants to close Monument Circle (or any other street) to traffic after all. It can’t do it without paying a big fee, both for the directly impaired meters, and for obstructing access to other meters, which the contract forbids the city to do.

The list goes on and on. We have no idea what the world will be like in 10 years, much less 50. This isn’t something like a water system where all it is really useful for is delivering water and it is pretty reasonable to assume we’ll still want plenty of safe, clean water tomorrow. This is general purpose real estate. This is one of the most precious assets of any city – its public space – a policy area that is experiencing rapid innovation. In fact, Indy is on the forefront of that with the Cultural Trail – but perhaps no longer. No matter what the contract might say, this is a de facto ground lease on the streets of downtown and Broad Ripple.

But beyond bad policy, again, it would appear given even a casual analysis to be a terrible financial deal for the city. And the market timing couldn’t be worse in the teeth of the Great Recession. And the contract is an unmitigated disaster.

If the City County County votes to approve this deal, the city will regret it for decades to come, just like Chicago. I hope city leaders see this and change course before it’s too late.

Published: Tuesday, 7 September 2010