Harris on the Record

What impacts you and the media doesn't cover. – Art Harris

Nothing $acred At IU

Allow me to vent on the subject of naming rights by Indiana University, specifically the varsity baseball field, with which I had a memorable association in the mid-1950s.

In those years, it was known as Sembower Field, located north of the campus on Fee Lane, and named for Professor C.J. Sembower who played baseball for IU in 1891-1894.

Sembower was among the organizers of the I-Men’s Association in 1913 and served as the organization’s first vice-president. Since that time, every athlete who ever received an athletic ”I” became a member of the association. The gender reference was changed with the advent of Title 9 and is now known as the ”I” Association.

Over the years, the land where the baseball field was situated became more and more tantalizing to IU’s dreams of expansion. Thus, the call was made to relocate the field, and in so-doing came the lip-smacking opportunity for the university to solicit deep-pocket donors and naming rights.

So now, the name Sembower is no longer linked to IU baseball.  Instead, the new field and stadium is located along the Ind. 45/46 bypass, and named Kaufman Field for Bart Kaufman who played baseball in the early 1960s. Kaufman is an Indianapolis attorney.

The Indianapolis Star published a BizBuzz in its business section April 28 that Kaufman  made a $2.5 million donation to help build the new field. It also identified Kaufman as chairman and CEO of Kaufman Financial Corp. of Carmel.

Adjacent to Kaufman Field is a new softball facility named for a squeaky Plainfield car dealer.

So, what sent me on this rant?

Ernie Andres was the IU baseball coach, as well as having stellar years as a member of the varsity basketball team, as well as playing varsity baseball.

A letter from the IU Varsity Club asking for donations to recognize ”the contributions and legacy of Coach Andres” to name the IU dugout ”in his honor.” The missive was from Jim Muehling, development officer with the IU Varsity Club, who stated ”there have been some significant gifts towards the $100K goal,” which leaves the impression Coach Andres’ dugout will cost $100,000!

I doubt there are many major league teams with dugouts costing that much. Tell me more Mr. Muehling: gold plated facets?

And, of course the gifts in Coach Andres name are made payable to the IU Foundation, which will administer the funds. But, finding out how the foundation ”administers” those gifts is a state secret, despite efforts of many years to look at the foundation’s books.

So, what sent me on this rant?

My association with Coach Andres and Sembower Field dates to the mid-1950s when I was a student manager for the IU varsity baseball team. In those days, there was always a full-drawer of managers starting with six freshmen, four sophomores, two juniors, and one senior manager. Who would ascend to the next level from one year to the next was the coach’s call.

Despite one personal setback for me in my junior year, Coach Andres stayed with me and named me senior manager for the 1958 season, which gave me the opportunity to travel with the team for games with Illinois, Michigan State, Ohio State and Notre Dame.

And, the piece de resistance was the Spring training trip, usually south to Texas, Florida, or Louisiana, which included the senior manager, me.

Guess what? Harris’ luck held true to form — we didn’t go south, but stayed in Bloomington.

But, that’s another story, in which President Herman B Wells and our catcher Edward E. ”Eddie” Whitehead, of Madison, played starring roles.

When I got to reminiscing about Coach Andres, it brought to mind an incident involving the IU dugout during a game when I was a manager. Who we were playing is a mystery to me now, but not what happened during the game.

As he was wont to do when an IU baseballer made a bone-headed mistake Coach Andres would invariably kick the bat rack sending maple spindles spiraling all over the dugout as players ducked for cover. But, this time an IU error sent him into a small toilet at the south end of the dugout. When coach slammed the door it locked, and stayed locked. He was captive.

All he could see of Sembower Field was through a small air vent, and his range of vision was limited to the pitcher’s mound and second base beyond.

And, of course his team verbally and loudly described all sorts of phenomenal Hall of Fame plays IU made that afternoon, all of which were products of our imagination, while Coach Andres pleaded to know what was going on.

Despite our promises to send for a maintenance man to release him, as I recall it wasn’t until the game, which IU lost, was over that the locksmith guy showed up to free a humbled Coach Andres.

So, after excising my grumps, and in afterthoughts, maybe naming a dugout after Coach Andres is fitting.

Storm on the Storm Water Board

While Boone County and Zionsville were inundated last week with storm water there was also a maelstrom on the Storm Water Board.

Zionsville Council President Jeff Papa removed all three members – Sanjay Patel, president; John Connor, and Candace Ulmer.

Papa then reappointed Ulmer as a ”caretaker” until a new members can be named.

In his letter Papa said that he would not ”allow the federal mandate to be used as an excuse to create a monster that cannot be tamed.”

Dated April 17, Papa wrote: In accordance with Indiana Code 8-1.5-5-4(e), I have determined that it is in the best interest of the department to remove all directors of the Department of Storm Water Management, and therefore order all three directors removed, effective immediately.

In accordance with Indiana Code 8-1.5-5-4(c), I hereby appoint Councilor Candace Ulmer as a director (board member) of the Department of Storm Water Management.

I do not take this action lightly. There are a host of outstanding objections, complaints, and compromise proposals raised by members of the public and the Zionsville Town Council that remain unaddressed. One of the most glaring is the lack of any credits or caps on the proposed fee for positive, pro-environmental behavior. Zionsville prides itself on being a park-like, environmental-friendly community. Our goal should be to encourage voluntary, positive behavior, not to utilize the Department of Storm Water Management as a vehicle to circumvent Indiana’s property tax caps. By imposing a fee (through the special taxing district, but not subject to the property tax limits) without addressing the concept of credits for behavior that reduces the impact of storm water runoff, and by noting that the revenue will be used in part for capital projects currently being funded by the town’s street department, we would do exactly that. Once a fee is established, it will be very difficult for government to give back that revenue by later establishing credits; it must be done in advance as a part of the plan.

By all accounts, Zionsville is currently in compliance with the unfunded federal storm water mandates. Until such time as further action is required, I cannot support a ”rain tax” of $568,056 or $646,056. Zionsville is an affluent community, but we should not impose additional burdens on citizens of more modest means, or for that matter, those who can easily pay it. Citizens who are currently struggling to pay extremely high water and sewer service bills in neighborhoods such as Royal Run and Stonegate need no additional burden. Without a complete plan, this fee should not be imposed on our churches, non-profits, and schools.

I am extremely concerned about creating a storm water fee collection mechanism in the rural areas. Once a vehicle for collection of such a fee is created, it will be too easy for the town to begin imposing other fees and taxes through this mechanism. Rural Zionsville residents are included in this mandate based on a technicality, and many of them – including the new residents of Worth Township – are not served by Zionsville water and sewer services. We have seen many Indiana communities impose this fee, and then almost immediately increase the fee by a large amount; one recent example was an increase of 600% in a city’s storm water fee. Furthermore, the data used to calculate the proposed rate structure appears to be quite outdated.

I am also concerned about the process. The council raised many objections at our January meeting, and the public has raised many objections as well. I reiterated these objections in a phone call with the board president several weeks ago. Both at-large councilors sent emails re-stating our objections, which were not replied to and which were only read into the board’s record after the recent vote to move forward with only a rate reduction of 29%  in the rural area. The only council member of the board [Ulmer] voted no. I sent an additional email, restating my objections after the vote of the board, which went unanswered. Now the council has received a request to formally approve the rate at our May 6 meeting. However, the board has not held its public hearing yet (scheduled for May 2). This schedule seems to assume approval regardless of public input received and over the objection of the councilor board member voting no. Beyond these reasons (or perhaps because of them), the town has been threatened with litigation over the fee – a cost we can ill afford in pursuit of defending an incomplete plan.

The hard work of the board members is greatly appreciated, and the plan has improved dramatically since its first iteration. However, the current plan continues to contain many flaws and is moving forward rapidly. A similar plan, without the small reduction in the rural rate, was defeated 7-0 by the [town] council. Using an unjust, unfunded federal mandate to circumvent Indiana’s constitutional tax caps is unacceptable. Implementing a plan that is incomplete, based on old data, and which does not encourage voluntary, positive behavior is also unacceptable. I urge the reconstituted directors. after appointment of two remaining members, to examine alternate means to comply with the federal mandate by utilizing existing revenues or examining the many compromise proposals that have been suggested in the development of a complete plan.

In the meantime, we can continue the outstanding efforts of town staff and citizens to protect the environment and reduce the impact of storm water runoff. One example is the rain garden recently constructed at town hall by our staff. A voluntary program could be established, recognizing citizens for taking positive action on their property, perhaps recognizing them for voluntary actions lie mulching leaves and grass, refraining from using unneeded fertilizer, using no-till farming practices and other mitigating activities. Recognition certificates or signs could be available for purchase and this voluntary revenue used for the storm water department.

There are many proposals for compliance and compromise. I will not allow the federal mandate to be used as an excuse to create a monster that cannot be tamed. I will be submitting a check to the town for three years worth of the full amount of the proposed storm water fee for my home. I encourage those supporting the proposed fee to join me in doing so, voluntarily.

Council Buying PNC Property On South Main

Zionsville’s Town Council took the first steps at its’ meeting Monday night to increase its’ properties – the PNC Bank’s holdings on South Main Street.

The property includes the bank building, the locksmith’s shop, and the parking lot on the southside of Hawthorne Street between South Main and First streets.

The council action approved hiring of two independent appraisers, as required by state law, to come up with costs for the potential purchase.

The parking lot, provincially referred to as the Friendly Tavern lot, owned by the bank and leased to the town for a minimal annual amount, is also the site of the popular Farmers’ Market, operating from May to September.

In accompanying action, the council also approved the use of the lot for the annual Saturday event with the Farmers’ Market Inc.

Well-placed sources have confirmed that PNC is in the process of unloading hundreds of its properties, and the Zionsville branch is on that list.

What the town would do with the property, if a purchase is approved, has not been made public. The purchase would probably be funded by a loan to the town should the town decide to buy the site.

Please understand this is only a possible use for part of the property, but using the site of the locksmith shop for a town visitor center with public restrooms would resolve two issues debated for years. That was until one of those matters was resolved this year when a visitors’ center was opened in the business district.

Regardless of how or what would be developed on the property, it would be critical for the town to retain the parking facility, used to great extent daily by patrons of the Friendly, one of the town’s most popular gathering places, hosted by its’ generally genial proprietor Scott Barnes.

Provided that the purchase of the property by the town comes to fruition, then maybe the historic ”Zionsville” sign can be returned to the corner of Main and Sycamore streets where it once was located.

Urban legend purports that the sign, made of iron, once adorned the Zionsville train station depot, located at the end of Laurel Avenue.

 Currently, the sign rests in the garage of a well-known town resident, who is most protective of the artifact and refuses to dilvulge its location, but is more than willing to return it to its’ previous location.

County GOP Failed Takeover Surprises

Last Saturday, an attempted coup d’etat of the Boone County Republican Party by the Zionsville-led forces of Chad Pittman et al crashed and burned big time.

And, Zionsville came out a loser.

Saturday, at the courthouse in Lebanon, county Republican precinct committee persons gathered to elect a slate of officers for the county GOP party.

Pittman’s horse was Steve Jacob, president of the Boone County Council, and vice-chair of the county GOP party.

Least you are unaware of Jacob’s credits, he married the daughter of Betty and Paul Green of Zionsville. Paul was a longtime former Boone GOP chairman, Betty’s father was also a county GOP chair.

Pittman was also backing Kate Swanson to become vice-chair.

Swanson was treasurer of the Pittman-organized Citizens for a Better Zionsville committee which swept the Zionsville Town Council elections in 2007.

Jacob also had the support Saturday of county councilor Gene “Dump the Bridge” Thompson, from Zionsville.

Pretty impressive bunch?

But, along came Debbie (Ottinger).

Ms. Ottinger, the county treasurer and longtime officeholder, was the reigning GOP county chair, and had second thoughts of passing the torch to Jacob.

She teamed-up with the popular Sheriff Ken Campbell as her vice-chair and the duo soundly tromped the Jacob-Swanson ticket by a goodly margin.

So, how will this play in Peoria for Zionsville?

Pittman and his camp may well be on the outs with the county GOP.

Pittman, of Zionsville, supported Joe Donnelly, a Democrat, for the U.S. Senate vacancy against Republican Richard Mourdock in the November ’12 election.

As a result, according to well-placed sources, there may be a move to strip Pittman of his precinct committee position because of his backing Donnelly.

About three years ago, Pittman, Jacob, and former Zionsville Town Council member Michelle Barrett began organizing a slate of precinct committee persons. Their the intent was to have supporters when occasions arose for committee persons to decide on candidates, such as a town council vacancy, as well as electing county political heads.

With the failed takeover of the county GOP machinery, fellow party members from Zionsville could get short shrift from the Lebanon Repubs when it comes time to fill party tickets, or fill party vacancies.

My advice to Pittman is to read Robrt Caro’s biography of President Lyndon Johnson, who when he was Senate majority leader always knew of his support ahead of a vote. He never failed to count his votes.

Correction

In my Feb. 8 offering, I stated that Barnes & Thornburg was the law firm representing the Zionsville School Corp.

That was an error.

On Feb. 11, the school board accepted the proposal from the Noblesville law firm of Church Church Hittle & Antrim to represent the school corp.

My apologies to Barnes & Thornburg and Church et al.

Dump Fire & Police – Hire Private Public Safety Firms

Now that the gurus on the Zionsville Town Council have canned the town’s long-time engineering firm, HNTB (2012), and dumped its’ lawyers at Krieg DeVault (Feb. 11) why not go a step further and terminate all the personnel on the police and fire departments?

The savings would be immense. No longer would the town be funding the staggering costs of pensions for personnel on the two departments, plus their health care costs, which amounts to millions annually.

But, what would the town do for police and fire protection?

Contract the public safety services to outside private firms. Where is Blackwater when we need them?

With the reduction in troops from the Mideast, and many returning servicemen and women, surely enough could be found to form private fire and police services for smaller municipalities. Think of the savings to cash-strapped towns and cities.

So, which legal firm did the council select?

At the end of the council meeting Monday night (Feb.11), what followed was seen by members of the public present as most awkward.

Former council president Tim Haak made a motion to retain Krieg DuVault, which died for lack of a second. Welcome to the Lone Ranger team Tim.

Then, Councilor Tom Schuler made a motion to table the vote, which was seconded. After several minutes of trying to explain what was happening, Schuler’s motion and the second were withdrawn and a vote was taken to hire Barnes & Thornburg, the powerhouse Indianapolis law firm.

Whoa.

Barnes & Thornburg represents the Zionsville Community Schools. Doesn’t that create the appearance of a conflict of interest? How is that firm going to represent the schools and town at the same time when an issue arises when one or the other (schools or town) needs legal representation in dealing with a situation involving both, i.e. the schools participation with the town on the DOW property?

And, if anyone is interested Councilor Elizabeth Hopper recused herself from voting on hiring Barnes & Thornburg because her husband is a member of the firm. Presumably, Councilor Hopper would not vote on any further matter involving the firm and the town.

THE FORD ROAD BRIDGE 220 SAGA CONTINUES

A new proposal for the Ford Road bridge over Eagle Creek suggests a 36-foot wide span, which would provide for four (4) lanes of traffic on a two-lane road.

Some folks are speculating that after the construction of a new bridge, efforts will be made to widen Ford Road to four lanes from Oak Street to 96th Street.

But, then where do we go? 96th Street is the Marion-Boone county line and it’s two lanes to the I-465 overpass.

And, because of the controversy about replacing the current bridge with an historic iron truss span, created largely by County Council member Gene Thompson, the $2.58 million in federal funds have been withdrawn.

My vote is we put Thompson in charge of a new bridge.

An Ulmer Coup Exposed

One of the latest attempted coups by Zionsville Town councilor Candace Ulmer was shot down a week ago (Jan. 25) during an executive session when she tried to get Town Manager Ed Mitro fired.

With the new administration only a month old, Ulmer, with council cohorts Susana Suarez and Elizabeth Hopper, had successfully stymied former Council President Tim Haak’s bid for vice president.

At the executive session last Friday morning, Mitro was asked to leave the meeting, and then Ulmer announced she wanted to discuss his continued employment.

Oops.

State law requires the topic of an executive sessios be stated on the meeting notice; something as innocuous as personnel matters would have sufficed to discuss an employe’s employment, but Ulmer apparently forgot this small item until it was called to her attention.

But, that didn’t deter a discussion among councilors of reasons why Ulmer wanted Mitro gone.  

It’s no secret that Mitro has put the skids on Ulmer’s attempts to skirt his authority, which has drawn her ire.

Other than that, Ulmer had no concrete objections to Mitro’s work.

She was reminded that at the end of each year, town department heads are subject to an annual job evaluation to determine if goals and objectives have been met. Mitro schedules appointments with each employee and then writes a report.

If a department head continues to fall short on job performance, those reports can be the basis for termination.

So, who reviews Mitro? The town council president. But, despite his continued requests for those evaluations, no council president since Dick Crane has found time to review Mitro’s work.

Thus, Councilor Ulmer was reminded that without a sound basis, i.e. job performance evaluations, the council could be in legal hot water to terminate Mitro without just cause.

Ulmer has apparently been emboldened to rattle some council cages since her move to derail Haak’s bid for vice president.

At the start of the new year, the council elects new officers.  Councilors agreed that Jeff Papa would wield the gavel for 2013, and Haak, who has just completed a year as president, would serve as vice-president.

But, Ulmer objected and made veiled innuendoes about Haak’s performance as president and threatened to reveal them.

For whatever reasons, Haak withdrew his name for vice-president and Steve Mundy was the compromise candidate.

Let the cat fights begin.

A Roger Brown Memory

A trip down memory lane, and please excuse any unintentional lapses in gray matter, but its’ been a few years since Roger Brown and I sat on a stool at St. Elmo’s Steak House one afternoon and discussed a delicate matter that the mayor’s office asked me to mediate.

Brown, who died March 4, 1997, at 54 and far too soon, is acclaimed as one of the greatest players in the American Basketball Association, playing for the former Indiana Pacers when the franchise was part of the ABA.

(February 28, at 9 p.m., Channel 20, WFYI will present Undefeated: The Roger Brown Story with interviews with Oscar Robertson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Reggie Miller, Bill Cosby and Bob Costas. If you never saw Brown play, here’s a chance to see his greatness.)

After the unified government act, known as Unigov, passed in 1970, the new City County Council provided for four at-large members, and in 1971, Brown was elected to one of those positions as a member of the Republican Party.

The exact year of my moment with ”the Rajah” escapes me, but the events leading up to it, I can never forget.

At the time, I was a reporter for The Indianapolis News covering half of the new city reorganization. My associate, the veteran city government reporter Hugh Rutledge, took the other half of municipal coverage. One of the departments of city government on my ”beat” was Public Safety, which included the fire and police departments.

From time-to-time, The News would get calls about a late model pink Cadillac zooming around town, mostly at night, with red lights flashing beneath the grill work.

In those days the afternoon newspaper had a weekly column labeled City Desk Memos, which contained tidbits not considered as major news events, but qualified as minor items worthy of mention. After, two or three reports about the colorful Cadillac, I wrote a short piece for City Desk Memos, in which I noted the driver was a mystery.

Well, not for long. An anonymous caller said the car belonged to Brown.

And, so began the search for the elusive truth.

As it turned out, Brown, still a city councilor, had become a deputy coroner, which enabled him to have the emergency lights on his personal vehicle.

One day, my phone rang in the offices of The News in the City-County Building asking me to come to the mayor’s office on the 25th floor of the City-County Building. At the time, Richard G. Lugar was mayor.

I can’t now recall who it was I spoke with, other than the person had a top-level appointed position in Lugar’s office.

The request to me, made on behalf of the city administration, was would I meet with Brown and delicately explain why he was getting so much ink about his red lights and Caddy.

Time has dimmed how or who arranged the meeting, other than it was mid-afternoon at St. Elmo’s.

Brown arrived on time, and after small talk I explained my mission and asked about the red lights.

I must say that there was nothing pretentious about him; he was quiet, reserved, truthful and a gentleman.

He said his emergency lights and authority as a deputy coroner allowed him access to incidents that had the potential of becoming more confrontational. He told me that because of his status as a professional athlete he felt his presence could prove a calming influence, which was supported by police officials I spoke with.

Then came the $64,000 question.

”What should I do to avoid this publicity” created by his car and lights, he asked?

I suggested a late model brown Chevrolet would not be a distraction.

Brown looked at me like I was from Mars, but after a further explanation, I think he got the message.

We shook hands and he thanked me.

I don’t know whether he took the advice, but the calls to the newspaper about a pink Cadillac with red lights were no more.

Penn State + Notre Dame = Cover-ups

Has anyone considered the similarity between the scandal which rocked Penn State and the current hoax involving a Notre Dame linebacker and his fake dead girlfriend?

It’s all about big-time athletic teams, anchored by profitable football programs and cover-ups to preserve the face of the schools regardless of the bodies left in the wake.

The Penn State fiasco brought down its preeminent coach Joe Paterno and the university’s president and athletic director, not to mention the conviction of the perp, Jerry Sandusky.

What was one of the more egregious facts that came out of that smarmy story was that certain Penn State personel knew of Sandusky’s lust for young boys and turned a blind eye for years.

Now, we have the South Bend feel-good story gone south.

And, I’d bet season tickets that if Deadspin.com hadn’t broken the story, the Damers would still be in denial.

A whole host of coaches, mentors and priests were privy to the saga of the Irish star linebacker Manti Te’o and his online relationship with a girl named Lennay Kekua. The Fightin’ Irish media machine cranked-out story of her supposed death and Te’o’s resolve to play on, all to promote the football team’s undefeated season and its’ upcoming championship bowl game with Alabama. 

Three weeks later, Dec. 26 Te’o smelled something fishy, and it wasn’t even Friday, and he confessed to his coach his dead girlfriend wasn’t dead. The coach alerted higher-ups and the school hired private investigators to check out the inconsistancies.

The story was even under wraps at media day Jan. 5 before the BCS bowl game in Miami.

Then along came the Web site Deadspin, and now Notre Dame is throwing their Heisman hope to the dogs.

At first, the university’s athletic director Jack Swarbrick, a onetime Indianapolis poohbah, held a press conference and tearfully claimed the school’s investigation showed Te’o was the victim of a hoax.

But now, as the media hounds smell blood, good old Jack wants Te’o to take the heat of the klieg lights and face the music and talk publicly.

The Golden Dome is beginning to get a little tarnished.

What’s Next For Firearms’ Owners

Here’s what worries me about the government – state and federal – consciously trying to reduce gun crimes.

Granted, some of President Obama’s proposals have merit and should be seriously debated by Congress.

I don’t know of any hunters who take semi-automatic rifles afield in pursuit of prey.

But, what’s coming next?

Despite the flurry of proposed federal legislation, the president’s use of executive orders, and the New York governor’s quick-on-the-trigger enactment of what he claims are the toughest gun laws in the nation, there’s bound to be another deranged individual who will commit murder and mayhem with a weapon, whether it be legal or illegal.

Then, we will hear more cries for more restrictions from the liberal media, and the politicans’ knees will jerk and more laws will be floated slowly but surely limiting gun ownership.

And, where will it stop?

One of the more inane proposals currentlty being floated is to put armed guards in schools. A better solution would be to secure doors, windows and require identification for anyone wanting entrance for a legitimate purpose. 

If anyone wants to measure the level of media frenzy for the government’s control of firearms, look no further than The New York Times multitude of articles in that vein. Its’ December 19, 2012 editions featured a front page article labeling white Republicans more likely than white Democrats to own guns. Note the key word is “likely.” 

About 25 or more years ago, I went to a ”gun and knife show” at the state fairgrounds where most of the firearms were antiques and the attendees were collectors.

Fast forward to November 2012 and another such event at the same location and the crowd was overwhelming, but more significantly were the numbers of new handguns and semi-automatic rifles for sale. The aisles were packed with people, there were tables after table of firearms and booths displaying all sizes of ammunition. That was in one building, and I never got into the other two buildings after three hours of looking, not buying.

But, there were plenty of people purchasing guns and ammo, all with no background checks.

I asked one vendor what he attributed the crowds to. ”Obama,” he said.

As a qualifier, I was a waterfowl hunter for 50 plus years until I could no longer wake before dawn, slosh through swamps and streams in mind-numbing temperatures to sit and wait for wildfowl. As an old Illinois River duck hunter explained why he had quit, ”I lost my kill.” A few years ago I understood him.

Most of my firearms are antiquated hand-me-downs from my father who were willed to him by his father, and could be deemed as collectors’ items. I own two antique Colt handguns – vintage 1849 and 1894. I have an Indiana license to carry a handgun should the occasion arise when transporting a handgun outside of my domicile.

As long as I follow the state and federal laws of owning a handgun, rifle or shotgun, it is repugnant to me that I would be required to register my firearms with anyone but my insurance agent, and even that’s worrisome.

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