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The Local LGBT Battle

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

I was not surprised when Senate President Pro Tempore David Long announced that the GOP caucus could not reach a consensus on legislation to add sexal orientation to the state’s civil rights and so the bill effectively died in the Chamber.

In fact, I told you this would likely happen.  So now the question is where exactly does this issue go?   I’ll tell you.  It goes back to the trenches where LGBT rights supporters have had their most success.  In other words, they need to refocus on efforts to pass local human rights ordinances.

According to Indiana Competes, currently  24-percent of Hoosiers live in a city or town with a fully inclusive Human Rights Ordinance (HRO) that covers both sexual orientation and gender identity.  Thirty-four percent live in communities that have some protections or lack enforceability, for example while there is no ordinance there might be an executive order on the books or there’s a city policy prohibiting discrimination in hiring..

Communities with fully inclusive and enforceable HROs include: Indianapolis/ Marion County, South Bend, Carmel, Hammond, Muncie, Anderson, Columbus, New Albany, West Lafayette, Zionsville, Terre Haute and Bloomington.

And ironically this is where most of Indiana’s economic growth is taking place.  One of the criticisms of passing statewide protection is that Indiana’s economy continues to thrive without one.   Well, that’s not entirely accurate. Indiana is thriving, but it’s in the places that have local HROs.  More than 82 percent of Indiana’s the new economic investment commitments announced by the Indiana Economic Development Commission between April and December 2015 were in communities with HROs.   And more than 58 percent of new jobs and more than 90 percent of all ‘high-wage’ jobs announced in Indiana were created in communities with comprehensive HROs.

And that’s the key selling point.   Based on my conversations with lawmakers from smaller communities, jobs are the big issue as their constituents worry that the job creation isn’t coming to their communities.  Well, one way to fix that might be with a local HRO.   I’m not saying it’s the silver bullet what ails small-town Indiana, but it probably couldn’t hurt.  Apparently it’s helping other local communities.  And that’s where the battle should go next.



Don’t Expect Lawmakers to Pass an LGBT Rights Bill

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

I was recently asked why it appears to be so difficult for Indiana lawmakers to pass a bill that protects the LGBT community from discrimination and at the same time, religious freedom.  My half joking response to that person was that they were expecting the same body that can’t figure out Sunday alcohol sales to thread the needle of non-discrimination vs. religious freedom, good luck with that one.  All kidding aside, while a lot of people say the civil rights issue should not be that complicated, unfortunately it is and it has nothing to do with religious freedom.

First of all, for a number  of lawmakers, particularly those in rural areas, the LGBT rights issue is not a big deal.  I know it sounds harsh, but it’s true.   I’ve been speaking to a number of State Representatives and Senators from small towns and rural communities.  When they have their town hall meetings, the tops issues are roads, jobs and schools.  They might be lucky to get one question about the LGBT issue.  So we shouldn’t be shocked that they don’t get worked up over something that their constituents don’t.  Of course there is the irony that nearly 80% of the job creation in Indiana takes place in communities that protect LGBT rights, but that’s another column for another time.

Second there’s the politics of a tough vote.   This one isn’t as much complicated as it is a fact of life.  Let’s face it, a lot of politicians aren’t necessarily profiles in courage and they won’t take a tough vote unless someone drags them kicking and screaming to it.  There’s also the fact that we are about to enter primary season.  And either the lawmaker doesn’t want to get a primary challenger or to have the issue used against them by one of their primary opponents as they either run for re-election or seek a higher office.

Third, there’s what I call “the American Beauty” factor.  Look up the film and pay close attention to the reason why Kevin Spacey’s character is killed.  But if you don’t have time, let me spell this part out for you, some folks just don’t like the LGBT community.  Either it’s just a straight up dislike, borderline hatred or they have their own “unresolved” issues.  And this subject makes their lives more difficult because it either goes against their own personal prejudices or it’s just another thing that would have to make them come to terms with who they really are and for that crowd denial is a lot more than a river that runs through Cairo.

So when you throw in the above mentioned reasons, on top of the religious freedom and conscious arguments, it’s a lot of easier to grasp why the LGBT equality rights issue is swimming upstream at the Indiana General Assembly.  Personally, I support full protection for the LGBT community. I think it can be done while respecting religious rights.   But then again, I’m smarter and more enlightened that most people.  I also understand politics and with all these moving parts, unfortunately, the longer this goes on, the more I don’t think it will pass at the state level.  I’d go have a drink to lament this fact, but I’m writing this on Sunday and it’s illegal for the grocery store to sell me a bottle of alcohol.


Seriously Simpson?

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

I had no idea  Indy Mayor Joe Hogsett’s recently released anti-crime plan was racist.  At least that’s what one Democrat elected official is saying.

Democratic Councilor Joe Simpson has been attacking the Mayor’s 100-day crime plan, basically saying it’s racist, because it unfairly targets blacks and makes them look like the face of crime.

I am not making this up.

Here’s what Hogsett’s “racist” crime plan does…

  • Returns to a more traditional community policing and reassigning more officers to the city’s troubled spots.
  • Calls for more collaboration between state, local and federal law enforcement.
  • More aggressive pursuit of the more 1,400 individuals with outstanding felony warrants.
  • Use of more real-time crime data.
  • Increased community outreach, including the hiring a full-time employee to tackle the issues of poverty and hunger.

Did I miss something, because this plan obviously has the KKK and Aryan Nation written all over it.  (Sarcasm!!!)

Apparently, Joe Simpson says going after the 1,400 individuals (which he says are mostly black) is where the real racism kicks in.  No offense, but let’s say for argument that’s true, seeing how 80-percent of most crime is intraracial, those black suspects with outstanding warrants committed crimes against other black people.   Once again, someone cut two holes in my white sheet so I can see what I’m missing here.

Hogsett’s plan is not racist and it’s silly to think so.  We can debate how effective it will be especially since Indy has had its 10th homicide by my last count on Sunday.  However, tackling these these problems will come from serious adults having serious conversations, and I can’t take Joe Simpson seriously.  For that matter, no one should.

A Little Satire

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

The Soybean – 1-5-2016

Murder by the Numbers

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Now that 2015 is done, here’s how things looked regarding the city’s murder rate for 2015.*

Here’s what the stats looked like so far based on the latest figures provided by the Department of Public Safety from January 1 – December 27.

Of the 142 murder victims, local adult criminal histories were found for 114 (80%) of the victims. These 114 people  accounted for 459 adult felony arrests.

Where criminal  histories were found:

  • 43 (38%) had a previous weapons arrest
  • 63 (55%) had a previous drug arrest
  • 69 (61%) had a previous crimes against persons arrest.

Of the 102 suspects where a name was known, prior local adult criminal histories were found for 84 (82%) of the suspects.  These 102 people accounted for 331 adult felony arrests:

  • 42 (50%) had a previous weapons arrest
  • 49 (58%) had a previous drug arrest
  • 62 (74%) had a previous crimes against persons arrest

There have been 11 juvenile victims. We’ve also had 14 suspects under the age of 18.

The racial relationship between victims and their suspects was as follows…

  • Black victim – Black assailant = 56
  • Black victim – White assailant = 4
  • Black victim – Hispanic assailant = 0
  • Black victim – Unknown assailant = 53
  • White victim – White assailant = 19
  • White victim – Black assailant = 18
  • White victim – Hispanic assailant = 0
  • White victim – Unknown assailant = 4
  • Hispanic victim – Hispanic assailant = 1
  • Hispanic victim – Black assailant = 3
  • Hispanic victim – White assailant = 0
  • Hispanic victim – Unknown assailant = 4
  • Asian victim – Asian assailant = 0
  • Asian victim – Black assailant = 0
  • Unknown victim – Unknown assailant = 0

Forty-one (29%) of the 142 murders were known to have been  motivated by drugs.

Forty (28%) of the victims of known drug-related murders died as the result of gunshot wounds.

More than 80% of the city’s murders occurred in IMPD’s North, Northeast and Northwest Districts.

And just for the record, blacks are about 25% of Indy’s population, and have been 77% of the murder victims.

*This does not include the double homicide that took place after December 27th.  My sources tell me there may be more to that than law enforcement is willing to release right now.


My Top 10 of 2015

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Well, it’s that time of year where I trot out my top ten stories of 2015.   So here we go, in reverse order to get you to read all the way down to the bottom…

  1.  Dan’s  Departure –  Dan Coats decides not run for re-election to the U.S. Senate.  I was planning to list all the people running for his seat and then the candidates running for their seats and the people running for those seats but we figured it would be probably be easier to draw a map of the human genome blindfolded.
  1. Statehouse Sex Scandals.  Whether it’s Moed, McMillan or Ashley Madison, the moral of this story is there’s something rather nostalgic about that phone you had from 1998.  Also, if you can’t keep it in your pants, at least keep your phone in your pocket.
  1. Ballard Bails.  After serving two-terms as Mayor, Greg Ballard calls it quits.  Democrats first called him the “Accidental Mayor”, now they just call him undefeated.   Joe Hogsett runs and wins, proving that if you run long enough, eventually you will get somewhere.
  1. Governor Glenda.  What more needs to be said?
  1. Just IN was Just Out.  Proof that a good idea can go bad if not communicated properly, which is kind of ironic seeing how the point of a state-operated wire service was to more efficiently communicate information about the state.
  1. Road Rage.  Only in Indiana can you spend more money to fix roads, damage one while making improvements to it and everyone gets mad at you for not spending enough money on roads and infrastructure so you end up spending more money on roads and infrastructure.  Did you follow all that?
  1. ISTEP Mis-Steps. Anyone ever remember having all these testing problems from 1987-2012?
  1. Drugs R’ Us. In the same year that the Hoosier state saw serious problems with meth, heroin addiction as well as the spread of HIV and needle exchange programs, we also saw the creation of the First Church of Cannabis under the RFRA statute.    Stuff like this is enough to drive you to drink.
  1. Same-Sex Marriage Legalized.  The U.S. Supreme Court codified the holding that same-sex couples are entitled to be as happy as the Lovely Mrs. Shabazz.
  1. RFRA Madness.     Can anyone ever recall when something that was so unnecessary managed to cause so many problems and bring Indiana’s economy and Governor Mike Pence’s political career to the brink?  If you can, let us know and we’ll make it the new number one.

Happy New Year!!!

Merry Christmas from Your Favorite Muslim

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

As someone who was born Muslim, I have never officially celebrated Christmas, some informal gift exchanges over the years and keeping the Lovely Mrs. Shabazz happy notwithstanding.

So on Christmas Day, my routine usually starts out with watching Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” and playing video games. (Star Wars Battlefront rocks, by the way!)

Now with that said, I will say that in today’s political climate, I think a lot of people could use a visit or two from the spirit of Christmas.

We have gone from debate and discussion to vitriol and venom.

Every disagreement devolves into personal attacks.

And political candidates offer solutions for America that sounded better in the original German.

As a political commentator, I thrive on spirited discussion, but America has gotten ridiculous; on both sides of the spectrum.

So if I had to ask for one present this season, it would be for people to get a grip, come back off the ledge and try to keep the nonsense down to a bare minimum.

It doesn’t do us any good in the long run.

Oh, and try to see if we can get the Christmas spirit to last past the January White sale.


Don’t Worry About Donald

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

I know it’s fashionable to get worked up over Donald Trump.  Even I let my emotional nature get the best of me briefly when the Trumpster said the U.S. should ban the entry of all Muslims into the United States.  Of course he had to back step that comment somewhat when it came to U.S. citizens, (that pesky Constitution)  but still he got everyone all worked up.

The political experts say Trump is popular because he taps into a certain voter anger that wants to “Make America Great Again.”   Well, I did a little checking into those “voters” and here’s what I found.  Contrary to popular belief, Trump isn’t really all that popular.

Yes, he polls on average about 23-27 percent of the likely GOP voter.  But you have to break that down.  The most recent Gallup survey showed Republicans were about 28 percent of the electorate. So on a good day, the Trumpster has the support of about 25 percent of 28 percent of the total voting population which equals seven (7) percent of the complete electorate.  And I am being generous here because not all Republicans vote in a primary.

But let’s take that seven percent and compare it to some other numbers.  First of all, conventional wisdom says 10 percent of the population is crazy, so there’s that.  Second, I went back and found my list of things that poll higher than 10 percent.  Here they are…

  1. Congress
  2. Richard Nixon during Watergate
  3. Lawyers (present company excluded, of course)
  4. Legalized Marijuana.
  5. The IRS
  6. Anti-Semitism (It polls at about 15%)
  7. Jar Jar Binks (Sorry Star Wars fans)
  8. Cockroaches
  9. Donald Trump (yes, pre-Presidential candidate Trump beat new Trump)
  10. Nickelback
  11. Lice
  12. Toenail Fungus
  13. Used Car Salesmen

And here’s some food for thought, 30 percent of Americans believe in bigfoot.   This is why I don’t get worked up over Trump.   I do worry that we don’t spend enough on mental health care in this country.



The $30,000 Bad Idea

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

A proposal is being introduced at Monday night’s City-County Council meeting that would raise Mayor-elect Joe Hogsett’s expected salary from $95,000 to $125,000 annually when he takes office in January.

In the world of bad ideas, politically speaking, this ranks up there with inviting Jared Fogel over to babysit.

As I wrote over at Indy Politics, Proposal 413 would increase Hogsett’s incoming salary by $30,000.  The proposal also raises the Council’s pay. Since the Council’s pay is one-twelfth of the Mayor’s salary,  members would go from just over $12,000 annually to $16,000, in addition to already being paid for each meeting they attend and if they hold a leadership position.

When originally asked about this last week, Hogsett said he wasn’t familiar with the details and said he would defer to current leadership.  Council President Maggie Lewis said the raises were needed to attract “the best and brightest” to city government.

Where do I start?

First, I agree in principle that we should pay elected officials a lot more than what we do.  I think if you’re running a billion dollar operation, you should be paid more than $95,000.  Also, I fully understand the Mayor of Indianapolis’ salary has not been increased since 2002, and when adjusted for inflation, the $125,000 is not an insane figure.  Also, the Mayor of Indy should make at least as much than the Mayors of Carmel, South Bend, Ft. Wayne and Evansville.   The same goes for the City-County Council.  I think these guys do a lot of work and should be paid more.

Now with that said, this is the wrong way to do it.

It would have been one thing to have done this a year ago, when no one was sure who the new Mayor would be and what the new Council would look like.  Doing it in December, at the end of the year just looks really, really bad. And it would have been a much easier argument to make about attracting the “best and brightest” if we hadn’t already had an election.  Or at the least the proposal could have called for the salary increases to be phased in over a four-year window.  Anything but the way it’s being offered right now would preferable.

Also, Hogsett ran on a campaign of being frugal; remember the car with no power windows, the old, smelly sneakers and cutting his office’s budget every year when he was U.S. Attorney? And who can forget when he said he’d go after the “downtown insiders who steal the taxpayer’s dollars”?  How does getting a $30,000 salary bump help that image.  If anything it makes it worse, by reinforcing the worst stereotypes of the typical politician.  Plus, as the city looks for ways to add more police, anti-crime programs and cover basic services, giving elected officials raises should be the last thing that should be on anyone’s agenda.

And if that wasn’t enough, here’s another reason why this is a bad idea.  On the original proposal, Republican Councilor Jeff Miller is listed as a co-sponsor.  I spoke with Miller this weekend and he said he never consented to having his name on the proposal and has instructed the clerk to take his name off the list.  So that raises another red flag.

Like I said, I do believe local officials should be paid more overall, but this is the wrong way to do it.  It would have been one thing had this been done back in January, if the salary increases were phased in over time or made effective in 2020.  But do it this at the last hour, in the last month of the current Council is wrong on so many levels.

Hogestt should tell his fellow Democrats to pull the measure and if they don’t ask incumbent Mayor Greg Ballard to veto it.  Nothing good will come of this and it will set the incoming Hogsett administration off on the wrong foot and down the wrong path.

The Irony of the Economy

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

How ironic is this?  Apparently the economy is improving so much in Indiana that the Department of Workforce Development is laying off 60 employees whose job it is to help people find jobs.

That’s right.  I found about this late last week.

DWD is letting 60 people go in its Work One centers across the state because it is losing the federal funding that pays for those positions.  The way the system works is that the more people out of work, the more federal aid states receive to help them find a job.   Well since Indiana’s unemployment rate has been falling, the state has been getting less assistance.  This year it’s been to the tune of about $3 million.

Now while no one wants to see anyone lose a job, the good news for these employees is that the state is helping them find work in other areas either inside or outside of state government.  And should the unemployment rate tick back up, those folks who are laid off are first in line to get their jobs back.

Now is the economy perfect?  Of course not.  But when people at the unemployment office find themselves out of work, it means that a lot more people are finding a job.

I take that as good news; ironic, but still good.