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Murder by the Numbers

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

So far this year, the city of Indianapolis is averaging a murder every three days.

Criminal homicide statistics provided by IMPD show 55 murders between January 1 and June 11.

And as in years past,  most of the victims and suspects had criminal records.

Of the 55 murder victims, local adult criminal histories were found for 38 (69%) of the victims. These 38 individuals accounted for 156 adult felony arrests.

Where criminal  histories were found:

  • 12 (32%) had a previous weapons arrest
  • 23 (61%) had a previous drug arrest
  • 18 (47%) had a previous crimes against persons arrest.

Of the 29 suspects where a name was known, prior local adult criminal histories were found for 20 (69%) of the suspects.  These 20 people accounted for 98 adult felony arrests:

  • 10 (50%) had a previous weapons arrest
  • 14 (70%) had a previous drug arrest
  • 13 (65%) had a previous crimes against persons arrest

There have been five juvenile murder victims so far this year and three suspects under the age of 18.

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

  • Black victim – Black assailant = 19
  • Black victim – White assailant = 1
  • Black victim – Hispanic assailant = 0
  • Black victim – Unknown assailant = 20
  • White victim – White assailant = 3
  • White victim – Black assailant = 4
  • White victim – Hispanic assailant = 0
  • White victim – Unknown assailant = 9
  • Hispanic victim – Hispanic assailant =1
  • Hispanic victim – Black assailant = 0
  • Hispanic victim – White assailant = 0
  • Hispanic victim – Unknown assailant = 2
  • Asian victim – Asian assailant = 0
  • Asian victim – Black assailant = 0
  • Asian victim – Unknown assailant – 1
  • Unknown victim – Unknown assailant = 0

Five (9%) of the 55 murders were known to have been motivated by drugs.

Blacks are about 25% of Indy’s population and have been 72% of the murder victims.

The city and IMPD this week announced a new effort to engage the community in order to stem a rising time with crime this summer.

I Love the First Amendment

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

This weekend in Indianapolis there were two events that could not be any more different from each other, the Indy Pride parade and a rally against Sharia Law. Although I have to say, the anti-Sharia law crowd was a lot more “colorful” than the Indy Pride folks.

The point of Pride was to celebrate the members of the LGBT community (I apologize if I left out a letter) and the point of the anti-Sharia law rally was to warn Hoosiers of the dangers of something that most people have absolutely no idea what it actually is.

But both events, which literally took place within a mile or so of each other, demonstrate what a beautiful thing that first amendment is. Citizens can gather, as long as they do it peacefully, in a public forum and express their views, without fear of government reprisal.

Some guy can ride on a float wearing nothing but butt floss (i.e., a thong) and dance around to his heart’s content. And a group of people who look like a cross between Hee Haw and the last Mad Max movie can scream about something they have absolutely no clue as to what they’re talking about.

And that’s what makes America awesome. You can go out in the public square and express your opinions, and others who disagree with you can voice their displeasure. I am pretty sure at pride there were people holding the sign with Romans 1:25-27; and a couple of them probably wanted to join the parade or find a hookup. And I know for a fact there were people at the anti-Sharia law rally protesting. In fact, not only were anti-Sharia law protesters there, but they had supporters and then protesters protesting the protesters supporting the protesters. It did get a little confusing because some of the people protesting the anti-Sharia law protesters wore bandanas on their faces to hide their identities, so they really looked like the people they came to protest.

Hey, I didn’t say the first amendment wasn’t messy, but it is fun.  And as insane as we might think some people are, they have the right to express themselves and you have the right to protest their views, as long as nobody gets physical.

America is an awesome place.

 

Five Quick Fixes for Indiana’s Alcohol Laws

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

With a new poll out showing a majority of Hoosiers support Sunday sales and being able to buy cold beer at grocery and convenience stores, here are five quick things Indiana lawmakers can do to put some sanity back in the state’s alcohol laws.

  1. Let Hoosiers buy alcohol on Sundays at grocery and convenience stores. There is no reason that an activity that perfectly legal Monday through Saturday should be outright banned on Sunday.  It’s also one of the, if not the, biggest shopping days of the week.
  2. You should be able to buy cold beer in a grocery or convenience store also. Please tell me why it’s okay for those places to sell warm beer, but not cold beer? And how do you define “cold”? Is it 55 degrees, 40 degrees?
  3. Lift the commodity restrictions on liquor stores. While I’ve been critical of the protectionist attitudes of the alcohol industry, they have a fair point when they say they are limited by what they can sell and grocery stores aren’t. I agree. Liquor stores should be able to sell any legal product, just like their counterparts on the other side of the strip mall.
  4. Let minors enter a liquor store as long as they are accompanied by a parent or guardian.
  5. Anyone who rings up alcohol, whether at the grocery or liquor store should be at least 18, trained and licensed to do so.

I’m willing to take other suggestions.

The  Top Ten Reasons We’ll Always have Paris

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

The beautiful thing about being a reasonable and rational human being is that you don’t give into histrionics.

For example, when the Trump administration announced this week it was pulling out of the Paris Climate Change Accord some people heard angels sing and that U.S. coal was going to make the greatest comeback since the Chicago Cubs won the World Series.  On the other hand, this decision was the decisive moment that set on a course to a planet that looked like something out of Mad Max, or worse, Waterworld.  (And if you saw Waterworld you know just how bad the film was.)   However, like most things in this world, the truth is in the middle, and it takes a rational mind to get to it.

  1. First of all, Congress never ratified the Paris Accord agreement. Former President Barack Obama used an “Executive Order” to get the U.S. to agree to the deal, and all Donald Trump did was use the same Executive authority to get out it.
  2. Even though Trump is pulling out of the Accord, it’s not happening overnight. Under the terms of the deal, the U.S. can’t leave until late 2020, shortly after the next Presidential election, and we could have some else getting ready to take over by then.
  3. S. emissions were already dropping since 2005. By some estimates, our nation will have reduced emissions from 15 to 20 percent by 2020.   Now that is short of 26 to 28 percent initially agreed to, but it was unlikely that was going to happen anyway.
  4. Getting out of the Paris Accord is not going to bring coal jobs back. Coal has been more of a victim of the free market than anything else.  Cheaper natural gas and less expensive coal from the Western states, like Wyoming, were having a major impact on the coal industry back east.  Also throw in alternate energy sources, i.e. the wind and solar and more energy efficient appliances (except for my wife’s straightening comb) and coal has problems that have nothing to do with Paris. And by the way, even the coal industry wanted to stay in the Accord to have leverage.
  5. Getting out the Paris Accord will hurt U.S. leadership. Particularly as it opens the door for the Chinese, our biggest economic rivals, to build new relationships with the Europeans which could cause problems down the road.  There is a danger that the “America First” policy could end up being the “America Only” policy.
  6. If the Paris Accords, reached in 2015, were a job killer, why is the U.S. unemployment rate gone from 5.5 percent in January 2015 to 4.3 percent this past month?
  7. There have been charges that the “Climate Fund” was a transfer of wealth. That’s not entirely accurate. While the United States did pledge $3 billion to the fund, those donations are “subject to fund availability, ” and we’ve only contributed $1 billion. Here’s a list of projects it’s helped fund so far.  And by the way, the U.S. could have stayed in the Paris Accords and refused to pay.
  8. If you’re a U.S. company doing business overseas in one of the other 197 countries that have signed on to the Accord, you’re going to have to comply with their environmental regulations, regardless of what happens here.
  9. Trump’s decision does not move the political needle much. If you were a Trump supporter before this, it was a brilliant move and showed strong leadership. If you opposed Trump, after this decision, you might buy tickets to Kathy Griffin’s next comedy show if you find any place that will feature her.
  10. Regardless of what happens at the federal level, state and local governments can still go forward with their own “mini-climate accords.” And before you invoke the Dormant Commerce Clause, which prohibits the states from doing anything that discriminates or substantially impedes interstate commerce, there is an exemption when the state is acting as a market participant.  That means when acting as customers, state and local governments can choose to only do business with companies that have “green policies”.

So when looking at the administration’s decision to leave the Paris Accord in its totality, a lot changes and a lot doesn’t; just like most things in the Trump administration, if you put the emotional displays on the shelf and give it a thoughtful look.

 

A Tale of Two Indys

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

It is the best of times. It was the best of times.  It is an age of wisdom and occasionally, some foolishness.  Yes, I am paraphrasing the famous line in a Tale of Two Cities, but in fact, I am talking about Indianapolis.  As I look around the city lately, it is pretty clear that two Indianapolis’ are taking shape.

There is one Indianapolis where companies like Salesforce and Infosys are making tech job announcements every day.  In fact, it almost starts to seem trite when there’s news about a new tech start up.   Meanwhile, as the tech and innovation sector grows and thrives, we also see headlines about Marsh on the verge of shutting down its operations, leaving some people without jobs and some neighborhoods without a grocery store.

During the month of May where we celebrate the graduations and achievements of lots of young people in our communities, we see two knuckleheads stick guns in the faces of Indy 500 car drivers and rob them a  Taco Bell drive-thru.

We have a housing boom in downtown Indianapolis, but still the homeless are literally sleeping between the cracks of some of the new developments.  

I say this not to call for spending more money on anti-poverty programs, in fact, I would argue that the quickest way to get more poverty is to spend more money fighting against it.  I do think these instances demonstrate we need to rethink the social safety net.  

How do you that?  I’m glad you asked.

We need to make sure that ongoing learning opportunities are there for older workers who get displaced so they can take part in the new economy.  It is possible to retool and rebrand.  It happens every day over at the Department of Workforce Development.  Most of these workers just need a little guidance on how to get started.

I’ve written this before, but churches, Indy’s universities and the business community need to partner together and create summer learning/engagement centers, so young people have a positive, safe environment to spend their summer days, especially if they are too young to get a job.  The churches provide the space.  The business community provides the funding.  The colleges and universities provide the mentors.   

Concerning the city’s homeless problem, we all know that most homeless suffer from some form of mental illness.  And while the city is on the right track with its engagement centers, we need to seriously have a conversation about making sure people who are a danger to themselves and others are put in a safe, clean, long-term facility where they can get the treatment they need.

Indianapolis is a great place and truly is that shining city on the hill. However, when it comes to what’s in the shadows of that city, we have some work to do.  And I have no doubt; the job can get done.

 

 

The Trouble with Trump

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

While I have never been a Donald Trump supporter, I do not want him to fail as President.

If he failed, the country failed, and that’s not good for anyone. With that said, Donald Trump’s biggest enemy is not the media, the Democrats or the D.C. Swamp, aka, the Establishment; it’s Donald Trump.

I base this conclusion on the last 25 years of my life as a reporter, spokesman for an elected official, attorney, and political commentator.

First, there are the “anonymous sources” the President and his supporters rail against frequently. It’s been my experience that politicians usually only complain about anonymous sources when they don’t reiterate the narrative they’re trying to push. I write a publication called The Cheat Sheet. It’s political newsletter that’s filled with “gossip, rumor and blatant innuendo” based on anonymous sources. The only time an elected official ever complains about what’s in it is when they don’t look good. When they look smart or like the front runner in a political contest, they or their staff, push it out to their friends. And by the way, 99% of the leaks either come from the administration or people close to them.

Secondly, as a spokesperson, it’s understood that you are promoting a position your boss supports and advocates. It doesn’t help when the boss comes out and contradicts everything you’ve been trying to sell to the media to get positive coverage. At best it makes you look like you at lying or are incompetent. At worst, no one trusts what you have to say, and it undermines the credibility and relationships you have worked hard to build.

Third, and most importantly, Trump is undermining the agenda his administration is trying to push. I think the President is on the right track by trying to streamline the federal regulatory scheme, give more choice to parents with their children’s education, give states more control when it comes to health care and simplify the tax code. But all that gets lost when your boss is on Twitter talking crazy. You are caught in the unenviable position of having to defend what he or she said instead of pushing policy positions that you think are good for the public.

Now is the impeachment talk premature, I would say yes. But is the groundwork being laid for a constitutional crisis? Yes. And if things go south, the person who is ultimately responsible is Donald Trump himself. It’s not the media. It’s not the staff. It’s not the Swamp. It’s Trump. He, of all people, should know this. And the fact that he is either unwilling or unable to figure this out says quite a bit. And while it’s not too late to turn the ship of state around, I recommend the folks who hang out at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue do an intervention real soon or start turning in their letters of resignation. They owe it to themselves and more importantly, to the rest of us.

To the Class of 2017

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

It’s that time of year.  The time of year I dispense my advice to this year’s graduating class.   Feel free to add your own advice to the list.

  1. Everything happens for a reason, sometimes we just can’t figure it out right away, but eventually, you do.  And you will be amazed at how the tragedy was necessary for you to triumph later.
  2. Fear is okay, being afraid is not.  A good healthy dose of fear helps keep the stupid stuff that can ruin your future down to a bare minimum.  Being afraid means you are less likely to take risks and explore new opportunities that can open lots of doors down the road.
  3. The habits you developed here will either help or hinder you in the next phase of your life, so if you have problems with punctuality, finishing tasks on time and working well with others, I suggest you fix them, ASAP.
  4. The only thing you are owed is to be treated with dignity and respect.  And that is all you owe anybody else.
  5. We will all make mistakes along the way, it’s called experience.  The trick is to learn from them so you don’t repeat them. Repeating mistakes and expecting a different outcome is called insanity.
  6. Remember, learning is a lifelong process.  Never stop trying to improve yourself.  That will come in handy in 2050 when the androids show up to do your job.  And this will be more important in 2060 when they begin their takeover of the world.
  7. When getting your information from social media, remember, if you have to click more than three times to get to the ACTUAL story, what you’re reading is probably wrong.
  8. Find a job that makes you happy. You will live to whatever income you make so it will never be enough, but if you love what you do for a living it is then that the paycheck is worth it. And remember to save a little for a rainy day and feel free to splurge on occasion.
  9. Before you dismiss the advice of older people, remember, they didn’t get to be old by being stupid.  There are a lot of young people lying in the ground right now who thought they knew everything.
  10. Have a sense of humor.  Be able to laugh, with others and at yourself.  Life’s too short to be  “mad as hell” 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  It’s not good for your health and it makes you age quicker.

Now go out and do well and do good.

Voting Early Doesn’t Equal Voting Often

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

The discussion is heating up once again in Marion County over the issue of satellite voting.   Common Cause and the Indianapolis Chapter of the NAACP have filed a lawsuit against the State of Indiana and Marion County over early voting, or the lack thereof.

They say because other counties have multiple early voting opportunities and Marion County doesn’t, that Marion County voters are being disenfranchised because they have to come down to the City-County building and some have to take off work to vote.   While at the news conference this past week I had to laugh and chuckle at the taking off work part because one of the plaintiff’s who spoke at the news conference had to take off work to tell everyone he was filing a lawsuit because he had to take off work to early vote.

But I digress.

Despite the best wishes of satellite voting proponents, the evidence doesn’t prove that it increases voter turnout.  If anything, I argue you just rearrange the deck chairs and individuals who would have voted anyway just do it earlier.   Here’s a synopsis of the voter turnout taken from the Marion County Clerk’s website.

  • 2016 General – 53% turnout, 18.5% absentee.
  • 2014 General – 25% turnout, 9% absentee.
  • 2012 General; – 56% turnout, 16% absentee.
  • 2010 General – 36.6 % turnout, 10.2% absentee.
  • 2008 General – 54.7 % turnout, 24% absentee.
  • 2006 General – 33.19 %, turnout, 6% absentee.
  • 2004 General – 53.6 %, turnout  8.4 % absentee.

As you can see voter turnout tends to be pretty consistent, regardless of whether there is satellite voting.  

Let’s do a comparison of the 2016 and 2008 general elections.  I picked those two because Marion County had early, satellite voting in 2008, but not in 2016.   First of all, in 2008, more than 380,000 people showed up to vote, about 93,000 voted early or absentee, regardless the overall turnout was nearly 55 percent.   Fast forward eight years later, the number of people who showed up to vote actually decreased to slightly more than 370,000 and just under 69,000 voted early and the turnout wasn’t really all that different about 53 percent.  And while there has been a decrease in absentee/early voting percentages, the total voter turnout has been pretty consistent.  Actually according to the data, while there was no early/satellite voting in 2012, more people showed up to vote than in the year there was early voting.

Satellite voting may make it easier for people to vote, but there’s no evidence that it increases participation.  If you want to increase voter participation, get better candidates on the ballot.  It shouldn’t shock anyone that the Presidential election year with the lowest percentage of turnout was the year there were two candidates at the top of the ticket that no one, absent hardcore partisans, could stand.  

Candidates and issues drive turnout, not early voting.   What good does it do a voter to have more places to vote if they don’t like anyone on the ballot or there are no issues to get them worked up?  They may as well mail it in and go about their business.    The one benefit to early/satellite voting is if you don’t like either candidate, as was apparently in the last election, you can just cast your vote for the lesser of two evils and then go back to living in the real word and never worry these clowns until Inauguration Day.

Hmmm, maybe that just might be the best reason for more early voting opportunities after all.

 

Winners, Losers & TBA

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Now that we’ve had a little more than a week to digest what Indiana lawmakers did and did not do, it’s time for my list of winners and losers.  As I wrote in my most recent Indy Star column, nothing can ever really be considered a total win or complete loss because of the compromises necessary to make the legislative process work. However, some things are pretty obvious, and some things are worth keeping an eye on for later.  So with that said, here’s our list…

Winners…

Governor Eric Holcomb

  • For a guy who just a little more than a year was running third in the GOP race for the U.S. Senate, later got out to be Mike Pence’s running mate and then got in the race for Governor with 100 days to go, he did not do too badly. He got roads, early childhood education, workforce development, money for economic development, amongst other things.   If there was a “stumble” it was his answer to the “Rickers question” when he told us media folks he believed Rickers and the ATC followed the law?  That reply apparently threw a lot of people, including his staff, into a bit of a whirlwind, to put it mildly, and some lawmakers were so mad there was talk of derailing some of his agenda because of his response.  Apparently, that didn’t happen.

House Speaker Brian Bosma & Senate President Pro Tempore  David Long

  • Except for a few other lawmakers, these two won big this session. Not only because Bosma and Long got road funding and early childhood education through which were both included some ideologically divisive issues for Republicans (tax increases and the role of government and pre-K), but they managed to keep the crazy social issue stuff down to a bare minimum.

The Road Warriors

  • If there were a “heavy lifting” award for the 2017 session, the winners would be Senators Luke Kenley, Mike Crider and State Representatives Dr. Tim Brown and Ed Soliday. Not everyone can put together a 20-year road funding plan. Luckily they’re not everybody.

Indiana’s Mayors

  • Say hello to the new power force at the Statehouse. Indiana’s Mayors not only got more money for road funding and were instrumental in the final bill that passed, but they also worked together to put a halt to the bill that would prohibit them from regulating AirBnB rentals in their communities.  In the past, these guys would have been playing more defense than offense, but this year was a lot different.

Losers…

The “Anti-Tax/No Idea” Crowd

  • It’s one thing to say you oppose raising taxes to pay for roads, but the anti-tax folks never came up with a viable alternative. At best they would question the studies that showed Indiana’s road funding needs were between $900 million to $1.4 billion.  But they never had an alternative.  It’s one thing to say “no, ” but you better bring some ideas to the table.

Social Activist Monica Boyer

  • You might not have been paying attention to Warsaw social activist Monica Boyer, but we were. She had been throwing her weight around to pass a bill that would outlaw all abortions in Indiana as well as she threatened to find a primary challenger against anyone who voted for a tax increase to pay for roads.  You can see how well that worked.

The “Redistricters.”

  • The folks who wanted to redraw Indiana’s maps are going to have a to wait another day. Efforts to do that hit a brick wall in the House, and even if they had got a bill out of the House, it would have had a date with another brick wall in the Senate.

Indy Soccer Advocates

  • Up until the last day of session, it looked there might be a funding mechanism for a new soccer stadium that would not have cost the state a dime, but things fell apart at the last minute, and now it looks like Indy’s professional soccer team might be playing its final season.

To Be Continued…

Rickers

  • I purposely did not put the “Rickers” controversy in the win or loss column because I think this has yet to play out. Both sides of this debate can claim a partial victory and loss.  Rickers still gets to sell cold beer for carryout at its locations in Sheridan and Columbus until its permit expires and the liquor store lobby can take credit for putting a wall up around Rickers so no one else can duplicate what they did.   I don’t think a winner or loser can be declared until we see what a rewrite of Indiana’s alcohol laws looks like starting next session.

Indy Mayor Joe Hogsett

  • Yes, the Mayor did have a legislative agenda. Unlike his predecessors, there was no single, bold initiative that drew a lot of attention (i.e. Indy Works or the infamous SB 621). The Mayor’s priorities were more money for pre-K, education, and roads as well as more resources for public safety and more regional cooperation.  Since lawmakers came up with a long-term road funding plan and more money for pre-K those were solid victories.  There were more dollars advocated for the regional cities initiative, but it’s unclear how that will impact Indianapolis, and I’m researching what was done in the criminal justice category apart from appointing Marion County Judges instead of electing them.   Please note, while the city scored a major victory, like other municipalities, in getting more road funding, the 25th floor did not get more budget flexibility to take money from last year’s road funding grant and use it to plug the rest of the city’s structural deficit.

 

Indiana Barrister Publisher Wins Journalism Award

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

The Indiana Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has recognized Indiana Barrister publisher Abdul-Hakim Shabazz for best column writing.

Shabazz received the award at an event Friday night honoring Indiana journalism.

He won 1st place for his column, “Turning Snowflakes Into Something Stronger,” a piece about the growing trends regarding safe spaces and speech regulation on college campuses.

You can read it here.

This is the second year in a row Shabazz won 1st place for outstanding column writing.  His column “RFRA and Reefer,” regarding the creation of the First Church of Cannabis, won last year.

In addition to Indiana Barrister, Shabazz also publishes Indy Politics, a daily political blog.  He also contributes to several media outlets throughout the state.