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Going Green

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

State Senator Karen Tallian and I don’t agree on a lot, but I think she is definitely right when it comes to legalizing marijuana for medical purposes.

According to the Associated Press, she plans to introduce a bill this session that would allow for pot to be used for medical purposes now that the Justice Department is prohibited from using your tax dollars to put cancer, AIDS and glaucoma patients and their suppliers in prison if they are following their state’s laws on medicinal marijuana usage. I think that if marijuana can be used in a responsible way to help ease another person’s pain and suffering, why not?

To be honest, I’ve never understood why marijuana is illegal anyway? And for the record, I tried marijuana once in my 20s, it did nothing for me but dull my cynicism and overall hatred of humanity so I gave it up.

And apparently I’m not alone, according to some quick research I did about 70 million other Americans have also tried marijuana and prior to legalization efforts in a few states, about 17 million of us are using it on a daily basis.

Here are some other fun facts about pot…

  • It’s believed the original drafts of our founding documents were written on hemp.
  • We spend between $7.5 billion-$10 billion annually to arrest, arraign and prosecute folks for pot possession.
  • In the first six months of this year, Colorado collected nearly $45 million in tax revenue from legalized pot sales.
  • When it comes to the “addictive” affects of marijuana, the National Institute on Drug Abuse says about 9% of the people who use pot will become addicted over the long term, that number is nearly double for alcohol usage.
  • Even the American Public Health Association acknowledges that if marijuana is decriminalized; we should adjust our public health rules accordingly, which I have no problem with.

But Abdul isn’t marijuana bad for you? So can watching any reality TV show with a Khardashian, but that’s not illegal, albeit maybe it should be.  Go green!!!

 

 

Here’s How You Save the Middle Class

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

recently read an article in the New York Times about how the middle class was on its last leg and America was turning into something out of the film Elysium.

The author talked about how U.S. productivity has grown, but the typical family household income has not.  He says workers are twice as productive as they were in 1989, but get  less of the economic pie.  And he tops everything off with that in 81 percent of America’s counties the median income is lower than it was 15 years ago.

Although it would be tempting to use the phrase ”figures lie and liars figure” I will try to keep this blog post at a higher level and simply say it’s not the middle class that has changed, it’s what makes you middle class has changed.

In the 1950s if you had a strong work ethic coupled with a strong back, you probably did pretty well.  Fast forward to the early 21st Century, you need a strong mind to go with that strong work ethic and you need to throw in some shrewdness for good measure.

Allow me to explain, I went to the State of Indiana’s job website and did a search of jobs within 10 miles of downtown Indianapolis.  There were 146 positions open.  The highest paid was a professor in the School of Medicine which topped out at $300,000.  The lowest paid job was a part-time package handler for UPS at $170.00 a week.

In other words, knowledge-based performance has replaced task-based performance.  By the way there are more than 7,000 jobs listed which pay $14-$16 an hour if you have some post-secondary education.  And don’t get me started on the skills gap which we all know exists.

As a good friend of mine noted, anyone who expects to perform the same tasks in the same time for the same rate for the same career is  living is the 1950s. They have chosen to ignore the signs of change in workplace relationships as computers evolved from office sized behemoths into desktop (or, now, pocket-sized) information sources. The person who designs the next big smartphone app has the potential to become a billionaire because of the knowledge they posses.

And that is how you save the middle class; use your head because knowledge is not only power, it helps make for a decent livelihood as well.

 

 

My “Racial Profiling” Experience

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Whenever I get asked if I have ever been the target of “racial” profiling, I jokingly reply “when you look this good, you don’t mind getting profiled, just make sure they get both sides.”

But seriously,  due to recent events in Ferguson,  I thought it was an appropriate question.

My answer, maybe.  Allow me to explain.

I did much of my undergraduate work at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, IL, located 65 miles west of Chicago.  DeKalb was like any other college town, small, part suburban/part rural and mostly white, except for the minority students who went to school there.

I was walking back to my apartment after a late night at my favorite bar (big shocker, I know) when I noticed I was being followed by a City of DeKalb police officer; growing up in Chicago you learn to pay attention to your surroundings so my gut instinct told me someone was watching me.

I stopped walking, turned around and flag downed the officer.   He asked me if there was a problem.  I told him no, I just wanted to let him know that I noticed he had been following me for a couple of blocks and I wanted to thank him for being vigilant and looking out for my personal safety to make sure I got back to my place safe and sound.  I also asked him for his name and badge number so I could inform the police chief the next day about what a great job his department was doing and write a column about him in the college newspaper.

Was I actually being “profiled” or did the officer have a legitimate reason to follow me?   I don’t know.   I could easily see both scenarios.

I also could easily see how something like that under the wrong circumstances could escalate so I kept a very respectful tone, pleasant demeanor and smiled.  My Dad always said when it comes to dealing with law enforcement “don’t handle your business in the street” and don’t start something with someone who has the legal authority to detain, arrest and under certain circumstances, shoot you.

I made sure that if there was going to be a problem, I was not going to be the catalyst. Everything turned out fine in the end and the officer and I went on our respective ways.  The moral of the story being how you interact with law enforcement can have a big impact on the outcome.

And if someone had given Michael Brown the advice my Dad gave me, he might still be alive today.

 

 

 

Signs of the Times

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Some people just have way too much time on their hands.

The City of Indianapolis is looking at revamping its zoning laws to allow for digital billboards.  However, opponents say this is the first sign (pardon the pun) of the apocalypse.

They present a laundry list of reasons why digital billboards are bad, but allow me to present you some facts.

  • The digital billboards can’t go up in a residential or protected area (schools, churches, parks).  Historic districts are off limits too.
  • If a company puts up one, they can only do it if they replace one of similar size. (approximately 600 square feet) and they have to take down an equal number of other signs based on square footage, so if I put up 600 square foot billboard I have to take down two 300 square foot billboards. So at the end of the day, it’s a net reduction of billboards.
  • There are technical rules on brightness, very similar to INDOT and USDOT rules, and motion is not allowed in the billboard.
  • There can’t be more than six ads per billboard or 8-10 seconds for each image.
  • The billboards can also be used for Amber alerts and to warn residents of severe weather.
  • And no more than 25 billboards can be converted a year.

So with these safeguards, and I’m sure more can be added, I still don’t see what the big deal is.  Now if we were talking about turning Indy into Las Vegas or signs changing so quickly that it would cause epileptic seizures, that would be a different story.

But since  we’re not, I have more important things to worry about, maybe they should too.

 

Republicans Getting Played on Immigration Issue

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

In this week’s debate over immigration the President played the GOP opposition like a Stradivarius violin, which is surprising following the recent mid-term election results.

In a nutshell, the President’s plan gives legal status (not citizenship nor permanent residence) to about 5 million undocumented immigrants.  They have to have kids who are American citizens and have been here for at least five years.

Republicans are up in arms over this.  They are gnashing teeth, threatening lawsuits, promising to withhold funding and missing what just really happened.  The President just scored a major victory with the children of those impacted by the law.

You see those kids are already citizens, it’s their parents who are undocumented.  And guess what, since they’re citizens they will be able to vote in a few years.   According to the research about seven percent of our K-12 student population has an undocumented parent.   And not only will those kids will be voting in a few years but the demographics show they are growing fastest in a lot of places that went really red a few Tuesdays ago.

Do you see what’s happening here?  Even if the GOP manages to stop the President’s plan, which I doubt they legally can, Obama still looks like the hero to these kids and Democrats will get the benefit of their vote.

If Republicans are smart they will offer up their own alternative  plan real fast real quick.   Otherwise, they’ll get played again, again and again.

And like we say in my old neighborhood, instead of focusing on the player, pay attention to the game.

 

 

Another Reason Not to Join the NAACP

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

I am not a big fan of the Indianapolis chapter of the NAACP.    In the past I found them to be outdated and particularly ineffective.

For example their “education” platform is really just a page out the out of any teachers union playbook.   And when it came to responding to Charlotte Lucas’ rant about minorities , whereas a lot of civil rights groups responded immediately, it took the local branch 20 days to put out a statement (there is a bad joke about “CP” time in there if you look hard enough).

So if those antics weren’t enough, we can add hypocrisy to the list.

You see the Indy NAACP had its elections for officers this past weekend over at the Julia Carson Center.  There was a contested race for President between two individuals, Chrystal Ratcliffe who is wrong on almost every issue and Denise Abdul-Rahman whose only redeeming quality is that she has “Abdul” in her name.

However, before the 400 or so people who I am told could vote, they had to show ID.  Yup, they had to show ID.  The same organization that talks about how voter ID disenfranchises minorities, the poor and the elderly made its members show ID before they could vote in this past weekend’s election.

I am told a number of members told the group to pound sand and that they’re weren’t going to show any ID since they were dues paying members in good standing.  I can’t make this stuff up.

Ratcliffe ended up winning by the way.  But until the NAACP gets a new mission statement and makes itself relevant, it doesn’t look like she won much.

 

Hogsett = Ballard

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

I am no longer disappointed that my good friend Greg Ballard isn’t running for a third term, because Democrat Joe Hogsett is doing it for him.

As I listened to the speech that Hogsett gave Wednesday at the Kennedy-King Memorial at 17th and Broadway, everything he spelled out that he wanted to do Ballard has already done, so truth be told, all he would do is continue the soon to be former Mayor’s policies.

Here are some examples to back me up…

Crime

  • Hogsett wants to put more police on the street and return to “community policing”.
  • Ballard’s plan will put 280 new officer on the street by 2018 and thanks to efficiencies in public safety more officers have been moved from behind a desk to back on patrol.

Neighborhoods

  • Hogsett wants to invest in neighborhoods as well as the downtown area.
  • Ballard has not only invested hundreds of millions in streets and sidewalks with Rebuild Indy, but also mitigated millions in wastewater and sewer fees with the EPA.  Also projects like 16 Tech, transforming the Avondale-Meadows area, the redevelopment of MLK Drive, revamping the Keystone towers and investing $40 million in parks have all gone a long way to bring life back into a lot of areas outside of downtown.

Job Creation

  • Hogsett said he will work to create jobs that can support working and middle class families.
  • Under the Ballard administration, the city has attracted commitments for more than 31,000 new jobs and $3.5 billion in capital investment.  The average new job commitment pays $21 an hour and in 2014 the US Bureau of Economic Analysis ranked Indy 7th in the nation for economic growth.  And this was all with the worst economy since the Great Depression in the middle of everything.

Education

  • Hogsett says he wants to increase education opportunities for citizens and also address the chronic dropout rate with respect to black youth.
  • Ballard not only tripled the number of students taking advantage of school choice, but he closed underperforming charter schools, maintained local control of IPS turnaround academies,  he was the architect of of a pre-K program that will serve hundreds of at risk kids when fully funded.  And led the charge with “Your Life Matters” to address, long-term, the serious issues facing urban youth, particularly the dropout rate.

I could probably go on (mass transit, sustainability, code enforcement), but the more I went down the list of things that Hogsett wants to do, the more I discovered Ballard has already done it.  So while I may not have gotten a third term of Greg Ballard, there’s nothing I’ve seen or heard Joe Hogsett say to make me think his first term  wouldn’t be more of the same.

Now where can I find a “Hogsett for Mayor” sign?

 

 

Take These Jobs and Shove Them

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

I have officially decided to quit all my jobs and move to Geist.  Say what?!  That’s right no more radio talk show host, attorney, political commentator, teacher, none of that!  I am tossing all that out the window and moving into the biggest and most expensive home in Geist that’s available.

And when the seller and realtor look at me like I’m insane I am going to sue them and say my economic right to live where I want is being infringed upon.

Now I know what you’re thinking, “Abdul, how many martinis did you have before writing this?”  I can honestly tell you, not enough.  Because there is not enough gin, scotch, bourbon and rum to calm me down after looking at two measures being taken up tonight by the Indianapolis City-County Council Rules Committee.

One measure would prohibit housing discrimination based on source of income (not race, age, gender or sexual orientation).  The other would create a “homeless bill of rights” which would entitle the homeless to live in large camps of filth and squalor and limit the city’s ability to move those people to a better place.

Why are these items on the agenda?  Easy, because someone thinks they are doing good when in fact they are doing nothing but harm.

What good is it to move someone who gets section 8 housing into a downtown condo?  We all know what’s going to happen.   And if you really want to help the homeless, how is allowing them to live in deplorable conditions doing them any good?   Not to mention the potential public health problems.

But hey, if this is the new attitude that is showing up on the Council, which by the way this is being brought to you by the same people who posted the “hands up” don’t shoot signs at the Council seats, then why bother working.

We can all live in squalor together or at least sue the landlord who doesn’t want Section 8 housing on their property.

Time to go get a drink!

Ballard Taking a Pass on a Third Term

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard tells me  that he is not running for a third term.

In his office Wednesday  afternoon Ballard said after eight years it was time to move on.  He says he was not phased by Tuesday’s Democratic victories in Marion County.  He cited polling that had his approval ratings in the 70s.

You can hear the Mayor’s entire interview here.

Leon-Tailored Audio: Greg Ballard Not Running for a Third term

Ballard says he is proud of the work he has done particularly with getting the city through the recession and work done to improve the city’s infrastructure.

A formal announcement will take place today at 12 at City Market.

So Much for Ritz and the Revolution

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

You may not be aware of this, but Glenda Ritz  announced her re-election bid this week and Tuesday night she lost.

At an education forum on the west side of Indianapolis, Ritz told the “pro-public education” crowd that she was going to run again for the job.   And then Tuesday happened.

Although the Superintendent of Public Instruction wasn’t on the ballot, the tidal wave of GOP victories throughout Indiana basically took any hope Ritz and her supporters had a of stemming the waves of education reform and threw in the trash heap where it belonged.

Democratic Auditor candidate Mike Claytor,tied his wagon to the Glenda train, saying that as part of his watchdog duties he would protect her from the evil GOP.  He went down to a 36-point defeat.

A number of Statehouse candidates who ran on a “pro-public education” platform found themselves back where they started from at the beginning of the campaign, not in public office.

Perhaps most telling was in the Terre Haute area where Republican John Ford beat  Democrat Tim Skinner, who was the epitome of the anti-reform movement.

Even in the IPS school board  race “Hoosiers for Public Education” (otherwise known as the Indiana State Teachers Association) spent thousands of dollars trying to defeat reform-minded candidates Mary Ann Sullivan, Lanier Echols and Kelly Bentley  only to find themselves defeated.

Ritz cut the following ad trying to rally the troops, but it didn’t work.

Ritz and her allies accused Republicans of trying to destroy public education, but it didn’t work.

So if Ritz is going to go forward with re-election bid, she might want to try something that works, because it sure didn’t this time.