Category Archives: 2015 Mayoral Election

Hot Air

Bloomington’s Armistice Day

Here I am again, temporarily, the day after the biggest, baddest, bloodiest election some peeps around this here town have ever seen. The bent hatbrims and torn hankies! Oh, the humanity!

Anyway, John Hamilton and Darryl Neher somehow emerged with their lives as well as all five limbs each. Oh, and Hamilton came out of the carnage with the mayor’s sash about to be draped around his torso. Only he must go through the formalities of a general “election” in Nov. Wake me when it’s over.


Meet The New Boss

BTW: John Turnbull claimed victory in the Republican primary with a scant 344 vote edge over his opponent. Who was no one. Literally.

Ah, democracy in a one-party town.

So, here are a few thoughts about yesterday’s struggle-to-the-death:

☐ As time went by, it became clear that Darryl Neher wanted to be the mayor but John Hamilton needed to be the mayor. Call it mid-life panic or the burden of coming from a storied political family or even a desire to hold up his end of a power marriage, Hamilton fought like a tiger and took no naps during the campaign. Let’s hope that kind of single-minded determination can benefit our war-torn town.

Acc’d’g to the Herald Times, some 6641 citizens voted in the Democratic primary for mayor. So, where in the hell were the rest of the Dems in this overwhelmingly Dem burgh?

☐ Even though Neher lost, he’s got the brightest future in town. It takes a loss, sometimes, to focus a candidate, to teach him lessons, to help him crystallize his message and turn his next campaign army into a lean, mean, fighting force.

☐ Yesterday’s vote was as close as it could be to a numerical reversal of the 2011 primary that Hamilton lost to Mark Kruzan. Hmm. In the space of four short years, Kruzan went from powerhouse to liability. This politics game is not for the weak at heart, that’s for sure.

☐ That said, here’s another reason Darryl Neher’s future looks rosy: He won’t have the Kruzan millstone around his neck next time. Funny thing is, the Hamilton camp knew months ago that, contrary to certain charges and slurs bandied about in public, Neher’s biggest drawback was his bed-sharing with the outgoing mayor.

☐ The Bloomington Alternative provided in-depth coverage of the candidates’ positions better than anyone else in town. The Herald Times and WFIU/WTIU should take that as a challenge. They probably won’t, though.

☐ In other races, I still can’t fathom how it can be possible in this Democratic Party stronghold that no one in District VI can be found to challenge Steve Volan. Not that I necessarily want to see him ousted, but jeez….

☐ Dave Rollo faced a stiff challenge in District IV, edging Phillipa Guthrie by a mere 85 votes. No other city council race was that close. Deer, amiright?

So, that’s that. I’m going back to writing the Zietlow book now. See you later.

Hot Air






Hot Air

Howard Dean, John Hamilton & Baron Hill Day

Wednesday, Earth Day, 2015. A glorious day. Brilliant sunshine. High cottony, Georgia O’Keeffe clouds. Blustery. An early spring nip in the air.

Speaking of bluster, the lawn outside Monroe County Courthouse is filled with politicians. Here, too, are their supporters, a reporter here and there, a television camera, some curious onlookers, perhaps a hundred, a hundred-twenty-five people all told. The event? Democratic Party big shot Howard Dean has come to town to stump for mayoral candidate John Hamilton.

This Hamilton camp, it appears, is dead set on winning the May Democratic primary — which in Bloomington is the coronation. As I walk up the concrete steps, past the cannon and the statue of the Civil War soldier, I think of Hamilton’s rival for the Dem nod, Darryl Neher.

What are his thoughts when a party pol of national repute comes to town to endorse the opposition? Does he feel discouraged? Does he whisper to his wife how unfair life is at pillow talk time? Or does he pretend none of it means anything?

Oh, it means something. Loads of local big names here: former Congressdude Baron Hill, former mayor Tomi Allison and her husband, County Commissioner Julie Thomas, head of Democracy for Monroe County Rob Deppert, firefighters union local chief Bob Loviscek, former Ivy Tech-Bloomington chancellor and former deputy mayor John Whikehart. And, of course, former acting White House Counsel Dawn Johnsen and her special man, John Hamilton.

Lots of formers here, all muscling up to flog for a wannabe. With big guns like this, Hamilton looks serious about taking this thing. Early voting has begun; election day is in a mere 13 days.

Johnsen takes the podium first. “It’s a little personal,” she says, “but John and I started dating 25 years ago.” She recounts how she and he met in Washington at some political get-together or another. Hamilton, apparently, was very interested — in the get-together, maybe, but definitely in her. He got her phone number. One day not long after, he left a message on her answering machine (such things existed at the time). Johnsen says she listened to it again and again, committing it to memory.

“I don’t know what the future holds for this Indiana boy and a New York girl but I’d sure like to find out,” she says he said.

An aw moment. And why not? The pear and redbud blossoms are out. It’s April. Doesn’t hurt a bit to dream about love. And to dream about winning an election.

Johnsen introduces Tomi Allison, a three-time mayoral winner herself. Lots of folks around town are engaging in conversations about politics these days, she says. She’s right; this is the first contested mayoral election in 12 years. A good horserace always gets people talking. Allison, though, wants more.

“I don’t think conversations are enough,” she says. “John has done things.” This gets a good cheer from the crowd. Before she wraps up, she issues a warning: “Don’t be fooled by pixie dust!” The crowd is delighted.

Pixie dust? Hmm. A cryptic reference to Darryl Neher’s relatively recent party switch?

Johnsen intro’s firefighters union guy Loviscek. A big, burly man with a mustache, natch, Loviscek talks like the union guys of old at political rallies. Hamilton’s his guy, he says, because he’s been there, done that, serving as a department head under the last Democratic Indiana governor, Frank O’Bannon. “He made tough choices to make state government better for Indiana,” Loviscek says.

Hamilton sits between his bride and Howard Dean, looking proud as a high school valedictorian.

Next up, Rob Deppert. His org. is the local branch of Dean’s national Democracy for America outfit. “We’ve got to get big money out of government,” Deppert says. He refers to the local branch’s deliberations on whom to endorse in the mayoral primary. When it came time for DMC to vote, there wasn’t much doubt where its backing would go. “To tell the truth,” Deppert says, “it wasn’t that close.”

And now it’s time for the star of the show. Well, one of the stars. Deppert welcomes Howard Dean to the podium. Dean is wearing a black, pin-striped suit, with a tan V-necked sweater underneath, and a red tie. His hair blows around in the stiff breeze. He squints against the bright sun. Dean, a family practice doctor, got involved in politics back in 1980. He opposed a condominium project on Lake Champlain, near where he lived. Instead, he suggested a picturesque bike trail be built on the site. (It must have been a hell of a big condo development.) When the condo plan was nixed, Dean found himself a political following.

Dean volunteered for the Jimmy Carter reelection campaign and a couple of years later won election to the Vermont House. Four years after that, he ran in and won the Lieutenant Governor’s race. Meanwhile, he was able to continue working as a doctor. In the summer of 1991, Vermont’s governor dropped dead of a heart attack and Dean had to give up his practice to run the state.

Dean gained national attention when he called for same-sex civil unions in the state in 2000. The decision made him a darling of progressives and liberal Dems around the country but also led to the loss of Democratic control of the statehouse.

Nevertheless, Dean ran for president against 11 other Dems during the 2004 primaries. His campaign balloon burst when he…, aw, I’m not even going to mention it. Nor will I link to it. Dean wasn’t about to win the Dem nomination but his downfall was over the silliest thing imaginable.

Dean went on to become chair of the Democratic National Committee where, hewing to his “50-state strategy” the party gained control of the US Senate and the House. In 2008, using Dean’s template, Barack Obama gained the White House. Dean now runs Democracy for America.

Snagging Dean’s endorsement is so far the biggest coup of the Hamilton campaign.

Dean, squinting out at the chilly crowd, makes the requisite joke about the weather and then launches into his spiel. Dean’s nothing if not direct. “You have the power!” he barks, pointing out at the crowd.

“This country is going to be changed by what’s going on in Bloomington,” he says.

He speaks in clipped sentences:

“We aren’t Mike Pence.”

“Mayors make a difference.”

“I would like someone from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party to be the mayor of Bloomington, Indiana.” At this, the crowd laughs and cheers. Yeah, the Hamilton camp is going to continue hammering Neher on his party switch.

Dean refers to Gov. Mike Pence’s “RFRA fiasco.” Pence, Dean posits, allowed the bill to go through the statehouse because he was pressured by the anti-gay, religious-fundamentalistsff   in the Republican Party.

“The Republicans,” Dean says, “are afraid of the extremists in the own party!”

Cheers. Dean waits. Then: “Do not be afraid…. Elect a guy who is not afraid!”

With that Hamilton bounds up to the podium and Dean holds up the candidate’s arm like a boxing champ.

Hamilton, in sports jacket and no tie, runs his hand through his wind-blown hair ala Bobby Kennedy.”I am proud to have the support of organized labor,” he says, gesturing toward the firefighters union guy.

He, too, speaks in short, sharp sentences: “We don’t leave people behind,” he says. But he’s also a talker: Making mention of his “lifelong” progressive bona fides, he tells the crowd that progressives are just waiting to come out of their cocoons all over America. “We have brothers and sisters in cities all across the county,” he says. “Some of them don’t even know they’re progressives yet!” The crowd roars; they love this stuff. Hell, it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement. Maybe there are indeed tens of millions of progressives around this holy land just waiting for someone to carry the banner for them.

And maybe not. That’s why there are horseraces and elections.

Hamilton closes with the usual call for volunteers and help (read: money.) He implores people to vote. In fact, Hamilton points out, the whole lot of the people on stage will walk over to the early voting center on Sixth Street to vote. And for those who can’t make the hike, there’s a van waiting to transport people to the polling place.

In practical terms, that might be the second-most important thing I’ve learned here today. Hamilton seems to know how to get voters, physically, to the polls.

So, the formal stage of the love-fest breaks up. The pols fall into a hugging, hand-shaking, back-slapping orgy. My own back is pounded more times than I can remember as I snake my way through the pols and their supporters.

One guy I know stops me. “Do you think Baron Hill is going to run for governor?” I shrug. We’re swept in different directions by the crowd. A few moments later, the guy and I are face to face again. “I just asked Baron Hill if he’ll run against Mike Pence,” he says, excitedly. “He said, ‘I think I might’!”

Well, I’ll have to see about this myself. I make a beeline for Hill. I wait patiently as supporter after supporter pumps his hand. Finally, he turns to me. I introduce myself. “Are you going to run for governor,” I ask.

Hill doesn’t miss a beat. “I’ll tell you,” he says, “I’ve never been more on the fence in my life. A lot of people have been asking me to run for governor. A lot of people have been asking me to run for senator. Well, I’m gonna do something. I’ve got the urge.”

“So,” I press, “you’re definitely going to run either for governor or senator — is that what you’re saying?”


Now we know. Sorta.

Hot Air

Foods Facts

In case you missed it, here’s the WFHB podcast featuring an interview with Keith Taylor, a co-op governance researcher who works at Indiana University’s Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis. Taylor started a petition calling on the Board of Directors of Bloomingfoods to come up with a clear and public plan to address some of the issues that are making B-foods employees, shoppers, and co-op members nervous these days.



Taylor was grilled by News Director Joe Crawford last week about goings on at the local co-op grocer. Among other things, B-foods faces a potential union vote by its employees and must find a way to compete with two new natural and organic grocers coming to town within the next couple of years. Both Lucky’s Market and Whole Foods Market have announced plans to hit Bloomington. Lucky’s on South Walnut Street is due to open by the end of May.

Friday, the B-foods Board announced its decision to ask for help from the National Co+Op Grocers (NCG) in resolving its financial picture. At the same time the Board revealed that its president, Tim Clougher, has stepped down.

The NCG move will entail volunteer managers from other member grocery stores coming in and observing B-foods’ operations, doing an audit of its books, and making recommendations for repairs.

If Bloomingfoods pulls through the next couple of years in decent shape, it’ll be a testament to the loyalty of its customer base and the buy-local philosophy. B-foods not only faces competition from Lucky’s and WFM but mega-grocer Kroger has gone all in on natural and organic, especially at its newly remodeled Kroger Theme Park store on the east side.

The NCG request indicates that the B-foods brain trust is serious about the co-op’s future.

Shouting Out For Hamilton

Congrats to Rob Deppert for landing the plum task of intro’ing Howard Dean when the lobbyist/Dem Party sachem comes to town to flog for mayoral candidate John Hamilton.

Dean will spiel for Hamilton at the Monroe County Courthouse Wednesday at 1:00pm. The former Vermont governor and chair of the Democratic National Committee is credited with implementing the party’s “50-state strategy” that loaded both the US Senate and House of Representatives in its favor in the 2006 elections. In 2008, Barack Obama used the same strategy win election as president. Under the strategy, the Dems fought hard in what had previously been regarded as hopeless states and districts. Voters who’d considered themselves outnumbered in those places were targeted and energized, leading to numerous Democratic upsets.


Howard Dean

Most Murricans only know of Dean through a video of him hollering to rouse the troops at post-election rally the evening of the Iowa Caucuses in 2004. Known as the “Dean Scream,” video of the outburst was aired endlessly that month and was the final nail in the coffin of Dean’s presidential aspirations. Fox News pretty much ran all-scream, all the time for a good four weeks.

Me? I thought he got a raw deal from the get-go. So he hollered. So his voice was hoarse and cracked. It was a pep rally, for pity’s sake.

Truth is, Dean is a top-notch political strategist and certainly would have been my guy for president over both incumbent George W. Bush (duh!) and even eventual Dem nominee John Kerry.

Happy Days Here Again?

Speaking of politics, the folks who run my back office — AKA Soma Coffee — just got in a new shipment of mugs. Said mugs, natch, aren’t really new; Soma’s famed for its retro inventory. Take the mug I got today — on it was a repro of the New York Times front page the day after Barack Obama was elected prez in 2008.


Of course, I got to reading the impossibly tiny print. I was reminded that the election had produced a Democratic majority in the Senate of 59-41 as well as a 257-178 plurality in the House that happy November day.

All I can wonder is how in the goddamned hell the Dems pissed that advantage away.

OTOH: It looks like presumptive Dem nominee for prez in 2016, Hillary Clinton, is harkening back to those cheery times with her recent moves to the Left. Mebbe the party has learned a thing or two over the last couple of elections.

Hot Air

Democracy Inaction

And so, the big mayoral candidates debate finally came to pass yesterday. Sponsored by the Herald-Times with streaming by CATS, the three Dems running for this thriving, throbbing megalopolis’s top office were to duke it out with fewer than three weeks to go before the coronation…, er, primary.

I dashed through my daily writing, chores, shower and shave so as to be on time for the 5:30pm promisefest at the Monroe County Public Library. First, though, I’d have to stop off at Staples to pick up a package of reporter’s notebooks because, no doubt, I’d fill them all up with the bons mots of Darryl Neher, John Hamilton, and John Linnemeier. Ah, democracy. So let’s get right to my notes on this momentous occasion.

Better leave ten minutes early, what with all the traffic sure to be headed toward the MCPL.

Get to Staples at 5pm, pay cash for pkg of three ntbks, in and out. Phew!

While backing out of parking space, almost run over woman carrying huge bunch of balloons from Party Store.

Traffic westbound on 3rd St. bearable. Smooth sailing until hitting Greek row past Jordan. Small sporty Mercedes stops in middle of road — w/o even pretending to pull even a inch toward the the curb — to let out impossibly fashionable young woman from passenger side. YW hefts backpack onto shoulder and walks casually around Merc. toward sidewalk. Car ahead of me and behind Merc. honks. YW flashes dismissive wave that would do Paris Hilton proud. Only when she gets to sidewalk does she break into a coltish trot, graceful, as if she’d been trained at what used to be known as “charm school.” As I pass her, I let loose a string of creative and borderline criminally abusive epithets, concluding with “… goddamned little sorority shit!” YW throws head back and laughs — charmingly.

Near MCPL, I notice empty street parking spaces here and there. Hmm. Where are multitudes? Shouldn’t there at least be a parade? MCPL parking lot full so I pay for 2½ hours of street parking — $2.50 plus .30 credit card fee. Robbers.

Enter libr. Guy at info desk has no idea what I’m talking about when I ask where debate is. He  dials numbers but nobody on other end of line knows about it either. Me: “Well, look, just tell me where the auditorium is.” He points the way. I lope down stairs — if you can describe what an overweight, damaged-heart man w/ a bad right hip is doing as “loping.”

I get to Kirkwood entrance desk, starting to wonder what’s going on. Stop at desk to ask woman, “There is a mayoral debate here today, isn’t there?” Woman doesn’t know what I’m talking about. She does say several other ppl have asked about it already. I wonder what she told them. She’s joined by another woman and both of them work phones trying to get answer for me. Both tell person on other end I am only most recent of many who’ve asked about debate. Again I wonder what they told the others.

First woman nods and hangs up phone. “Okay,” she says, “here’s what’s going on. The debate is being carried live on CATS. [My shoulders slump] But it’s not happening here. It’s at the Herald Times.” I grimace. It’s 5:29pm. She notices and brightens up — “You can watch it on CATS!” I shake my head and thank her anyway.

Back to car to race to the H-T. Traffic down 3rd St. to Collage Ave. again is bearable. I whip into H-T parking lot in no time [actually 9 mins.] Lot is suspiciously un-packed — only four cars. I hobble toward front door. About ten yds. from door, young woman exits and smiles at me as we pass ea. other. I pull on door; it is locked. Meanwhile young woman is stopped by another, older woman, who has just parked in lot. I overhear their convo.: Older woman also had gone to MCPL for debate and was directed here.

Young woman says she doesn’t know what the older woman is talking about but offers to walk woman to front door to help her find out. I say, “It’s locked.” The younger woman pulls out her phone — “I’ll call my editor.” Older woman says, “Oh no! I don’t want to hold you up; you’re going home!” Young woman says, “No, no. I just want to help.” Older woman and I smile @ ea. other.

Ed. does not answer so the younger woman suggests we walk around building to side door. On way, younger woman says her name is Sophie. Side door is locked as well. Sophie dials ed. again. This time he answers. Tells her debate is indeed here & is being streamed live on CATS to “viewing party” open to public in council chambers at City Hall. Debate has started and studio doors are locked. No public. Sophie walks us back toward front door. I still hold out hope I can sneak in. Just as we get there, Sophie’s ed. opens door. Aha! Here’s my chance. Ed., though, stands in doorway. He tells us exactly what Sophie said he told her. That’s that.

MG 20150416

No Debate

As Sophie, the older woman, and I walk back to cars, Sophie says, brightly, “well, you can watch it on CATS!” I pout and say, “I wanted to cover it live.” Sophie perks up — “Who do you work for?” I tell her about The Pencil. She says, “Oh wow!”

I wonder if H-T had mentioned change of venue in paper today. Wouldn’t have mattered; I would have had to read H-T to find out. I prefer The Pencil.

Before opening her car door, Sophie says, “I’m sorry.” I say, “That’s okay. It’s a better story this way. I’ll just snark the hell out of it tomorrow morning.” Sophie laughs.

The three of us get into cars & drive off. I listen to Honky Tonk Woman on CD. Traffic is bearable. I park in front of Atlas bar, walk in, order Stella Artois & start writing these notes. In mid-writing, I spill beer on new reporter’s ntbk. Pencil tip tears thru soaked pages. I sop up spill and find dry pps.

Such is life during primary election season for Bloomington’s foremost blogger.

BTW: Here’s the debate in toto on CATS, complete with a bedsheet as the stage backdrop.

Whose Country?

A Bloomberg poll reveals that two of every three Republicans are more loyal to the apartheid state of Israel than they are to this holy land. A holy land, I might remind you, that they normally call the greatest in god’s creation — especially when they tumesce (a word I just made up) over the hundred of millions of guns and the religious freedom to refuse service to fags here.

These same GOP poll respondents say they’re far more sympatico to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu than they are to Murrica’s colored president — their own country’s president, I might add, as long as he isn’t some overly brown, Kenyan-born, commie, Nazi, socialist who moonlights as an abortionist.

Bloomberg Poll

Republicans — those folks who never stop whining and moaning about patriotism and loyalty and all the rest of their blatherings have become a party, I might suggest, that in the year of their lord 2015 is full of shit.

Word Rhythm

Ready for some iambs?

Lexington, Kentucky’s Katerina Stykova-Klemer and Eric Sutherland and Indy’s Wendy Lee Spacek will read their meters tomorrow night, April 18th, 8pm, at the I. Fell Gallery, 415 W. 4th St (the southeast corner of 4th and Rogers). The readings are part of the Ledge Mule Press Poetry Project.


[L-R] Stoykova-Klemer, Sutherland, Spacek


Hot Air

These Boots….

In my entire life I’ve only ever really lusted after two material items. Well, three, technically. Funny thing is, they were both sort of related.

One was a transistor radio. I dreamed, both sleeping and awake, about owning one for a good six months when I was eight years old. I was certain my notoriously penny-pinching mom would never get me one for Christmas but that didn’t stop me from haranguing her from September on in 1964. And on Christmas Eve when I finally opened the little package that I had no idea would indeed be a Sears Silvertone transistor radio, I let out a shriek equal to any emitted by teenaged girls at a Beatles concert.

Which brings me to item No. 2: I wanted a pair of Beatle boots. Good god in heaven, they were the coolest shoes ever designed. Pointy toes. Cuban heels. No laces, only that very neat insert of elastic at the side. The Beatles were cool, sure, but their feet were transcendently cool because they were encased in those works of art.

Beatle Boots

Beatle boots.

Just saying the words brings back the old covetous feeling. I wanted…, no, I needed them.

Naturally, the nuns at St. Giles Catholic school made an announcement early on during Beatlemania that Beatle boots — as well as Beatle haircuts — would be forbidden. Oh, how I wanted those boots more than ever after that.

The very sound of Beatle boots — a smart click-click that echoed through the halls — was intoxicating. My stupid soft-soled and -heeled shoes sounded like, well, nothing.

Some of the cooler guys at St. Giles got around the Beatle boots ban by wearing what we called “Dago shoes.” By the way, the cooler guys at St. Giles invariably were the Italians from the Galewood neighborhood of Chicago. The Irish kids from Oak Park wore plaid shirts and corduroy trousers.

Trousers. Hehe. The losers.

The cool kids wore skin-tight, knifelike-creased slacks. I would have cut off a finger or two to dress like the cool kids, many of whom were the scions of mid-level Outfit guys. Their daddy-os might have been vicious mobsters but their style sense was impeccable.

I had my priorities as I approached adolescence.

Anyway, Dago shoes. They, too, had pointy toes and Cuban heels but they were lace-ups. And the laces were the skinny, round, shiny kind, not the flat, black cloth, sensible variety that the Irish Oak Parkers wore. Again, the losers.

I remember one of the coolest kids being yanked out of line by one of the tough-guy nuns because he was wearing Dago shoes. “But S’ter,” he protested, “these aren’t Beatle boots!”

This legal hair-splitting clearly forced the nuns to re-strategize. That afternoon when Sister James Mary, the principal, made her end-of-day announcements over the PA, she said, her voice dripping with annoyance, “And from now on, there will be no more wearing of ‘Dago shoes.'” Then she added, speaking slowly and distinctly, “No pointed toes and no Cuban heels.”

We all tittered and giggled over the fact that she’d said Dago.

Sister Caelin barked, “Quiet!”

Dago shoes with Cuban heels. It was like a social studies and geography lesson rolled into one.

Back to Beatle boots — just look at this still from the Beatles’ film A Hard Day’s Night:

From "A Hard Day's Night"

How kicky, in the parlance of the times. Wearing their signature footwear, the boys appear to be running on air, levitating, like the demi-gods they were. How I wished I could levitate like a demi-god.

Today, of course, I wear the clunkiest, roundest-toe, softest-soled shoes in all of creation. Adulthood, man. It beats a kid’s dreams down.

Money (That’s What Pols Need)

Joe Crawford’s News Dept. at WFHB reported yesterday that John Hamilton scooted out to Washington, DC for a fundraiser at some snazzy restaurant in our nation’s capital.


Hamilton’s been crowing that he won’t take a dime of “corporate money” ever since he declared himself a candidate for Bloomington mayor in this year’s election.



[BTW: Early voting has begun. Go do it now!]

Yet, his DC fundraiser featured at least two big bucks lobbyists. Okay, sure, as Hamilton himself says, the lobbyists’ dough is not the same as corporate green. He points out that the lobbyists work for good, wholesome, “progressive” operations not, I imagine, big, mean old companies that profit off the raping of the planet.

Still, it’s checkbook democracy. Hamilton’s not a villain here; it’s the entire Citizens United political racket that’s corrupt.

Anyway, give a listen to the WFHB report.

Money (That’s What I Want)

Hot Air

Party On

Bloomington was the site of what can only be considered a Democratic orgy yesterday. Dems gathered at the Irish Lion at 5pm to pay tribute to and write checks for mayoral candidate John Hamilton. An hour later even more Dems got together at the Fountain Square ballroom to pat each other on the back at the annual FDR Gala.

As members of the party stretched their conga line the city block from the Lion to the ballroom, I was reminded of nothing more than my days as a randy, rowdy 22-year-old when my friends and I would bounce from party to party on a Saturday night.

Conga Line

Toeing The Party Line

Only there were no guys wearing eyeliner or gals sporting fishnet hose (I ran with an avant garde club crowd back in the late ’70s and early ’80s). Led by that renowned fashion plate, former US Congressdude Baron Hill, the attire of the day was all business. The Dems mean business this year, having suffered a vicious ass-kicking nationally at the hands of the Republicans last fall. With Gov. Mike Pence’s recent pratfalls, party faithful suddenly are giddy with the possibility that the GOP just might piss away all its gains. Seemingly in the snap of a finger, 2016 looks like a resurrection year for the Dems so long as Pence et al keep stepping on their…, um, striped ties.

But first, there’s a mayoral election to get through this annum.

Hamilton and his wife, Dawn Johnsen, hosted their fundraiser at the Lion mere days before early voting begins (Tuesday, April 7th). The primary election day is Tuesday, May 5th. There’s a lot of dough to be spent between now and then. Hoping to draw more wallets out, Team Hamilton/Johnsen rolled in the heavy artillery of Blue Dog stalwart Hill.

“This guy,” Hill told the crowd after Hamilton intro’d him as a cross between his BFF and an elder statesman of rock ‘n roll (think Paul McCartney), “gets it.”

Whatever “it” is, the crowd responded, vocally at least. The number of zeroes they filled out on their checks has yet to be determined.

The currency at the FDR was less precise than dollars and cents. There, the Dems bestowed moral support upon each other. Everybody who was anybody in Bloomington Dem circles was there — save for the elephant who wasn’t in the room, Mayor Mark Kruzan.

Improbably, the mayor was a no-show. His AWOL-ness only struck me as I was leaving the Gala so I dashed off an email to one party big shot asking if it was merely my imagination. This person responded uncharacteristically tersely: “Mayor Kruzan was a top sponsor of the FDR Gala, but is keeping a low profile at events during primary season and focusing on his job at City Hall.”

This particular big shot knows full well a smart-ass like me would interpret this absence note as the pinnacle of political-speak, and so I have. My source may as well have written Kruzan “wants to spend more time with his family.”

The Mayor indeed is outgoing (ironic, considering he’s such an aloof figure) — his term ends the last day of this year — but, as far as the party is concerned, apparently, Kruzan’s out already.

I get the feeling some bad news will begin trickling out regarding Kruzan’s 12 years at the helm of this thriving, throbbing megalopolis. I’ll keep digging — hell, somebody’s gotta do it.

BTW: Whispers at the Hamilton affair have it that his opponent, Darryl Neher — Kruzan’s hand-picked guy — ought to downplay any connection with the mayor. The Hamilton camp sees the pairing as Neher’s soft underbelly. You know what? I agree with them.

Anyway, perhaps my favorite encounter of the night was with the city council’s District III representative, Marty Spechler. I rode up in the Fountain Square elevator with Spechler and a couple of young party supporters. We all intro’d ourselves to each other and one of the young guys remarked that he’s a faithful reader of The Pencil. Spechler looked puzzled. The following mini-convo ensued:

Me [to Spechler]: Don’t you read the Electron Pencil?

Spechler [still looking stumped]: I read the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Me: Well, I’m not that big yet.

Spechler’s look morphed from baffled to grateful, thanks to the elevator doors opening. I wondered for a hot moment if he’d try to dig up The Pencil when he’d get home before my good sense reasserted itself.

As promised yesterday, I stalked two very decent (morally and ethically), very capable figures to ask them what their political plans might be vis-a-vis elective office. One of them already holds county office but I’ve been sensing this character ought to think in grander terms. The other is unelected but nevertheless is a key player in party affairs.

Let’s start with the already-elected pol. I tapped Monroe County Prosecutor Chris Gaal on the shoulder and asked, point blank, “What about Congress, Mr. Prosecutor?”

Gaal: Huh?

Me: You.

Gaal: What?

Me: Congress.

Gaal: What about it?

Me: You. Congress. Why not?

Gaal [a lightbulb going off above his head]: You mean me, run for Congress?

Me: Yeah. You.

Gaal [without missing a beat]: You can quote me on this: I’d rather have a sharp stick in the eye. I love what I’m doing and I have big plans for this office.

That is, the one he already occupies. Fair enough. I believe him. Too bad. I could see Gaal giving Todd Young a run for his money.

The other person appeared equally as mind-blown by my Q. This person absolutely and positively denied ever even entertaining such a crazy idea. Now, I wasn’t meaning this person ought to run for Congress. Maybe something a little less ambitious, like county commissioner. Ixnay, the person repeated.

Me: Can I mention your name in tomorrow’s Pencil?

The Person [aghast]: No!

Again, fair enough. And again, it’s a damned shame.

Here are some pix from yesterday’s bashes:

Hot Air

The Party’s Party

Monroe County’s Dems get together tonight for a pep rally in the ballroom at Fountain Square. The annual FDR Gala begins at 6pm and, per tradition, will feature all the players running for office this year. The mayoral contenders will be there as will dozens of party loyalists and current office-holders who aren’t up for election this time around.


Donkeyshines Tonight

I’ll seek out among the throng two party sachems whom I hope to grill about their plans. One I bet would make a fine candidate for US Congress as early as 2016. The other has a slightly lower profile  but is still an invaluable player in party affairs. This person would be a swell candidate for the Indiana Statehouse. I’ll pitch the ideas to them and see how they try to slip and slide out of answering. I’ll let you know what they say in tomorrow’s post.

Part Of The Party’s Party

John Whikehart threw a house party for John Hamilton yesterday evening, illustrating the wedge the race for mayor has thrown into the Democratic Party here. Whikehart was outgoing Mayor Mark Kruzan’s deputy mayor. He quit the post in January and now is backing the opponent of Kruzan’s hand-picked candidate, Darryl Neher.

Also appearing at Chez Whikehart were Ivy Tech-Bloomington Chancellor Jennifer Vaughan, Waldron Center gallery director Julie Roberts, and real estate maven Trish Sterling.

In other Hamilton news, he’s throwing himself a fundraiser at the Irish Lion tonight at 5pm so there’ll be a Democratic conga line between that place and Fountain Square around six o’clock. Drivers, pedestrians, and crows beware.

The Disappearing Fringe

One of Bloomington’s most curious citizens asks whatever happened to the two-mile fringe?

When Mayor Mark Kruzan came into office, the city’s planning and utilities depts. had plenty of sway over the ribbon of land surrounding Bloomington’s official boundaries. In the ensuing 12 years, the county has come to control more and more of that area’s development. In the same period of time, the words Bloomington and annexation have become estranged. My curious citizen interrogator sez tax revenues from some of the new housing developments in the former fringe might have helped the city weather its current financial dire straits.

Writers Gotta Write

The Writers Guild at Bloomington has released its April schedule of events and one particular date caught my eye. For those of you wishing to get in on this often thankless but still weirdly rewarding writing racket, you ought to stop by the Monroe County Public Library Sunday, April 19, 2-4pm for a writing workshop on how to get your own personality down on paper — or, more accurately — the LCD screen.

The prob. with trying to write, as this three-plus-decade veteran of the keyboard clacking game has learned, is trying to find a way to write in a way that sounds like you speaking. Elementary schools generally beat the literary creativity out of us, ergo the need for creative writing programs in our universities. For instance, I’d been an obsessive writer as a young child, concocting ludicrous and imaginative stories about my classmates, teachers, school janitors, and neighbors until, for disciplinary reasons, I was compelled to write 1000-word punishment papers in the sixth and seventh grades. All of a sudden, I came to despise writing because of it. I didn’t get back into the act until I was in my mid-20s.

That old school horror story aside, our schools — especially in this day and age of standardization — labor to get kids writing in a dull, flat, unobtrusive, decidedly non-idiosyncratic manner. Don’t get me wrong, kids must be taught the basics — the standards, if you will — of grammar, usage, punctuation and all the rest. Only then can they be encouraged to violate those standards, strategically and tactically, in search of literary freshness and, well, art.

Anyway, we come out of school thinking we have to write in a certain style, aping some unnamed English country gentleman with a snifter of brandy on the table next to him and an iron rod firmly embedded in his backside.

That’s nonsense, of course. The best writing is that which causes us to hear in our imaginations a voice we’ve never heard before, a stranger’s voice, a fascinating, compelling voice that’s describing for us, naturally, a place we’ve never been before.

So if you feel the need to write, drop in to the workshop, “Jazzy, Snazzy, Bombastic, Shy: Putting Your Voice Upon the Page.”

Oh, hey, speaking of the Writers Guild, here’s a reminder: Board chair Tony Brewer will be creating Poetry on Demand tomorrow and Saturday at the Village Lights Bookstore‘s annual Poetpalooza in Madison, Indiana. The Pencil posted the Poetpalooza sked the day before yesterday.

And, while we’re at it, don’t miss the Writers Guild’s monthly First Sunday event, April 5, 3-5pm, at Boxcar Books, featuring readings by Tia Clark, Madelyn Ritrosky, and Tami Whiting.

Hot Air

Cue The Kazoos

I was too lazy to attend the debate between the three Democratic candidates for mayor last night at IU’s Neal Marshall Black Culture Center. John Linnemeier, John Hamilton, and Darryl Neher sat together on stage without a brawl breaking out in the first of several such panels between now and the primary May 5th.

[View The Pencil’s schedule of debates and forums here.]

The Herald Times this AM reported on a rather dull affair with the three offering the obligatory array of political positions including their four-square backing of good government, honesty, and sunny spring days.

The frontrunners, Hamilton and Neher, have so little to separate themselves, philosophically and politically, that the danger exists whomever succumbs first to desperation will turn this race personal. Hamilton already has (gently) hammered on Neher’s transformation from Republican to Democrat. Last night Neher pointed out that five Hamilton underlings were convicted of swiping $1.6 million in taxpayer dough when H. was in former Indiana Guv Frank O’Bannon’s cabinet.

Personal to Hamilton and Neher: Don’t go there. Bloomington’s voters will turn quickly against anyone who engages in negative campaigning this cycle. See, nobody in the general public is so madly in love with either of you that they’ll forgive destructive mudslinging. Just my unsolicited advice.

Coats Leaving The Cloakroom

So, who wants to be the new junior United States Senator from Indiana now that Dan Coats is hanging up his Republican buckle-hat and breeches?

  • Todd Young?
  • Baron Hill?
  • Shelli Yoder?
  • Evan Bayh?
  • Richard Mourdock?

Altered Movie Poster

Well, maybe not Richard Mourdock, although America is noted for shocking second acts (Richard Nixon, Marion Barry, and ABBA, for examples). But how about these names, mentioned by The Hill, the daily hardcopy and online newspaper covering Congress?

A Luke Messer spokesgeek sez the 6th Dist. Republican US Congressbeing isn’t hep to the idea of running at this moment, The Hill also reports.

Tom LoBianco of the Indy Star adds these names:

LoBianco feels that Bayh, Mourdock, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz aren’t worth writing about in terms of the upcoming race.

Politico‘s Kyle Cheney does a thorough job of vetting Evan Bayh’s mindset as the seat comes open. Cheney figures there’s no chance Bayh — even with his $10 million war chest — will run.

Abdul Hakim-Shabazz of Indy Politics drops Bosma, Young, Stutzman, and Rokita’s names — adding Holcomb’s almost as an afterthought.

Coats so far is the third US Senator to announce he won’t run in 2016, joining Dems Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland) in the glue factory line.

Be Divine

Hey, you’ve only got six more days to read Scott Russell Sanders’ new novel, Divine Animal. The current selection of the Bloom magazine Book Club, Divine… has been flying off the Book Corner‘s shelves.

Malcolm Abrams’ brainchild was a smashing success the first time around with Bloomington author Michael Koryta packing the house at Oliver Winery on the Square in February. Koryta’s Those Who Wish Me Dead was the Book Club’s first selection.

Sanders will read from his book and answer questions Tuesday, March 31st, 5:30pm, at FARM Bloomington’s Root Cellar Lounge. My advice? Get there early.


Scott Russell Sanders

BTW, poet extraordinaire and IU Creative Writing prof. Ross Gay told me yesterday that Sanders — back when he was still teaching keyboard clacking there — was a terrific influence on a lot of young scribes, the tall versifier included. “Every time I’d see him in the hallway, he’d have something nice or encouraging to say,” Gay remembers.

Keep in mind encouragement is worth its weight in gold to an aspiring writer, especially considering careerists in that field see very little gold in their lifetimes.

Hot Air

Don’t Shoot; Don’t Kill Him

A fellow named Ryan Giroux killed a man and shot two others in a Mesa, Arizona, motel room yesterday, police say. He fled the motel, acc’d’g to the cops, stole a car, shooting its owner, and sped to a stranger’s residence where, while trying to rob the person who lives there, shot the poor soul. Giroux, police add, then dashed to another apartment complex where he shot another fellow. Running from that apartment, Giroux took a hostage briefly then holed himself up in yet another apartment complex where a manhunt team comprised of officers from five different law enforcement agencies apprehended him five hours after the spree began.

Let me tell you a little bit about this Giroux fellow. He’s accomplished a lot in his 41 years on this mad planet. He’s amassed seven felony convictions, including theft, burglary, and robbery, in three different states. He was convicted once of assault with a deadly weapon. He was nabbed shoplifting from a convenience store in 2006 by two police officers with whom he fought. The officers testified that he was carrying a pistol at the time and repeatedly tried to reach for it as he grappled with them. He was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for the incident.

Giroux is a known gang member who wears prominent tattoos indicating his affiliation. His very appearance screams danger. He admits to having a problem with meth which, he told authorities after being released from prison, turns him into an uncontrollably violent man. While on probation after prison, he missed one probation department appointment and, in another incident, left the scene of an accident without contacting police.


Ryan Giroux

It can be assumed that the law enforcement officers surrounding the apartment complex where Giroux was arrested knew all about his history. They most assuredly knew about his alleged trail of deadly violence that morning.

Still, police took great care not to shoot to kill him. They fired a taser at him, cuffed him, and brought him to the hospital for treatment before taking him downtown for questioning and processing.

Had Giroux been born with dark skin, it’s doubtful he’d have emerged from that convenience store parking lot fight with the cops with his life. The fact that he’s still alive after yesterday’s drama further proves the point.

Time For Planning

Is the Plan Commission full of knuckleheads or is it merely the planning process in this throbbing, thriving megalopolis that’s knuckleheaded?

Under the rules of this town, the mayor gets to appoint five of the nine Plan Commission members. (Acc’d’g to the PC’s web page, two of the spots are vacant at this time, one of them the mayor’s.) Those who are thankful that three-term boss Mark Kruzan is taking a powder after his stint concludes Dec. 31st are hopeful the new chief exec will clean house starting with the Plan C’mm’n. The idea being, I suppose, that a passel of fresh faces will be less likely to approve the next Burj Bloomington that’ll come in at 200 stories.

Proposed Dubai Tower

Coming To Kirkwood?

I’ve got it on good authority that Plan Commission members regularly receive their packages of documents only 48 hours before meetings, during which they have to decide the fate of this parking lot or that single-family home addition. Or, the next Burj.

Take February’s mtg. for example. Commissioners had a mere two days to consider the merits and drawbacks of the site plan for the proposed 146-room hotel at 210 E. Kirkwood Ave.

Compare that to last summer’s E! Online voting for the 2014 Best. Ever. TV. Awards. Viewers originally were given a window from Wednesday, July 2nd, at 6:30am to Sunday, July 6th, at 5pm to vote. But awards organizers decided even that five-day span was insufficient for the residents of this holy land to select, say, Glee over The Vampire Diaries, so they gave voters three whole days more.

We have, it is apparent, our priorities in this nation.

Perhaps the new mayor should look at the process in addition to the personalities involved.

One Thing Liberals And Conservatives Can Agree On

I’m with Ashley Judd on this one. The avowed liberal has been receiving online abuse, threats, and harassment since she committed the unpardonable sin of tweeting about her love for the Kentucky Wildcats men’s basketball game.



No, no, I’m not with her re: her Wildcat mania. They are, after all, a semi-professional sports team masquerading as a group of college students that does not need my spiritual or emotional assistance in any way. Their coach makes more than any public employee in Kentucky. More than any ten public employees in the state, for that matter. Oh hell, let’s be frank — John Calipari is making this year a guaranteed total of $6.5 million. In human terms, that would be what some 130 spanking new assistant professors make at that bastion of higher knowledge. Or, what approximately 282 entry-level administrative assistants make there.

The labors of one “John Vincent Calipari (hereinafter ‘Coach’ or ‘Employee’)” as well as the efforts of the respective coaches of some 350 other NCAA Division I basketball teams around this holy land are so meaningful to their respective fandoms that because Ashley Judd had the temerity to reveal her rooting interest in Calipari’s gang on social media, she was rewarded with threats of forced sodomy, rape, miscellaneous violent sexual depredations, and was labeled a whore, a cunt, and countless other pejoratives.

“Not okay,” she wrote in a Twitter response. And to prove how serious she is, she spent much of Monday filling out police reports on as many threateners and verbal abusers as, I suppose, her pen had ink for.

Good. Embarrass the little bastards. Better yet, throw their threatening, hate-filled, entitled asses in jail. Let them see what forced sodomy is all about.

I’m also with former Major League Baseball pitcher and avowed conservative Curt Schilling. He took to social media to crow about his young daughter making her college softball team. Tweeters, naturally, responded with many suggestions regarding bats and her anatomy and other sado-sexual concepts. Schilling actually tracked down a number of the offending tweeters. Among others, he found a college DJ, a fraternity vice president, an employee of the New York Yankees, and at least seven college athletes before he stopped tracking.



He ID’d them to their bosses and superiors. The athletes have been suspended by their respective coaches. The Yankees employee was fired. Once Schilling got tired of fingering these dopes, he posted a couple of other guys’ offensive tweets with their avatars and screen names intact. He wrote in his blog 38pitches:

I wanted to let you internet sleuths have a go. Here are two guys that, as you can see, thought they were somehow funny and tough at the same time.

[Schilling posts screenshots of their tweets.]

These guys went to town. if you guys reading this that know how to find people on the ‘net want to have at it, please do.

It doesn’t matter which end of the political spectrum you occupy: if you want to be counted among the Decent Human Beings of America, you’ll want these cyber-psycho-criminals stopped.

Free Parking

Just asking: Is it true that some or all municipal employees who drive city cars don’t have to feed the meters downtown when they’re on city business?

The Political Arts

Each of the four candidates for mayor are scheduled to speak about how the arts might fare under their hoped-for administrations at the Waldron Arts Center starting next week. Thanks to Cardinal Stage Company managing director Marc Tschida and the theater outfit’s media maven Heidi Harmon for the tip. The Cardinal is sponsoring these four Arts Talks with the candidates in the Waldron’s main auditorium:

  • Darryl Neher Thursday, March 26, 9:45pm
  • John Linnemeier Friday, March 27, 9:45pm
  • John Hamilton Sunday, March 29, 9:15pm
  • John Turnbull Thursday, April 2, 9:45pm

Herald Times editor Bob Zaltsberg will moderate the Neher talk and WFIU’s Yael Ksander will do the same for Hamilton’s. Moderators for the Linnemeier and Turnbull talks haven’t been found yet. It’s assumed that both Linnemeier and Turnbull will be found before their respective talk dates.

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