Thursday, July 29, 2004

Quick DNC Note

I have only caught bits and pieces of the Democratic National Convention, but was struck by the common man motif used so frequently. I understand that the Democratic party courts a constituency comprised of people often thought of as the common man- Union workers, the underclasses and the like. That's all fine, but it makes me wonder how the people who the Dems are appealing to can relate to them or take them seriously.  

John Kerry, the patrician, wealthy, career politician.
Teresa Heinz Kerry, the pampered, extremely wealthy, globetrotting heiress.
John Edwards, the wealthy, parasitic trial lawyer-turned-politician.

Interesting that Jimmy Carter was one of the early speakers. Carter had a very deep appeal to the people the Dems are still pandering to because he had the credentials. Sure, he was a highly educated man, but he was also a peanut farmer. He could relate to people who worked the land or had menial jobs. After his Presidency, Carter maintained his down-to-earth appeal by swinging a hammer for Habitat for Humanity.

The tenor strikes me as, "I don't practice what I preach, because I'm not the kind of man I'm preaching to!" and I wonder why the Dems' target constituency hasn't questioned it.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Time For a Bold Policy Recommendation

Last Monday, I sat through a meeting of regional planning leaders and was mortified to find broad support for a regional transit authority that would feature a light rail system. The system would be a Downtown Indy-Fishers Nickel Plate route, and take -optimistically- 1-4% of cars off I-69. Price tag? $850 million.

Nearly a billion dollars and only 1-4% of the cars removed? Who's the pilot of this spaceship? Can't we do better than this?

Unfortunately, Monday's meeting was merely a prelude to the commitments these leaders would make. On Wednesday, a unanimous vote by various mayors and county commissioners was cast to commit the funding regionally in an attempt to win Federal money. Indy Star report. Several of these leaders proposed an increase to the gasoline tax.

The real hopes behind the project are to reduce traffic congestion and pollution. A negligible reduction is the best this plan can offer. A secondary outcome, it was claimed, was a modest (15%) increase in some property values surrounding the corridor. That's just bunk. In most cities, the property values plunge in the corridor as it becomes a graffiti and litter catcher.

I don't like to complain without offering an alternative proposal, so here's mine:

Convert the Nickel Plate into a trail and greenway.

Look at the Monon trail and greenway. This north-south route from Downtown Indy to Carmel is absolutely beloved, having turned a neglected rail corridor into hot property, revitalizing slumping areas in Indianapolis, and making hot real estate in Carmel even hotter. It is responsible for the doubling and tripling of property values nearby, fueling the resurgence of Broad Ripple and a host of adjacent neighborhoods, bringing healthy family activity to an area once characterized by seedy characters and litter, while adding trees, bike shops, and restaurants along the trail.

The same can be done with the Nickel Plate. The same should be done with the Nickel Plate. Consider:

$850 million for light rail used by few -or- $20 million for a trail and greenway used by many?

A project that will depress real estate values -or- A project that will double real estate values?

How about this: tell the people who live along the Monon that their trail will be restored with track for a light rail line, and then tell the people living along the Nickel Plate that they are getting a trail, and see where you get enthusiasm.

This is an easy call. As Chair of the Libertarian Party of Hamilton County, I will be organizing a petition drive. Petitioners will sign their support for a trail and greenway over the Nickel Plate in favor of a light rail route. The petitions will be delivered to those who can affect policy and to the press, to show where the support lies.

If this interests you, email me at

4-H Wrap-Up

The Hamilton County 4-H Fair concluded last night with a barbeque beef sandwhich and the tearing down of the Libertarian booth. This was an excellent outreach event for all involved as we signed up some new members, had others sign up for our email newsletter, registered folks to vote, and showed that having libertarian inclinations is downright normal.

More than 100 visitors took the Advocates' Quiz, and of those, about 55% placed either solidly libertarian or on the borderline between libertarian and conservative, centrist, or liberal. This was surprising to many in this county, where so many self-identify as conservative and/or Republican. Highlights:

A woman took the Quiz and placed solidly in the authoritarian area of the chart. She asked what that meant, and volunteer Michael Jarrell cautiously explained, "well, that's where Hitler is". She was horrified! She wanted to take the Quiz again. Michael gave her some literature so she could study at home.

Gubernatorial candidate Kenn Gividen distributed his materials, including a brochure with his picture on it. He asked passersby to tell him who that was on the brochure. Best answer: Donald Trump. There was a terrific buzz around the LP booth as Kenn and US Senate candidate Al Barger worked the crowd. Al let people know that he is running against incumbent Evan Bayh, and touted his challenge of a cage match with Bayh, eliciting near continuous belly laughs. Read Al's report.

Talking with the Republicans and Democrats, who had booths under the same tent. I have heard horror stories of disrespect coming from other libertarians, who had their booths ransacked or damaged while unattended at county fairs, or faced constant harassment. We had nothing but a pleasant experience in every way, and I personally had very pleasant exchanges with volunteers and candidates from both parties. There was one incident that made me laugh out loud, though. When I was setting up the booth, I had to make several trips from my car to the booth to get all the materials in. The first trip was solely dedicated to a table, which I set up and then left for more stuff. When I came back, there was now one item upon the table- a pencil from the Republican Party. I found it hilarious in its' understated position on the table.

Big thanks to those Libertarian Party members and candidates who staffed the booth: Michael Jarrell (3 days!), Mark Schreiber (2 days!), Kenn Gividen (from Columbus), Al Barger (from Franklin County), Rex & Susan Bell (from Hagerstown!), Rob Beck, David Irish, Wayne Kirk, and Rob Place.