Thursday, March 02, 2006

Harry Browne, 1933-2006

The Libertarian world lost a giant yesterday when Harry Browne passed away.

Harry Browne was the Libertarian Party's presidential candidate in 1996 and 2000. It was Browne who interested me in joining the LP in 1996, during his campaign. Hammer of Truth has an excellent obit.

I had a personal encounter with Browne, in 2002. I had the pleasure of meeting Harry at the 2002 national convention, here in Indianapolis. I was a Cleveland resident at the time, and I shared the story of how I put Harry Browne into the #2 position in my home precinct, as Geroge Bush received zero votes in that very heavily unionized precinct, carried by Al Gore. My lone vote put him in second. Harry enjoyed a good laugh at that.

Harry did a great thing when he was running in 1996, that inspired me to join. He closed his speeches by asking those who agreed with his positions to get behind the Libertarian Party, by joining, supporting candidates or becoming one, and by donating. I've done all of these things, and it is because Harry Browne asked.

This is something I have tried to remember to do when I speak- especially before non-libertarian groups. Not everyone will agree, but those who do should get involved.

Harry Browne will be missed.

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006


I've been getting a lot of questions about the toll road issue and privatization in general. Mainly, folks expect Libertarians to be in favor of privatization.

In general, yes we are in favor of privatization. In fact, Libertarians like toll roads and other cost solutions that involve user fees, whereby those who use a government managed resource pay for their use, while those who do not use it, do not pay.

With all things, the devil's in the details. Libertarians like a good, equitable deal. We are concerned that Major Moves does not provide the best deal possible for Hoosiers. We are concerned that a 75-year lease leaves too many unanswered questions. For instance, what will the rate of inflation be in 2068? Nobody can answer that, but it will be a major factor in the assesment of tolls. Libertarians prefer a 10- or 15-year lease.

Also, we are not convinced the Daniels Administration is capable of swinging a deal that points the lion's share of the benefits towards the people of this state. Daniels has a short track record, but a very easily assessed record.

The naming rights for the new, unbuilt stadium are being awarded today. The talk is that the rights will rake about $50 million. That's just talk, so we'll have to wait and see.

What isn't talk is that the Colts will get ALL of that money. None of it goes to the state, to defer the cost of construction.

This is a horrible example of giving away the store. Some measure of the money should have been going to the state, had a better- for Hoosiers- deal been worked. Maybe half of the money, or 30% of the money, or even an amount split in proportion to what is borne in costruction costs by both the state and the Colts. Yeah, it's a great deal for Mr. Irsay.

So, yes, Libertarians are skeptical about the deal negotiated with a Spanish-Australian firm. If "Quick Fix" Mitch was able give away so much to the Colts, why are we to suppose the Major Moves deal is any different?

All we have is a short, blemished track record to go by.

Update: It's more lucrative for Irsay than ever imagined, as the Lucas Oil naming deal poised to yield over $120 million. The state's cut remains the same: zero. Per today's Indy Star report:

The Colts will keep the money from this naming-rights deal as they do from the current agreement with RCA. The team is kicking in $100 million toward the cost of the stadium, but the city is helping the Colts out by paying the team $48 million for early termination of the RCA Dome lease.

Construction on the $500 million stadium with a retractable roof began last year and is expected to end in time for the 2008 season's first kickoff.

So, on naming rights alone, the Colts are done paying for "their share" of this project, and are already into their profits- unlike the people of Indiana, who will pay and pay.

Again, we are skeptical of the Daniels Administration on privatization. The Colts stadium should have been private, but Daniels made it public, and worse, gave away the store. The privatization of roads is a good idea, unless you give away the store.

Monday, February 27, 2006

County Chairs Conference Friday

The Libertarian Party of Indiana is hosting its annual County Chairs Conference right here in Fishers, this weekend.

The festivities begin at my home Friday evening, where Ame, Isabel, and I will welcome the County Chairs with a reception. Cocktails at 7pm, poker at 9:30. Contact me by email if you would like to stop by the reception.

The business commences Saturday morning at the Hampton Inn & Suites on 116th, just west of I-69. There will be several speakers and presentations geared towards educating and motivating Chairs and other local level party officers, towards greater effectiveness in organization and getting results at the ballot box. Link for full details.
Forced Annexation Foes Moving Forward

The Noblesville Daily Times reported Saturday that the Geist United Opposition raised over $10,000 at their most recent public meeting last Tuesday. That's quite outstanding for one evening. From the Times:

United Geist Opposition collected more than $10,000 Tuesday night from area residents opposed to annexation by the town of Fishers. Opposition leaders estimate that legal costs could be as much as $125,000.

The meeting at Hamilton Southeastern High School drew over 300 people. Residents were introduced to Stephen R. Buschmann, the attorney retained to represent the Geist opposition. Buschmann had recently represented Home Place in its successful campaign against annexation by Carmel.
I found Hamilton County Sheriff Doug Carter's comments most interesting:

In a phone interview Wednesday, Carter said he wanted to put an end to the rhetoric about police protection. Carter told those attending that Geist is adequately protected and that police protection would not necessarily improve if annexation is successful.

“This political hot potato that's being passed around has nothing to do with public safety,” Carter said Wednesday.
I like to believe that I get a good read on a person when they speak. In the Sheriff, I have always observed a deep earnestness in his approach to his work. I believe him when he says that if the Fishers Police Chief calls for 50 of his deputees in a moment of need that he will send them. And, when Carter says that the issues surrounding annexation are nothing to do with public safety, I believe him there, too.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Smoking Bans In Force Soon

The Indy Star has a lengthy article in today's edition, discussing the smoking bans that will soon be in force around Central Indiana. Many of these bans take effect March 1.

I'll restate my position here. I do not smoke. I never have. I don't like second-hand smoke. When a place is too smoky for my liking, I leave. I never take my son or infant daughter into a place that allows smoking. However, I believe that while the health issues have strong merit, I also believe that the property rights of business owners come first. The property owners should have the right to set their own policies as regards their businesses on their properties. It should be sufficient to post a sign on the front door indicating the smoking policy at any establishment so that a customer can make the appropriate decision. Besides, tobacco is a legal product for adults in the United States.

Alas, this America has drifted away from its' land of the free status towards a nanny state, where decisions are made in everyone's best interest ahead of time, reducing the choices of business owners and customers alike.

Annie Tomey, a Greenfield restaurant owner, was quoted in this article, sounding these same notes:

While some places are adapting to the change, a group continues to lobby for a less restrictive ban. Among them is business owner Annie Tomey, 58, who has been one of the ban's most vocal critics.

She estimates that 80 percent of her patrons at Annie's Restaurant are smokers. She'll follow the ban when it goes into effect -- "or they're going to fine me to death" -- but she's not happy.

She and several other business owners have formed a coalition to change the law.

The smoking ban "is about taking our freedom of choice away from us," Tomey said.

As other area restaurants have voluntarily gone smoke-free in recent years, smokers have gravitated to her business, Tomey said.

"This is still the best country to live in," Tomey said. "But it's getting to the point where our politicians are going overboard."

I support Annie Tomey's property rights. Greenfield does not. Here I stood with Annie outside her restaurant in October, as Libertarians stood with her to oppose the then-proposed law.

Greenfield is not unlike other municipalities, who were swayed by the lobbying efforts of the American Heart Association and other groups. Again, I do not debate the dangers of cigarette smoke. I do debate the means by which we address the issue.

One of the compelling arguments the Heart Association makes is that society bears the medical costs associated with smoking. Unfortunately, that's increasingly true, as we have increasingly socialized medicine in this country. Since Americans are decreasingly responsible for their own health care costs, they can walk away from the cost consequences associated with bad health decision making. We wouldn't need health nannies if Americans were responsible for their choices. We wouldn't need health nannies if this example offered in the Star weren't so common:

Jennifer Deeter and her 3-year-old, Emma, ate lunch Thursday at the Hard Rock Cafe less than 10 feet from a man at the bar smoking an American Spirit cigarette.

Having her daughter so close to someone lighting up bothered Deeter. A smoker herself, the 32-year-old Irvington artist tries to abstain around her four children.
Why would a mother take a 3-year-old to lunch at the Hard Rock and allow the hostesss to seat them 10 feet from the bar? Is it honestly possible that she didn't know that the Hard Rock allowed smoking? Or, that people smoke at bars? Was it not possible for her to choose a smoke-free establishment to take her child to?

This is what it comes down to- selfish patrons wanting to have it both ways. "I'm here now, so you have to change". Cities bolster citizens who of their own volition would make bad choices unless the parameters are altered to make the place safe for them.

So, we are willing to sacrifice property rights to accomodate them. That's a real tragedy. This example reminds me of the family who builds a home alongside the railroad tracks that carried trains for the past 150 years in that spot, and then the family complains about the noise. It's arrogant and selfish. But more than that, it's irresponsible.

The result is that the intelligent business owners who had both smoking and non-smoking sections can no longer accomodate smokers and non-smokers. It doesn't matter how good the ventilation is. Unless the situation is like the Fishers Claude & Annie's, where the bar and restaurant are literally separated by a wall, the business owner has to choose to lose one segment of their clientele.

A number of Downtown restaurants focus on dining at lunch and drinks at night, but only a handful have chosen to cut out the lucrative market of family diners and become something more like a bar. The Slippery Noodle Inn, the Elbow Room and MacNiven's are among those choosing the adults-only route.

The choice is especially tough for steak houses, where cigars are part of the culture. Morton's and St. Elmo will go nonsmoking; Mo's and 14 West will not.

Most restaurants will choose to keep family dining and hope it doesn't hurt their bottom lines.

"What we may lose in smoking regulars, we may gain on the other side in families that choose to eat out more often," said Keith Reilly, manager of Champps, a Downtown restaurant where an aisle separates a large smoking bar area from the dining area.

"We hope" is no way to draw up a business plan. But arrogant lawmakers are unconcerned.
Nearly all of the establishments asking to allow smoking appear to be taverns that don't admit patrons younger than 21, said Greg Bowes, the City-County Council member who wrote the ordinance. There are 983 liquor or wine and beer permits in the county.

"I'm seeing it work exactly the way we anticipated," he said. "We specifically created a dilemma where places must choose between smokers and customers under 18. We felt that was the fairest way to make a distinction between bars and restaurants."

Tremendous! Councilor Bowes intended to create a dilemma for business owners! Isn't that helpful?

Actually, that's revisionist history and bunk. When Libertarians confronted Bowes during one of our pub crawls in support of the bar owners, he appeared and confessed that he hadn't given a single bit of thought to how it would affect property owners. His sole concern was health.

Again, it's good to be concerned about health. A nice educational campaign would have achieved that without limiting anybody's rights. The affect on property owners was an unintended consequence.

Isn't it time to have lawmakers who keep property rights as a primary focus rather than the object of secondary outcomes? If you think so, you need to vote Libertarian. The smoking bans were passed in the following locations, with the following majorities on their councils:

Indianapolis/Marion County- Democrat
Carmel- Reublican
Greenfield- Republican
Greenwood- Republican
Bloomington- Democrat