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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

The year of the politician

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By many measurements 2008 was an interesting and historic year.

The last twelve months were filled with many major changes that occurred on the national and local levels, especially on the political landscape. These changes will have a profound impact on generations of Americans and Hoosiers to come.

Here is a quick look back at some of the events that made 2008 unforgettable:


At the beginning of the year the City of Indianapolis welcomes a new mayor, Gregory A. “Greg” Ballard, a retired Marine, business executive and educator. Ballard appoints community activist Olgen Williams as his only deputy mayor, and his administration sets into motion a promise to return control of police to the mayor’s office.

Tanya Bell, an attorney and Terre Haute native, takes office as president and CEO of Indiana Black Expo with a plan to increase community partnerships, strengthen youth programs, increase revenue and make the organization more self-sufficient.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama wins the Iowa caucuses, the first contest of the campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. The victory confirms Obama’s status as a “competitive” candidate.


Black Enterprise Magazine cites Indianapolis as one of the top 10 cities for African-Americans, citing factors such as the availability of decent paying jobs, the number of Black-owned businesses, affordable housing, short commutes and opportunities for a vibrant social life.

The Alpha Mu Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority celebrates 100 years of the sorority with special events throughout the city.

Over 1,500 local janitors join the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in a strike for fair wages, affordable health care, and more working hours. They are supported in their efforts by some churches and community organizations.


A diverse crowd of over 2,000 people pack Plainfield High School to hear Sen. Barack Obama during his first Indiana visit as a presidential candidate. In an interview with the Recorder, Obama discusses his support in the Black community, the war in Iraq and controversy surrounding remarks about his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

In the city’s first ever special election for the 7th District Congressional seat, Democratic City-County Councilman Andre Carson defeats Republican state Rep. Jon Elrod.


The 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is observed with events across the nation. Locally, a special event is held at Martin Luther King Jr. Park to commemorate the speech Sen. Robert Kennedy gave here on the night of King’s assassination.

Attorney Michelle Obama, wife of presidential candidate Barack Obama, makes her first Indianapolis appearance at Chapel Hill 7th & 8th Grade Center in Wayne Township.


Indiana voters participate in the most competitive primary campaign since the 1960s. On the Democratic side, Sen. Hillary Clinton won the state’s Democratic presidential primary, former Congresswoman Jill Long Thompson won the nomination for governor and Andre Carson won the nomination for the 7th District Congressional seat. Major changes occured on the IPS School Board as longtime member Clarke Campbell and Leroy Robinson (who had been appointed to replace member Olgen Williams) were defeated by Elizabeth Gore and Michael Cohen.

Human rights activist and former news executive Benjamin Jealous is elected by the NAACP’s 64-member board to serve as the organization’s new president. Jealous, 35, pledges to get more youth and young adults engaged with the NAACP and increase contact with other minority groups and progressive white-led organizations.

At the end of the month a devastating storm and tornado sweeps through the city, knocking out power for thousands and damaging an entire apartment complex on the Eastside. Local churches and community service organizations step up to help those left homeless.


Civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson met with two-dozen community leaders at the Julia Carson Government Center to announce his National Reclaim Our Youth Crusade. Jackson asks students to sign a “pledge to excellence” and encourages parents to become more involved with their child’s school and meet with teachers.

In response to concerns from parents, Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Eugene White unveils a plan to improve bus service which calls for administrative adjustments, a bus-driver accountability system, new student behavioral guidelines and upgraded technology to create a more efficient bus system, as a well as a more pleasant environment for drivers and students alike.


In July, Indiana activated a new law that mandated individuals arrested for domestic violence stay in jail a minimum of eight hours. Lawmakers said the “cooling off” period would allow abusers time to calm down, and give victims time to gather belongings, seek residence elsewhere and if desired, try to obtain a protective order from court.

Another law that took effect had mothers in mind. Businesses with more than 25 employees must now offer mothers “reasonable” paid breaks to pump breast milk. In addition, employers must have designated private spaces other than bathroom stalls for the mothers to pump.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela turned 90 years old on July 18. Celebrations were held around the world in the freedom fighter’s honor.

The Recorder published a provocative two-part series that addressed the issue of teens and sex. The feature, “Too Sexy Too Soon,” received a wide rage of praise and support for bringing such a controversial issue to the forefront. In contrast some readers were offended by the “revealing” artwork displayed on the front page of the paper.

After receiving a $1 million grant from the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, crime-riddled areas in Indianapolis received surveillance cameras to not only catch offenders, but also deter possible attacks or violent streaks.


Television news network, CNN produced and aired a two-part documentary “Black in America.” While some praised the network for providing in-depth information about African-Americans to mainstream media, many felt the network didn’t effectively represent the diverse backgrounds and lifestyles of Blacks in the United States.

The nation’s first set of African-American quintuplets turned 25-years-old on Aug. 3. Ashlee, Joshua, Renee, Rhealyn, and Brandon Gaither are natives of Indianapolis and are affectionately known throughout the United States as the Gaither Quints.

Barack Obama bested opponent Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, making the Illinois senator the 2008 Democratic candidate for president of the United States of America.


As a result of a court order by the Marion County Health Department as well as several health care violations, Timber Ridge Apartments were forced to close. Timber Ridge residents were subjected to living with collapsed ceilings, human and animal feces, excessive roaches and faulty water pipes among other deplorable conditions. Most residents were offered housing in other complexes.


Circle City Classic, one of the nation’s largest events that showcases Historically Black Colleges and Universities celebrated 25 years. The Classic’s anniversary was celebrated by having the 2008 game in the newly-built Lucas Oil Stadium.

Paris Rogers-Thomas, a senior at Lawrence North High School was named the 2008 Miss Circle City Classic.


After a vicious race against Republican candidate Sen. John McCain, Obama won the presidential election by a landslide, making him the first African-American person to hold the country’s most powerful position. People call the accomplishment, “the most significant presidential win ever.”

Seventy-eight percent of Marion County residents approved a property tax increase that will help Indianapolis Public Schools. The increase will fund up to $278 million in bonds that IPS can use to repair worn structures, upgrade facilities and install air conditioning in 26 schools.


The Big Three automakers: General Motors, Ford and Chrysler met with members of Congress to request a $34 billion bailout. The bailout would help the companies maintain business operations despite the slumping economy. Congress denied the request, but President George Bush approved over $10 billion in bailout funds for General Motors and Chrysler. Ford declined to accept government assistance.

After being acquitted of his ex-wife’s murder in 1995, last December OJ Simpson was sentenced to at least nine years in prison for a botched attempt to recover sports memorabilia. Simpson, 61 was convicted of 12 charges including kidnapping and armed robbery.

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