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Monday, May 17, 2021

Brad Ellsworth’s woes; Pacers extorting taxpayers; homicide silence

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I’ve brought politicians, elected officials and wannabe elected officials before our community to answer questions from our African-American community for 18 years now.

Occasionally a less than serious candidate would elicit no calls or questions from the community. But what happened April 7 was unprecedented.

Brad Ellsworth, the former Vanderburgh County Sheriff and two-term congressman, who is about to be the Democratic replacement for the fleeing Evan Bayh, came on the radio for his first interview with Black media.

For 28 minutes, Ellsworth talked about health care, offender re-entry, jobs, redeveloping older Hoosier neighborhoods, background checks, supporting the president, foreign policy, Wall Street excesses and why he’s running for the Senate. Ellsworth was asked and addressed the issues.

And during that time no one called to ask a question.

The day before, Republican John McGoff, one of the many trying to send congressman Dan Burton into oblivion, was peppered with calls and questions. So have all the other candidates this election year.

But not Brad Ellsworth.

And that’s the dire dilemma Democrats face in the U.S. Senate race.

Evan Bayh’s sudden abdication left a bitter taste in the mouths of the African-American community in general and Black Democratic Party activists in particular. Bayh’s continued failure these past two months to directly speak to the Black community has only exacerbated the anger and resentment.

So, his ostensible replacement, Ellsworth, comes to our Black community as a cipher, an empty vessel, an unknown.

I was impressed with Ellsworth’s pleasant personality, his openness, apparent honesty and sincerity. Compared to the five rightwing, Tea Party line toeing Republican Senate candidates, Brad Ellsworth would represent African-American interests and issues far better.

But Ellsworth can not win in November without enthusiastic, strong, solid support from Indiana’s African-American voters.

The Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Indiana Democratic Party can’t wait until the middle of October to fire up African Americans about Ellsworth.

They need to do it starting the day after Ellsworth’s expected selection by the State Democratic Central Committee on May 15.

There needs to be a major paid media blitz introducing Ellsworth to African Americans. First, ads in every Black newspaper in Indiana, several times during the spring and summer.

Next, Black radio ads in Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, Evansville and South Bend. Plus targeted cable TV ads in those cities and Northwest Indiana, on BET, TV One, TNT, TBS and other cable nets Blacks watch.

If national and state Democrats don’t invest tens of thousands of dollars introducing Ellsworth to Black voters before mid-summer, then Democrats can forget having any chance to hold Bayh’s Senate seat this November!

Mayor Greg Ballard has been conspicuously silent about the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library’s plans to close six branches; five in what the mayor calls the “urban core.” The library’s draconian decision, because of the ill-conceived tax caps, puts the mayor in a delicate position.

Ballard has been outspoken this year about the city reinvesting in the “urban core,” declaring that we’re not going to forget or leave these neighborhoods behind. Yet his silence over the library’s decision speaks volumes.

At the same time, the mayor is faced with another choice. The Indiana Pacers have ramped up the rhetoric and posturing, demanding a solution to their money woes. Woes caused by putting a junior NBA varsity team on the field and having the worst season in some two decades.

The Pacers want the city and taxpayers to cover the $15 million overhead cost to run Conseco Fieldhouse. But included in that overhead are some high-priced salaries. It was insulting enough that the Capital Improvement Board (CIB) OK’d paying nearly $200,000 for the individual who runs Lucas Oil Stadium. To absorb several other high six-figure salaries of those running Conseco is ludicrous.

Not only do the Pacers want taxpayers to pay the cost of maintaining their playpen, they want some new amenities (playing floor, kitchen, wi-fi) on our collective dime.

Yet, the Pacers don’t want to provide the city or the CIB with the moneys they make from non-Pacer/Fever events (i.e. ice show, circus, Globetrotters, concerts).

Last week, the mayor said that “tax dollars” won’t go to solve the Pacers’ dilemma. He’s right. Instead the city will either use the money from the cable franchise tax or some of that down payment money from the Citizens Energy/Water Company deal. But if Ballard uses those funds to run Conseco, then that’s $8 to $15 million less for infrastructure needs (streets, sidewalks, sewers) that our neighborhoods desperately need.

To add insult to injury, Pacer owner Herb Simon’s nephew, David, owns Simon Malls, which owns the downtrodden Brightwood Plaza which houses the endangered Brightwood Branch Library. David Simon makes money off a neighborhood library, while his Uncle Herb asks the city to bail him out.

What’s wrong with this picture?

If the Pacers want the City to take the fieldhouse off their hands, fine. We’ll use existing Convention Center/Lucas Oil employees to run it and we want all the revenue from non-Pacer/Fever events and all the parking revenue from every event. Plus, a cut of any new signage and sponsorship deal inside the building.

That’s fair. Oh, and I want Simon Malls to pay for the cost of the Brightwood Library for the length of the Pacers deal with the city. That’s fair, too.

Where is the outrage? Three Black teens murder a 66-year-old Black man last week in a heinous home invasion crime. Where is the outrage?

While we’re not Chicago, the homicide rate this year has exploded in the first third of the year. As of this column’s deadline, there have been some 41 homicides in Indianapolis/Marion County. That’s an increase of 12 or 41.4 percent over the same period a year ago.

The city’s media is extraordinarily silent.

So are African-American ministers who in years past would have been holding press conference and issuing manifestos condemning the rising crime in our streets.

Why the silence? Why the lack of outrage?

See ‘ya next week!

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