Too much insider baseball

Dateline: Tue 09 Jun 2009

Or politics, really.

When I moved to Indianapolis from Evansville in 1978, I asked then city-editor of the Evansville Press what Indy was like. He actually stopped hammering away at his typewriter, unhunched his back, sat up, looked me in the eye and said, "A very tight group of men control the city."

Facile, but correct. Those were the glory days of then Mayor Richard Lugar and numerous movers/shakers who ran this joint like a nifty new little business they were getting off the ground. It worked, and no question: Evansville had some of the "pocket mentality," the sense that it was cut off from the rest of Indiana and certainly forgotten by Indianapolis. Plus there were politics afoot: Evansville was then and is today a Democrat bastion; Indy was then a GOP stronghold, although demographics have changed that.

However, while every city has cronyism and nepotism and "you-scratch-mine, I'll-scratch-yours" stuff, it seems obvious today that Indy has not really grown up from that 1978 unflattering description.

The Capital Improvement Board is apparently so full of high-wage employees, friends of friends, sons of friends, etc., lucrative contracts (doled out to other friends?) and other apparent mismanagement that Gov. Mitch Daniels -- a Republican insider if ever there was one -- has publicly taken it to task and proposed it be dismantled, start from scratch. Good.

The CIB is one of those hold-overs from the glory days, and even as late as 2005, editors at the Indianapolis Star were not certain who even ran the damn thing. When the little Hurst bean company was fighting CIB to keep its historic building intact under the shadow of Lucas Oil Stadium, the editors wanted a confab with CIB. But it was not then Stadium Director John Klipsch who showed up in editorial offices to take questions (as exec editor Dennis Ryerson expected, since "Klipsch is the boss," as Ryerson told me)-- it was former Lt. Gov. John Mutz and attorney David Frick, the man who engineered the deal to bring the Colts here.

Where did they come from? They were on the board; they ran the show.

My point? There's a lot of power, historically, behind the scenes in Indianapolis, and some of it is badly bungled.

Thanks to a free press, some sweetheart deals are being exposed. Another case is Susan Bayh's duplicitous service on two local boards, Wellpoint and Emmis Corp. Does her service fatten her and Sen. Evan Bayh's pocket? No kidding. Is she then expected to influence the senator on votes? Duh.

The Indianapolis Business Journal Monday printed an article by reporter Scott Olson, revealing that Mrs. Bayh received $99,262 in stock compensation from Emmis last year -- she serves as lead director of the Emmis board. So her "pay" was up 42 percent, reports the IBJ, while Emmis executives, including owner Jeff Smulyan, collectively saw their compensation drop. The company as a whole lost $293.9 million in the last fiscal year, IBJ reports, and on Monday, the stock was being traded for 33 cents a share. Bad.

Thanks to Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana for picking up on this story. IBJ and the Star get kudos for following the money: the Star wrote about Mrs. Bayh's Wellpoint kickback.





Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

Reflection generally hs a way of either heightening cynicism about remembered events, or casting those events in rosier light than deserved.

That said, I believe that the "tight knit" circle of men-- yes, neaarly exclusively men-- who ran Indianapolis in the late 1960s through the 1970s were motivated more by vision than by profit. They genuinely wanted Indianapolis to be more than "Indian-no-place."

I do not belive the same can be said about the current and recent crop, and clearly there are some folks who have way outlived their "sell by" date.

2009-06-09 08:26:58

hendy [unverified] said:

An ounce of planning prevents a pound of cure. The GoodOldBoy network as Tom says above, really did have a vision, and part of it was profit in their back pocket. What motivates people isn't complete altruism.

In constructing the CIB, many bad things happened. But it's not the only problem. We face embarrassing property tax issues, tenuous race relations, huge disparities between rich and poor, the weight of our status symbol professional athletic teams, all this with failing schools and sewers that are tragic and illegal-- not to mention environmentally irresponsible in the worst way.

Do we spank the politicians, the good old boys, or ourselves for letting it happen (so long as the economy was good, crime was low, and the streets were clean)? Our legislature's meeting downtown to try and achieve a budget in harrowing times under deeply divisive conditions-- and failing.

What we have is history, and a set of goals. Getting from now to a better future requires both vision and planning. It also requires participation at all levels. Who's going to step up?

2009-06-09 08:55:47

Tell The Truth [unverified] said:

Ruthie dearest, you just fell for one of the oldest tricks in the book, vis-a-vis the Susan Bayh trashing.

She's an experienced and schooled corporate lawyer. Her brains are valuable to boards. She's supposed to sit home and knit?

She'd earn far more than that at a highbrow DC law firm, doing corporate work with which she's familiar. And the Bayh Bashers would have a field day with that, too.

The rest of your post, however, is timely. And spot-on. I've done a lot of work IN EVV, too, seems you left just before someone walked in, shot the mayor to death in his office, and the fighting over his replacement began before the body was taken to the morgue.

The EVV biz folks are frustrated Kentuckians all. On almost every wall displayed proudly, is a Ky. Colonel certificate.

A fascinating city, Evansville.

2009-06-09 09:01:25

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

TTT, just what does Susan do on those boards to warrant the fees she receives, remunerations which seems impervious to economic reality?

I like to think the Current Economic Meltdown will have lasting effects, not least that we look closely at people who are warming board chairs and ask why their boards think the rest of us incapable of connecting the dots.

Do you think Ms Bayh would be pulling down so many big ones if her name isn't what it is? Is her corporate legal experience so profound that Wellpoint
honestly gets its money's worth in advice and counsel? This simply does not pass the smell test.

2009-06-09 09:29:03

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

And hendy, maybe it was because I was young and enthusiastic and involved in civic affairs in the 1960s and 1970s, but I still say there was more than just profit motive involved. There is an inscription Downtown, on the old Museum (which before that was I believe the court house) attributed to an earlier Indianapolis Mayor (IIRC) that says something like "I am proud to be a citizen of this Indianapolis, no mean City." Was a time when the common weal was reason to do the right thing. Many folks did, before corruption, self-aggrandizement and general cynicism ran the thing off the rails.

I'm not sayin' it was all about altruism. There is no such thing as a wholly altruistic action. But I do think for sure that there was more community spirit in Indianapolis before the current sports and My Pile Now mentality took over.

2009-06-09 09:38:00

hendy [unverified] said:

I liked it when Indianapolis was an "All American City". The Pacers and Colts gave the city pride and a regional attraction to all of those that fled Indy to mushroom the suburbs into the mindless strip-mall havens they are now.

The Circle Center Mall helped. White River State Park helped-- as did the move by the Indpls Zoo, the Eitlejorg and many other venues-- including the IMA and Children's Museum. No doubt about it: grew and fought of the travails of other cities.

In the interim, infrastructure maintenance subsided. The sewers collapse into the White River at the hint of a storm. The IPS has its funding base trashed to oblivion, all while the Library Board builds itself a timeless monument to itself. The City County Building, once a wonder, is now hopelessly mired in chockablock misery while the city hunts for space all over town.

I maintain that the current leadership isn't up for what needs to be done. No, I'm not running. In fact, I'm moving S to Bloomington. Not retreat, rather, I'm tired of the same old. Maybe a change of scenery will help.

2009-06-09 10:58:46

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Tom, gentle reader:

I don't mean to make myself the Bayh Explainer but:

She is a brilliant UCal law graduate with extensive corporate experience. Those who know here well say she's a very bright attorney who could easily have earned large money in that arena, at a law firm or as general counsel somewhere. She long ago elected to do board work.

Remember: this decision was made in 1987, prior to or during Evan's first run for governor. Choices for career female lawyers, were a lot slimmer then.

All publicly-traded companies' boards have corporate governance rules, which are overseen by the federal government and stock exchanges.

Directors receive compensation based on an adopted plan. The boards must feel their directors are worthy of the fees and up to the workload, whatever that is.

I know, there are rampant abuses. And corporate governance, or lack thereof, got us into a lot of trouble in the last couple of years.

Is Susan Bayh the best corporate director ever? I doubt it. Is she worth the fees paid to her, and all other directors, at Emmis and Wellpoint? Probably.

Do you also know that her husband, as a senator, refuses to see lobbyists for the companies where Susan serves? There is a mechanism for those Hoosier companies to share any information the senator's office needs, in answer to direct inquiries via staff.

The Susan bashing is just a little old. If it smells to you, Tom, see an ENT.

Or, in the alternative, please provide one verifiable incident where Susan Bayh board service was actually a disservice.

I don't know what spouses of elected officials are supposed to do for jobs. I only wish a highly-placed female officeholder could put one husband through this gristmill. Then, this crapolla would cease, you can bet on that.

2009-06-09 11:45:22

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

On this Susan Bayh thing:

The last I have read from Evan Bayh about Obama's proposed national health care program was a comment that said, paraphrased; "We have to be sure to protect the interests of private insurance companies."

I wonder why this seems to be such a pominent concern for him when millions of Americans are going without quality medical care or going bankrupt trying to pay for a dying spouse's care.

Could Evan's lack of passion for national healthcare be as a result of the "Susan Factor?" in Wellpoint?
Or, I guess some would perhaps he is living up to his Repub-locrat pedigree. I think his wife's Wellpoint connections deserve the "uh, duh" response.

I voted straight Democrat in the last election but I doubt if I will pull the lever for Evan in the future.

2009-06-10 00:52:13

varangianguard [Member] said:


Humorous postings. A good helping of positive spin, gently tempered with some emotional arm twisting and a sprinkling of plausibility.

Oh, and I don't consider you a Bayh Explainer, just another Bayh Apologist.

2009-06-10 05:03:48

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Whitebeard: please cite your source for the Bayh quote directly. I regularly follow the pronouncements of both our senators, and have heard nary a peep from Bayh in this vein.

Varan: I don't necessarily exist to amuse you, but if I opened your eyes a little, thanks. I love to learn new things, too. And I'll take my lessons from anyone, friend or foe.

Good day!

2009-06-10 13:17:42

joe [unverified] said:

Ruth -- good post - I agree with just about all of it, especially the cib and susan bayh thoughts. Especially the Susan Bayh thought.

One factual matter -- Bill Hudnut was mayor in 1978 (I moved here then as well) Dick Lugar was, I believe, well into his second term as US Senator in 1978. I know it, seems like yesterday.

2009-06-10 19:56:18

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Dick Lugar was elected to his first term, against incumbent Vance Hartke, I believe in 1974.

2009-06-11 05:26:15

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

Actually Lugar lost his first bid for the Senate, against B. Bayh. It was 1974. I was involved. We were highly confident of victory.

Lugar was described as "Dick Nixon's favorite mayor." Which was a Good Thing early on, until the wheels fell off: many favored Republicans were taken down by Watergate. Lugar tried again, as you point out.

2009-06-11 07:20:47

IndyRez [unverified] said:

Not to nitpick, but the commenter who mentioned the murder of Evansville mayor: This has come up a couple times when talking to sources in Evansville. The man who was killed, Russell G. Lloyd, was no longer mayor (hadn't been for a couple months...) and he was killed in his home by a woman whose lawyer claimed she wasn't mentally with it enough to know what she was doing. She was charged, served time in jail, and was ultimately moved to a mental health facility in Logansport. My link is an editorial from Evansville paper from 2006.
Here's a May 28 article about her being found guilty for attacking someone at a hospital where she was held:

2009-06-11 12:45:20

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Yikes, Lloyd's killer is still certifiable.

One week prior to his leaving office, I'm now told, the killer appeared at Lloyd's office brandishing a gun. Scary stuff.

I had forgotten Lugar's first loss to Birch. I think the Hartke victory was 76...and at the tine, Hartke had alienated everyone on the Hill. The favorite tagline at the time:

Indiana's two senators are Bayh and Bought.

He was colorful, good ole' Vance. He was insanely jealous of Birch, so much so that in 72, he also ran for president. For about 20 minutes.

2009-06-11 13:10:55

Comments are closed.


or Register


Syndicate Blog