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Sunday, February 17, 2019
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Saturday, February 16, 2019 11:17 AM
By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS  — For a virtually unknown mayor beyond the Michiana region, South Bend’s Pete Buttigieg’s exploratory presidential rollout has been sensational. Our early analysis was that for Buttigieg to find traction, he would need compelling staff. Communications Director Lis Smith has been invaluable in the rollout. Buttigieg is taking novelty (a gay mayor with a husband) and attempting to  establish market differentiation with some early success.

She is the co-founder of 50 State Communications based in New York. The Dartmouth College graduate was the deputy campaign director for Martin O’Malley’s 2016 presidential campaign. According to Ballotpedia, Smith previously worked on campaigns for former Sen. Tom Daschle, Sen. Claire McCaskill, President Barack Obama and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. She was Obama’s director of rapid response with a reputation of adroitly using Twitter and other social media avenues. Forbes Magazine considered her one of “the essential people to follow on Twitter.” The New York Times noted that Smith’s rapid response tweets “were a big reason that the campaign was able to define Mitt Romney before he could define himself” during the 2012 campaign.

On Wednesday, the Buttigieg campaign put out a call for rapid responders.  

During a recent Howard Schultz appearance, Smith noted Ron Brownstein’s assessment: “By night’s end, the list of questions he wouldn’t answer – and aggressively refused to answer  – might exceed the number he did, certainly the number he did w/specific ideas,” with Smith adding, “Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your souls.”

According to Ballotpedia, after the Obama campaign, Smith moved to Eliot Spitzer’s run for controller of New York City. When Spitzer lost the primary election, she was hired on the communications team for Bill de Blasio’s New York City mayoral campaign. There are also press accounts of a romantic relationship with Spitzer, the former New York governor who resigned in a sex scandal.

How effective is Smith? Mayor Buttigieg has been featured on Sunday talk shows including ABC’s “This Week,” and CNN’s “State of the Union.” He did Chuck Todd’s “Meet The Press Daily” last week (with the host suggesting he’d be back on the show or its Sunday version soon) and MSNBC’s “Hardball”with Chris Matthews, CBS “This Morning” and ABC’s “The View.” There have been prominent features in the Washington Post magazine, as well as Politico, the New York Times, and the New Yorker. On Feb. 18, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni will interview the mayor in Brooklyn. The mayor did “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” Thursday night.
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  • By JACK COLWELL
    SOUTH BEND – How South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg would fare in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary in Indiana is uncertain. Voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and other states will determine before then whether he is a viable contender. But one thing is certain: Buttigieg, if still an active candidate when Hoosier Democrats vote, would run away with the primary vote in his home area. That was demonstrated by the enthusiastic response for the mayor this week at the first book signing for “Shortest Way Home: One Mayor’s Challenge and a Model for America’s Future.” A capacity crowd of 800 packed the Great Hall of Century Center to hear the mayor and buy his book. They applauded long and loud when the moderator for a conversation about the book mentioned his presidential prospects. The most significant sign of enthusiasm for Buttigieg was the willingness of those who bought the book to wait in line for up two and a half hours to have the mayor sign it.
  • By RICH JAMES
    MERRILLVILLE — It has been three decades since Lake County has had one of those in-your-face Democratic mayoral primaries. One has to look back to the contests between Mayor Robert Pastrick and challenger Bob Stiglich for the last heated race in East Chicago. In Gary, one has to look back to the last few challenges to Mayor Richard Hatcher, who finally was defeated by Thomas Barnes in 1987. Look no further. A Gary politician and one from East Chicago have lighted fires under the politically stagnant landscape in Northwest Indiana. Within minutes of the close of filing last Friday, John Aguilera filed for East Chicago mayor against incumbent Anthony Copeland, the city’s first black mayor, who is seeking a third term. Aguilera long has been a popular Hispanic politician in a city that is majority Hispanic. He served from 1994 to 2000 as a Lake County councilman and then spent six years as a state representative. He ran unsuccessfully for state treasurer last year. While Aguilera promises to be a formidable opponent for Copeland, Jerome Prince promises to be an even stronger opponent for Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson. Prince has been one of the most prominent Gary politicians over the last two decades. 
  • By MICHAEL HICKS
    MUNCIE – A year ago, my Center colleagues and I met with staff from Accelerating Indiana’s Municipalities to consider several different issues facing Indiana over the coming years. Among the leading issues they asked us to study was housing. That is the genesis of a housing study published by Ball State last week. The results will be surprising to many Hoosiers. Our study examined more than 20 years of home prices, construction costs, and other factors that influence new home construction across all Indiana counties. The chief finding of the study is that the traditional economic factors of supply and demand explain nearly all new home construction in Indiana’s counties. In short, in a world where markets often do not work well, housing is a place where markets set home prices and quantities very effectively.  The problem is that many folks don’t like those market outcomes. This will be especially hard for many groups who have been arguing that there is a shortage of housing in many corners of the state. That view is mistaken and it doesn’t take sophisticated economic models to debunk the notion of a housing shortage in Indiana. After all, the U.S. Census reports more than 300,000 vacant homes across our state. There are enough vacant single-family homes to house almost one-third of all Hoosiers. 
  • By MORTON J. MARCUS
    INDIANAPOLIS  – Let’s take a short stroll through the orchards of data prepared by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. While we are there, please consider how your county can increase the earnings (wages and salaries) of your residents. No, I’m not going to preach for higher minimum wages, more skillful workers, or generous employers. Leave all of that outside the orchard gate. Let’s just think about the income generated in our counties, but paid to workers who live elsewhere. That’s right. The person working next to you in a factory, warehouse, office or store may be an “alien” from Henry County (New Castle). He takes his earnings back home to Hancock County (Greenfield) where he buys groceries and pays property taxes, to say nothing of other spending. Do you have any sense of the magnitude of those funds flowing out as each commuter leaves for his or her home in another Indiana county? Or maybe even in an Ohio county?
  • By RICH JAMES
    MERRILLVILLE – Talk about the art of the deal. No, this one doesn’t involve Donald Trump. Instead, it’s Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. McDermott may have let the cat out of the bag the other day when talking about the potential site for a Lake County convention center. The possibility of a convention center has been bandied about for at least a decade. Most of the focus has been to build such a facility near Interstate 65 and U.S. 30 in Merrillville. It is at that intersection that the late Dean White operated the Radisson Hotel and Star Plaza Theatre. White was the wealthiest man in Indiana. Since his death, his hotel and theatre have been razed. Plans are in the works by White’s heirs to build a new complex on the property. It was because of White that Speros Batistatos was named president and CEO of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority many years ago. Because of his dedication to White, Batistatos never let talk of a convention center stray from I-65 and U.S. 30. McDermott, who always is looking for publicity, spilled his guts during his recent State of the City address.
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  • Atomic! Trump's emergency; Snyder to clink
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY and JACOB CURRY, in Indianapolis

    1. Trump declares a national emergency: Here are your final power lunch talking points for the week: Remember that border wall that Donald Trump promised Mexico would pay for? The wall that for two years a Republican controlled Congress wouldn’t pass? Today, President Trump signed legislation that averted a second government shutdown and that has American taxpayers paying $1.38 billion in funding for 55 new miles of physical barriers. He then declared a "national emergency,"  a step that Republicans from Mitch McConnell to John Coryn to Marco Rubio warned him not to do. Trump insisted this morning that with “monstrous caravans” invading the U.S., “I’m going to be signing a national emergency and it’s been signed many times before. There’s rarely been a problem, they sign it and nobody cares. We’re talking about an invasion of our country with all types of criminals and gangs.”  Trump added, “Drugs can’t go through ports of entry. They go through areas where there is no wall. You put up a barrier, the people come in, that’s it. They come into the United States. Welcome.” With McConnell’s bizarre imprimatur, and reacting to a Trump threat to shut the government down again, Congress cedes its power of the purse  as Trump plans to cherry pick congressionally appropriated funds from other parts of the federal government. 
  • Atomic! Art of the deal? Young unsure of exec order; Pete's tour
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Art of the deal, Trump style: Here are your Tuesday power lunch talking points: In January 2018, President Trump rejected this deal, as described by the Wall Street Journal: Trump gives Democrats a 10-year path to citizenship for 1.8 million Dreamers; Democrats give Trump his full $25 billion wall funding request." In December, Trump torpedoed a deal that would have given him $5.7 billion, opting instead for a chaotic 35-day federal shutdown that idled 800,000 workers (including 20,000 Hoosiers) and nearly sent the nation's aviation sector into crisis. Monday, a bipartisan compromise congressional deal looked like this: $1.375 billion for 55 miles of fences along the border. Washington Post: The deal omits a strict new cap Democrats had sought on immigrants detained within the United States — as opposed to at the border. 

  • Atomic! INLegis action heating up; Fed shutdown looms

    By BRIAN A. HOWEY and JACOB CURRY, in Indianapolis

    1. Busy two weeks on tap for General Assembly: Here are your Monday power lunch talking points: The Indiana General Assembly is in a for a busy week, according to House Speaker Brian Bosma. The Feb. 25 and 26 deadlines for third readings in the House and Senate are less than two weeks away. While Republicans have passed nearly all of their agenda bills in both chambers, significant hurdles remain to be cleared like the bias crimes bill, gaming, potentially raising the cigarette tax, alcohol sales matters and the budget. Bosma said the House iteration of the budget is “getting pretty close”  and that we should be on the lookout for Ways and Means Committee Co-Chairman Rep. Todd Huston to start talking details. Education will dominate the budget, as always, and last week Bosma gave reporters a preview of a few education provisions that should work their way into this year’s bill. 

  • HPI Analysis: Could Buttigieg win an Indiana primary?
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS – If South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg builds a viable presidential campaign and somehow lasts until the May 2020 Indiana primary, would he carry the state? My initial answer: Perhaps. Mayor Pete is attempting a political trajectory that is completely untraditional for a presidential hopeful. Most candidates build up a statewide organization as a power base, or at least in a major urban area like Barack Obama did in Chicago, and then attempt to extrapolate it into a national context. But that is not the case with Buttigieg.

  • HPI Analysis: Window is closing for redistricting reform pre-2021

    By BRIAN A. HOWEY and JACOB CURRY

    INDIANAPOLIS – With Indiana steadily becoming a one-party state, the window is closing on redistricting reform that would need to be in place in 2019 in order to affect the 2021 reapportionment process. This is a state that up until 2010 had at least one General Assembly chamber majority in play. During the decade following the 2001 maps, congressional seats in the 2nd, 8th and 9th districts changed hands between parties a half-dozen times. But that all ended in 2011 with the current maps that were sold to legislators and the general public as keeping “communities of interest” together, observing county and school district lines, and “nesting” House seats into Senate seats in the General Assembly. Since then, not a single congressional district has changed parties. In the General Assembly, Republicans have held super-majorities for three consecutive cycles. With past maps, usually by the fourth or fifth cycles there were large enough demographic changes to erode the intent of the majority party’s maps.

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  • Pence visits Auschwitz for first time
    “It seems to me to be a scene of unspeakable tragedy, reminding us what tyranny is capable of. But it seems to me also to be a scene of freedom’s victory. I traveled in our delegation with people who had family members who had been at Auschwitz — some had survived, some not. But to walk with them and think that two generations ago their forebears came there in box carts and that we would arrive in a motorcade in a free Poland and a Europe restored to freedom from tyranny is an extraordinary experience for us, and I’ll carry it with me the rest of our lives.” - Vice President Mike Pence, who visited the Auschwitz concentration camp in Oswiecim, Poland on Friday along with Second Lady Karen Pence and Polish President Andrzej Duda and First Lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda. It was Pence's first time at the scene where Nazi Germany murdered more than 1.1 million Jews and other groups during the World War II Holocaust.
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  • Our first national park at Indiana Dunes
    It continues to amaze me how many folks from central and southern Indiana have never visited Indiana's sea, known to most of us as Lake Michigan. If you need another reason to take a couple hour trip northward on U.S. 31, U.S. 421 or I-65, thank President Trump for our first national park. It's now the Indiana Dunes National Park. The move was included in the spending package compromise that Trump signed on Friday, inserted in the legislation with the help of U.S. Sen. Todd Young and U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky. 

    Visclosky said, "I also am heartened that because of the support of our U.S. Senators, the entire Indiana Congressional delegation, and numerous Northwest Indiana organizations, we have successfully titled the first National Park in our state. This action provides our shoreline with the recognition it deserves, and I hope further builds momentum to improve open and public access to all of our region’s environmental wonders.”

    The Dunes includes white sand beaches, trails and an array of flora and bogs, with a front row seat to the Chicago skyline. It richly deserves to be Indiana's first national park.
    - Brian A. Howey, publisher
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