Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Scare In My Mailbox

HARBESON: My bout with annexation anxiety

I had the bejeezers scared out of me when I went out to get the mail last week. Of course, as a newspaper opinion columnist, I’m always cautious of what might be behind that little black door, but I was not prepared for this.

I saw it as I was flipping envelopes walking back to the house. I stopped short, turned white and couldn’t catch my breath.

A bit later, my husband pulled into the drive, and since the usual hot air wasn’t coming out of my mouth, he mistook me for a snow drift and almost ran over me.

“Debbie, what the heck are you doing?!” he yelled.

But I couldn’t answer. He hauled me inside and once I was thawed out a bit, I screamed, “Oh John, this is horrible! We’ve been annexed by Jeffersonville!”

“What? That can’t be right; you must be mistaken.”

“No, I’m not. Look what was in the mail today. It’s Jeffersonville’s latest propaganda piece!”

“Propaganda piece?”

“You know, that newsletter I told you they were mailing out.”

“Well I still think there’s some mistake. And don’t you think you’re going over the top saying it’s propaganda?”

“You think so? Listen to this. On page three they proudly announce that with the new population numbers, the city is now an ‘entitlement community,’ which lets them automatically get their hands on federal funds.

“People are supposed to feel proud and happy about all the new tax money to spend, rather than sad that a basic freedom was denied to those forcibly annexed.”

“Well OK, but I still don’t think we’re part of the annexation.”

I scanned the front page letter from the mayor, “Oh yeah? Well listen to this. He writes, ‘This is your city. You live here.’ He’s talking to us!” I felt faint.

He grabbed it out of my hands. “Would you stop? I’m telling you there’s some mistake, we were not forcibly annexed like those other poor souls.”

“Well why did we get this newsletter then?”

“I dunno,” he said, frustrated. “Did it ever occur to you that maybe the city’s elected officials sent one to you in particular because you are such a well-respected local columnist.”

“No. Did it really occur to you?”

“No,” he admitted as he looked at the back page, “Um, honey? Unless you’ve changed your name lately to ‘Postal Customer,’ I think I found an explanation. And didn’t you see this note at the bottom of the front page?”

“What’s it say?”

“Due to bulk mail requirements, U.S. Postal Service customers outside the City of Jeffersonville, but who live on postal routes that include portions of the city, will receive this mailing.”

“Oh, so they produced and mailed way more than they needed and sent it to a bunch of people who aren’t involved because the government postal service told them to?”

“Well, I think it saves money somehow. So I guess you can feel good that fewer Economic Development Income Tax funds were used to pay for your near-death experience.”

“They used EDIT? How does sending a newsletter out to a city’s residents develop the economy?”

“Don’t ask me, you’re the smarty-pants columnist. Oh and here’s another reason you should be glad they mailed this out. They’ve listed The Evening News as one way to stay informed. It also says ‘The city of Jeffersonville believes that having media free of government controls is critical to our community and our way of life.’”

“Well, that’s interesting. Too bad they don’t extend that same belief in freedom to people who didn’t want to live in their city.”

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson is so shaken up by her recent scare that she only answers to ‘Postal Customer’ and still can’t find her bejeezers.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Why The Colts Lost The Superbowl

COLUMN NOTES: Just having a little fun this week...

HARBESON: Not such a super Sunday

It had to happen eventually. I couldn’t keep writing this column indefinitely without having to make a public apology at some point.

Something horrible happened this week and I’m afraid it’s my fault. I think I caused the Indianapolis Colts to lose the Super Bowl.

See, over the years I’ve noticed a pattern: If my Super Bowl party preparations go badly, the team I root for almost always loses. If the food and drink I planned are not perfectly prepared, for some reason the football gods get upset with me and favor the other team.

I thought I had my problem covered this year because the guests did the real cooking. All I had to do was prepare a couple of no-cook recipes. I didn’t want to take any chances, so I awoke early to slap together what should have been an extremely simple recipe for chocolate pie. I only had to mix whipped cream with uncooked pudding mix and dump it into a pre-made pie crust.

However, as I dumped, I dropped the bowl onto the crust, which completely shattered under the weight. I picked up the bowl and half the crust stuck to it. My perfect pie was in pieces. I didn’t know what to do. It was going to be harder to repair the crust than to tape Dwight Freeney’s ankle correctly.

Oh, if only trans-fats were banned around here, this never would have happened. I tried to replace the pieces, but finally I had to just redump it and cover the mess with the rest of the filling. I prayed the football gods wouldn’t notice.

Besides, I still had a chance for redemption because I had another recipe to make. Again it was very simple, no actual cooking necessary.

But, I forgot the olives. Now, you may think olives aren’t essential, but this wasn’t a simple relish tray, where tightly stuffed olives roll around, acting salty, and playing mostly a decorative role, like cheerleaders. No, in this recipe olives are vital. I heard a low grumbling and knew it was the football gods.

I was pretty sure I’d ruined it for the Colts, but I realized I had one more chance because I also planned on serving white Russians, which meant another easy recipe to mix. This was my last shot for success, so to speak.

So when my son-in-law suggested that it would be fun to dye the drinks blue, I heartily agreed. Surely that would be enough to change the bad luck I created! Surely this would reverse the chain of events I started that could adversely affect the Colts!

The drinks did turn a nice shade of Colts blue and also helped delude me into believing the Colts might still make it, despite my failed relationship with the football gods. But it turns out that messing with The Dude’s favorite drink only made the football gods more irritated.

Even though it was late afternoon, I was still hopeful that somehow I could do something so the Colts would be able to rise above the mess I created. But I was hit with one final blow when — in the middle of a day where I had so far managed to completely forget about politics — CBS interviewed President Obama. The football gods obviously did that just to irritate me.

This was a clear message that there was nothing I could do for the Colts now, so I just sat back and decided to focus on the commercials. That’s usually the real reason I watch the Super Bowl anyway, something I suspect the football gods knew all along.

— Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson often battles with sports gods and loses.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Dennis Oxley Jr. Finds A Job

COLUMN NOTES: I previously wrote about ex-politician Dennis Oxley when he tried to avoid arrest by claiming legislative immunity. You can read that column here.

HARBESON: Columnist flummoxed by Oxley’s hiring

In some ways, I can understand why Indiana’s Branchville Correctional Facility decided to hire Dennis Oxley, Jr. as a program director. A major part of the job will be helping inmates learn how to behave once released and as an ex-state legislator, he certainly has a lot of experience telling other people how they should live their lives. The problem is that Oxley hasn’t exactly been a shining example of good behavior lately.

If you recall, this longtime politician had his share of legal troubles last year. He was arrested for operating a vehicle while intoxicated and later, during a separate incident, he tried to avoid arrest in Indianapolis by claiming immunity because he was a legislator. There was a problem though; he wasn’t a legislator at the time. He lied, hoping to get special treatment.

So I’m having trouble understanding why state government officials think he deserves the job of preparing inmates to return to society. Maybe everyone involved thought it was the best job option since his previous work experience includes years in the government school system and the schools probably couldn’t hire someone with his history.

I also understand that someone with his record might better relate to the prisoners than someone who hasn’t lied in the hope of gaining special favors. But if a troubled past is considered a plus and if our prison system is even mildly effective, then there must be an ex-inmate out there who has turned his life around and serve as a better model. But maybe the government can’t hire someone with a prison record?

If not, then that might help explain why they chose Oxley, but it doesn’t explain how they avoided a hiring freeze. I thought a hiring freeze meant the government actually froze hiring, but I didn’t know about the State Strategic Hiring Committee, which has the power to melt the freeze and hire people anyway.

I have no idea how much extra heat blows when it involves the hiring of an ex-legislator but I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s an extra surge button for politicians who need jobs.

I had already begun to shiver at the questionable ethics involved in this situation, but after I went to Branchville’s Web site and saw Oxley’s father’s name on the prison’s Citizen Advisory Committee, I just froze in astonishment.

This situation drips with special favors and special treatment, and what’s really sad is that there were a lot of people inside government who just went along with this and did not speak up. How can anyone respect a system that works like this?

Certainly, I sympathize with anyone who seems to be battling drug abuse and maybe Oxley is on a better path now, but that doesn’t mean taxpayers should ever have to put this guy back on the payroll.

Was there no one who could see how this might look to average Indiana residents who do their best to live decent lives? Could no one predict how this might make the disadvantaged and unconnected feel? What should people think who get up every day and work hard to support their families when they see the government siphoning their earnings to pay this man’s $52,000 salary?

I can’t speak for others, but if I had a choice, I would never help pay this man’s salary. There are way too many decent people in the world I’d rather voluntarily associate and trade with; people who quietly live their lives as they see fit, who do no harm to others, and who do not even think of using government to gain special treatment.

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson gets heated when questionable government action leaves her feeling cold. Let’s hope she never finds a surge button.