When Greg Travis asked last week if The Bloomington Alternative was going to respond to Democrats' online comments on the "Talk about gall" article, I initially told him no. An important part of a journalists' job is to stimulate discussion. It was enough to have people like Andy Ruff, Don Moore, and Dan Combs publicly discussing the issues on the Alternative Web site.
Then I reread Party Chair "Carp" Combs' response and reconsidered.
Before I respond, I want to say unequivocally that nothing Carp nor anyone else has written or said to me since I wrote that piece persuades me that it was wrong. To the contrary, I will further clarify my position on the Gaal and Kruzan candidacies. Neither is deserving of the support of citizens who believe that principle should outweigh power in public policy making.
I should also say that while I haven't seen Carp in several years, I consider him a friend. I've admired and championed his commitment to our community's homeless and less fortunate. I've watched IU basketball at his house. I've partaken of holiday lunches at his Perry Township Trustee's office. At one time, I was a regular on his VITAL Quiz Bowl team The Stoneys.
It's relevant to note that I view Carp's politics as anti-environmentalist. That characterization is drawn from many hours of political discussion and debate with him and other rural Monroe County Democrats, who have more in common environmentally with Franklin Andrew than they do with Andy Ruff or Mark Stoops. I've been a guest speaker at a discussion group they host, where my ideas on the environment were used as the catalyst for a good-natured yet honest political debate. It's great fun, not to mention enlightening.
The first time I ever saw Carp's name was in a letter to the editor in the 1970s, shortly after we had learned that Westinghouse had knowingly and intentionally released PCBs into our sewers and our bodies, and our children's bodies. Carp's response to a citizen group that arose in response to that revelation was to declare himself a "citizen concerned about Citizens Concerned About PCBs."
I've always been a sucker for a good turn of phrase.
Specifically, I want to respond to the following excerpt from Carp's response. It's a good point that merits explanation for Alternative readers.
"Man, Steve, you completely disregard any ethical position at all in this particular rant. First off, you did not offer the basic courtesy of an interview to either Mark or Chris before you take off on them. This can´t be considered even basic journalistic commentary as you only have information from one side--and that side is obviously biased."
It's important to understand that the Alternative is not the Herald-Times. Indeed, it was created to be the anti-H-T. The Alternative makes no false claim that it is balanced. As proclaimed in the masthead -"committed to progressive social change and independent journalism" - The Bloomington Alternative is biased, and proud of it.
Editorially, the Alternative supports those who promote and work for progressive social and political change. It opposes those who don't, as well as those who make league with those who don't. At the risk of sounding journalistically quaint, the Alternative is what was known in an earlier time as a "crusading paper," albeit a paperless one.
Finally, I've watched the political careers of Chris Gaal and Mark Kruzan evolve since they were fresh-faced kids out of college. I don't need to talk to them to comment on what they do or say in their public roles as politicians. And neither do I intend to, for the following reasons.
Being an anti-environmentalist, Carp Combs is unlikely to understand the virulent reaction many in the Bloomington progressive community have had to Council President Gaal. For perspective, I'll quote Bloomington activist Charity Ryerson, who told me a couple months ago: "Environmentalist are all about culture." (As astute an observation as I've ever heard from a 21-year-old.)
Gaal came to politics from the environmental culture. I've personally hung out with him at Heartwood gatherings deep in the Shawnee National Forest. I watched him stand beside Andy Ruff and the Bloomington environmental community on the Bus Chum stage, playing guitar and singing Woody Guthrie, celebrating their extraordinary victory over the Lake Griffy Golf Course.
To that culture, the ode to the economic development machine that President Gaal gave during the last City Council meeting is simply unforgivable. And I hear it's just as unacceptable to many other activist cultures in Bloomington that Chris was once a part of, like those who are working on the living wage campaign.
Gaal's words and record are election year issues for Bloomington progressives.
Kruzan is a different story. As Brown County Green Bill Stant has pointed out, Kruzan's affinity for the career-politician culture was evident in college. His capitulation to the economic development machine is far less egregious than Gaal's, but as worthy of condemnation. In fact, there are more than 34,000 reasons to condemn his campaign for mayor.
Those would be the 34,000-plus dollars of dirty money that Kruzan is financing his mayoral campaign with. They are campaign contributions our former State Representative took from a Who's Who of polluters and vested interests — giant utilities, pharmaceutical companies, financial institutions, lawyers, builders, and real estate interests, to name but a few. He accepted hundreds of thousands of such dollars to finance his political career in Indianapolis.
Why they gave him all that money is a legitimate election-year question for Mark Kruzan considering that, last November 26, he transferred $34,414 of that tainted corporate cash to his campaign for Bloomington mayor.
That money has no place in Bloomington politics, period. And until Chris Gaal and Mark Kruzan actively and publicly campaign against the influence that kind of money buys, The Bloomington Alternative will not be talking to either of them.
That means standing up to the Business Knows Best bunch, not sitting down with them, and giving them all their money back.
Steven Higgs is editor of The Bloomington Alternative.
The Bloomington Alternative last week offered Mark Kruzan space to respond to the "Talk about gall" article, unedited. He has so far not responded.
Kruzan for State Representative campaign finance reports can be viewed online at:www.indianacampaignfinance.com/Committees/Com_Reports.asp?Comm=2000&Type=CAN