A Check By a Branch of Government on Agency Misfeasance, Finally

By: Clarke Kahlo, Alliance of Crown Hill Neighbors

On March 10th, two of Indiana’s Congressional representatives wrote a letter to the VA which was highly critical of the VA’s failure to sufficiently consult the community as it willfully pushes its unnecessarily destructive cemetery plan toward construction. Congressman Carson and Senator Donnelly lambasted the agency, expressing their “profound disappointment” for its poor outreach which has cause great tumult in the community.

Clarke Kahlo at the March 16 Rally for the Crown Hill North Forest

It’s refreshing to see legislators who are willing to apply critical oversight on a bureaucracy run amok.  Too often, lawmakers merely defer to the executive branch, and the administrative agencies which it controls, even when the excesses or failures are egregious or even malfeasant.

And too often, the courts defer to agencies under the legal doctrine of presumption of administrative expertise. In their wide discretion, judges conveniently say that they are loathe to substitute their judgement for that of the officials who are presumed to be expert. Or unless an elusive “clear error” is found.

The Carson/Donnelly rebuke of the VA stands in stark contrast to the willful and irrational position of City-County Councilor Joe Simpson who has adamantly declined to support the community— even though the nearby neighborhoods have voiced their strong opposition to the VA plan.  When pressed for an explanation, Simpson defiantly declares only that “I’m a Veteran!” as if that is a pertinent or satisfactory explanation for his repudiation of the positions of several neighborhood organizations in his district and his support of a remarkably and unnecessarily destructive VA plan.

Many local veterans are strongly opposed to the VA’s plan and are actively engaged in the battle against it.  Some have recently participated in civil disobedience.  Simpson’s opposition based only upon his military service background reminds of Samuel Johnson’s 1775 observation that “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel”.  (Johnson was not indicting patriotism in general, only false patriotism). Perhaps, in the future, the true reason for Councilor Simpson’s blind obeisance to the VA and Crown Hill will become known.

The Carson/Donnelly letter only mentions failure of outreach and does not specifically cite the VA’s failure to consider site alternatives— although this glaring failure is likely implied in their exhortations about community involvement.

The Alliance of Crown Hill Neighbors appreciates the efforts of Congressman Carson and Senator Donnelly to right the VA’s wrongs.


Clarke Kahlo is an Indianapolis resident and green space advocate. Kahlo was an integral part of the Alliance of Crown Hill Neighbors, who formally formed in 2005 to protest the destruction of the Crown Hill North Woods when a developer attempted to fell them for retail an condominium space. The Alliance of Crown Hill Neighbors was eventually successful in 2007 when the Indianapolis Metropolitan Development Commission prevailed and denied the proper zoning allotments for said development. 

The head of the National Cemetery Administration has stated that he promises to give alternative sites for their veterans columbaria “a good hard look” in a statement dated March 22, 2017. Please contact the VA and urge them to do the right thing by relocating their project to a site that more appropriately honors our veterans. A site that does not destroy the very natural heritage which they, our veterans, have served to protect. 

David Shulkin, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs

(202) 461-4800

david.shulkin@va.gov