Sunday, November 2, 2008

Memo to Mayor Ballard: Fire Your Political Advisers

In today's Behind Closed Doors, the Indianapolis Star comments on the fact that former Democrat Mayor Bart Peterson and current Republican Mayor Greg Ballard appeared together at a news conference in support of a ballot referendum that would transfer property assessment duties from the township to the county.

In the blurb on the press conference, the Star noted that the joint appearance was interesting because Ballard's "political advisers are working on the assumption that Peterson could be their opponent in 2011."

If so, Ballard has 1) the worst political advisers ever; or 2) political advisers more interested in using their position to line their own pockets rather than in the Mayor winning re-election and the Republicans continuing to have a majority on the council. The political strategy the Mayor has pursued since the election is baffling to everyone. Let's recap.

Mayor Ballard was faced with a number of post-election last minute shenanigans pulled by former Mayor Peterson's people to benefit Democrats on his way out of office. Two of them, the RCA Dome auction deal and Pan Am Plaza, ended up in taxpayer lawsuits. In both instances, instead of hitting the ball sitting on the taxpayer tee, Mayor Ballard chose to take the fall for Peterson. With regard to the Pan Am plaza, a late December 2007 deal that cost the taxpayer millions, the Mayor is actually using taxpayer resources, i.e. City Legal, to try to get the case filed by taxpayers because of what his past and possible future opponent did, dismissed. That bizarre political move was discussed in this blog as well as other blogs, such as Advance Indiana.

In another situation, the Mayor allowed one of his top political advisers, Bob Grand, to "negotiate" with the City on behalf of his client, John Bales of Venture Real Estate, an exclusive, no-bid contract to get commissions on the sale of any city property. The deal, which undoubtedly Bales and Grand will make plenty of money on, is an embarassment to Marion County Republicans and the Mayor who ran on a platform of ethics reform and the need to avoid conflicts of interest. Everything the Republicans had said about Monroe Gray's ethical problems were thrown out the window with the bone-headed Venture deal as well as the appointment of advisors, like Grand, who have clear conflicts of interest to positions of power within his administration. The Mayor has ceded the high moral ground Marion County Republicans captured in November of 2007.

There is not a day that goes by that Republicans don't complain to me about the Mayor's strange political moves. Members of the media I've talked to likewise are baffled by the Mayor's refusal to take the opportunity to take stand up for taxpayers when doing so clearly points the finger at Peterson, his past, and perhaps future, opponent. If the Mayor's defeatist political strategy continues much longer, he will assure not only that he he is defeated for re-election in 2011 by a landslide, but he will also ensure that every Republican council member in a close district goes down to defeat, including the three at-large Republicans.

Back to the option of #1 or #2, outlined above. Either way, the Mayor's political advisers need to be fired. But knowing who some of those top political advisers are, I am betting on #2.


varangianguard said...

Yes, Mayor Ballard's a) sell-out, or b) unimaginable naivete is going to make me eat some crow for years to come.

Mayor Peterson had been in office too long, and had begun listening to his own press releases too much (as an over-simplification of my critique of his second term).

Everything advantage that Mayor Ballard started off with, he has tossed onto the refuse heap by turning to the same insider crowd that has been turning the spit (on taxpayers) for years.

If the Democratic party wants the Mayor's office back, they should turn in a different direction, and definitely turn their back on the same old games that have played out here for too long.

More and more, it looks like Jen Wagner has the right of it that Mayor Ballard will be a forgetable one-termer in the bigger scheme of things.

Too bad. He didn't have to be.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Agreed. Ballard was elected with so much promise and so much opportunity. He's throwing it away by surrounding himself with people who are interested in leveraging their position for their own well-being rather than positioning the Mayor to have a chance at re-election in 2011.

There are some Republicans who think I'm out to get the Mayor. Nothing could be further from the truth. The reason I'm speaking out is not to hurt the Mayor but to get him to reverse the disasterous political course he currently is on. He is clearly not getting good, objective political advice now. If Ballard fails in 2011, and trust me he will fail spectacularly on the current course he's on, it is my party, the Republican Party, he hurts. We will lose not only the Mayor's office but every reasonably close district in the county. And you can certainly forget about the re-election of our 3 at-large members.

varangianguard said...

"...surrounding himself with people who are interested in leveraging their position for their own well-being..."

That seems to work no matter who occupies the big office.

I suppose that it is the result of too many people being involved in (second tier) politics who do so for anything other than "civic duty".

Paul K. Ogden said...

Well, Van, there is a difference. An officeholder's advisers almost always also have a personal agenda for taking the job in addition to wanting to help the elected official. But in the Mayor's case he has personal advisers who are pursuing their personal agendas that are very harmful to the Mayor's political career. Therein lies the difference.