Susan Guyett of the Indianapolis Star announced today that Robert Vane is joining Mayor Greg Ballard's administration as deputy chief of staff and communications director. It appears that he may be replacing Marcus Barlow, the Mayor's Press Secretary, as part of a shake-up in the communications staff.
This is a good move. Vane is more adept at communications than Barlow who made a number of mistakes that ended up in the newspaper. Hopefully Vane will reach out and build strong relationships with the local media.
A communications director though is a lot like an attorney. The best attorney can't make a terrible case into a good one. Likewise a communication director can't make a terrible message into a good message. What ultimately needs to change in the Mayor's office is not the person delivering the message but the message itself. The Mayor has made a number of extremely foolish political moves since he was elected. Those moves were reportedly encouraged on the Mayor by conflicted advisers who convinced the Mayor to take actions that, while helpful to the advisers and their interests, were extremely harmful to the Mayor's political future. It is unclear if those advisers stay on what influence Vane can have behind the scenes to steer the Mayor to a more wise political course which might give him a shot at re-election in 2011.
Vane is sharp enough to know knows that there is the strong perception among reporters that the Mayor is in over his head and that he has allowed those conflicted 1990s era Goldsmith advisers to take over the Mayor's Office. While many of those people suggest that the time has run out for the Mayor to correct course and save his administration, I do not buy it. Mayor Ballard is not even a year into his administration. People are going to understand his having made mistakes and forgive him for them. I do think though the Marine in Ballard needs to surface and he needs to take back what he won in November 2007. He does that by shaking things up on the 25th floor. Mayor Ballard has made an excellent first step. But it is only a first step.
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