Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Second Term for Mayor Greg Ballard?; The Future of the Marion County GOP Rests on Finding an Alternative

I still remember November 6, 2007 when the numbers started rolling in and we realized that Greg Ballard was going to be the next Mayor of Indianapolis. We Pike Township Republicans had gathered at the bar on Lafayette Road called Bada Boomz. It was one of the highlights of my time in the Marion County Republican Party. The people of Indianapolis had elected someone who pledged to change the country club politics of the past 30 years. The next four years would be an opportunity for Ballard to reshape the political landscape and reinvigorate the Marion County Republican Party so it could reemerge as the dominant political party in the county.

It is funny how a certain moment in our lives is viewed favorably, only to be viewed later, as history passes, as a time when things started to go wrong. In the days that followed his swearing in, many of us Indianapolis Republicans have gone from being baffled by Ballard's political moves, to hoping that he would "learn" in office, to becoming deeply disappointed in his performance.

This past week, Ballard went from being a deep disappointment as Mayor to being an unmitigated disaster for the Marion County Republican Party. Appearing before a conference committee, Mayor Ballard argued that he be given authority to raise numerous taxes. This from the man who was elected promising that he wouldn't raise taxes to fix problems.

Let's review the first 16 months or so of Ballard's time in office:

  • Advocates raising numerous taxes to bail out the Capital Improvement Board
  • Refuses to do any sort of review of the CIB regarding what went wrong or modify their operations. Instead Mayor Ballard's solution is to simply give the CIB yet more money.
  • Refuses to stand up to Indianapolis' professional sports teams and without question agrees to pick up $15 million of operating costs on Coseco Fieldhouse even though the Pacers get 100% of the profit from events at the building and the CIB is deeply in debt.
  • Has engaged in an extremely disingenuous campaign to promote the bailout incredibly arguing that raising hospitality taxes so that Indianapolis has nearly the highest hospitality taxes in the country is actually good for Indianapolis' hospitality industry and the convention business.
  • Has abandoned completely any real ethics reforms.
  • Has appointed numerous individuals with major conflicts of interest to various boards, including Bob Grand, as President of the CIB.
  • Started soliciting city contractors and want-to-be contractors for political contributions immediately after his upset win in the Mayor's race.Has awarded no-bid contracts to firms that appear to be little more than our version of Illinois' "pay to play politics."
  • Has allowed a large downtown law firm, Barnes & Thornburg, to dominate his administration, even allowing two partners for the firm, Bob Grand and Joe Loftus, to sit in on regular staff meetings.
  • Has appointed people to key positions in City Legal, and other positions in his administration, who have little experience.
  • Advocated creation of a Chinatown in Indianapolis. No sure how eh expected to get people of Chinese descent to start living in a segregated community in Indianapolis.
  • Is using taxpayer money to defend Democrat Mayor Peterson's post-election loss revision (of dubious legality) of a 22 year old contract that let Democrat Susan Williams and her Indiana Sports Corporation walk away without paying taxpayers $6 million for abandoning Pan Am plaza early.
  • Did not intervene with the Indianapolis Airport Authority to stop the hiring as CEO, John D. Clark, III, who had numerous ethical problems at Jacksonville, including attempting to prevent public officials from reviewing his operations at JAA and gross wasting of taxpayer money on limousine rides, exotic trips, first class airline fare, lavish hotels, etc. Considering how the state gives away money, he and Randy Tobias probably saw nothing wrong with Clarks' activities.
  • Has taken on city gun owners, defending one of the most restrictive gun return policies in the county, again of dubious legality, and has even suggested that city gun owners should be registered.
  • Appears to believe his office entitles he and his wife to travel the world at taxpayer expense.
  • Strong arms and retaliates against Council Republicans who won't support his agenda 100% of the time.

Those are just a few things that I thought of off the top of my head. I'm sure there are plenty more.

It is one thing for Mayor Ballard to throw his own political future under the bus. It's quite another thing to drag down the Council Republicans with him as well as the future of the Marion County GOP. Republicans desperately need an alternative to renominating Greg Ballard for a second term in 2011.

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