Friday, May 22, 2009

The Difference Between No Leadership and Bad Leadership: The Democrats' Campaign Message Against Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard

There is no doubt what the theme of the Democrats' message against Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard over the next 2 1/2 years. Quite simply it is "Lack of Leadership."

Over at the Indianapolis Times, former communications director Terry Burns, continues to hammer home the "lack of leadership" theme this morning. Before Jen Wagner departed to the bright lights of Washington, D.C. she regularly hit that same theme. Council Democrats, led by minority leaders Joanne Sanders, are also using the "lack of leadership" line.

A couple observations. First, the theme is old, haggard, and now demonstrably false. Mayor Ballard has stepped out of the shadows and is now exercising real, genuine leadership. It is just incredibly bad leadership. What he is trying to do to Indianapolis taxpayers by handing out more corporate welfare, is not well-advised. But it certainly is leadership.

In terms of an analogy, you have another Hoosier, Rev. Jim Jones, who was born in Indiana and had degrees from Butler University and Indiana University. Rev. Jim Jones encouraged his followers to, who led his followers to drink the Kool-Aid spiked with cyanide, resulting in 914 deaths in the mass suicide. Mayor Ballard wants council members, especially members of his own party to drink the Kool-Aid of higher taxes to subsidize professional sports. For thosse Republican council members who support his tax-raising efforts, it will be political death as many find themselves with primary opponents or defeated for re-election. Certainly any chance the Republicans would have of retaining their council majority will be gone - perhaps for decades.

The second observation about the "lack of leadership" theme is one of political strategy. Local Democrat leaders are using the "lack of leadership" theme with regard to the CIB instead of the more appropriate "bad leadership" line because they simply do not want to address the merits of the Mayor's CIB bailout proposal. Bottom line? Local Democrat leaders are not opposed to professional sports subsidies or the idea that taxpayers should have to foot the bill for the CIB bailout.

Ask yourself this: Why aren't the local Democrats opposing having taxpayers pick up the $15 million in operating costs for Conseco Fieldshouse while letting the Pacers keep 100% of the profits from the building? Why aren't the Democrats criticizing the operations of the CIB, asking for an investigation, and asking for reforms of the CIB so that this mess doesn't happen again? Why aren't elected Democrats criticizing the raises to CIB employees while asking for a bailout? Why aren't Democrats questioning the propriety of the Mayor having Bob Grand, whose law firm represents the Pacers' owners, as President of the CIB? Why aren't Democrats standing up to the Colts and Pacers?

The Democrats harp on the "lack of leadership" theme because they are singing from exactly the same page as the Mayor. That "page" is one of elite, country club bipartisan politics where politicians require Indianapolis taxpayers to subsidize wealthy corporate interests that, not coincidentally, provide campaign contributions to those politicians. Enough is enough. Voters need to send a message to both parties in 2011 that taxpayers and not wealthy business owners come first.

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