As we reported yesterday, Mayor Greg Ballard and state Sen. Jim Merritt called together civic leaders on Thursday to discuss "important" information about efforts to bailout the Capital Improvement Board.While Burns runs an interesting blog with an outstanding layout, he never stops being a Democratic partisan. I don't know if he has ever criticized a single Democrat on his blog. And he seems to have fixated on Senator Merritt as a potential target for Democrats in 2010 and has singled him out for special criticism. But on this score Burns is correct on one point while missing another.
So what happened? Nothing. What "important" information was discussed? None.
As one participant said, "It was just rehash of the Senate plan" to save the CIB. "It was nothing new."
The mayor, however, did reveal that he and Chief of Staff Paul Okeson will be testifying later today before a Statehouse conference committee to beg for a legislative bailout and the massive tax increases that go along with it.
(You really have to wonder why Ballard and Merritt still insist on having these meaningless meetings. Is it all for show? Is the mayor trying dispel the notion that he lacks even basic leadership skills? Is Merritt really that concerned about his re-election chances?)
This list of invitees (in no particular order) to Thursday's meeting: Bill Mays; Brian Payne; Dave Frick; Dave Reynolds; David Lewis; Frank Hancock; Frank Short; Greg Sease; Greg Shaheen; James Wallis; Jean Farison; Jeff Smulyan; Jerry Semler; Jim Dora Jr.; Jim Merritt; Joe DeGroff; Joe Slash; John Griffin; Lesa Dietrick; Mark Fisher; Mark Miles; P. E. MacAllister; Paul Okeson; Phil Bayt; Phil Borst; Roland Dorson; Steve Sullivan; Steve Walker; Susan Williams; Tamara Zahn; Tanya Bell; Toby McClamroch; Tom O'Neil; Turea Dabney.
It's an interesting list, especially when you consider it doesn't include a single Democrat from the City-County Council. It's a pretty safe bet that Ballard is going to need a some Democratic help on the council to pass a CIB bailout package (translation: massive tax increases) because he certainly doesn't have enough votes from the council's Republican caucus.
Mayor Ballard is wrong for not taking a more bipartisan approach, whatever his plan is. Hopefully not all the Republicans will drink the Kool-Aid of raising taxes for professional sports subsidies which will be the political death of many a Council Republican in 2011. That means the Mayor will need Democrat votes. My guess is Minority Leaders Joanne Sanders will send him a few votes from safe seats so she can hang the CIB tax increases around the necks of the Republicans in 2011. It's an obvious political strategy.
The real problem though is that Mayor Ballard continues to care not one whit about any opinion except those corporate elites who have long dominated the politics of this city. What Mayor Ballard does not understand is that his own election ushered in a period of populist ascendancy in this city. Mayor Ballard though turned his back on the very people, the populists and tax activists, who helped him get elected and who would give him any chance of getting elected. On Election Night he claimed an end to Indianapolis country club politics then went out and became its worst practitioner.
Mayor Ballard seems oblivious to the continually growing taxpayer anger at his administration. He seems to believe that taxpayers will distinguish the different types of taxes and say these targeted taxes (which ironically are aimed at the very industry he claims he wants to save) are okay. They won't. Repeat after me, Mayor, a tax is a tax is a tax. The public is not going to hear anything after the phrase "tax increase."
But the political danger is not just in raising taxes, but it is what those taxes are used for. Mayor Ballard continues to spin the tall tale that these tax increases have nothing to do with professional sports. Of course, the reason the CIB is in its current hole is giveaways to the professional sports teams. Additionally, it won't be lost on the public that the amount of the tax increases in the amount that virtually mirrors the $15 million annual amount the CIB and this administration have decided to give to the billionaire Simons family. Mayor Ballard is raising taxes to hand money to billionaires. That's the sound bite and it is completely true.
Mayor Ballard is not salvageable politically at this point. Hopefully though Council Republicans make a better choice if and when the issue of tax increases for the bailout comes before the City County Council.