Apparently Chris Cotterill, Chief of Staff for Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, has never taken a Politics 101 course. In submitting the new voting locations for the upcoming election, Cotterill unilaterally moved twelve Butler-Tarkington area precincts into the Hinkle Fieldhouse without consulting with the Democrats. Marion County Democratic Chairman Ed Treacy pounced, issuing a press release in which he accused Mayor Ballard and the Republican Party of racism and voter suppression. Columnist Matthew Tully writes, quite correctly, that the charge is completely out of line and irresponsible. The Star reports that Mayor Ballard has now reversed that decision following the Treacy broadside.
Treacy's press release is little more than non-substantive partisan bluster, no better than what is regularly dished out by Marion County Republican chairman Tom John. Where Treacy is on solid footing is when he complains that the administration never bothered to consult with the Democrats on the voting locations. If Cotterill would have simply done that, he would have at the very least had cover should Treacy have later pulled the "racism" and "voter suppression" nonsense.
I have no reason to doubt that the administration had less than good intentions when he came up with the consolidation idea. The blunder is greatly attributed to an overly-partisan administration philosophy that looks unkindly in even picking up the phone and talking with the Democrats. I recall well during the CIB legislative debate that Republican legislators were encouraging Mayor Ballard to talk to Democrats such as Rep. Bill Crawford who heads up the House Ways and Means committee. Mayor Ballard's Goldsmith-era advisers, the ones pulling the strings behind this administration, advised him to NOT reach out to Democrats and to rely on Republican votes. Mayor Ballard has approached issues in the Council the same way - making issue after issue partisan votes where Republicans all have to stick together (often in support of unpopular measures) or the Mayor's proposal fails.
There is a second reason for the voter location screwup - the inexperience of Chris Cotterill. Cotterill only five years with no litigation experience (although he had the all important Barnes & Thornburg on his resume), when he was appointed head of Corporation Counsel, also known as City Legal. Under Cotterill's leadership, City Legal was (and still is) one of the worst run departments of city government. (Ask any lawyer who has to deal with City Legal on a regular basis and they will all tell you that City Legal operated much better and more professionally under the experienced Democrat attorney Jim Osborn.) Floundering as head of City Legal, Cotterill was promoted to Chief of Staff. While that appeared to be a better fit given Cotterill's lack of legal experience, Cotterill apparently didn't have much in the way of political experience either. Anyone with a scintilla of electoral politics experience would have known that the decision to move inner city voting locations would generate a backlash (deserved or not) and that before making submitting such a change it was wise to work with the Democrats to at least get cover.
Mayor Ballard seems to have two types of advisers. One set are those who date from the Goldsmith-era and seem most interested in seeing how much they can profit off the current administration. The second set are the "kids," a group of still wet-behind-the-ears advisers who lack practical experience but are useful to the Goldsmith era advisers in that they are so greatful for their jobs they will do whatever they are told. Either way, Mayor Ballard is not being served well.