Friday, September 3, 2010

Has Star Columnist Tully Lost His Edge?

As someone who used to write a column for the law school and IUPUI newspaper, I feel a bit of a kinship with Indianapolis Star columnist Matthew Tully. I know that as a columnist part of your job is to provoke, to stir up discussion on issues. A lot of people don't understand that...they mistakenly assume a columnist is a reporter.

Today's column by Tully has a milquetoast examination of the Mayor's race. Worse yet, Tully continues to overlook numerous political factors that will play a role in the race. It is as if he's written the column for the race he wants, and the Republican candidate he would like Mayor Ballard to be: Here's part of the column:
After sitting down with Melina Kennedy on Thursday morning, I had this thought: The 2011 mayoral race, which most likely will be between Kennedy and incumbent Mayor Greg Ballard, will be a good one.

And by good, I mean Indianapolis voters will have two high-quality candidates on the ballot.

Ballard has grown nicely into the job of mayor, despite occasional stumbles. He remains popular and will have a long list of accomplishments to tout to voters. The only question mark at this point is whether the ongoing mess within his police department will continue to spiral and leave him irrevocably wounded.
One has to wonder what city Tully has lived in the past 2 1/2 years.

Politics 101 is that you don't alienate your base. Ballard has spent his time in office alienating conservative Republicans by raising taxes and fees at every opportunity. Populists inside the GOP are outraged by his corporate welfare measures such as the $325 million giveaway to the Pacers. Tully needs to get out and talk to rank and file Republicans. He'll find out Ballard is not at all popular among Republicans outside the downtown elites he continually fights to make wealthier using taxpayer dollars. Pray tell, how is Mayor Ballard going to win the 2011 election having ticked off his own base? I have never seen a GOP officeholder more unpopular with rank-and-file Republicans since State Senator Virginia Blankenbaker was in office.

Here's the thing about the downtown elites Mayor Ballard continues to try to please - they have a lot of money...but they don't have a lot of votes. It is unclear exactly who Tully thinks the Mayor is popular with.

As far as growing into the job, the amazing thing about Ballard is he seems as clumsy and ill-prepared to be Mayor today as he was his first day on the job. Having talked to people close to the Mayor, the comment I almost always get is complaints that Mayor Ballard seems oblivious to things going on in his own administration. For example, Mayor Ballard did not know that Joe Loftus represented ACS and was pushing the company behind the scenes.

Worse yet Mayor Ballard seems oblivious to public opinion on issue after issue. If he thinks the voters are going to pat him on the back for giving the Pacers $33.5 million, he's going to find out differently come next year.

I can only gather that Tully is describing the mayor that he wants Ballard to be, not the one everyone else in the City sees - a bumbling politician, clueless about public opinion, who has deeply alienated his base and is continually falling all over himself to enrich downtown elites by incredibly foolish proposals.


M Theory said...

I feel alienated by Ballard and I worked hard for him during the campaign for several months.

I don't like Kennedy either. I will probably either not vote or vote for whoever the libertarians run.

Cato said...

The Democrats absolutely need to find someone besides Kennedy.

I want Ballard out, but she's not what I want to see come on.

Cato said...

Paul, do you think Melina is going to run against Pacers and Colts funding?

Not a chance.

Maple Syrup Maven said...

Did Tully ever have an edge?
Commentary in The Star seems fatuous at best.

Paul K. Ogden said...


All Kennedy has to criticize the Pacers deal somewhat (which she's done) and she's going to pick up the anti-Pacer bailout vote. It will be more a vote against Ballard for the Pacer bailout than a vote for Kennedy for her position.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Actually I think Tully is a good reporter. He seems burned out when it comes to being a political columnist. The job wears you down and you lose your edge.

Marycatherine Barton said...

Matt Tully, as a columnist for the STAR, is undeserving of admiration from anyone who demands truth and integrity from journalists.

dcrutch said...

"Part of (the) job is to stir-up discussion on issues"? I think Tully's doing a great job of that, just not in the way intended.

A Wishard rebuild that suddenly, desperately had to happen, millions to the Pacers, a 50-year contract for parking meters, abandonment of privatizing stadium management, raising water rates as a means to fix sidewalks, a questionable appointment at public safety director, nary a word about a downtown school system that graduates half the kids.....

The mayor is still "growing into the job".

Tully's great at non-political investigative work, but put Kravitz on the politics. At some point he had to be asking tough questions or reporting the results. I don't think Polian has talked to him in ages.

Nicolas Martin said...

The job didn’t wear Mencken down. But then Mencken wasn’t an arch bootlicker. The modern local political reporter is, almost without fail, a parrot of the politically powerful.