Sunday, February 6, 2011

Republicans Accuse Melina Kennedy and Democrats of Publicity Stunt

Across the internet you're seeing Indianapolis Republicans and Democrats trading barbs about the Democrats weekend project of helping clear snow and ice from the local public schools while Mayor Greg Ballard is out of town for the Super Bowl. Republicans, such as Marion County Chairman Kyle Walker and blogger Abdul Hakim-Shabbaz blast the move as a publicity stunt. Defendants respond that it's not a publicity stunt but rather a sincere effort to help out in the community.

Of course it's a publicity stunt. But that leads to my what? Indianapolis Mayor Bill Hudnut riding on the front of the snow plow during the 1978 blizzard was a publicity stunt as was his wearing his Racers (a former Indy hockey team) stocking cap during his many media appearances during that crisis.

Hudnut's publicity stunts were designed to show support for the residents of Indianapolis during a difficult time. He helped lift spirits and unite the community. The PR move sent the message that Mayor Hudnut put the welfare of the people at the top of his priority list.

People forget that Hudnut narrowly won the election in 1975 over Paul Cantwell, amassing just 52% of the vote. After the 1978 blizzard and those publicity stunts, Hudnut's popularity soared. In 1979, he won with 74% of the vote.

The Democrats publicity stunt was certainly not as well orchestrated as Hudnut's. (Someone should have told Melina Kennedy to dress like she was actually going to do some work.) Nonetheless, it highlights a perception that Ballard, though elected as a common man, has long been seduced by power, that his priorities are pleasing the elites of the city over doing what is best for the working men and women of Indianapolis. The contrast of evening news broadcasts of Melina Kennedy shoveling snow, however unbelievably, against the background of Ballard hobnobbing with elites at the Super Bowl, is one that won't be forgotten.

A publicity stunt? Absolutely. Did it work? Almost certainly.



I have no problem with Ballard going to the Super Bowl. We're already committed and it is better that he sees how a Super Bowl operates first hand than not.

Also, their guy Peterson went to the Super Bowl. It's the pot calling the kettle black.

That being said, I'm not a fan of the NFL because their hands are always in OUR pockets in every city where there is a team.

A good publicity stunt for the Republicans would be to show up enmasse to do tutoring of IPS students.

I hear Tab Church on Central and 34th recently started an after school tutoring program that is well organized. Maybe they should get involved as volunteers are much needed.

Paul K. Ogden said...


Actually I didn't say that I was against Ballard going to the Super Bowl. What I said was that people's perceptions will be that he is hobnobbing with elites while ignoring problems at home. Perception is reality in politics.

Barnard said...

I volunteered yesterday and today clearing the sidewalks and entries to the schools. If it was a publicity "stunt" I don't really care. The bottom line is that we actually accomplished a lot of stuff. In my mind, a publicity stunt is where you act like you are going to do something but it really is just smoke and mirrors. This was not that at all! We cleared sidewalks, entry ways and some small parking lots. I don't know if IPS will be open on Monday or not but at least the 4 schools that I worked at have a much better shot.

BTW Paul.... I don't think it's fair to criticize how Melina was dressed. The reality is that she worked right along side of all of yesterday and today doing the work. I think you owe her an apology on your blog for that unfounded comment.

Paul K. Ogden said...


Actually I was criticizing the PR aspect of her appearing to be other people would likely view it. (I would also point out someone else made my observation before I did.) She could have scored more points by going to the event dressed more casually, t-shirt, jeans, sweatshirt...she needs to connect with the common man and woman. I would guess her political advisers are telling her the same thing about clothing that I wrote on my blog. That's their job. Kennedy needs to dress more casually at events like this.

That's one perception Ballard still has over Kennedy....that he's more of a regular person, a common man type. Frankly, I think Ballard has proved himself to be a major elitist snob...but right now that's not the public's perception. Perception is everything.

And just because it's a PR move, doesn't mean it can't also be a good thing to do what the D's did in shoveling the schools out. I thank you and everyone else who volunteered to do that.

IndyDem said...

Regardless of what she was wearing by the end of the day she was covered in the same slush as the rest of us. The start time was 10:30am so I imagine with her very busy schedule, she had something before hand that she was dressed for. Which is probably why on day 2she was dressed much more casual. I was proud to see her out there working. It was not easy work and most of us will be sore for several days.

Barnard said...

Fair enough. I know that you, and I as well, get caught up more in the political "point scoring" but I would argue that sometimes things are just as they are. I say this because I actually ran into Melina today and asked her about the flack she was getting for her coat. She did say she was coming from and heading to other events but what was so great was she thought the whole thing was really funny.

She was kind of laughing at herself.... the more I get to know her the more I like her.... She's going to be a great Mayor!

Black Bart said...

There's a world of difference between Hudnut showing community spirit and Democrats engaging in a political dig against their chief rival.