|Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard|
The legislator recounted the story of his encouraging Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard to reach out to Democratic legislators on the CIB and other issues affecting the city of Indianapolis. In particular, the legislator urged Ballard to sit down and meet with House Ways and Means Chairman Democrat Bill Crawford of Indianapolis, who obviously was a critical person to getting any bill passed in the Democratically-controlled House.
When the legislator found out weeks later Mayor Ballard had not made any efforts to reach out to Democrats, he called Mayor Ballard to ask why he didn't take his advice. The Mayor's response? He said certain big name advisers in his administration told him reaching out to Democrats would be a bad idea. The legislator was stunned...he couldn't imagine anyone giving him that kind of political advice, especially given the Democrats had control of the House.
Such has been the story of the Ballard administration. From what I've been told by several councilors, the Mayor in 3 1/2 years has made virtually no effort to reach out to Democratic councilors and often will not even return their calls.
With only 15 Republican councilors in the 29 city legislative body, one cannot help but note the foolishness of Ballard's approach to spurn the Democratic council caucus. Whenever there appears to be a close vote upcoming in which a Republican defection or two might spell defeat, the Ballard approach is always the same - twist Republican arms to support the measure while adding some "sugar" to the deal to get a Democrat or two to cross over should a Republican defect. Almost always this "sugar" is in the form of minority contract set-asides aimed at getting one or two African-American Democratic councilors to join the nearly unanimous Republican caucus. That is not bipartisanship.
Ronald Reagan, someone most Republicans deeply respect, never missed an opportunity to schmooze Democrats and ask for their support for his measures. Even Democratic Speaker Tip O'Neil admitted he couldn't help but like Reagan as he repeatedly won votes in the Democratically-controlled U.S. House.
The us v. them partisan approach of the Ballard administration is not at all smart politics or a healthy approach to deal with the issues faced by the City. A Mayor who is unwillingly to pick up the phone to answer the call of a councilor from the opposite party, is someone who is not suited for the game of politics. Let's hope 2012 brings a bipartisanship to Indianapolis city politics.