Sunday, October 16, 2011

Thoughts on Last NIght's Mayoral Debate

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard
Here are my thoughts after watching last night's mayoral debate on Channel 13 between Mayor Greg Ballard and Melina Kennedy:
  • Anyone who says that Mayor Ballard won, either on substance or style, is wearing rose-colored glasses and not being objective. 
  • Having said the above, if you factor in Mayor Ballard's much lower expectations (think of a golf handicap) then possibly you could judge the two candidate's performances as being even.
  • Mayor Ballard does not respond well to criticism.    Whenever Kennedy threw out criticism Ballard immediately took the bait, addressing the negative without ever turning it back into a positive.
  • I think the Kennedy campaign has made a mistake in not being more aggressive early on attacking Ballard's record.  He might well have had a meltdown.  Even though they haven't been very aggressive, Ballard seems all too willing to go on the defensive and let her criticism define the issues.
  • Kennedy landed a blow when it came to tax and fee increases.  Ballard had the authority to say "no" and he never did.
  • Regarding the former, Kennedy makes a mistake when she lets Ballard focus only on the business fee increases.  Ballard supported a hotel tax increase (giving us the combined highest hotel and sales tax in the country), a rental car tax increase, a ticket tax increase, an alcohol tax increase, an increase in the food and beverage tax and an extension of the wheel tax. 
  • Kennedy mentioned the $33 million for the Pacers, I believe within the context of the priorities Mayor Ballard.  The comment got kind of buried.  She should emphasize that point more because the Mayor is extremely vulnerable on the issue of misplaced priorities.
  • Melina Kennedy
  • The most blood of the night was drawn on an exchange about the parking meters.   Kennedy received a privatization question and used it to attack Mayor Ballard's ACS 50 year parking meter contract.  Ballard responded that people like the modernized meters and that, besides, we can get out of the contract every 10 years.  Kennedy correctly pointed out that the Early Termination provision in the contract is a farce, that the penalty to exercise it is so excessive that it can never be used.  (Actually the $20 million penalty is only one of the contractual conditions that make the Early Termination provision impossible to ever be exercised.) 
  • It would have been great if Kennedy was able to also work in the figure 70%, as in the fact the City is giving away 70% of the revenue in the contract.  Also she should have called him out on Mayor's talking about modernization as justification for the 50 year contract.  The City could have purchased the meters ourselves for about $8 to $10 million and kept 100% of the revenue for the next 50 years.  Instead Ballard mortgaged the future of our city for a small upfront cash payment.
  • Kennedy continued to pound the issue of education.  I am all for using the Mayor's bully pulpit to try to improve education, and in particular IPS, but I still think education is one of the Mayor's few strong areas.  I can only assume there is polling supporting this line of attack.
  • Mayor Ballard really waffled when it came to the question about the comprehensive smoking ban.  From listening to him, youwould have thought his position supporting what amounts to about a 99% ban isindefensible.  He offered to "compromise" on the issue.  Isn't a compromise on the smoking ban already in place?  What's wrong with letting a bar owner, where only adults are allowed in, decide whether to have smoking?  That's a solidly pro-freedom, Republican position.  Yet Ballard seems uncomfortable with it.
I have never seen a major election like this where there is absolutely no independent polling just a little over four weeks out.  My guess is a poll would probably show Mayor Ballard up by about 10 points, though that's strictly a guess.  I still think on Election Day Kennedy will win though I would increase Ballard's chances to getting close to 40%, up the 30% or so I previously pegged the odds at.   I just don't think the Democrats have defined Ballard as they should have given the ammunition he's given them over the past four years.   Marion County though is a solidly Democratic county, even more so than it was in 2007.  Even in 2010, a great Republican year, the baseline favored Democrats by 10 points.  It's hard not to give the edge to Kennedy, especially when considering that Marion County Democratic Chairman Ed Treacy is an expert when it comes to turnout.



I don't think Kennedy is going to win. My ear to the ground tells me it is Ballard.

Paul K. Ogden said...

HFFT, don't forget that the candidates don't start at the same starting line. Democrats have a 10% to 20% edge in the county. If the county were 50-50, I might agree. But that's not the case.