Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Can a Re-Elected Mayor Ballard Work With a Significant Democratic Majority on the Indianapolis City-County Council?

Working with Democrats is not something Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard has excelled at during his four years.  A Republican legislator told me the story how early on he had advised Ballard that, in order to get his agenda through the General Assembly, Ballard should have personal meeting siwth the then majority Democratic leadership in the House, especially House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Crawford.  Later that legislator asked Ballard if he had met with Crawford.  Ballard responded that his advisers who had told him not to have the meeting.  The legislator was dumbfounded.  Ballard did not seem to understand the importance of working with Democrats, especially since they had a majority in the House and controlled the committees.

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard
During his first term, Mayor Ballard's initiatives have passed the Indianapolis City-County Council due to advisers and council leadership arm twisting any Republican councilors who balked at supporting the Mayor's initiatives.  The Republican council caucus has been remarkably cohesive, even though some of the votes - such as the CIB tax increase, parking meter deal, and Pacer giveaway - surely caused some Republican councilors to hold their noses while voting.  Still, when a Republican would defect, Ballard was always able to pick up a Democratic vote or two to offset the defection. 

Democratic councilors report to me that Mayor Ballard has made no attempt to build relationships with them during the past four years. There is no communication between Ballard and Democratic councilors.  The only exception appears to be Democratic councilor Jackie Nytes who is not running for re-election.

If Ballard is indeed re-elected, it is almost certain he will face a strong Democratic majority on the council.  It's unlikely the 2007 turnout will be duplicated, a turnout which allowed three Republican at-large candidates to win. The Democrats should sweep those four seats.  That alone gives the Democrats a 16-13 majority. Then you have three Republican councilors - McHenry, Scales and McQuillen - in Democratic majority seats.  (McHenry's seat, in particular, is now more than 60% Democrat.)  It's not a stretch to say that 2 of those 3 will probably lose.  That would make it 18-11.  Then you have Republicans like Council President Ryan Vaughn, Susie Day, Ben Hunter and Marilyn Pfisterer who are all in competitive districts and could lose.

Meanwhile the Republicans have a shot at only one Democrat, Dane Mahern, who is in a marginally Republican district on the near south side of Indianapolis.

If the Democrats were to take out Vaughn, Day, Hunter or Pfisterer, it's possible that the Democrats could have a veto-proof majority on the council.  While it is unlikely the Democrats will get to 20 seats for that to happen, it is certainly possible.

If Mayor Ballard runs ahead of the county's Republican baseline vote, which I expect at this point, he could end up being re-elected with a strong Democratic majority on the council.   How would a Mayor Ballard deal with the Council Democrats?    Can Ballard change spots and become the type of politician who can work across the aisle to put together bipartisan coalitions for his agenda?   Or would Ballard use executive orders and entities like the Metropolitan Development Commission to work around the Council? 

I have not seen much to suggest that Ballard has the personality to schmooze councilors on the other side of the political aisle.   I am afraid if divided government is the result of next week's election, we will see more policy and projects bypassing the purview of our elected council.    It is a dangerous trend that is certainly not confined to Indianapolis municipal government.


Downtown Indy said...

I was glad back when you switched to a black text on white blog scheme.

I hope you go back. While artistic, the reduced contrast of the new scheme makes it harder to read.

varangianguard said...

Really, DI? I think I actually like this new schema better.

Paul K. Ogden said...

DI, I'm going back to something similiar to that, if not that. I was just playing around with the format late last night and couldn't get rid of the purplish tinted background. I'll fix probably this morning.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Varan, I think it would be if I can get the background lighter. Blogger doesn't make it easy to use its templates.

Downtown Indy said...

Old eyes like higher contrast...

It's pretty readable now -- the text seems blacker now. Or maybe I'm just more awake now.

Ben said...

Not sure that I like the new format,getting old, I need the contrast.