Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Will Push for Cricket Park End Mayor Ballard's Political Career?

Throughout seven 1/2 years, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard has been able to escape serious political harm for a number of unpopular decisions and proposals.  Whether it was the 50 year parking meter privatization, $43,5 million handed out to the Pacers, raising numerous taxes and fees, giving $6.35 million to a politically connected developer to build a private parking garage/commercial building in Broad Ripple, or suggesting that Indianapolis establish a Chinatown, Mayor Ballard has always managed to escape having the public connect him with unpopular policies and questionable priorities.  A lot of that was due to the fact that the Democrats mysteriously stayed on the sidelines, abdicating the role of the loyal opposition, refusing to put the blame for those

This time though it appears that the Mayor Ballard - by continuing to push for a World Sports Park for cricket enthusiasts, funded with at least $6 million of Rebuild Indy money - has handed the Democrats an issue they won't be afraid to exploit come 2015.   No one, including the public and Republicans and Democrats on the Indianapolis City-County Council, understand the Mayor's bizarre fascination with the sport of cricket.  His steadfast decision to spend $6 million dollars for the park, at a time when city budgets are being cut and the murder rate is soaring, is inexplicable.

As reported here as well as elsewhere, another American city, Lauderhill, Florida, attempted what Mayor Ballard suggests - economic development through cricket and other sports not popular in the United States, but popular with some immigrants, and failed spectacularly, so much so that the city is spending millions to repurporse the playing fields to accommodate sports more popular with Americans.

Richard Kaplan, the Mayor of Lauderhill had this warning for cities like Indianapolis that attempt to follow Lauderhill's lead:
"It's been told to me that [USACA] is trying to get other cities in the United States to build facilities that could be accredited," Kaplan said. "I will tell you that I know most of the mayors in the country that may deal with this thing, and I presume they're gonna talk to me about how it turned out in Florida. It isn't gonna be a positive review. I would assume that any area that is doing due diligence on working out the economic viability are going to look at what presently exists, in which case they're going to come and take a look at what happened here, and they're gonna ask what happened."

"It's being utilized a little bit by some Associate members and developmental teams for the ICC. It's [also] being used by some private groups from American College Cricket, but not one of those events puts anybody in the stands. It doesn't sell one ticket. I don't need a multi-million dollar stadium with 5000 permanent seats to sit there with nobody using it. I can understand the county's point that somebody needs to use it. It's a wasting asset."
This warning though has not deterred Mayor Ballard one bit.  Next up today in a public meeting at 1 pm, the Board of Public Works is set to approve the awarding of a $2.4 million bid to a company called Renascent, Inc. to help construct the "World Sports Park."  While plans are to spend the taxpayers money on this dubious venture, administration officials are working behind the scenes to get the Indianapolis City-County Council to repeal the local homestead tax deduction, therefore increasing Indianapolis residents' property tax bills.

I remember meeting during Ballard's first term with an official who had left that administration.   He openly talked of what he perceived as a major character flaw in the new Mayor, the tendency to lock onto a decision early on and then block out information and critics which might suggest a need to reconsider that decision.  That appears to precisely be what is going on with his cricket decision.  The decision has been made.  He simply isn't going to listen to any criticism of his idea.

Returning to the premise that cricket might help the Democrats defeat Mayor Ballard in 2015, I frankly don't believe, contrary to what his consultant Jen Hallowell has publicly stated, that Ballard will run for re-election.  Certainly by 2015 the Democrats will have their act together and field a stronger candidate who won't shy away from attacking Ballard on those issues on which he is so vulnerable.  Ballard would be foolish to attempt to try to beat the odds in and increasingly Democratic Marion County a third time.  As far as other political opportunities, I don't see Ballard, with his liberal spending and taxing background, having a chance to win the Republican nomination to a statewide office. I think his career as an elected official ends on January 1, 2016.  Appointments to various offices are likely to follow, however.


Flogger said...

The Democrats will not not be any opposition at all to Privatization or Crony Capitalism. We have a Republicrat Party in Marion County. The Democrats are perfectly happy with the Pay to Play Ideology here. The Democrats will not critique Ballard on Mis-Management. Kennedy had her chance when she ran for Mayor, but choose remain silent.

Maybe Ballard can construct his "China Town" right next to the Cricket Field.

Pete Boggs said...

Setting aside for a moment of extra Constitutional (read unconstitutional) or insane indulgence; has the sanctioning body of the cricket pitch made a long term commitment to this "needed" facility, sufficient to cover costs?