Thursday, June 16, 2011

Peterson Not to Blame for Ballard's Problems Now

To listen to the Marion County GOP, you would think Indianapolis and Marion County were heading to Hell in a handbasket when Mayor Greg Ballard took office in early 2008.

The city did have its problems, and, in some areas, the sausage-making process was a little bit nasty as things like police and fire mergers were going on countywide and in a few townships, but the fact of the matter was that Mayor Bart Peterson had things pretty much on course for a correction and had drawn praise from both parties as a popular mayor with big ideas for the majority of his eight years in office.

It was something completely in and out of his control that sank his hopes in the 2007 election. In his control was the poor campaign effort run by those around Peterson. Ed Treacy was not in charge of the Marion County Democratic Party at that time, and the entire campaign was slow to respond to public angst over property taxes and the county option income tax increase (which remains in effect today despite the fact that Ballard and others that one seats on the City-County Council ran against it).

In reality, it was really the tax issue that sank Mayor Peterson’s battleship. Most of that was caused by the removal of the inventory tax by the Republican-led General Assembly when they briefly held the majority in the mid 2000's. That pushed the burden on to residential property tax owners. So, it was a state issue, and it wasn't really Peterson's doing. It was less about Greg Ballard who, to his credit, capitalized on the angst and rode his inexperienced behind into the big chair on the 25th Floor of the City-County Building.

Today, the Marion County Republican Party would have you believe that Greg Ballard is the savior of all things Indianapolis after the poor administration of the awful guy in front of them. You have an all time high number of statements from Kyle Walker and the Mayor’s Office that try to repaint history and blame things like the IMPD staffing shortage and other things like it on Bart Peterson and Melina Kennedy (who, by the way, left the administration early to run for Marion County Prosecutor in 2006).

Peterson lost because he was too silent until too late on the tax issue, and his proposal and passage of the COIT (which, as you may recall, was supposed to be dedicated to public safety. Has it Mayor Ballard?) made Ballard look even better. It was less about Greg Ballard and more about the wallets of the people. I'm not whining. Ballard won fair and square with his populist message of not asking for more of our money (he has) and making public safety job one (he hasn't).

The entire truth is that when you make campaign promises; people expect you to live up to them. When you say public safety is “job one” and you have three years on your own to make your changes to public safety, it’s not the guy in front of you’s fault. When among your first acts in office is to bring the entire mantle of public safety back on your shoulders, it’s not the guy in front of you’s fault. When you have control over budgets and claim that they are honestly balanced and then need to seemingly fudge numbers and move things along to make you look better, that's on you. It's not the transparent government we were promised. It's certainly not the fault of Bart Peterson that Greg Ballard can't keep IMPD fully staffed three years into his term. It's not the "paradigm" you inherited at this point.

Even if it was, as Frank Anderson often said in public, he would rather not blame the overcrowded jail on years of Republican mismanagement even though he was well within his rights. Instead, I heard him say countless times when entertaining questions, “On that January day when I raised my hand and put my other hand on the Bible, the problems of the Marion County Sheriff’s Department became Frank Anderson’s problems.”

Frank Anderson went to work, and we have a better jail because he took that job seriously and put people in place to make it happen. He didn't blame the politics or the paradigms of the past. He just did it.

Unfortunately, Greg Ballard is not that kind of leader. He believes the citizens of Indianapolis are stupid. He believes that we don’t remember what happened three years ago or that many of the reforms, the projects, and the good things that have happened while he was Mayor were as a result of the seeds that Mayor Peterson and previous Mayors of Indianapolis planted.

The former moderator of Meet the Press, Tim Russert, had a placard on his desk that said, “Thou shalt not whine.”

It might be a good idea for Greg Ballard and his minions at the Marion County GOP to remember that.

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