Last night, I attended the 49th Mayor's Night Out event at St. Ann's Catholic Church in Decatur Township, and, halfway through, I started to wonder why the Mayor has the events at all?
After introducing the department heads in attendance and thanking the appropriate local folks, Ballard begins each evening by rushing through a slide presentation with various types of data tailored to the community he's in. The Mayor didn't seem well prepared admitting, "They added a couple of slides on me, and I'm not quite sure what they are."
Once Ballard rushes through the data, he begins the Q&A. Each session has a moderator who reads the submitted question to Mayor Ballard. Once the question is read, Ballard typically punts it to a department head. For example, a tort claim question got punted to the City Legal representative. A question about copper theft got punted to IMPD. Ballard does very little answering of questions himself. Most of the department heads themselves punt to the standard, "Come and see me after the meeting if you asked that question."
That's great. It's good that people want to hear from the Mayor, and Ballard said several times that the questions submitted help the city. The Mayor's Staff collected surveys from almost everyone that attended, so you have to credit them for collecting the data. My question would be that if this is just for keeping up appearances, why do them? No substantial questions were answered.
There are better ways for the Mayor to get out there than these events which make him look like a delegator unconcerned with the details of running his city. Ballard could use social media more to do Mayor's Night Out-type town halls. He might find success there. I love the idea of Mayor's Night Out, and it's good that he does them, but they could be so much more than they are.