Sunday, December 27, 2015

Ballard Played Politics Despite Own Claims

Mayor Greg Ballard and Wife Winnie Ballard
Photo by Sarah Stierch
The puff pieces and retrospectives have begun on Greg Ballard's eight years as Mayor of Indianapolis, and there's not any question about it.  Ballard was a better politician than I gave him credit for when he was elected, but his accomplishments rank far below those of the other UniGov-era Mayors.

The IndyStar reports that, as Ballard leaves office, he enjoys a 65 percent approval rating.  That doesn't surprise me.  If the question was asked in a certain way, I'd say I'd approve of Mayor Ballard.

He has been largely successful in putting his personal story out there as a good-hearted family man who loves his city.  I don't take issue with that description of him.  He is a good man who loves his family dearly.  It's a part of who he is, and I salute him for keeping his family and wife, Winnie, first in a job where they can often fall down the priority list.

I get off the Ballard bus and bandwagon when it comes to talk about his skills as a uniter and the idea that he was somehow not political.  I believe he fell horribly short in this regard.

Often, Ballard would push forth his own agenda with little input or little care for what those on both sides of the aisle in the City-County Council would think.  When Council members would stand up and be counted, he would claim they were being overly political or obstructionist.  Republicans who crossed him would find themselves in political timeout.  Democrats would be lambasted in the press or accosted by the Mayor.

When you stack up Ballard's accomplishments, most remain either controversial or built on the back of the Bart Peterson Administration.  He'll largely be remembered for the selling of public assets such as the city's parking meters and water/sewer utilities and rammed-through deals like Blue Indy and the Freedom Fleet.  His accomplishments include a variety of redevelopment initiatives. Perhaps the biggest is the Cummins Complex on half of the old MSA site.  Ballard also greatly increased the Mayor's power by the silent backing of SEA 621 which took some power from the County Commissioners and the Council and handed it to the Mayor  The Mayor was also successful during the whole RFRA blow up in standing up for what was right.  Indy welcomed all.

I've been told the city's books are about to blow up and may reveal that Ballard's "honestly-balanced" budgets weren't so balanced.  That remains to be seen.

When I look back at eight years ago, I set low expectations for Mayor Greg Ballard.  He managed to exceed those low expectations, for whatever it's worth.

As far as the future, Councillors Zach Adamson and Marilyn Pfisterer posted this picture the other day on social media, and, I think it says a lot.

The picture is of Mayor-Elect Joe Hogsett sitting down with City-County Councillors of both parties for dinner.  These sorts of things just simply did not happen in the Ballard Administration, and it's my hope that they continue.

Ballard, despite his claims of being above politics and just doing the work of Mayor, was as much of a politician as any Mayor could be expected to be.  Some of it he was good at, but he failed in other regards.


Paul K. Ogden said...

Very well said. Not sure I disagree with anything. I actually had high expectations on his entering office. I thought he didn't owe anyone anything and thus would work to implement the changes he campaigned on. I didn't foresee how his administration would be completely taken over by insiders who would accelerate crony capitalism, i.e. corporate welfare. You're spot on too about how Ballard dealt with the council. He refused to work with those on the other side of issues.

Michael Dunn said...

Very well said Jon.

Anonymous said...

Ballard was pretty useless as Mayors go. That being said I do not expect Joe Hogsett to be significantly better.