Ballard for mayor, and we need a new Legislature...

Dateline: Thu 04 Oct 2007

After watching tonight's debate between three candidates for mayor of Indianapolis, here are some observations:

Mayor Bart Peterson -- for whom I voted twice -- came across as just a little too slick, to the point of oiliness. The problems facing the state's largest city are enormous; we needed less smiling assurances and positive prattle, and more tough, realistic answers. In particular, his attempt to take credit for the upswing in the Fall Creek neighborhood was misleading at best. As GOP tough-guy candidate Greg Ballard pointed out, the Fall Creek development was initiated under the watch of his Republican predecessor, former Mayor Steve Goldsmith. I also don't buy his argument that he has helped education by developing charter schools, since the real issue is IPS. He is right, of course, to trumpet consolidation of government, but why hasn't he totally pulled that off, then? Oh, yes,in fairness, as he noted: he needs the help of the legislature -- what the late Harrison Ullman of NUVO used to call, "the worst legislature in the country." Score a point for hizzoner. Still, we need more. His suggestion that we might tap the state's $1.2 billion surplus was also an insult. Let's see, that surplus is because we have a Republican governor now who, like him or not, knows how to trim off the fat --- something the Dems were unable to do in the 17 years they held the state's top office. For Peterson to suggest that Indianapolis should pay down its property tax bills with state money is short-sighted at best.

Greg Ballard -- The fact that he does not have the mayor's polish in public speaking did not hurt his credibility. He's the former Marine officer, law and order candidate; he comes across as serious and earnest about dealing with a central fact of life in Indy -- that violent crime is up. "The ideas are not fresh anymore," he said of Peterson. "We need to go in a different direction." He also pledged to cut 10 percent out of the city's budget, excluding public safety. He's a fiscal conservative who would deliver on consolidation of township/assessors' offices, which Peterson also trumpets. Also, sorry to say, Peterson's people have lost the public trust with a habit of looking the other way when corruption is all around them -- say when Monroe "Sweet Pea" Grey collects a big fat paycheck from the Indianapolis Fire Department, $83,000, for apparently doing nothing, while serving as the City County Council prez. There's a problem that the Dems need to address, but it's not going to happen. Thanks to the Star's Brendan O'Shaughnessy for nailing that story in the Sunday paper.

Fred Peterson -- He's got some great ideas, like all Libertarians, but the notion that the city needs sidewalks more than the Colts complex is a throwback. Ballard and Peterson agreed on the merits of building Lucas Oil Stadium; it's a numbers game, and the expanded Convention Center facilities will attract visitors and tourist traffic, both said. Fred also came off as naive by asserting that, as mayor, he'd have a sitdown over public education and take the lead in that field. IPS just happens to have excellent leadership in Dr. Eugene White; we don't need two chiefs. Let the superintendent do his job; the mayor needs to focus on other issues, and being pissy about the Colts is just plain silly. Also, his notion of only taxing land seems a bit naive; the Legislature, as backwards as it is, will never agree to taxing not-for-profits, as the Libertarian suggested.

All in all, it was a good debate. My bottom line: Peterson has had his chance. It's time to turn the city over to a new party and a new lineup.

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