Missing Bill

Dateline: Thu 29 Oct 2009

Bill Hudnut may have been the last truly engaged mayor Indianapolis had.

Sure, Minister Mayor -- you can buy his book by the same name for $1 a Half-Price Books now -- got into a little hot water in GOP circles, but his issue was always hanky-panky, not not running the show. He could indeed take care of business.

Nostalgia for what (and who) is gone is easy to invoke after reading Matt Tully's insightful analysis of Mayor Greg Ballard's smoking ban veto threat in yesterday's Star.

No matter what you think of the ban, what came out is that Marine Mayor was MIA during the entire debate. Then, at the last minute, he bullied City-County Republicans into voting against the measure -- apparently, simply, because he did not want to have to veto it.

This is all the more incredible considering the revelatory email, sent by Ballard to anti-smoking activist/PR guru Bruce Hetrick in 2007, when Ballard was running for mayor, and printed by Tully in the column.

"I can assure you that I am a supporter of the smoke-free workplace. Secondhand smoke is a proven health hazard, and I would support any legislation to limit the impact of seconndhand smoke."

So much for that pronouncement, since the mayor wussied out -- not what we want in leaders. As Tully argues, Ballard should have been out front of this issue, on one side or the other, rather than hiding behind smoke and mirrors. And alas, this is not the first time...

Then comes today's story in the Star about the troubles facing City Market -- basically a lack of leadership -- which again makes one wish for the Hudnut days.

Was he perfect? No. But he had balls.

Who can forget that Hudnut had a bit of a PR image on his hands himself, when Circle Centre Mall hit a massive stall and. instead of a shining shopping plaza, we had a big hole in the ground at Washington and Illinois.

A Star reporter and photog showed up to talk to the mayor, on the spot, about the unraveling project. Rather than hem and haw, Hudnut jumped into the hole and grabbed a shovel. I think he even had the presence of mind to don a construction helmet. Voila! Great picture -- the grinning mayor with the can-do attitude, in the middle of the problem -- and great leadership.

What  happened to Greg Ballard? Maybe, if he shows up at the Marine Corps Ball Nov. 7 -- he will be among friends -- I'll ask him. Hoo-rah!





hendy [Member] said:

The anti-Peterson rhetoric that elected Ballard can just as easily toss him out on his can. But there are no obvious successors out there. The Indpls Demos are splintered and lame.

Bruce deserves his victory. Maybe he oughta run for mayor. Then we could all move on.... albeit more healthily.

2009-10-29 06:54:33

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Hendy's partly right. But mayors in this city get clobbered every time they try to butt heads with the council.

This is a Democratic town--baseline vote is about 55-45 when you push the undecideds into one category or another. I still get a giggle out of folks who say they're "registered Independent" or "registered Republican/Democratic." Nobody registeres under a party label. You choose party labels in the primaries.


Unless the Dems are fighting among themselves in 2011, they'll win. It's basic numbers. Any of the folks circling the job would be OK, perhaps great. Council control? That's another question.

I actually rooted for Ballard after he won. He owed nobody because he came from nowhere. We needed that kind of City Hall independence.

Lo and behold, within a week, the Barnes & Thornburg crowd got ahold of him, and he became corporate. Then some neocon nutjobs got his ear, and he started making appointments like Olgen Williams. God help him.

I think Ballard could still salvage some dignity if he'd listen to his own roots. He has good baseline judgment. All Marine officers do.

As for Mayor Bill, many longtime northside GOP leaders long for his kind of leadership. They loathed Goldsmith, who, if you remember correctly, promptly put out the word when he was elected mayor: don't give Bill a job anywhere in this town. Goldsmith wanted him gone.

We lost a good resource when Goldy shoved Bill out of town. Bill doesn't have a mean bone in his body, but Goldy was so damned insecure he couldn't stand a popular former mayor in his midst.

This city isn't difficult to run, even in bad times, if you're relatively smart. There is tremendous good will out there, and Hoosier common sense. Mayors get into trouble when they start meddling in council politics (except for the annual budget). The council is a dumping ground for goofiness. On both sides of the aisle. For God's sake watch Ch. 16 and listen to them...too many of them can't string together a coherent sentence. Maybe 8-10 good ones in the whole bunch.

Hmmmm....maybe their Indiana legislators-in-training?

Harrison Ullman was right. Maybe he shoud've included the City County Council in his observation about our legislature.

2009-10-29 07:11:51

Seneca [unverified] said:

". . . too many of them can't string together a coherent sentence. . . .

Hmmmm....maybe their Indiana legislators-in-training?"

they're. Not "their" or "there."

2009-10-29 08:11:04

news junkie [Member] said:

I miss Bill, too. But could you guys please spell Harrison's name correctly? It's Ullmann.
Thank you.

2009-10-29 08:23:15

varangianguard [Member] said:

Tell the Truth makes some good points.

Former Mayor Peterson could certainly be quite charming, when he wanted to be. But, he didn't like his opinions to be challenged, and during his second term he introduced some "extreme butt-kissers" into high administration positions.

My own addition would be to remember that the current mayor left the Marines as a Lt. Col. Sometimes, that means that one lacks something which is required for further command. My point is that perhaps we have a junior officer commanding a senior command posting. And, that perhaps he just isn't trained well enough to do the job he has.

And Ruth, unless you were just trying to be polite or avoid filtering software, the term is "wussies". A good thing to know since there are so many of them in and around politics.

2009-10-29 08:31:57

Write Man [Member] said:

I often find myself in agreement with T3. Not wanting to start a donnybrook here or anything, but I can't agree with: "He has good baseline judgment. All Marine officers do." I'm old enough (49) to have been taught to respect authority figures (police, politicians, etc.) and have learned the hard way to trust individuals.

I don't know Mayor Ballard well enough, only second-hand stories that make him sound like he's in a bit over his head (so T3's and Varangiangaurd's comments are pretty accurate). The times I've seen him in public he's seemed quite lost, and uneasy about what he's supposed to be doing, and in that sense anyway, reminiscent of GW.

I think Ballard won the position via the emotional outcry over property taxes coupled with a solid kneecapping of Peterson by the Star shortly prior to the election.

If memory serves, the Star ran an A1 headline about a 65 percent county income tax.In truth, there was a 65 percent income tax increase, from 1 percent to 1.65 percent (as I recall, and I may be mistaken here). Again, it's been a couple of years, but as I recall the story went on to demonstrate how much it would likely cost each person per year, and it was a relatively small amount to many people.

Coupled with the property tax issue, that headline, in my opinion, was enough for plenty of readers to throw Peterson out at any cost, as lots of people likely didn't read deep enough into the story to really understand what that increase really meant on an individual basis. Timing is everything.

2009-10-29 10:17:52

George Stuteville [unverified] said:

Hudnut, until recently, was a vice mayor Chevy Chase Village, MD, near Washington DC. I swapped emails with him a few times. Here's a little more of his thoughts about cities:


2009-10-29 11:09:01

George Stuteville [unverified] said:

I thought Steve Goldsmith was a very creative thinker when it came to funding public works.

2009-10-29 11:30:18

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Seneca, "their" was tongue-in-cheek (perhaps too firmly).

My (late) old J-grammar professor at IU, Holly Arpan, would flip over if she thought I meant it.

Holly was about 4 ft. 8, in heels, and a tad overweight...she chain-smoked Marlboros, and if you abused the langaue badly, her coffee cup would come flying your way. I'm not kidding. The J-school folks at IU, then a department and not a full "school", had to warn her more than once. She entered the classroom after one such stern rebuke from the department chair, and announced to the class:

"He's got no f---ing balls."

George, I wish I agreed with you. But Steve Goldsmith may have been the worst mayor this city has ever had. He pushed debt off onto successors, in huge amounts. Crippled the city.

Said former council member Susan Willilams of Mayor Goldy: "Ambition in a suit."

But damn I miss seeing Bill. He is a working adjunct fellow at the Urban Land Institute, too, where he has gained national acclaim for his wisdom.

If only he'd been able to uh...how do I say this in polite society...not wander into the lives of young women, he might still be mayor. At some point, the GOP higher-ups had their fill, and shuffled him out for Goldsmith. Who was a lousy prosecutor, too, by the way.

My favorite Bill memory was the blizzard of 78, when he drove a snowlpow in a bright orange stocking cap. He was never afraid to do common things.

We could use more of his ilk.

Write Man's observations of Ballard are spot-on. And whoever said retired Lite Birds (Lt.Col.)are sometimes not as smart as their rank, knew what (s)he was tlaking about. Going to the full-bird level requires tremendous skills in the Marines. He might have gotten out because he knew he wouldn't go further. Who knows? He's not a bad guy. But damn he looks lost most of the time. And, in a perhaps-caddy observation, he's clearly liking the buffet lately.

2009-10-29 13:06:47

Little Lady [Member] said:

Tell the Truth, I sure enjoyed the six-day running commentary between you and Ms. Cynical re. the debate at 49th & Penn. Care to give any hints as to your identity?

Since you mention grammar/spelling, I must point out in your last sentence about Ballard's belly (not to mention his double chin), it's "catty" not "caddy". Unless you think his girth has something to do with golf clubs . . .

2009-10-29 14:35:14

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

No, Little Lady, I'll stay just as anonymous as you.

By God, you're right, tho...caddy is meant as a golf club hauler. Thanks.

I hadn't noticed Ballard's double chin. Now we're both catty. But you'd think one of the yes-men and women who populate the 25th floor might mention to the Mayor; hey, Your Honor, dial in a salad once in a while.

2009-10-29 20:28:05

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

And, throwing in an almost completely irrelevant comment here, why the heck is Mayor Ballard asking "$250, $500 or $1000" to have a little breakfast with hizzonor next Wednesday? Does he really need cash that badly?

2009-10-29 20:33:16

hendy [Member] said:

Gimme dynamic leadership that won't give away the store, believes in infrastructure rather than thrills, and an individual that can stand up to the state legislature as well as the CC and win won. It's too tall of an order.

OTOH, Chicago Machine Politics is a horrible dastardly thing.

Peterson dropped the banana peel that he slipped on with arrogance and distancing himself from the constituents. Of Goldsmith, I have nothing good to say, so I won't say it. But Hizzoner The Wrong Rev Hudnut was mayor in an era where it was tough to lose-- there was so much wrong with Indy it couldn't go anywhere but up. That Bob Welch was defeated always stymied me, although he had an ego as big as Notre Dame.

No matter. Please, Lord, someone with brains, bravado, and brevity....and guts. Indy faces huge issues and this is a critical era to set the tone for decades. Someone needs unite the tribes, and make the fools in the CC for what they are. Young people aren't aspiring to politics. We need some new blood.

2009-10-30 01:42:24

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

Hubris is a bitch.
If they don't have it before they are elected, they get a case of it upon their ascension.

I am disappointed in Ballard because I hoped for more from a Marine...though as was pointed out, retiring as a Lite Bird usually means you just missed the mark. I think Ballard's MOS was supply, which should have given him a head for organization and logistics.

Nobody attains field grade rank in the Corps without having uncommon leadership capabilities.

Maybe B&T is just too poisonously seductive for any mortal to resist, a Sirens' Song that drives those who hear it to self destruction.

I worked for Bill. Women knew not to be caught alone in a room with him, or to at least keep a desk between them. But this "silk stocking Presbyterian preacher" was what Indianapolis needed.

Then came Steve, who managed to crap up the kennel for himself and all the other hounds, most of all Bill.

2009-10-30 07:42:48

jersey [unverified] said:

I am really enjoying
this "conversation" about mayors and former mayors of Indianapolis. Intriguing.

2009-10-30 16:11:24

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Stick around, Jersey. It gets better.

Mayor Bill married his press secretary, Bev, 25 years his junior, and then fathered a child with her. They are apparently happily living in suburban DC. He'd be here, and perhaps a candidate again, if Goldy hadn't run him out of town.

Goldy isn't here any more, either. Good riddance. One of the most hatefull men to occiupy that office.

2009-11-01 05:47:31

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