Ms. Kennedy vs. Mr. Ballard

Dateline: Thu 06 Oct 2011

Good crowd turnoout last night Clowes Hall at Butler Univeristy for one of many debates between Mayor Greg Ballard, R, and his challenger, Meliina Kenndy, D.

Obviously there is interest in this race.

From where I sat, the debate was between a younger, sophisticated politican with good delivery (Kennedy) and a solid, steady mayor who chose politics not as a career path but because he felt the city was in deep trouble (Ballard, obviously, who needs to hone his speaking skills and quit the occasional mumbling).

Kennedy's self-described M.O. is crime fighter, education champion and neighborhood booster. "Crime is up," she said, citing aggravated assaults (increase of 10 percent, she claims) and homicides (up 11 percent) since 2007, with a 6 percent hike in home invasions. Her other planks are jobs (30,000 lost in the city last year), education ("thousands don't graduate")  and, optimistically, the strength of city neighborhoods (appropriate since the event was sponsored by four neighborhood groups). Soundlng like Obama on the campaign trail four years ago, she said, "Our problems are significant but not insurmountable....(basically) because I believe in YOU" and you can do it, etc., with the right leadership.

If elected, she pledged to get illegal guns off the streets, (close the loopholes), improve education and the city's quality of life and ban smoking (so that young people will want to live here).

She occasionally sounded a little too ingratiating -- how many times does she need to thank the neighborhood groups for their work? She also revealed a strong desire to show us she's just one of us -- "my husband and I have a small business." In fact, she is a polished pol with a full-range skill set who already has gone negative in her campaign ads. Running scared?

Ballard, a career Marine who has been dubbed "the accidental mayor" by critics, was in fact the "ordinary guy" who rose to the tumultous occasion of politics during the property tax revolt that preceded his election. He is not an insider, not a hack, altho, once again, critics will say he's become a little too chummy with the GOP powerhouses. But that's politics.

His deal? "I am proud of the progress we have made together but we still have work to do." Under progress, he cites a balanced budget, a Triple A credit rating for the city, cleaning up the previous administration mess of selling the water company and leaving the city holding a $900 million debt bag (Kennedy was part of that administration), paving streets, paving more streets and building sidewalks, creating bike lanes and trails, negotiating a deal with the Environmental Protection Agency that saved the city $740 million for fixing the antiquated sewers, and being right in the center of a boomtown vibe.  Under that heading, he talked about Indy's strong rep in medical/scientific development and some new IT ventures.

"We are the national model," he trumpeted, adding that he was only one of two mayors in the U.S. to support property tax reform. Forbes magazine, he said, has dubbed us "the next boom town," Newsweek has said we are "a city poised for recovery" and someone else -- I forget who -- also said we are wonderful, he said. As much as Kennedy thanked the neighborhoods, Ballard said, "I love this city very much," a lot.

OK, she's got the Fraternal Order of Police backing, which is impressive; his response is that he is cleaning up the police department, and that there is a "vocal minority" of cops who won't get with his program. Besides, he's got the backing of MIBOR (Metropolitan Board of Realtors), which shows he's got pull, too, in places.

The biggest sticking point seemed to be the parking meters. She criticized him for that deal, which is admittedly a hassle (paying by credit card) but is big city. He pointed out -- I think, this is what he said, because again there was mumbling -- that this was in fact a bipartisan project that the City County Council endorsed, and that the new meters will provide funds for development for many years to come.

He also shot back, towards the end, on crime: "If she looks at crime numbers from the FBI appropriately, she knows which way crime is going," by which he meant, down.

Liked him. He is low-key, confident; liked her, but not as well. She comes across as a little too eager. I kept wondering if she wants the job just to get jobs for all her Evan Bayh/Bart Peterson buddies....but perhaps that's far too cynical. Certainly, anyone willing to take this kind of scrutiny and burden -- to even run -- deserves our gratitude if not praise.

Incidentally, some who read/watch/hear media reports seem to think she "won."

I didn't see it that way. I do believe there is a liberal bias among local media. Applause was about equal for both candidates. Technically, the audience was not even supposed to clap -- it was against the rules and took time away from the candidates -- but the fact that Kennedy and Ballard each drew handclapping from their supporters shows people are invested in this race and both are viable, at least on the Northside.

Now, will someone please let the Libertarian guy in next time?







hendy [Member] said:

Going negative in campaign ads is the *worst thing she can do*. Look at Ellsworth. Her actions towards getting neighborhood support is grassroots at its best. Daniels did it with his RV tour, and it hoodwinked them well.

But she has GOT to STOP the negative ads. It puts people on the defensive. These are sheep not the wolves of the NE corridor. They don't think in the same way, and she'll lose loads of votes when people shut her out. Hoosiers seem to hate complainers. Baron Hill, Ellsworth, they all screwed that up.

2011-10-06 12:29:32

John M [unverified] said:

This again, Ruth? I don't understand why you continue to laud Ballard, who is the incumbent mayor of Indianapolis, for not being a politician, and then excuse the brazenly political things he does with a breezy, "that's politics." He either is a politician, or he isn't (hint: he is).

On the parking meters, I think most of the criticism is based on the deal, not the street-level modifications. Actually, I think the ability to pay by coin, bill, or credit card is great (although the interface on the multi-spot machines can be a bit confusing), and an increase in the 1970s rates was long overdue. The problem is that the city has now forfeited its right to modify is streetscape without paying a private company for the right to remove meters or to revise parking hours. My oldest child is four years old. When he is 45, and the world has changed in God knows how many ways, this deal still will be in effect.

The parking meter vote, a vote that ties the hands of the next two generations of Indianapolis residents, passed by the thinnest of margins, 15-14. Bipartisan? Well, the 15 in favor included 14 Republicans and one Democrat. The opposition included 11 Democrats, 2 Republicans, and one Libertarian. If Citizen Greg were a politician, I would think he was trying to use the technical truth that one member of the opposition party voted for the ordinance to create a misleading impression of wide support in both parties for the ordinance, which obviously wasn't the case. But since our mayor is Totally Not A Politician, I'll keep searching for a non-weasely explanation.

2011-10-06 12:52:47

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

I respect your view. Here's another one;

She kept thanking neighborhood groups because this is yet ONE more election where the incumbent Mayor has basically given the middle finger to organized neighborhoods. It is not a part-yexclusive issue: Mr. Peterson did the same, unwittingly.

From sloppy zoning administration to sweetheart devlopment deals. To giveaways of city assets with incompetent negotiators at the table representing us.

Year in and year out, neighborhood leaders like Pat Andrews, Ruth Hayes, Cathy Burton, George Haerle, Mary from Butler-Tarkington, and many, many others, are in the trenches, trying to make sure in a non[partisian manner:

The city lives up to the statutory requirement of ALL zoning variance petitioners, that a hardship be proven to grant a variance. (Hint: they should be RARE). And that the signage ordinance is followed (it's being dismantled by sloppy spot-zoning and even-sloppier permits being issued "in error").

The city should accept this subtle but meaningful bargain: neighborhood associations are protected as notified parties in all variances and controversial cases, for a reason: CONTINUITY. Because leaders like the above-nopted individuals, and dozens more, work on these issues whether the mayor is a D or an R. They've got staiyng power, built-in experience/knowledge, and credibility. But this Mayor and his slip-shod administration have lost all benefit of kthe doubt on the abov-enoted scores. They are grossly incompetent. Sometimes it borders on insane.

Crime figures are routinely argued on each side of the political fence. I don't vote on those. Ditot education: the mayor's bully pulpit is nice, but meaningless if our neighborhoods are a mess.

My vote goes to the politician who recognizes that these zoning and development principles need to be above any appearance of nonsense.

Mr. Ballard's lost on that score. Long ago. If he wins Nov. 8, regardless of Ms. Kennedy's apparent eagerness or qualification, we'll all lose on this important quality of life issue.

It could happen. I sure as hell hope not.

2011-10-06 18:14:49

ruthholl [Member] said:

Good comments. John M., thanks for clarification on the parking meter vote. Again, the mumbling made it harder to understand Ballard on that score.
Matt Tully has a good column in the Star this morning, gaging the reactions of two young undecided voters who attended the debate at Clowes. I was surprised to read both gave Ballard the edge in the debate, because he seemed more focused, but then the incumbent should have bragging rights. (and I think he does).
I hear what TTT and Hendy are saying about ignoring the neighborhood groups and their importance....that would indeed be a serious mistake.
So WHY has Kennedy's team gone negative? Why don't pols ever learn this lesson? It always smacks of desperation and it never WHY?

2011-10-07 06:02:37

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

I don't knowwhy they went negative. I wish they hadn't. But....that alone won't sway this election.

The thig is: it does work. Just when you hope it won't, it does. Almost every time.

Undecided voters reach peak interest-level Oct. 4-15. Then there are only a handful of undecideds, and a good chunk of them fail to vote.

A better question might be: once they're in office, why do they stop listening to the right people? Sad.

We lost a good mayor that way--Bart Peterson. Who took a substantial pay cut to become mayor, and did marvelous things. But in the last 24 months, he listened mainly to a few people, whose salaries depended on his tenure. And who, if he lost, would ingratiate themselves with cushy priavte-sector employers. Bingo.

Has been such for decades. Only now, the Ds are a majority. The one constant through all the Hudnut Glory Days (and dalliances), the Goldsmith arrogant hubris, and the Peterson high hopes? Neighborhoods. They just keep slogging away, beating the same consistent drum.

I know this: if we'd pay attention to the neighborhoods, we'd be a lot better off.

2011-10-07 06:09:42

hendy [Member] said:

TTT we must disagree. The data says differently, although the sentiments seem to ignore the data.

2011-10-07 07:35:47

Pauldivine3000 [unverified] said:

there was absolutely no mess in buying the water company. The city had 2 choices in 2001: buy IWC or let some foreign company buy it from Nisource. It was a no-brainer, a good deal for the city and TRULY bipartisan- it passed the council 29-0 - -- not Ballard's bipartisan definition of 2 Democrat. With Wall Street's record in the last few years, we made the right choice.

It is beneath you to accept some political talking point hook, line and sinker.

2011-10-07 08:10:53

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Hendy: What data?

Pauo: that was 2001, under Mayor Peterson. Now, we're talking about 2011, with Ballard as mayor, and the use of those proceeds is as much of an issue as the sale itself. My God we're paying for assets with 3-7 year shelf life, with 100% of a one-time sale proceeds. The pure definition of business-stupid.

And the parking meter deal: sufficient bonding authority existed to make all the improvements we've just made. And control thje assets ourselves.

The mayor is nothing more than Goldsmith on a buffet diet.

2011-10-07 08:23:48

ruthholl [Member] said:

Thank you, Pauldivine3000. I did a tiny bit of research, found an article from IBJ in advance of writing, but I admit, I am not up to speed on that deal. I'll revisit.
I do remember Pat Traub being very critical of the whole thing -- and he's a loyal Dem. But he thought Peterson messed up.
Again, thanks. I agree: accepting any of their talking points is problematic...hence one could spend all one's time in research in advance of an election.

2011-10-07 09:19:11

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

The original water company deal was problematic. The city had to fess-up to hundreds of millions in delayed infrastructure improvements, (thus rate increases which could be blamed on elected officials) or pass it to a private entity. They did the latter. It was a 50-50 call.

The Indpls. Water Co. was run like a fiefdom for decades by Tom Moses and his cabal--the same ones who off-shot the Geist property and made gazillions on ratepayers' backs. They ignored expensive infrastructure repair. A waer-line worker told me last year, whilst repairing a broken main on my block, that some of these repairs have been delayed since the 50s. But the balance sheet looked good!

I'd point out that one politician tried in vain to stop that Geist-IWC mess--Birch Bayh--and he was stopped by the Moses-Pulliam gang, but that would be conspiracy theories run amuk, huh?

When, oh when--are we going to learn in this city, that basic govt. problems delayed, are problems amplified?

We were raised on the "no new taxes" mantra for 45 years. Well guess what, folks? Government may waste too much, but even if you cut out all waste, it grows with the city's growth. That requires money.

No less a conservative GOPer than Sarah Evans Barker told us years ago that ouor county jail was third-world and unconstitutionally overcrowded. What did we do?

We've cobbled together a system of private jail overflow space and left the elected sheriff with the rest. It's a piss-poor solution, but it was cheaper than the good solution: a new jail.

That's the way we approached Combined Sewer Overflow, the jail, government office space, and mass transit. Basically, anything that has a huge pricetag, we kick the can down the road.

But we sure as hell found the money for township schools to build andover-build expensive agthletic palaces.

Maybe we should've hired the school superiontendents to solve the jail and CSO problems.

2011-10-07 12:39:32

Howard Smulevitz [unverified] said:

TTT: You nailed it, right down the line. Institutional memory is a curse to have; makes it almost impossible to resist contributing comments, eh?

2011-10-07 15:07:04

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

I need a drink, but thanks, Howard.

We just stupidly re-learn these lessons. Over and over. Unscrew one mayor's face, screw in another, it's the same. Not a drop of political courage. I was willing to give Ballard a chance. He sold out within weeks to powerful lawyers who lead him around by the nose like a trained monkey. He had about four good weeks. The rest is a sellout to power- and influence brokers.

I think Ms. Kennedy has the ability to be courageous.

For one thing, it's about damned time a woman ran things. Men have screwed it up for decades. A poorly-qualified woman wouldn't do; Ms. Kennedy is superbly qualified.

And in case you haven't noticed, it's the women on the CCC who've bene holding the budget together for years. When Dems ran things, Joanne Sanders, Jackie Nytes and Angela Mansfield repeatedly warned in televised Ch. 16 budget hearings, about the need for cutbacks and restraint. Now, Ms. Pfisterer runs the Admin Committee, through which most controvesial issues are run. She asks tough questions. She usually votes exactly the way Ballard tells her, but at least we cannot claim we didn't know.

And so it goes.

2011-10-07 15:59:15

Matt Stone [unverified] said:

How has Kennedy "gone negative"? I consider "negative" when you start attacking the opponent personally, such as when Massa's campaign tried painting Terry Curry as "pro child molester" or when 527 groups questioned John Kerry's service in Vietnam back in 2004.

Kennedy's ads have either focused on her, or focused on Ballard's stances on the issues. None of them have been about Ballard the man, but the ballard administration. And that's fair game.

The guys running the county GOP need to grow some thicker skin if they think this is negative campaigning.

2011-10-07 18:23:30

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

I assure you, their current county chair, Mr. Walker, is a well-schooled Lawrence political mercenary. I used that word because the correct words aren't polite.

But, to be honest, I haven't heard him whine one whimper about "negative ads" in the mayoral race.

2011-10-07 19:39:53

Roberta X [unverified] said:

...Lost in all the political debate here in comments, the wonderful report of *her* *experience* of the debate Ruth has given us.

Those of you with differing opinions -- were you there? 'Cos I am reading a lot of talk about the lackluster performance of the current Mayor and a little talk about hopes for the other-big-party challenger...which is kind of reminiscent of the previous election.

On the other hand, Greg's kept the streets plowed; Bart didn't. And that's nearly the only thing either man did that affected me.

(Also -- Ms. Kennedy is going to fix "illegal guns" by "closing loopholes?" Look again; local regulation of that sort is completely preempted by the State government. Wrong venue, ma'am. ...Private sales is not much of a loophole: it's still a bigtime felony to sell a firearm to a prohibited person, no matter who or where. Mr. Pro Dealer gets to use the Federal Instant Check system to find out; J. Random Private Guy, well, he'd better be *real* sure.)

2011-10-07 20:14:04

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Roberta: I couldn't attend: had another engagement. But I listened to the audio version.

As for illegal guns: I hope she offers a buy-back program. It's crude, simple and has worked everywhere it's been tried.

Added bonus: you don't have to bob/weave around the legislative 2nd Amendment nutjobs.

Cause buying guns is so damned easy it's pathetic.

2011-10-08 18:52:14

Matt Stone [unverified] said:

TTT, pretty certain the Sheriff's Department either does have a gun "buy back" program, or at least does run events/gun buying weekends on occasion.

2011-10-08 23:44:05

Roberta X [unverified] said:

"Gun buybacks"* really only work for two groups: People that have them, don't want them and do want to take them out of circulation (most gun stores will buy up your excess firearms a few bucks) and people getting rid of a "hot" gun, as in stolen or used in a crime. I'm all for helping out the first group, not so keen on the second.

The bad guys aren't interested in giving up (all) their guns and the armed good guys aren't, either.

Tell The Truth, so, you've bought a firearm recently? Filled out the form and waited while it was called in and they checked to see if you were a bad guy? --And remember, in Indiana it is still feloniously illegal if you carry it loaded other than in your own home, unless you have a permit, which requires fingerprints, money and a State Police background check.

It's not as easy as you'd think to come by a gun legally. Even at a gun show, dealers still have to run checks.
* "Buy BACK?" That always bothered me. The Sheriff or the State gov't didn't manufacture them, so why is it a buy BACK?

2011-10-09 00:03:28

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Roberta: I've been to a gun show. The process is silly-easy.
And there were assault weapons being sold. I guess in case the deer are armed, too.

And I wasn't aware the sheriff currently has a program. Good info.

2011-10-10 05:58:27

Roberta X [unverified] said:

"Assault weapons?" You mean AR-15s and the semi-auto version of the AK-47? C'mon, TTT; they are just rifles. The AR-15 round isn't even considered powerful enough for deer hunting in states where you can hunt them with a rifle (not Indiana -- shotguns only here). The AK-47's round is marginal.

The only (other) thing that makes them different from, say, a Ruger hunting rifle is they have dull-black parts and *look* like the fully-automatic rifles (what you or I would call a machine gun) soldiers carry. They're also inexpensive; the AR-15 is very modular, so a hunter can buy one and change the upper and barrel for a real hunting round, or a plinker like me can install a .22 kit and use it for target shooting. (Which I do). Most of the other parts do not get changed. (It is both difficult and a Federal crime to make them full-auto. AR-15s in particular are designed so it's nearly impossible to make them run like an M-16/M4).
The big attractions of these guns are A) price, B) about a zillion aftermarket parts, C) they look "tactical" and D) guys like you don't want people to have them. Even at the height of the "ban," you could buy them, albeit with a few of the "tactical"-looking features omitted. Most were just cosmetic.

"Silly-easy" to buy guns: Yeah, just like it's silly-easy to read what you want, worship how you want, vote how you want. It's called civil rights, sir. --Easy? Did you have to pass a background check to buy the newspaper? The .gov is already chipping away at the 4th Amendment, let's not hand them any!

9 guns for every 10 citizens -- of which only a tiny, tiny fraction are used in crime. Why not ban unpopular political writings or erotica while you're at it? And, I know, I know -- Demon Rum! Look how well the War On Drugs is working!

2011-10-10 20:22:47

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