Monday, February 11, 2008

Dems Rap Ballard And GOP On Ethics

Turnabout is fair play, right? After taking a beating day after day during last year's municipal election from candidate Greg Ballard and GOP council candidates and party leaders on the ethical lapses of CCC President Monroe Gray and other Democrats, you can hardly blame Democrats for pointing out obvious hypocrisy on display by Mayor Ballard and other Republicans during the early days of their takeover of Indianapolis city government. In a press release today, Terry Burns, Executive Director of the Marion County Democrats took the GOP to task on the issue of ethics. "Marion County Republican Party Chairman Tom John has joined a growing list of GOP officials who are cashing in on their connections to newly elected Mayor Greg Ballard," Burns began his statement. "This comes on the heels of Republican City County Councillor Ryan Vaughn announcing that he was leaving his current law firm to join the politically connected firm of Barnes & Thornburg LLP," he continued. "Not surprisingly, both law firms do extensive and lucrative business with the City of Indianapolis and the additions of John and Vaughn are expected to solidify the political connections each firm has with city government."

As Burns was releasing his statement today, Bob Grand assumed control of the Capital Improvement Board of Managers at his first meeting, notwithstanding the firestorm his appointment has created for Mayor Ballard, a fact which Burns didn't miss. "The mayor recently appointed Bob Grand, one of the city’s most influential Republican dealmakers, to head the Capital Improvement Board (CIB), which manages, among other things, Lucas Oil Stadium and Conseco Fieldhouse," Burns aid. "Not coincidently, Grand’s law firm represents the Indiana Pacers, the major tenant at Conseco Fieldhouse." Burns noted the appointment clashed with one of Ballard's own promised ethics reforms. "Mayor Ballard touted his ethics proposal early and often in his campaign, not by contrasting any accusations of wrong-doing by the prior administration but simply to state that his administration would be free of the kind of outside influence that now seems to be infiltrating it,” Burns said. “As we have seen time and time again, most of what Ballard the candidate told us prior to the November election does not hold up in the actions of Ballard the mayor. "He has violated his own ethics policies in making board appointments, he has backtracked on his promise to fight for the elimination of property taxes and he has increased the size of the mayor’s staff, not cut positions as promised." "What we’ve learned so far from the Ballard administration is that promises ring hollow when compared to the actions taken so far in office,” Burns said.

As Burns was rapping Ballard and the GOP on one side of town, Mayor Ballard took more hits from Democratic members of the House Ways & Means Committee over at the State House where he appeared to testify in support of Gov. Mitch Daniels' plan to cap homeowner's taxes at 1% of a home's assessed value. When I first read the Star's Mary Beth Schneider's account of his testimony, I thought she was being a little hard on him, but after I saw the TV news reports this evening, her reporting appeared dead on. Understandably, Mayor Ballard is swimming upstream as the mayor of the state's largest municipality testifying before a legislative committee to ask the lawmakers to curb the ability of local government to tax. He incited Democratic lawmakers of the committee, however, by asking the state to pick up the cost of the city's pensions at the same time he asked them to cut taxes. "Ballard, who was elected in November in a giant political upset over Democrat incumbent Bart Peterson, told lawmakers that he would like to see the state pick up the cost of police and fire pensions, which will cost Marion County $25 million to $27 million this year," Schneider wrote. When pressed on whether he planned to cut his own budget, the Democrats didn't like the answers Mayor Ballard gave them. Schneider explains:

He told lawmakers that there's "fluff" in the Marion County budget, but he had few answers for them about where he would cut back.

"Everything is on the table," he said, but repeatedly fended off questions by saying he had only been in office five weeks.State Rep. Win Moses, D-Fort Wayne and a former mayor, said that answer wasn't good enough, and pressed for more details.Asked if police would be laid off, Ballard said no.

Asked if firefighters would be cut, Ballard said "I can't say. I just don't know. You're asking me questions that I don't know."Moses fired back: "I'm asking questions that you must know."

And, he added, "I know you don't mean everything you're saying."

Ballard couldn't say everything was on the table, he said, and then say that police wouldn't be cut and that the possibility of raising local income taxes to pay for the property tax relief was not a viable option in Marion County.

Peterson raised income taxes to 1.65 percent, up from 1 percent, to pay for public safety, including for pensions.That income tax increase, though, helped seal Peterson's defeat from an angry electorate that saw their property taxes go up and their income taxes go up.

While he told legislators that he would like to see them pass more cost-saving tools -- such as the ability to consolidate areas of government, including all township fire departments -- one tool he was unlikely to use is an increase in income taxes.

"That would not play well in Marion County after last year," he said. "I would do almost anything not to do that.

"But legislators were skeptical about the state picking up the cost of pensions, especially since the county's income tax increase was supposed to cover that, Rep. Carolene Mays, D-Indianapolis, told Ballard he should be looking at using the money the income tax raised for pensions "before you come in here and ask up to pay for an expense you have."

Based on Schneider's report and what I saw on this evening's TV news, Ballard was ill-prepared for his testimony today. It's ironic that the man Ballard has made as his closest advisor, Bob Grand, was helping himself to the head of the table of the city's most powerful Board today as Mayor Ballard was walking into a lion's den over at the State House to be eaten alive. Folks familiar with Grand's lobbying prowess over at the State House knows that neither he nor his fellow lobbying partner Joe Loftus would ever catch themselves being embarrassed in front of such a powerful legislative committee as Mayor Ballard was today. Ballard's performance today became fodder for his chief critic, the Accidental Mayor blog authored by Jen Wagner. Under a post labeled, "Maybe The Dog Ate His Homework," Wagner writes, "In short, Ballard went to the Statehouse to ask for a handout." "He couldn't answer any questions about proceeds from last year's income tax increase." "He couldn't tell lawmakers his plans for reducing costs." "Hell, if someone had asked him how much money is in the local budget, he probably would have responded with a blank stare."

This really is an unfortunate development today. Those of us who support real property tax reform were counting on Mayor Ballard to help lead the battle at the State House. I suspect that one of the reasons he wasn't prepared is because none of the people with whom he has chosen to surround himself could give a damn about implementing real property tax reform. My fear, however, is that Mayor Ballard simply has not taken his role seriously. Yes, he's only been in office a little more than a month, but I would have at least expected him to have been able to articulate in broad terms what he was doing to rein in city spending, particularly when he is asking lawmakers to approve a new state law which could result in fewer revenues for city government. I hope this isn't a further indication of what lies ahead of us.


Wilson46201 said...

Sadly, Greg Ballard was elected over three months ago and he still hasn't a clue where the "fluff" is yet? That's depressing...

Anonymous said...

"I hope this isn't a further indication of what lies ahead of us."

I hope not either, but who knows, maybe it was a 'rookie' mistake politically elected office holder wise. I'll cut him some slack on that...but frankly, as a former Marine, I was disappointed by our Mayor's performance. Oh well, time will tell.

Anonymous said...

Funny when Ballard does something he campaigned against the Accidental Mayor is all over him, but when Frank Anderson does something similar Jen Wagner pulls the "well Jack Cottey did the same thing" excuse out of her bag of tricks. She can't have it both ways.

The ironic twist is Ballard may be an accidental mayor and fall flat on his face, but what does that say about the fact that he defeated the well financed, "future of the state democratic party."

A logic professor would deduce that the title of her blog is actually a slam on both men.

Anonymous said...

Steve Simpson on WIPC said it well last night. Ballard had plenty of time BEFORE the lection to know where to make these cuts. And an additional 5 weeks in office. Very poor. and his appointment of Grand is just shameful. The public would not believe how integrated Barnes and Thornburg is into Capital Improvement Board. Keep in mind this includes control over the Convention Center , too...and dozens of city owned properties in the downtown. People in Golsmith's office durin his term called CIB the "mayors slush fund". The real bummer is that I voted for Ballard because of Peterson's terrible decisions on crime and his irresponsible promotion of building a new stadium.

Anonymous said...

Greg Ballard does not really care about our high taxes, nor does he care about our high crime rate. He cares about Greg Ballard and how much money and influence that he will have. He cares about his "Winnie" and her having a brand new dress now that he is mayor. He cares about his arrogant children getting the free Colts tickets that formerly went to Monroe Gray! He cares about making more illegal money for the corrupt law firms that actually run our city governemnt! Greg Ballard is an embarrassment to our city, but more than that, this man is so very unqualified and uneducated as to be an utter laughing stock! Taxes and crime will continue to increase under the "accidental mayor", hopefully there will be some money left after the looting by the lawyers to help Indianapolis recover after the disasterous term of our INCOMPETENT MAYOR!

Anonymous said...

After seeing Greg Ballard on the News demonstrating his ignorance and lack of preparation! It is very depressing to know that the only person in government less qualified and less intelligent than Greg Ballard is his personally selected Deputy Mayor Olgen Williams! Dumb and Dumber!

Anonymous said...

Not to worry. The first rule would be for him to decide himself what he is going to do and then when he is sure, to proceed. Threats tend to build resistance. Tipping your hand does the same thing. If they were small problems they could have been solved by his predecessor.

Anonymous said...

So back to basics here. As Mayor Ballard likes to say, "I've only been here 5 weeks" (or six months, rather).

Where did this budget disaster come from? When did it begin? Do we lay it at the doorstep of the new Stadiums, or is there more to it? Why did property taxes increase in the first place?

I haven't heard much talk about the root of the problem.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes, the little details tell you so much.

"I've only been there five weeks says a lot."

1. It sounds like a whiny excuse.
2. It's not true- he had been there exactly six weeks.
3. #1 and #2 combined just make it sound worse-- Because either he didn't know it had been 6 weeks - which might be an excusable mistake, except when you're trying to use it as an excuse it makes it seems like he is exagerrating his disadvantage of few weeks in office to make it seem worse than it is.

It just overall seems unprofessional and unprepared and gives us no confidence in him. We always talk about wanting our elected leaders to "take charge on day one" or put their agendas into place in "the first 100 days"

When he is coming at us with the tag from the beginning who wasn't expected to win and maybe didn't even himself seem to expect to win, this really gives a lot of validity to the perception that he just wasn't ready to lead us.

He should have rallied people who KNOW how the legislature works to be prepared to go in and kick ass & take names, but instead it looks like not only was he unprepared, he didn't even know enought to know he SHOULD be prepared.


Anonymous said...

Mayor Ballard: You asked for the job. You said what it took to get elected. Now, please do the job for which the people put you into office. You have our support. We are not interested in crony business as usual and your personal comment to the "County Club Republicans" after your election is well remembered. Please do right by the citizens of your city. I think you may be getting played by the good old boys now. Take the independent stands you ran upon and people will suport and help you.

Anonymous said...

Ballard, don't you have the good sense to know that the old GOP clowns have been using you? They forced you to kick out the few good and honest people that helped you get elected and then started their own private GOP Gravy Train!
Get a clue Dude! You have been duped!

Anonymous said...

Those who the transition team leader, Joe Loftus, rejected would have made sure Ballard were prepared and would have NEVER allowed him to enter our Statehouse so unprepared and alone! Joe Loftus would be fired! Which is why they were rejected.

Ballard needs these people right now!!!

He needs these people to advise him on the various deals and activities city paid lobbyists are working on around the statehouse and the corresponding brokering with chummie democrat friends and clients. I'm sure Ballard doesn't think Loftus gave up his other lobbying contracts for the one he got with the city? He lobbys for many democrat organizations that are affiliated with Representative Bill Crawford.

Loftus wanted Ballard to look like an idiot so he'll never show back up over at the statehouse again, and he won't have to either. The lobbyist will take care of everything, for a fee..."just sit back Ballard and sip our kool-aid". Additionally, there will be no "obvious" conflict of interests, Loftus can represent the city and the other guys and not have to worry about standing next to Ballard.

Hey Ballard, why do you think the lobbying bills Peterson paid out was so high? You need lawyers around you, who are independent of the big firm lobbyis, who will make sure these people work for you...not you for them.

Ballard needs people who KNOW the activities, has courage, and will manage things so that city paid lobbyists are working in the best interests of the city and the Mayor. When Ballard walked away from his trusted campaign advisors/volunteers he divested himself of people who really care and all their relevant history and knowledge necessary for his survival.

He is now prey.

Ballards needs to learn the 'streets' of the legal world from the people who helped get him into office, or he'll be devowed.