It was a big deal in early 2008 when Mayor Greg Ballard announced the creation of a high-profile position to deal with the city's abandoned homes problem.
Two months into his new job, Ballard's move was bold. For decades, various attempts to deal with the city's empty and decaying homes had stalled and stumbled, and more and more neighborhoods were suffering from the blight, crime and depressed home values that follow vacant properties. Ballard said the job was crucial enough to make it a priority -- and to give the person in charge an office on the 25th floor of the City-County Building, where other top administration officials work.
He reached across the political aisle and asked police officer and former Democratic City-County Councilwoman Sherron Franklin to tackle the problem. While others would be involved, having a high-profile appointee as the point person was considered critical.
Franklin, Ballard said at the time, would "wake up every day thinking about abandoned homes." But now, 14 months later, Franklin has moved out of the position. Without fanfare, she recently transferred back to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.
How quiet was Franklin's departure? The mayor's office didn't publicly announce the move or the elimination of the job she left.
Paul Okeson, Ballard's chief of staff, said the administration remains as committed as ever to tackling the problem. But, he said, "leadership is about leading toward outcomes" and best directing resources, and the mayor's office decided to charge a different city department with the challenge.
Franklin's departure from Mayor's office is the best news I've heard other than news that the City received $29 million in federal grant money for its abandoned home program. I observed at the time of her appointment that she was a terrible choice to head up the Mayor's abandoned homes effort. Tully hits on her weaknesses in his column:
As a council member, she was known for being blunt and often at war with fellow politicians.
There's nothing wrong with that, of course. But the issue of abandoned homes is full of legal, political and budgetary landmines, and Franklin never seemed comfortable maneuvering through the politically treacherous and often slow-moving world of city government politics.
Yesterday, Mayor Ballard announced that his administration is partnering with several community organizations to implement a program funded by the federal grant money. The partners include: Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership; Concord Community Development Corporation; South East Neighborhood Development; Greater Eastside Housing Project Team; Englewood Community Development Corporation; Mapleton Fall Creek Development Corporation; and Michigan B&O Reinvestment Team. I looked for information about these organizations on the Internet and found little information on most of them. Jackie Nytes is the executive director of Mapleton Fall Creek, which is a well-established CDC. I've pointed out before that her presence on the City-County Council as a partisan elected official violates the Little Hatch Act because her organization is funded with federal dollars. The partners will assist the City with acquisition of abandoned homes, rehabilitation, demolition, new construction, rental development, financing and administration.