Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tully: Ballard Breaks Promise On Smoking Ban Ordinance

Star political columnist Matt Tully discovers yet another campaign promise Mayor Greg Ballard has broken. I didn't follow the mayoral candidates' views on a smoking ban ordinance during the last campaign, but Ballard made promises to support the ban according to those who followed the issue closely. Tully describes how Mayor Ballard met behind closed doors with Republican councilors prior to Monday night's council meeting to urge a "no" vote on the proposed ordinance. Tully says Ballard didn't like it because it didn't exclude private clubs or private residences. "Private residences?" Yeah, you read that write. Tully writes:

But it appears we're also dealing with a serious lack of political courage and a sad example of backpedaling on a promise.

In 2007, as a candidate for mayor, Ballard said this: "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 secondhand smoke."

He wrote those words in an e-mail to Bruce Hetrick, a local businessman and smoke-free workplace advocate. Back then, when asked about the issue, Ballard was straightforward.

These days, however, we're learning about the mayor's thoughts on big issues by investigating the secretive words he delivers at closed-door political meetings.

Leaders take a stand, even on controversial measures. The old Greg Ballard, the one who campaigned as the regular guy next door, would have understood that.
How times change.

Cochran said Ballard worries about the ramifications of the ordinance. He said the mayor wanted an exemption for private clubs and a guarantee that the ban would not include private residences.

Private residences?

Now the mayor is just being silly. What's next? A complaint that the ordinance would create death panels?
Tully takes Ballard to task for failing to become involved in the public debate and helping carve out the exemption for private clubs. I'm amused that the man who promised to end country club politics when he was elected mayor is so worried about whether private clubs will be allowed to operate smoking facilities while all other businesses would be forced to operate smoke-free facilities. I'm a very anti-smoker person, but I'm ambivalent about the need for a city-wide ordinance. Many of my favorite establishments have voluntarily gone smoke free. I think it would be grossly unfair, however, to pass an ordinance that exempted the Columbia Club and other private clubs frequented by wealthy citizens while forcing a ban on neighborhood restaurant/bars frequented by average joes.

As many of you have already surmised, I've long ago given up on Ballard. I've never known a politician who so fundamentally broke the trust of the people who put him into office as Ballard has done. I hardly recognize the guy who ran for mayor in 2007 as an outsider with no strings attached.


Indy Student said...

Aren't there some ethics laws, or part of some code of conduct, of the mayor sitting in on a caucus meeting?

Advance Indiana said...

Indiana's open door law permits members of a party caucus to meet behind closed doors.

Don Sherfick said...

I thought it interesting that one one of the TV newscasts, Mayor Ballard made a comment to the effect that in evaluation smoking ordinances, one needs to look at "outcomes, and not people". If by that he means economic outcomes to bar owners versus the human beings exposed to second-hand smoke as part of their job environment, that one is likely to come back to haunt him. He at least needs to be publicly asked to clarify that remark.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Actually, AI, what IS is asking about is the practice of Ballard adminstration folks sitting in all council cacucus meetings, not the right of the Republican or Democrat caucus meeting behind closed doors.

I have a big problem with this practice of Ballard adminstration officials sitting in on council GOP caucuses which is certainly not the norm.

Certainly the GOP council members should invite adminstration officials in from time to time to explain things. Then those adminstration officials should be booted out of the meetings so the council members can discuss things in private.

Ballard adminstation officials should not be regular fixtures in council caucus meetings where they are monitoring what council members are discussing. I have heard complaints about this practie.

You know what the Republican Senate Caucus or Republican House Caucus would tell Governor Daniels people if they insisted on sitting in and monitoring legislative caucus discussions? It would begin and end with an expletive.

Separation of powers means that the legislative body acts as a check on the executive. That is not happening with the Council.

patriot paul said...

I'd be less than honest if I said I wasn't disappointed in the Star's article. If true, the mayor missed an opportunity to make good on a primary promise of public safety.

Had Enough Indy? said...

The caucus can meet behind closed doors as long as there is not a quorum. If a quorum exists, then it is a public meeting and anyone can sit in.

I have been told that all of the Republican caucus meetings are open to the public, although I have not ever tried to attend. I must say it would have been informative to attend the night of the Council review of TM Miller Enterprises zoning/sweatheart deal matter.

Indy Student said...

AI and HAI,

As Paul said (and as I probably should have made it clear), my problem isn't any party having a caucus meeting behind closed doors. My problem is someone from the executive branch (especially the head of it, in this case, Mayor Ballard) being there to influence the actions of the council. If Mayor Ballard wants to meet with members of the council on his own time (Ds or Rs), that's his right. He could've even tried to make a public case for his position.
But to be there on the night of the meeting before a fairly important public issue doesn't exactly make him look like a great leader, or someone willing to carry out the duties of his office. If the council passes something (and it doesn't look like what he said had much, if any, influence), he should veto it. That's how our system of government works. Three separate bodies that mostly operate in a fairly independent fashion of each other. The mayor should not be a normal fixture of a city council party caucus.
Now, I can't be sure that Ballard bullied the caucus to table the bill (as Indianapolis Times put it), I wasn't there. But Mayor Ballard seems to only be giving his thoughts on legislation behind closed doors, leaving the rest of us to guess what his opinions are through rumors and assumptions. I want my representatives to take a stand. Even if I disagree with them, I respect politicians who state their case to the public. I'd much rather vote for someone who's the political opposite of me that's honest about it, rather than someone I agree with who hides it behind lock and key.

Paul K. Ogden said...


I'm all for open meetings, but an open legislative caucus meeting? There is a reason why state legislative caucus meetings are exempted from the open records law.

Maybe if the council Republicans could meet privately like most legislative caucuses they wuld exercise more independence from the executive.

Advance Indiana said...

I hear you, Indy Student, although I would point out that what the Mayor did in the lead-up to the vote on the CIB bailout was far worse than this and none of that got reported in the media. As a council leader, I would never permit anyone other than council members and staff to attend a caucus meeting for no other reason than the separation of powers. The council cedes too much control of their decision-making when they permit executive branch officials to lobby for an action with the caucus, knowing that others are not afforded the same opportunity. When I worked for the Illinois legislature, I complained to my boss about the practice of allowing executive branch liaisons (lobbyists) to work on the floor of the House while it was in session. They had free access to lawmakers at their desks while lobbyists watched in the hallways and wondered what they were telling them. Sometimes, lawmakers would ignore our staff and only listen to what the agency folks had to say. I believe the Speaker later ended the practice years after I left there because of complaints from lobbyists.

Indy Student said...

Fortunately with blogs such as yours and Ogdens we know it's not an unusual practice. This is just the first time I've been able to comment on it around the time it happens.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Gary Welsh (AI) said this:

"As a council leader, I would never permit anyone other than council members and staff to attend a caucus meeting for no other reason than the separation of powers. The council cedes too much control of their decision-making when they permit executive branch officials to lobby for an action with the caucus, knowing that others are not afforded the same opportunity."

Absolutely. Having a background working at the Indiana General Assembly, I was positively stunned when told that Mayor Ballard's people sit in on all council Republican caucus meetings. You would never see the Governor's people being allowed to sit in on state legislative caucus meeting. The General Assembly is fiercly protective of its power in relation to the Governor's Office.

The Council could well be advised to take a page from the state legislature and give a boot to those officials from the Mayor's Office who want to sit in on council caucus meetings. The fact that they are there interferes with the concept of separation of powers and takes away from the needed indepence of the council as a separate legislative body.

Michael J. McFadden said...

Advance may have a point about Ballard, but the ban question goes beyond that sort of politics.

Last week the IndyStar wrote a strong editorial in favor of a smoking ban. I issued a Challenge to them online and in a letter to the editor which has been ignored. The challenges were to:

1) Support surveying the workers they claim to represent to see if THEY truly want a ban to "protect" them. Antismokers NEVER support such surveys because they KNOW that outside of a few solitary voices they're able to dig up that the workers don't want anything to do with their bans.


2) For SmokeFreeIndy, with its 14 million dollars, and pro-ban Councilfolks, with their salaries, to stand behind their word that a ban won't hurt business and sign legal documentation to cover any ban biz losses that can reasonably be shown to result.

If they're telling the truth they should be happy to accept these challenges to get their ban. If they're lying they'll run like little girls from a flock of tarantulas.

So far they seem to be running. Just don't let them hide.

Michael J. McFadden,
Author of "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains"

Lisa said...

Michael, wherever there is a smoking ban, you are there...even in Scotland. Interesting.

I know you are intent on putting out YOUR information. Let me post some of my own. In January there was a poll taken on public opinion surrounding smoking. It appears that a ban is favored...even by SMOKERS.

Yes, it was funded by the American Cancer Society and the ITPC and not a double-blind, but please be mindful of the information you so willingly quote.

We who do not smoke have tolerated smoking in establishments. We have been on the outside looking in, either because of primary health reasons (asthma, lung disease) or the due to the overwhelming evidence that it is unhealthy, to which you so vehemently scoff. Now it is the smokers turn to step out and let us enjoy the same civil liberties that you enjoy. As an American with a disability, I should have a right to enter any establishment. This ban would make that possible.

Michael J. McFadden said...

Lisa, didn't see your posting when it was posted... which might have been years ago! So please accept my apologies for responding so tardily.

You note a ban was favored by smokers, but, quite notably given that you were responding to my posting, you were unable to find a poll, even one by an antismoking group (!), that showed the workers the bans were supposedly to protect in bars being in favor of the bans. That says a lot you realize!

You also note the information that I "so willingly quote" as being equivalent to info being funded by a multi-million dollar advocacy group. I take major exception to that and would ask you to cite some examples of such information that I've quoted.

You also speak of the "overwhelming evidence" of the unhealthiness of being around smoke, and yet the evidence was so *NOT* overwhelming that even the US EPA Report was forced to play around with lowering the standard statistical tools of acceptance from 95% to 90%. In the normal world of science, such a conclusion would have been dismissed, but in the world of antismoking public policy making it formed the basis for banning smoking in millions of US workplaces.

Again, apologies for the delayed response: I just happened to run across your response while going through some files from several years ago, but I felt a response in turn was needed.