The situation for this Englewood neighborhood has gone from bad to worse over the past two years despite all of Ballard's promises of action on crime and abandoned homes. A long-time business owner who provided a stable anchor at the corner of New York and Dearborn across the street from this abandoned home was found shot to death a couple of weeks before Christmas in 2008. Police found 73-year-old Johnnie Conner, the owner of Johnnie's Glass & Frames, shot multiple times in the middle of the day. Conner shared neighbors' concerns about crime in the area and reportedly tried to assist police in investigating criminal activity. Some neighbors fear his death may have occurred because he trusted the police. Police showed little interest in abating a nuisance crack house a few doors down on New York Street when neighbors complained. As one neighbor told me, an IMPD officer told him to move if he didn't like the neighborhood, he should move.
Unlike the Peterson administration, Ballard has a large pot of money courtesy of the federal government. The City received a $29 million grant to address the abandoned home problem. Although it has doled out grant money to a variety of community groups, neighborhoods have seen little action taking place. Ballard foolishly put controversial former City-County Councilor Sherron Franklin in charge of his abandoned home initiative. After 14 months of accomplishing next to nothing, the Ballard administration quietly removed Franklin from her job and sent her back to IMPD. I spoke to Ballard's former Chief of Staff Paul Okeson about this problem abandoned house more than a year ago. He assured me that it was a top priority and that the administration would be taking concrete steps to abate the nuisance. Okeson told me that he would personally see to it that this abandoned home got dealt with. Okeson left the administration last month to take a job with a construction company that does business with the City without doing anything about the abandoned home Ballard had used effectively as a hammer against Peterson during the 2007 election.
Tonight, Mayor Ballard will deliver his State of The City address and boast about his successful efforts at reducing crime in our city. Don't expect the folks living in Englewood or many of the other older neighborhoods that form a ring around the City's downtown to buy into these claims. They live with a growing crime problem every day. The abandoned home problem has skyrocketed since Ballard took office due to the home mortgage meltdown and the downturn in the economy. Sadly, Ballard's attention has been focused on providing more money to the CIB, the ICVA, the Super Bowl Committee, et al. to spend on downtown sports and entertainment businesses. Ballard's answer to revitalizing the Eastside is to build a costly sports facility so a Super Bowl team can practice in it a couple of times before it is turned over to a school that neither needs it nor can afford to maintain it. A Street of Broken Promises. That pretty much sums up the state of the city under Mayor Greg Ballard.
UPDATE: In case you don't believe me that police would actually tell people in this neighborhood that they should move if they don't like it, check out this observation by Beth Murphy in today's Star about what Eastside residents told Mayor Ballard at a recent Mayor's Night Out meeting:
I don't know what I expected when I dropped in at one of Mayor Greg Ballard's Nights Out meetings at an Eastside church last night (Emerson Baptist, corner of Emerson and New York streets).
I did expect to hear residents express their deep pride in the Eastside. I didn't expect this comment from one neighbor: Police have told neighbors complaining about or reporting crime that "if they don't like it, maybe they should move."
Now maybe that's not a completely unreasonable comment. But it's not one an Indianapolis police officer should be saying, especially, as the commenter pointed out, when we shouldn't be driving out responsible residents and when some of them can't afford or don't want to move out of homes and neighborhoods where they've established roots.
The mayor wasn't happy. He told the crowd to report such comments to the district commander. (The officer's name conveniently appears on his or her badge.)
The police chief wasn't happy. Chief Michael Spears said: "It's disturbing to think that a comment like that would be made." And he also suggested reporting the incident.
Mayor Ballard, a native Eastsider, recognized the stereotypes that exist about the Eastside, even when, he noted, much of the crime often is on the Far Eastside or the Northeastside yet is reported as occurring on the "Eastside" by the media.
I'm wondering if a memo went out to all police officers the next day to stop telling residents they should pack their bags.