For months the rumors were rampant through the political class of Indianapolis. It was said that former Indianapolis Mayor Steve Goldsmith was regularly providing advice and counsel to current Mayor Greg Ballard. But without confirmation, the rumor was one of many wild stories one hears about local politicians and politics.What is clear is that not only has Goldsmith played a key role in the Ballard administration but also many veterans of his administration, including Joe Loftus, Ann Lathrop and David Sherman, among others. There is also no doubt Goldsmith has gained financially from his role advising Ballard. The role Loftus, Lathrop and Goldsmith played in the parking meter privatization deal with ACS cannot be understated. They all have worked for ACS in some capacity.
While standing in a long check out line on national shop till you drop day (aka “Black” Friday), I picked up the December issue of Indianapolis Monthly Magazine to kill time until my money was separated from me. Usually, Indianapolis Monthly doesn’t interest me as the magazine routinely stereotypes our African-American community as a community of just athletes and socialites; never doctors, professionals, broadcasters or journalists.
But what caught my eye was a cover headline promoting a story about Steve Goldsmith’s new job as New York City’s Deputy Mayor of Operations.
I opened up the magazine and there it was! On page 79, in the final paragraphs of a story written by Daniel S. Comiskey, one of the magazine’s senior editors, I found the bombshell confirmation of the recurring rumor; this time from Steve Goldsmith’s own lips.
Here’s exactly what Comiskey wrote:
“And behind the scenes, Goldsmith still advises (Mayor) Ballard to this day. Ballard declined to comment, but Goldsmith says the two talk fairly often by phone.”
The article quotes longtime Goldsmith advisor Mike Wells saying that Ballard is “a disciple” of Goldsmith.
Talk fairly often?
I assume that doesn’t mean the two men only talk at Thanksgiving and Christmas, times when occasional acquaintances might converse. But, if “often” means more than just twice during a 365 day year, imagine the implications.
Is the former mayor providing the “advice” that our current mayor is following? Or is our current mayor “ignoring” Goldsmith’s wisdom and counsel.
Given all the monumental mistakes that Mayor Ballard has made during his controversial three-year reign, and especially this year, one has to wonder who’s really running Indianapolis.
Take the current controversy surrounding the Brandon Johnson case. During those “often” conservations between Indianapolis’ 46th and 48th mayors, was Goldsmith the one advising Ballard to stiff arm Black leadership? Has it been Goldsmith advising Ballard to ignore the major ministers of the city’s leading Black Christian denomination?
Did Goldsmith sell Ballard on using, as his go to group in Black leadership, the Ten Point Coalition; the Boston based group Goldsmith brought to town almost 20 years ago? That could explain Mayor Ballard’s stubborn insistence on making Ten Point his lead group on police/Black community issues, at the expense of other organizations.
During Goldsmith’s reign, Indy Parks was treated like a neglected orphan. So, was Mayor Ballard following Goldsmith’s advice when he decimated parks programs and employees, especially African-American top managers; including Ballard’s cashiering of respected veteran parks professional Joe Wynns?
Was it because of Goldsmith’s advice that swimming pools in Black neighborhoods were closed?
We know Goldsmith was big on privatization; so is it because of Goldsmith’s advice that Ballard pushed through the 50-year parking meter deal, the water company deal and that multi-million payoff to the Pacers?
Is the reason Frank Straub is in Indianapolis as public safety director because of Goldsmith’s telephoned whisperings in Mayor Ballard’s ear?
Is Ballard’s new found toughness against the rank and file of IMPD due to Goldsmith’s blandishments? I’m sure Goldsmith still smarts because of the fallout from the infamous 1996 downtown police brawl, when white cops went wild, torpedoing Goldsmith’s chance to be governor?
Is Goldsmith’s advice his way of getting back at a police department that ruined his ambitions?
Before Goldsmith became a New York City deputy mayor eight months ago, he had financial interests in companies and consultancies doing business with the city of Indianapolis. Interests that the Ballard administration has never publicly explained or disclosed.
That raises severe ethics questions from an administration that talks a good game about ethics, but little else.
Goldsmith is a New York City employee, a deputy mayor on the clock 24/7. So why is he providing “advice” to a mayor 643 miles away while on the Big Apple taxpayers’ dime?
Goldsmith works for Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire media magnate New York City mayor whose imperial and imperious “my way or the highway” style of governing is exasperating New Yorkers. Has Bloomberg’s style, through Goldsmith’s teaching, rubbed off on Mayor Ballard, who increasingly shows mini-Bloomberg tendencies of not listening to people, not consulting key city constituencies and adopting an imperious governing style, not necessarily suited for Indy?
Maybe Rev. Al Sharpton should talk to his fellow New Yorker Mayor Bloomberg and on behalf of our community and city, and ask Bloomberg to make his deputy mayor cut the strings to our mayor.
Earlier this year, a reporter asked me about Goldsmith's new job and his rumored role in advising Tadd Miller in that controversial deal to develop the vacant Bank One Center adjacent to the vacant Market Square Arena site. I told the reporter he should put in a public records request for the financial disclosure form Goldsmith had to file before his appointment to his new position in the Bloomberg administration, particularly since New York requires more disclosure than Indianapolis. I don't know whether the reporter ever followed up on my advice and obtained Goldsmith's filing or whether the form would shed any light on what Goldsmith has been up to in Indianapolis since Ballard's election in 2007, but I think the point raised by Brown's column this week would make for an interesting investigative journalism piece. It might even interest the folks from the Public Integrity Section of the Justice Department looking into public corruption matters here locally.
UPDATE: On that sweetheart Tadd Miller development project in which Goldsmith supposedly had a hand, I'm picking up new rumors that the project has been dramatically revised with more city investment in the deal. You may recall under the original deal, the City was kicking in $18.5 million to buy the parking garage adjacent to the old Bank One operations center from Smoot Construction (note the controversial Smoot deals with the old Goldsmith administration that screwed over the taxpayers, as well as Miller's ties to Kosene & Kosene, more cronies of Goldsmith) and provide a 10-year tax abatement worth at least $6.6 million with the understanding Miller would close on financing for the deal within 90 days and break ground on the project within 9 months; otherwise, the property would revert to the City. So much for holding Miller to the original timeline, eh? Miller's plan called for a mid-rise building for 650 apartments and retail space. Now I'm hearing the project may be transformed into a high-rise project involving apartments and condominiums that would include space for a new headquarters for IMPD, IFD and the Department of Public Safety. What's interesting about this new concept is how as a candidate for mayor in 2007 Ballard floated the idea of building a new high rise justice center on that very same property before dropping it like a hot potato after the Peterson campaign pounced all over him for suggesting the idea of constructing a costly new government building and since it didn't exactly fit with his meme of cutting out all the "fluff" in the city budget instead of raising taxes or borrowing more money.