He may have used a "Mr. Smith goes to Washington" meme to ride a wave of taxpayer discontent to win the mayor's office in 2007, but Greg Ballard has turned into the most corrupt and self-dealing mayor in modern Indianapolis history. Ballard is heading out of town on a 10-day junket to Australia, the third such junket he has taken this year and the eighth overseas junket he's taken during the less than five years that he's been in office. Ballard claims that taxpayers don't pay for the trips. Instead, he uses money washed though the city's economic development arm, Develop Indy, to pay for the trips, which have cost the nonprofit agency hundreds of thousand of dollars. His wife Winnie has accompanied Ballard on every single trip. Ballard always picks pay-to-play city contractors and developers to accompany him on the junkets, which have never created a single job for the city of Indianapolis despite empty claims to the contrary. The Star has the latest on his junket down under:
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard will depart Friday on a 10-day trade trip to Australia that will focus on the life-sciences, manufacturing and information technology industries.
It's the second overseas trip for Ballard in a month. He led a group that traveled to China and Taiwan in August. He traveled to United Kingdom and Germany in June.
This trip will have a smaller group -- with a half dozen travelers joining Ballard and his wife, Winnie -- and it will include stops in Sydney and Melbourne.
The trip, which ends Oct. 1, is sponsored by Develop Indy and the Indiana Economic Development Corp. It's privately funded -- but as generally is the case with such trips, Develop Indy declined a request from The Indianapolis Star to specify which organizations or companies were underwriting the costs.
The other members of the delegation are Carey Lykins, president and CEO of Citizens Energy Group; Gearoid Cronin, vice president of Asia operations for Commissioning Agents Inc.; Melissa Proffitt Reese, a partner at the Ice Miller law firm; Chris Cotterill, a partner at the Faegre Baker Daniels law firm and Ballard's former chief of staff; Melissa Todd, chief operating officer for the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce; and Nancy Langdon, Develop Indy's executive project director for global investment and trade.
A news release from Develop Indy says the trip's itinerary includes meetings with companies that do business in Indianapolis and some considering investments in the United States.
The organization says previous trade trips to Australia have resulted in business for Indianapolis-based companies. As an example, it cited Commissioning Agents, an engineering and technical services company that it says won a contract with an Australian pharmaceutical company for work in Kankakee, Ill., and also received exposure that has helped it expand operations worldwide.
"Indianapolis is an international city, with more than 250 international companies located here that employ more than 43,000 people," Mayor Greg Ballard said in the Develop Indy release. "We see this (trip) as an opportunity to leverage Indianapolis' stable, affordable, pro-growth economic environment to enhance global trade and investment, while broadening business opportunities for Indianapolis-based companies."Since taking office, Ballard has accepted free country club memberships, gifts, meals and trips worth well over a half million dollars, all tax-free, equaling or exceeding what he is paid by taxpayers to serve as the city's mayor after promising on the night of his election victory to end country club politics in Indianapolis. He is totally consumed by the trappings of the office and has become completely disconnected from the day-to-day operations of the city. Ballard has from his first day in office essentially turned over control of the city to Barnes & Thornburg's Bob Grand and Joe Loftus, who have operated the city as a profit center for their law firm, and who have decided which pay-to-play contractors and developers will reap the benefits of the taxpayers' largess.