During 2013, Ballard spent 62 days on out-of-town travel, not including personal trips. He attended a bike summit in Washington, spent almost a week in India on a trade mission, a few days at a robotics tournament in California, and four days at the NCAA Final Four championships in Atlanta. He jetted off to France, Germany and New York for symposiums, meetings and summits. He went to Chicago and Barcelona, Spain to receive awards from the parking and electric-vehicle industries — industries that have fared well under his administration.
Some of the meetings were of clear importance, such as one on crime at the White House. But the value of other trips was less obvious. Does an American mayor really need to spend five days in Florence, Italy to “discuss cultural and urban redevelopment?”
Travel for Ballard and, in several cases, his wife, was financed largely by Develop Indy, an economic-development arm in the city funded primarily by local corporations, and by other non-taxpayer sources.
The mayor’s spokesman defended the travel, which collectively in 2013 was the equivalent of spending all of January and February, and three days in March, out of town. The spokesman, Marc Lotter, said several of the trips were related to areas in which Ballard “has taken a leadership position,” such as water issues, biking and parking meter privatization. He said the mayor “is never out of communication with the city, so the work of the city continues.”
Still, 62 days out of town when his city was suffering through the worst murder rate it has seen in years? Are more international jaunts, four last year alone, worthwhile when those in the past have produced few significant results?
When asked about his frequent international travel recently, the mayor offered yet another irritable reply.
“This is a global economy,” he told Murray. “You’re going to live by it, or you’re going to die by it — take your pick.”
I talked to Ballard late Friday, just before filing this column. Most of the conversation was off the record at the request of his staff, but Ballard did defend his travel and what he called his focus on the city.
“I just think it’s important to get out there and have a presence,” he said of his travel. “We’re getting a lot of notice for a lot of things outside of the city.”
At home, he added: “The things are getting done. I don’t know anyone could suggest otherwise.”For Tully's edification, Ballard didn't turn into this monster after 7 years in office; he became that way within his first 30 days on the job. For someone with a very unimpressive resume' short on significant accomplishments, his ego outgrew his head pretty quickly. I'd like to see how much Ballard is declaring as income on his tax returns for all of these free vacations and other gifts given to him and his wife by city contractors and developers to which his administration has awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts and grants. I'll lay odds that he's not declaring a dime of the amount, which runs into the hundreds of thousands of dollars as income.