It depends. We have to get in and open up the books, because the books are very closed right now. So if the state comes through with the public pension funds, which they’ve been talking about for three or four years, then we’ll certainly take a look at that. But there’s other stuff in there: consulting fees, PR fees, lobbying fees. There’s some fat in that budget. So we’re going to find out where it is once we open it up, and let everybody know where that money is being spent, and I think that will create some efficiencies also.
The important point to remember here is the comment, "But there’s other stuff in there: consulting fees, PR fees, lobbying fees." "There’s some fat in that budget." Remember, Greg, you have a lot of members of your transition team who thrive on those particular lines. Who's going to help you make those cuts?
On consolidation, Ballard tells Shoger this:
I think Sen. Merritt had a good plan and that we’ve come a long way. … The reason I want to consolidate the Fire Departments is not necessarily for money, even though there probably is money in the Fire Departments, I’m not so sure in the Police Departments. I really think we need to have consistency of training and standards, because a fire by nature — and this goes back to my Marine Corps background — but a fire by nature is an emergency, and they know what the person on the right and the person on the left is going to be doing. They should have the same level of equipment, the same level of training. Once the Fire Departments are consolidated, that takes away a lot of the necessity for township government, actually.
It looks like Ballard is still committed to the total elimination of township governments, which is a good sign. On controlling IPS' budget, Ballard says:
That’s a tough one, frankly. I think in the future we’ll have that ability, because if we get the referendum through for capital projects, I think that will be a big deal. IPS is a tough nut to crack. What I’m most concerned about is the education of children. But a good thing is that, certainly in this [IPS construction] Phase III, there’s no fat in there: There’s stuff for construction, labs and air conditioning that I think is necessary … I like the fact that they’re changing the model, because obviously that’s a 150-year-old model that doesn’t really work anymore.
Eugene White is being good about changing the model as best as he can. The expense of this is overwhelming though — it’s a billion dollars for all three of these phases. When people see the graduation rates, right now, they don’t see that it’s worth it … A lot of people in the military say O.B.E.: Overcome By Events. I can’t do much about it right now as the mayor-elect; it’s already kind of a done deal. We’ll have to live with it and try to lessen spending in another way.
Ballard's point about getting a referendum approval process enacted for school capital projects is critical. When I lived in Illinois, it was impossible to undertake a capital project without a referendum because that's what the law required. I was astonished to learn after I moved here that no similar requirement exists in Indiana. Unfortunately, the Kenley Commission's report approved yesterday has no such requirement either.
Ballard discusses with Shoger his take on the previous Republican leadership in the mayor's office from William Hudnut and Steve Goldsmith. He says:
There are two models I like: One is Hudnut, who really stayed close to the neighborhoods; he was very good about that, and he kept going to the neighborhood association meetings. Goldsmith, actually, was an efficiency expert, and still is. Some things are better being privatized and some things are not. You have to make the call there: Are we as private as we should be? If not, probably pretty close, actually. So the answer is we’ll probably have to look at that. Like I said, I’m only doing this for the taxpayers of Indianapolis, that’s it …
Privatization is still an option for Ballard, but he clearly isn't as obsessed with it as Goldsmith was. His approach of reaching out to neighborhoods more in the fashion of Hudnut should be well-received. Ballard's approach to doing business will include a 3% set-aside for veteran-owned businesses. On this plan, Ballard tells Shoger:
You’re the first one who’s actually read that! Thank you! Thank the Lord! When people ask me to be specific, I say, “It’s been on the Web page for months!” The federal government has it; the main contractors to the federal government have it; the universities here in the state have it; most of the big contractors — Eli Lilly, Raytheon — have it; and I don’t think it’s a particularly tough goal to reach. It’s kind of a thank you to veterans to have a 3 percent goal, so that they have their fair shot at the city contracting dollars. As long as we get it by the City-County Council, I’m sure that’s all it would take, and then we would track it like we would minority-owned and women-owned businesses.
On religion, I think those of you who like me don't like politicians who can't seem to avoid mixing their personal religion with their public duties, will like Ballard's answer. Here's what he said:
I grew up Catholic. I went to St. Monica’s yesterday, but I usually go to St. John’s downtown. I don’t necessarily belong to a parish; I live in the St. Monica area, but I like the cathedral look of St. John’s downtown. But, honestly, that doesn’t play into what I’m doing here at all.
If you're a big fan of mass transit, you probably won't like Ballard's answer on this topic:
Mass transit costs somewhere between $10 to $20 million a mile to build, and we’re just not ready for that right now. I’d love to do it, but I’m more concerned about getting people to work than I am with anything else. I’d love to do it, but even Mayor Peterson would concede that’s too much right now given the tax crisis.
For those of you who think green, Ballard says he has no intention of "slash[ing] and burn[ing] those sorts of things." Clearly, charter schools will not have as high of a priority with Ballard as they have had with Peterson, but he doesn't plan to do away with them either. "I like charter schools, not only because I think they do a good job by themselves, but I think they provide good competition for IPS." "I think IPS is stepping up to that competition level, actually, by improving themselves. So I don’t anticipate charter schools going away."