Wednesday, December 19, 2007

how to embarrass yourself (COIT edition)

matt tully watches some tv:

This Hollywood writers strike is really starting to put a hurt on my TV viewing. It got so bad Monday night that I turned on Channel 16, the local government access station, and watched a bit of reality TV.

The station was airing the final City-County Council meeting of the year, which also was the final meeting to be run by a Democratic majority for at least four years.

translation: he would've rather watched chuck, but since that wasn't on, he figured he'd do his job and cover some politics.

Sitting at home watching a plodding council meeting is not the most exciting way to spend an evening. But the meeting this week was instructive, as it explained perfectly why Democrats lost their majority in November's election.

The explanation came from the silly political games Democrats continued to play even in the final lame-duck meeting of the year. With a new Republican mayor and council on deck, Democrats, acting apparently out of spite, pushed an unenforceable resolution that took aim at the income tax increase Democrats themselves approved this summer.

The ploy clearly wasn't about listening. It was intended to embarrass Mayor-elect Greg Ballard and members of the incoming Republican council majority. What bugs Democrats is that the same Republicans who bashed the income tax increase will now benefit from the additional tax revenue it brings in.

Fair point. And nobody would argue against the idea of trying to reduce taxes.

But the resolution was vindictive politics -- meaningless and silly. In their final day in power, council Democrats wanted to embarrass those on the other side of the aisle by forcing them to embrace the tax increase.

It didn't work.

foolish democrats! your spiteful partisan gotcha games didn't work! hmm... i wonder what else is in today's paper. oh, what's this?

Mayor-elect Greg Ballard said Tuesday that he would not push to rescind a 65-percent increase in the county income tax that took effect in October.

However, he said cuts in city government or the $90 million public safety spending plan the income tax funded could allow parts of the tax to be reconsidered down the road.

The tax provoked heavy criticism this year, but Ballard noted he never said he would repeal it.

so it looks like democrats didn't need to play those gotcha games to force republicans to embrace the tax increase. mayor-elect ballard managed to do that all by himself. considering this, tully's column would've seemed a bit less silly if it had been published yesterday—you know, the day after the council meeting—but i guess those are the rigors of writing a thrice-weekly column while simultaneously neglecting to update your blog. (i kid... tully gets enough grief from all the talkback nuts who think he & editor ryerson are socialists.)

ballard campaigned relentlessly against the increase in the county income tax (COIT for you n00bs). that, along with property tax repeal, were the pillars of his campaign. here is the money quote from his campaign website:

"After looking at the Mayor's proposed income tax hike it is clear his plan would dig Indianapolis into a deeper hole," said Ballard. "There is no way the average citizen can afford this $90 million income tax increase on top of huge property tax bills."

got that? there's no way the average person can even afford to pay this tax! yet ballard doesn't want to repeal the tax. oh, greg. needless to say, some of his former supporters are growing increasingly disillusioned.

now, he could have said this: "hey, i might like to repeal it, but legally i can't do so until at least 2009, so maybe then." that way he could've passed the buck without alienating any supporters. instead, he insists "i never said i'd repeal it!" it would be funny if it weren't so depressing.

here's the context tully was missing. to be sure, democrats were playing political games when they tried to force the incoming council to embrace the COIT. but it was a game they'd already lost, because republicans had already totally played them on this issue.

republicans had been screaming themselves hoarse for more than a year about crime. the now-deleted indyu blog had a party whenever another murder was announced. on top of that, cops had been complaining since time immemorial about unresolved pension funding, an issue countless previous administrations had left to fester. but there was no money.

republicans knew that fixing these problems would require a tax increase. mayor peterson and the council knew such a tax increase would be unpopular, especially considering rising property taxes. they could have decided to wait until after they were re-elected to raise the tax; that would've been the politically "safe" option. but they didn't. they had—to use the vernacular—"the balls" to do what was necessary, even if it was unpopular.

did republicans thank them for having such balls, for fixing the problems republicans had been crying about for so long? no, they actually criticized the democrats for having said balls! "how dare you raise my taxes?!" they exclaimed.

it was a brilliant political move. the republicans effectively tricked democrats into raising taxes and then criticized them as out-of-touch tax-and-spenders when they did. the dems never knew what hit 'em until they discovered they'd been voted out of office.

ballard and the republican council candidates were never truly against the COIT increase. they knew as well as anyone that we needed that money for public safety. they only pretended to be against it so they could bash democrats. and it worked. now that they're in office, they don't need to pretend anymore.


m said...

And I'm the little gal that organized all those protests at city hall regarding the COIT. It was not Ballard, nor the Republicans. It was me. I'm not republican, even though I lowered myself to go into the Tom John Mahal to make calls for Ballard.

I just wanted to see what kind of money we could find by cutting the know like the patronage jobs people like Monroe Gray have.

Instead, the council locked us out for complaining about the high taxation, gave a really confusing presentation with numbers to justify the COIT that didn't work, and basically walked all over the very people who employ them.

I don't know if you were there, but it would have made you sick. Aaron Haith treated the public with complete disdain. Finally he was somewhat leashed after a couple meetings.

The night we were locked out of the council auditorium was a frightening thing to experience at the hands of your government. I think that action by Peterson is THE defining moment when I knew Peterson was desperate and corrupted by power and would lose.

Ballard didn't have anything to do with the CCC last summer. However, he did show up to get to know us and watch the fireworks that ensued.

stAllio! said...

melyssa, i don't doubt that you were sincere in your opposition to the increase. but the people you so eagerly helped into office... not so much.

you were used. but i don't think you've realized it yet.

Wilson46201 said...

Lest anybody forget: the Mayor may always spend less than what the Council allows. Ballard may cut freely without needing permission from anybody. He is absolutely not required to spend every penny allocated.

mely said...

ST Allio, with all due respect I know I was used. I am a servant to my city and servants are used.

I created those platforms with the rallies so that people would come together and take charge of their government and that's what is happening. It's not a perfect process and there will always be a lot of crap to fight through, but we think our city is worth it.

While I am far from qualified to run our city I do like to try to put myself in Ballard's shoes. And while I don't want to pay that tax increase either, it cannot be repealed. And even if it could, I would not make a move until I understood exactly what the big picture of our financial state truly is.

Then I would hold a press conference, tell the citizens the ugly truth and propose how to start the clean up and try to get as much citizen participation and support as possible. Our city needs healed. She's in terrible shape.

I have no doubt Ballard will do everything in his power to save her. He's a very decent guy. If there is one thing you learn as a Domme in all that time in a dungeon, is people. I can see into the hearts of people and am rarely wrong.

Sure he's never run a city before, just like Arnold Schwartzenegger when he became Governor. And Arnold made some mistakes. And he owned his mistakes. Peterson never owned any of his mistakes and instead blamed everyone but himself.

Arnold Schwartenegger is passionate about giving back to the country that gave him everything. And I think Ballard is passionate about serving his country too.

I think Ballard is serious about giving back and making his city the home his children can come back to and think as home.

I also know Ballard is a patriot. Do you recall how he got choked up during the debates when discussing his wife's naturalization ceremony? You don't fake that kind of patriotism. It's heart and it was clear he was uncomfortable getting choked up on TV. It touched my heart.

St Allio...I have pretty decent instincts about men. And God knows I have had to handle enough naughty ones. Ballard is a class act. Sure he's got a big job on his plate and he will not be perfect. We said that going in.

It's too bad Peterson let the city get into the crisis that she is in. Don't expect the clean up to be smooth or easy.