Sunday, July 20, 2008

you can take the man out of middle management, but you can't take the middle management out of the man

there's a profile of mayor ballard by brendan o'shaughnessy in today's star. the piece is somewhat balanced in that newspapery way, in the sense that it tends to alternate between praise and criticism. but it still includes a couple misconceptions i'd like to address.

the thrust of the piece is that ballard acts more like a middle-manager than an executive-style leader, and some of his supporters actually claim to like that. (we'll see if they're singing the same tune in a couple years.) so, instead of holding press conferences or doing stereotypical "mayor" stuff, the new mayor is more likely to give a four-hour presentation to a bunch of police sergeants about management (based on his book, natch). while the article does offer the suggestion that doing such motivational speeches might be a waste of the mayor's precious time, it neglects mention that the presentation sounds a bit crap. (on the contrary, the article states that ballard "was speaking with the command and confidence of an expert", something i've sure never seen—every time i see him on tv he comes off like a doofus. then again, this is a presentation he's given dozens of times before, so he's had years to practice the material.)

the article is notable for a few reasons: for one, it contains on-record quotes critical of the mayor from the county GOP chairman, tom john, which is surprising, though why john chose to attack over those particular issues is puzzling. also, it mentions ballard's idea to "build a chinatown" on the south side—surely the stupidest thing an indianapolis mayor has said in at least a decade—without a tully-esque "i think a chinatown would be kewl" defense. but on other key issues, the mayor's position is left unchallenged.

for starters, the article mentions that "one of his most controversial moves" was seizing control of IMPD because he "ran the risk of alienating the black community" by "taking power away from Anderson, who is black". that's all true, but it doesn't mention that IMPD remains as controversial as ever: ballard's been in control for six months now, but crime hasn't really gone down, the murder rate is on pace with last year (when he and his supporters screamed incessantly about it), and the IMPD is facing a crisis of public confidence after this year's arrests of eight law enforcement officials. those are some glaring omissions.

then there's this howler:

The mayor also has avoided a mainstay of modern politics -- using polls to help tell him what voters want. Instead, he relies on meetings in the community and claims his best skill is listening.

After all, he said, attending community meetings of fewer than 50 people is how he ran a campaign that led to the biggest political upset in recent city history.

this is simply ridiculous. the 2007 election was not about ballard. the vast majority of voters knew little to nothing about ballard, who he was, or what he stood for. they just knew he was not-bart; they voted for the Other Guy, whoever he was... and some of them have since realized their mistake. (ironically, the issues that people claimed to be most upset about in 2007 were issues that mayor peterson had little to no control over, but they led to his ouster anyway.)

the piece concludes with a retelling of ballard's appearance at the statehouse, where he disagreed with every other mayor in the state in asking the legislature to slash local budgets... oh, and take my pensions, please! you know, the time when he came "without charts and slides to help illustrate his point" and "stumbled in answering some of the lawmakers' questions"?

But mayors around the state now owe Ballard their thanks. In passing the tax package this year, lawmakers agreed to pick up those pension costs. The move also helped save taxpayers up to $500 million in interest costs.

this is straight republican spin. mayors around the state owe ballard exactly squat. the legislature didn't suddenly decide to take over pension debts just because ballard asked for it. even tully didn't try to pull that one (his exact words: "To be clear, lawmakers decided to take over pensions independent of Ballard.") so how did such crap make it into a supposed news article?

not just that, but the article doesn't acknowledge the dark side of ballard's pension bid. last year, indianapolis raised the county income tax in order to pay those pensions. at the time, ballard and his crew crowed endlessly about how horrible and out-of-touch this tax increase was. now ballard is in office and the city no longer has to pay for those pensions, so you would think ballard would want to repeal the tax increase he campaigned against mightily, but of course, that's never going to happen.

the article's sidebar is a good read, though: direct, to-the-point, and informative.

1 comment:

Wilson46201 said...

Once again StAllio! reveals he's one of the more perceptive and astute political commentators in Indianapolis. Good work!