Another Reason to Retire Ballard

My husband and I ate dinner last night at the Left Bank, a nice bistro at water’s level on the Indianapolis canal, then walked a couple of blocks along the canal to a program at the Center for Inquiry.While I often walk or bike along the water in nice weather, it was the first time I’d been on the canal this spring, and I was shocked and dismayed by the deterioration of the concrete walks and the pedestrian bridges, and the peeling paint beneath those bridges. The concrete at the edge of the water is crumbling into the water at several places. The concrete in the steps down from street to canal level was so eaten away that the rebar showed.

This is absolutely inexcusable.

The canal not only represents a huge investment by prior administrations, it is an extremely important amenity in a city without mountains, oceans or other natural draws. It has triggered significant private investment, and it is very heavily used. Whenever I am there, I see large numbers of people walking, biking, paddle-boating and enjoying themselves. It is a beautiful urban space, a huge asset to Indianapolis and it absolutely must be maintained. Its current condition is criminal.

I’ve been watching the slapdash way in which the much-touted street and sidewalk “infrastructure improvements” are being made with some dismay. I’ve yet to see an inspector, and to my (admittedly non-expert) eyes, it looks as if the administration is doing superficial paving that will look good through the Superbowl (assuming that happens), but falls far short of what would be involved in genuine long-term repairs. I hope I’m wrong about that. But Ballard and his administration haven’t even made that minimal level of effort at the canal–and we are at risk of losing one of the rare jewels of this city.

Eric Hoffer once wrote that the measure of a civilization is its ability to maintain what it has built.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that an administration unable to manage its own parking meters is too inept to maintain its own infrastructure, but Indianapolis really cannot afford four more years of this.


  1. This is a cultural problem here and has been occurring long before Ballard took office. When it was built, the city and state needed to establish a benefit district for property along the canal that benefit from the public investment and should have shared in its upkeep. Instead it falls back on general property taxes. There’s nothing stopping that district from being created now…and perhaps if things get bad enough the property owners will agree to do that. But the demise of the canal infrastructure has been going on for years. The Ohio Street stairs were finally repaired….but there is much more to do. Look at Pan Am Plaza. Is this what the new Georgia Street will look like in 20 years? Look at the central piece of 38th Street. A model for what all our streets should look like….but no money to replace planters and trees that get smashed by cars. The model for all public enhancements in the future should be the Cultural Trail….with an endowment setup at its start to ensure it remains beautiful.

  2. “City Planner” seems to think that the canal was improved to benefit property owners in a limited district, it wasn’t and it doesn’t. The canal is an important asset to the entire region and should be maintained at a level that reflects the value the community places on it.
    When a man takes office and is proud of the fact that our taxes are low because we have decided not to maintain not only the canal but all public assets. Our historic bridges, parks, streets, curbs, monuments ,etc. are all testaments to the lack of commitment to making our city where people want to live and be proud of. I agree that this thinking did not start with Ballard but he has been campaigning on the great job he has done in maintaining the cities public spaces and infrastructure while not raising taxes. His definition of taxes alludes me when every possible fee has been raised exponentially and he has sold off assets in order to create a temporary fund to begin street and sewer work. We need leadership to establish long term solutions to this vexing city problem

  3. Mark my words, there will be a scandal sometime in the future about the sloppiness of these improvements and the failure to supervise contractors doing these jobs. Some of the work seems incredibly sloppy.

  4. Yes, either build it correctly or repair it correctly. I will admit this winter was really tough on our infrastructure and it is always easy to place the blame on those at the top, but a good city mayor backed by an even better city management team is needed. let’s get our priorities in order, it takes $$ to make these improvements so let’s get leaders that will make the tough decisions.

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