The generally-held impression of Mayor Greg Ballard has been that he’s a nice guy who’s just in over his head–way over in many respects. Lately, however, he’s been doing things to change that impression–he’s evidently learning fast how not to be a nice guy. Some of this newly-found petulance and partisanship has emerged since Ryan Vaughn–he of the parking meter fiasco–became Chief of Staff, but the buck–as Harry Truman used to say–stops at the Mayor’s own desk.
When the Democrats won control of the Council, new Council President Maggie Lewis was quick to reach out and invite co-operation. When Councilor Brian Mahern held up the Mayor’s TIF proposal, Democrats Vop Osili and Joe Simpson worked to end the impasse. Given the parties’ inevitable differences in priorities, these early signs of conciliation pointed to emergence of an occasionally tense but generally workable accommodation.
Then came the budget. As the Indianapolis Star reported
Facing a deadline to approve or veto the nearly $1.1 billion city/county budget for 2013, Ballard signed it. But his changes, without further negotiations and a quick agreement with the council, would withhold nearly $32 million in income-tax money from Marion County offices and agencies.
That money helps pay to run the courts, keep the jails open, run elections, prosecute or defend criminals, process crime scenes, investigate deaths and provide other public services such as surveying land and collecting property taxes.
The common denominator of the cuts: they affected only the agencies held by Democrats. The Mayor’s own operation, the city offices that he controls, weren’t cut.
The Mayor justified his use of the line-item veto to cripple Democratic offices with language about fiscal responsibility. But genuine fiscal responsibility would involve shared sacrifices across public agencies. (Sort of reminds me of a husband who tells his wife “we can’t afford that new coat you need because my cable TV bill has to be paid.”) He also voiced disagreement with a proposed assessment of the CIB. If he had a genuine problem with that assessment, however, he could have negotiated an equitable resolution with the Council.
Instead, Ballard presented the Council with a fait accompli. He waited until the last minute to deliver a budget that will cripple a number of critical services–for no reason other than those services are being delivered by the opposing party. In Ballard’s cynical budget, public safety takes a back seat to partisanship. It’s his way or the highway.
Shades of Richard Mourdock.