Mayor Ballard’s Very Strange, Utterly Misplaced Priorities

Anyone who lives in Indianapolis and reads or listens to the news knows that Mayor Ballard recently vetoed a bipartisan measure passed by the City-County Council that would have increased the size of the police recruit class. He says we can’t afford it.

The news also confirms that Ballard is hell-bent on spending $6 million dollars to build a Cricket field.

A friend recently sent me the following clip from a news story, in which Ballard defended his priorities.

During an interview last week, Ballard grew impassioned when asked about the decision-making behind the nearly 50-acre sports complex and the shaky history of the United States of America Cricket Association. (It has new leadership after struggling to put on cricket tournaments in recent years.) He called local reaction to the plans “very upsetting.” “We have basketball courts, swimming pools, tennis courts, baseball fields — we have all these other sports — and these guys have nowhere to play rugby, hurling, lacrosse, Australian-rules football, cricket,” Ballard said. “Why are they not allowed to have their fields, too? … I think, as a mayor, that’s a good thing to be doing.”

Let’s deconstruct this. (I will try to do so without hurling.)

Because our parks have swimming pools and basketball courts, we have an obligation to offer cricket and lacrosse fields? Why not dodgeball (which actually has more fans than cricket, at least judging from Facebook likes)? How about people who compete in hammer-throw tournaments? Curling? Surely Ballard is not suggesting that this is some sort of equal protection issue–that taxpayers have an obligation to meet the sports needs of aficionados of even the least popular sports?

And I’m still debating the propriety of government providing golf courses…

If there is one thing on which virtually all Americans agree, it is that providing public safety is a government obligation. (That may be the only thing Americans all agree on.) Police may not be as exciting as cricket (actually, they are; I’ve seen cricket), but providing adequate police protection is–along with ensuring that we can flush–an absolutely basic government function.

So, as Ed Koch might have asked, how are we doing?

According to the Mayor’s own task force, the Indianapolis police force is short 685 uniformed officers. The national average is 2.5 officers per 1000 residents; the current IMPD ratio is 1.7 officers per 1000.

The murder rate in New York City is 3.4 per 100,000. The murder rate in Indianapolis is 17.5 per 100,000.

The City is shifting IMPD assignments in a desperate effort to put more cops on the street without actually adding personnel, but given our current staffing levels, that’s equivalent to rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic. The Mayor’s own task force reported that there is no alternative to hiring more officers–redeploying may help at the margins, but there is no alternative to hiring more police.

Now, I’m not unsympathetic to the fiscal problems created by Mitch Daniels’ tax caps. (Caps that Ballard supported, unbelievable as that is.) Constitutionalizing those caps was brilliant politics, and terrible government. The caps starve units of local government of badly needed resources, requiring not only creative fiscal management (we are running out of public assets to sell off), but also those “hard decisions” that politicians talk about endlessly but rarely if ever actually make.

The Council’s proposal would have paid for the recruiting class only for the first year; the City would have to come up with the money to pay for the additional officers going forward. That would require hard trade-offs–at a minimum, fewer subsidies to local sports franchises, fewer cushy deals for developer friends of the Mayor. It might also require the Mayor to actually appear at the legislature–something he’s been loathe to do, especially if such appearances would interfere with one of his frequent “economic development” junkets–and petition our state-level rulers to get rid of the 40 plus “funds” that currently prevent Indianapolis from setting its own priorities.

The problem is, unless the citizens of Indianapolis feel safe, we can’t accomplish any of our other goals. We can’t revitalize neighborhoods. Economic development efforts will go nowhere. The bike lanes, the Monon Trail and the justifiably lauded Cultural Trail will empty. Downtown businesses will suffer. There will be a downward spiral that will make all other efforts immeasurably more difficult.

We have a real public safety crisis in Indianapolis right now–a public safety crisis that could undo the years of progress we have enjoyed.

And instead of focusing on that crisis and working with the legislature to address it, we have an utterly clueless Mayor who is spending what little political capital he has on a cricket field.


  1. I am sharing this Sheila in hopes many other readers will share it as well.

    We were in line at a carry out restaurant one night behind a uniformed policeman. I struck up a conversation with him asking if he was busy tonight, he looked exhausted. I mentioned we have seen an increase in crime and a unsolved murder in our area. He said it is going to get WORSE because there are not enough officers and our Mayor is not interested in hiring more.

    I think the safety of our citizens should be a priority.

  2. I agree 100%, except for the part where you went off track seemingly blaming the property tax caps. Can’t argue with that the Mayor has misplaced priorities. But we would have plenty of property taxes to afford basic government services. The problem is we have nearly 20% of the property in Marion County in TIF districts, and we had out tax abatements and corporate welfare like they’re candy. The Pacers alone we have given $43.5 million to in four years.

  3. I saw a picture of a polo game on the front page of the Star with some reference to bringing polo to Indianapolis – I think that is what it said but I didn’t have the stomach to read details. Ballard will be bringing tiddlywinks, jacks, yo-yo venues for the younger crowd if he can. He is too overweight to participate in sports so is seeking more and varied sports to sit and watch while others sweat out games.

    About those tax caps; I didn’t get upset about them because I knew what was coming – and it did. The reassessments raised values on our properties; even with the tax caps, the property taxes we paid are higher due to the increased assessment. What is the actual difference in property taxes received by the city since the tax caps and after reassessment? I will never get the assessed value of my property if I tried to sell; homes in this area have sold for approximately half the actual value due to the economy.

    We will need more police protection at these new sports venues, hasn’t that thought occurred to Ballard? A neighbor stopped me yesterday to ask if I knew anyone in city government to contact about a problem in the area I was unaware of. I pull up Star 911 calls every morning but have only seen one burglary reported here for many months. There are regular police checks on the FIVE registered child molesters in this small isolated neighborhod and the one violent sexual preditor. The neighbor is a carpenter; his van was broken into 3 weeks ago and he lost $2,000 in tools and equipment, he said others around here have told him they have had things missing. He didn’t bother calling police because they do nothing – a typical story and true. He said others around here have had outdoor items missing but they don’t call police. He has watched a house with 3-4 young men new to the neighborhood and seen drug deals going down. He has also seen them slowly walking the neighborhood with a dog while looking around at homes and yards – between 1:00 and 4:00 a.m. I have repeatedly told neighors who complain that they must call police to report these crimes and ask for a case number. Even if police do not investigate, there would be a growing record of problems in the area. But, who listens? That old saying that it takes blood to bring police is certainly being tested in Indianapolis this summer. I’m quite sure the neighborhoods where these murders, mostly young people, are happening are rife with lesser crimes which no one has bothered to report to police because they do nothing – how can they with so few officers available?

  4. “Why not dodgeball”…LOL

    “The caps starve units of local government of badly needed resources, requiring not only creative fiscal management (we are running out of public assets to sell off), but also those “hard decisions” that politicians talk about endlessly but rarely if ever actually make.”

    …that is because the goal is to privatize all government duties so a select few of their friends can profit…besides, a police force is socialism. So are other government services like building roads and Sewer & Water…all socialism.
    How long until our taxes only pay for their high salaries, their privileged health care, and other perks like creating government agencies that do nothing but suck funds so political friends and family don’t have to work and can be millionaires?
    How long until the citizens of a neighborhood have to scratch together the funds on their own to fix a street, after paying taxes?

  5. No way around it; the GOP has a stranglehold on Indianapolis and Indiana. At least Daniels did NOT get his way when he wanted taxes from the entire state to support Lucas Oil Stadium. Ballard wants Indianapolis to be the sports capitol of the world…and is gradually getting his way. John Boehner and Congress are running this country and President Obama is a figurehead leader who can do nothing to stop Boehner, Congress, Tea Party or the NRA. What is wrong with this picture? And why not add tether ball to the list of sports venues here?

  6. Curling is a great idea and will not cost much. The curlers can play on all the unplowed streets in the winter.

  7. So…Indy has 5 times the murder rate of NYC. Just amazing. Perhaps we need more tax cuts for the rich. Then the private sector will make all things right. As Dr Phil says: “How’s that workin’ for ya?”

  8. ballard is an idiot. he PROMISED, more policemen. that did not happen, and probably never will happen while he is in office. i believe, he took lessons from barak obama, because he lies like a rug and continues he “good old boys”, behavior-which is, “if you can think of ways to get the citizens of indianapolis’s money, and not give them the benefit of anything-then “you are a good old boy” and he will find a job for you. employees of the city and county, have not had a raise, since moses wore short pants. why, pray tell, does this city need a “cricket stadium?” nepotism, is high in this city. you can get a job, you know nothing about and get paid well for doing that job. i voted for him twice and have regretted it both times. he and his ilk, should be ashamed, but it is an old story. once in office, grab all the money you can.

  9. Sheila::

    Great musings.

    What are the 40 plus funds you reference??>



  10. National Tournament which was discontinued for last few years and no one in USA wanted to have one. But Indianapolis celebrated like they strike huge deal. So the cost of this tournament is $6 million. Only two local groups behind this Cricket and both connected to Hydrabad – India. even club shows world sport park address as their home address…

  11. Proceeds from the various taxing districts go into discrete “pots” or funds, and those funds can only be used for certain specified purposes. When I was Corporation Counsel, for example, I learned that the Council had no authority to divert money from, say, the dog pound, to city legal.

  12. There are a FEW good reasons to refuse to bring on a police training class. Essentially, we can pay to lure a few good men and women to IMPD, and then dump them on the street in a few years. The IMPD will restructure their organization to support a X sized force structure, and then reorganize it in a few years to support a 1/2 X sized structure. The new officers that turn down other jobs, move to Indy, buy a house, put kids in schools, etc. will get to start all over in a few years. We “hope” that “somehow” we will come up with extra cash in a few years to fund our implied promises. What audacity!

  13. What happens to proceeds from speeding tickets and running red lights? I’m thinking that traffic cameras can generate a healthy income and divert police officers to serious crime.

  14. Traffic cameras stink! They aren’t even half as good as proponents said they would be. More places are removing them than adding any. That is an idea that needs to move immediately to the dustbin of history.

  15. Varangianguard, totally agree. Unfortunately, I just contributed $130 to Hannibal, Mo., for a yellow light I didn’t want to challenge, but the pictures were sure convincing and I could use them as an alibi in case someone asked where I was at the time.

  16. It’s all in the geometry of the camera angles. And who said people wouldn’t use math after high school?

  17. “Red-George” O’Malley :
    What happens to proceeds from speeding tickets and running red lights? I’m thinking that traffic cameras can generate a healthy income and divert police officers to serious crime.

    Most red light/intersection or speed cameras are “monitored” by a private out of state company. I believe some or more accurately a very small percentage goes to the state. For every study showing they help prevent traffic violators, you can find a study that finds no significant change can be seen or that more accidents have occurred at these intersections after cameras have been installed.

  18. For the record, there is a well understood relationship between yellow light duration, revenue and traffic accidents. The shorter the duration, the higher the revenue and number of accidents; the longer the duration, the opposite is true.

    Having suggested that safety isn’t the issue, we are left with revenue. We need to remember that traffic cameras, like our parking meters, primarily enrich the private companies that sell them.

Comments are closed.