Is It November Yet?

Every so often, our Accidental Mayor does something to remind us why it’s not a good idea to elect people who don’t understand how government is supposed to work.

As reported on the IndyDemocrat blog, Council President Maggie Lewis recently issued the following statement:

“Very recently I was informed that Mayor Ballard unilaterally authorized a withdraw of $6.8 million dollars out of the IMPD general fund without consultation or approval from the Council. This is not how good municipal government works. The Council recently overrode the Mayor’s veto to add appropriations to fund critically needed pursuit rated vehicles and necessary upgrades to IMPD facilities. His decision means many IMPD officers will continue to operate substandard vehicles and train at outdated facilities. We have too few officers on the street to begin with and this action by the administration may put at risk the city’s ability to fund this Fall’s final recruit class of 2015. I call on the Mayor to immediately reverse course and follow both the letter and spirit of Indiana law by returning the money to IMPD now.”

The most important sentence in that statement is “This is not how good municipal government works.”

Perhaps the Mayor had a perfectly good reason for withdrawing those funds. Or perhaps he didn’t. The purpose is irrelevant; the “rules of the game” require the Mayor and Council to communicate, to work together, and to jointly authorize fiscal decisions. The fact that the Council is controlled by a different political party than the Administration does not eliminate that requirement. (I should note that, back in the days of the Hudnut Administration, factional disputes among the Republicans on the Council made relations every bit as testy as the partisan divisions today–but despite a lot of grousing,  the Administration didn’t try to “sneak” things past the Council.)

Process matters.

Government in a democratic system is not run like the military, or like business, where the person at the top of the pyramid makes decisions that others must follow. That’s one reason why calls to run government “like a business” are so misplaced–government isn’t a business. It should be run in a “business-like” fashion (meaning efficiently and cost-effectively), but we should never lose sight of the fact that government’s mission is not focused on the bottom line, and the rules by which it operates must meet democratic accountability standards.

Mayor Ballard isn’t in the Marines anymore. He doesn’t get to unilaterally call the shots.

Aside from the inappropriateness of the Mayor’s action, I can’t help wondering: what was the money used for? In a city with an unacceptably high crime rate, what was more important than (our already grossly  underfunded) public safety?


  1. Probably to pay off some “R” folks. It sure would be nice to see some of these crooks go to jail.

  2. Whenever I hear a politician say that he “will bring sound business practices” to government I think “crook”. It has kept me from voting for many a Pence/Ballard type rube.

  3. The most important sentence in that statement is “This is not how good municipal government works.”

    The purpose is irrelevant; the “rules of the game” require the Mayor and Council to communicate, to work together, and to jointly authorize fiscal decisions.

    I copied and pasted the above comments rather than ad libbing their content to ask what they mean. Please explain if both statements, especially “rules of the game” means there are actual legal rules, laws, ordinances in place to rein in unruly leaders? Or is all of this merely tacit understanding and the “good guys” are expected to play by the understood limitations?

    I have lost count of the murders this week; and haven’t seen our yearly to-date count recently. Any idea what the score is regarding criminals vs. IMPD? How do we, the voting, tax-paying public find out what Ballard did with OUR money?

    He is leaving office so, is he staying, “So, what are you gonna do about it?” How can he arbitrarily remove millions from any local government budget on his own and not account for where millions went? Goldsmith all but destroyed police and fire department retirement plans before he left the 25th floor – is Ballard attempting to further cripple IMPD after insisting and getting his way about having a Director of Public Safety? And didn’t that work out well? As I commented on a previous blog; we have no one to protect us from our own government.

  4. I am sure Ballard understands how Government works. For Ballard and some other Mayors before him, Government is supposed to work for the Crony-Capitalists. It does not work so well for us Proles. You can make the case that the Democrats have been asleep at the wheel as Ballard has gone about running the City, or the Democrats have been complicit in allowing him to do so, as long as the Democrats and their connected Cronies get a piece of the Action.

    Just when this articulated philosophy of running Government like a business was birthed is a bit of an unknown. The great myth is somehow the Market is always right. If that was so we would not have had the Great Depression and the various Boom and Bust Cycles. Businesses are run by people and people make mistakes. This can have disastrous effects when the goal of the CEO is to line his his own pockets and his Cronies with bonuses and the interests of the Stockholders and Employees are secondary. Golden Parachutes were not invented for the Employees!!!

  5. I’ve only lived four places in my life, and in NONE of those places can any official unilaterally transfer money of that magnitude. There are multiple-signature systems in place to prevent exactly that. Who wrote the city charter, Genghis Khan?

  6. Patmcc, corruption in Indianapolis crosses party lines. Regardless of who is elected Mayor and who controls the council, it seems the same group of developers, wealthy non-profits, and large law firms run the City. That’s the cycle I hope Mayor Hogsett breaks but I’m not optimistic given that he also came from one of those big law firms and he was not aggressive in going after Indy political corruption as U.S. Attorney.

  7. In his Advance Indiana blog on Tuesday, June 30, Gary Walsh posted this explanation of the money transfer:

    “I warned folks last year that Ballard had no intention of using the money raised from the latest income tax increase for public safety as it was sold to the public. By his recent actions, Ballard has removed any doubt concerning the accuracy of my prediction. The man is convinced he’s above the law and can do as he pleases without any consequences. He’s Rod Blagojevich on steroids without any fear of a prosecutor holding him to account for his actions as would have long ago occurred in almost any other state in this country.

    UPDATE: The City’s controller is claiming the money was needed to restore the City’s fiscal stability fund’s balance to maintain the City’s bond rating. There are other funds which could have been tapped–namely the downtown TIF fund the mayor uses as a slush fund to financially reward his big campaign contributors. There are some saying Ballard is tapping the money to pay for his pre-K initiative, which is not in any way a responsibility of municipal government to provide. Campaign contributors before public safety. That’s the take-away from this action.’

  8. When President Obama first ran one of the charges that Republicans desperate from all of Bush’s failures tried to stick him with is lack of business experience. To me that was just indicative of their problems. One, ignorance of how different government and business are. Two that make more money regardless of the cost to others is exceptionally productive. Three, that hierarchy works well (except for military where it’s necessary).

    We’ll never know the degree to which it was ignorance or part of the big media great oligarchy plot to discredit government.

  9. There really is no such thing as good government. Government employee unions help to assure cronyism and self congratulations to the union anointed. At the national level, executive orders are an end run around the legislature. Labeling a budget with a 1% increase as a cut budget because the increase is less than inflation is common in all governments. The executive branch always has authority and ability to move funding in the same way they have ability to selectively enforce laws. Hoping for honest, competent and transparent government is like hoping for the return of the unicorn.

  10. I believe the mayor tried to transfer money out of the Storm Water Fund several months ago. I believe the Council tried to block it but I don’t know if they succeeded.

  11. “There really is no such thing as good government.”


    Is there such a thing as good business, good health care, good environmental science, good oligarchy, good anything!

  12. If a Three-Letter-Suit (CEO, CFO, etc.) at a large corporation did something like that without notifying the Board of Directors, he’d/she’d be accused of embezzlement and fired and, most likely, arrested. If a Democratic mayor tried something like this, he’d/she’d be grilled by the press and probably disowned by the Party. A Republican Mayor does pretty much the same thing, and all anyone does is clutch pearls and head for the fainting couch. Where did all that money go? Was the procedure used to transfer the money legal or not? Why isn’t anyone calling for, at very least, an audit or an investigation?! Let’s stop talking about Rethuglican corruption and start *doing* something about it!

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