Ship to Shore

For the past week, I’ve been on a cruise ship in the Atlantic, mercifully isolated from local news—except for the few minutes in the morning when I allow myself to log on to the ship’s expensive internet. I check my email and post to my blog—then it’s off to read a good book, eat (and eat, and eat) and marvel at the advanced age of all the other passengers. (Seriously, the average age on board looks to be in the mid-80s. One fellow told us that all of his children are on Social Security. I’ve rarely felt so young….)

That said, several friends have forwarded articles about the FBI’s arrests in the City-County Building earlier this week. Others have forwarded Matt Tully’s acerbic column about Greg Ballard’s continued absence from those pesky executive responsibilities that are thought to accompany a mayor’s position. Still others have shared a post in which Paul Ogden pointed to the enabling effects of the Star’s lack of reporting—let alone investigative reporting—on matters at city hall.

I find all this depressing, but not surprising.

As many of the readers of this blog know, I served as Corporation Counsel and my husband served as Director of the Department of Metropolitan Development during the Hudnut Administration. No mayor is perfect, and Bill Hudnut certainly had his faults, but lack of oversight wasn’t one of them. Both he and my husband were well aware of DMD’s power, and the potential for its abuse, and both were vigilant overseers of the Department’s activities. (As were the four full time reporters who covered the City-Country Building at the time.)

But then, both of them were deeply immersed in municipal management issues; they were long-time students of urban politics and policy.

Then there’s Greg Ballard.

Ballard campaigned as an outsider who touted his lack of knowledge and experience as a virtue. His self-proclaimed “leadership” qualities (as set out in a self-published book on the subject) came from his experience as a Marine. He hadn’t even lived in Indianapolis during most of his career, and he certainly hadn’t been involved in municipal governance. His initial campaign website was replete with cringe-worthy statements that displayed a total lack of any background or knowledge that would make him fit to run a major city. A participant in his first interview with the Star editorial board told me he had been appalled by Ballard’s utter absence of depth or relevant knowledge.

The only thing worse than a chief executive who knows very little is a chief executive who knows very little but thinks he knows a lot.

We had a chance last year to replace Ballard with someone who actually knew what a city was, but for a variety of reasons (including but not limited to gender) we re-instated Mr. Clueless.

So we have a Mayor who is absent from the legislature when that body is debating issues of great importance to Indianapolis. We have a Mayor who sees no reason to communicate with the City-County Counsel (conveniently, his cronies in the General Assembly have now relieved him of that obligation).

We have a Mayor who relishes traveling with an outsized entourage but who can’t be bothered to supervise—or even understand—what city departments are doing.

We have a Mayor who hires people who are too young and inexperienced to know what they’re doing, or to recognize what their boss doesn’t understand.

We have a Mayor who insisted on controlling all public safety personnel, but then lost interest in the hard work of actually providing for the public’s safety–a child Mayor who has ignored a soaring crime rate while focusing on fanciful (and costly) projects like Cricket fields. (China Town didn’t pan out.)

We have a Mayor who is selling significant pieces of the City–making complicated deals with implications he clearly doesn’t understand—deals that benefit clients of cronies at the expense of taxpayers.

We have a Mayor who is not being held accountable for any of this, because local media is effectively AWOL.

So while Ballard sells the city off, unsupervised city employees are selling the city out.

Maybe I can just stay on this ship. At least I’m getting value for my dollar.