Tag Archives: divided government

What is Ballard Smoking?

When the dust cleared after the November elections, Indianapolis was left with divided city government. The Mayor is Republican. The Council majority is Democrat. The challenge for the next four years will be to get along–to make decent policy despite partisan divisions.

An article in this morning’s Star suggests we’re not getting off to an auspicious start.

Indianapolis has been struggling for several months to enact a smoking ban that actually has some teeth. After a couple of false starts, the Council has  produced a (bipartisan!) draft, to be voted on tonight. But according to the Star, 

“The proposal’s effect on veterans halls and private clubs has become a focal point of debate and has raised the likelihood of a mayoral veto.

As written, the proposal would give those places an exemption from the smoking ban but only with a hard choice: Keep smoking, or allow children on the premises. But not both.

Mayor Greg Ballard said Friday through a spokesman that unless the council removes the restriction on children tonight, he will veto the measure. That statement was his most forceful yet since the council resumed the years-old smoking ban debate two months ago.”

When Ballard first ran for Mayor, he promised to support a smoking ban. When actually faced with an earlier iteration, he withdrew that support, and he’s been a roadblock ever since. The question is: why? The current compromise protects children from the documented health hazards of secondhand smoke, while still allowing adults in private clubs to smoke. That seems entirely reasonable. But my question goes well beyond the merits of this particular ordinance.

If he is to achieve any of his goals, Ballard will have to be strategic in his relationship with the City-County Council. He will have to choose his fights carefully. Is this really an issue on which he wants to spend his small store of political capital? Is the American Legion’s pique so important that he’s willing to start the new term with a fight that will further divide the branches of local government and further diminish the prospects for cooperation?

Wrong on policy, wrong on process, and politically short-sighted. Welcome to the start of a long four years.