Commentary and Opinion

MAURER: Stay in the game, don't break rules

January 9, 2010

Each January, I reflect on a few of the prior year’s columns. I’m always curious about the topics and people I have written about over the course of the year. I hope you are, too.

We did not receive a Christmas card from the Ballards this year. I did enjoy mail praising the column I wrote Nov. 30 about Mayor Ballard’s failure to follow his own rules. In 2005, Ballard penned “Ballard Rules,” a book about small-unit leadership.

His behavior regarding City-County Council Proposal 371, which would extend the city’s smoking ban to bars, bowling alleys and private clubs, was dismaying and broke practically every rule in the book—the Ballard book. The proposal, supported by the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce and all the major organizations in the health services arena, is set to be heard again in the Community Affairs Committee April 14.

In February, during the darkest hours of the economic malaise, I lamented the disappearance of a third of the value of the seven 529 plans I set up for my grandchildren and expressed a preference for self-directed 529 plans similar to the option available for individual retirement accounts. Under current law, that is impossible. We are allowed responsibility for our own IRAs but we are not deemed capable of managing our grandchildren’s college education fund investments. I surmised that if the accounts do not recover, the kids can work their way through school and tell their own children, “Papa blew it back in 2008.” Today, in the midst of a rally, I would still have been better off dropping the money in the kids’ piggy banks.

On Nov. 2, I declared that failure does not always mean one is through. A better test of character is how one reacts to adversity. I closed with, “A recession is the wrong time to be afraid of failure. Opportunities abound; stay in the game.” I received a response from a reader whose potential client quoted the local and national news and concluded it would not be a good time to commit to any additional purchases. Our reader placed my column on the prospect’s desk and asked him to take three minutes to read it. When he had completed the article, he was asked if he intended to “stay in the game.” A large deal was closed right then and there.

My Aug. 10 column dealt with the loss of a family member and right-to-die issues. I shamelessly tricked you by waiting to reveal that the family member whose life we ended was a poodle. I asked what it is that society values that is so important as to prevail over the ultimate liberty of deciding when to die. I advocated a debate on this issue in our Legislature but not before our representatives experience a terminally ill patient in profound pain pleading for the right to die at the time and manner of his or her choosing. Until then, one can only hope to live like a human and die like a dog. The mail was all positive. I would not be surprised to learn that a right-to-die option would be favored by most citizens. Unfortunately, our Legislature has shown up brain dead on this issue.

OK, he says he won’t run, but Gov. Daniels remains my choice for president of the United States. I stand by my column of April 20. Even in April, pols were touting our man Mitch. He has made government in Indiana fiscally responsible while our neighboring states struggle with billion-dollar deficits. Governor/president—it’s the same game, just a different scale. Wouldn’t it be nice to effect a recovery in this country without dooming the business community to terminal government intervention?

Thank you for reading my columns last year and for responding. I have enjoyed our dialogue.•

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Maurer is a shareholder in IBJ Corp., which owns Indianapolis Business Journal. His column appears every other week. To comment on this column, send e-mail to mmaurer@ibj.com.

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