Rusthoven adds to political cynicism

November 5, 2011

I was surprised to read Peter Rusthoven’s incendiary [Oct. 31] column accusing Melina Kennedy of making borderline “criminal accusations” against Mayor Ballard. As a longtime Republican political figure, Rusthoven clearly knows better than to characterize comparative ads—used by all campaigns—as “criminal.” But Rusthoven’s criticisms are also incorrect and miss a more significant point about the causes of “public cynicism” of politics.

First, the facts. Rusthoven disputes the “math” of Kennedy’s ads, contending that roughly one-third of the $300 million of contracts Ballard’s administration has handed out to campaign contributors was actually from the prior administration.

If anything, Kennedy’s ad understates the value of contracts handed out to those who have contributed to Ballard’s campaign, because it omits the city’s 50-year parking meter contract with ACS (formally, with its affiliate, Park Indy, LLC)—a contract that is conservatively projected to hand over hundreds of millions of dollars to the contractor. Inasmuch as the parking meter deal passed the City-County Council by a single vote—and that vote was cast by an associate (“of counsel”) with a law firm that represents ACS—I believe there are well-founded grounds for public cynicism of such contracts.

Second, if Rusthoven truly believes that negative political attacks feed “public cynicism,” he should not have launched one. Ballard first launched a misleading ad about Kennedy, featuring three women attacking Kennedy for “supporting” a tax increase during former Mayor Peterson’s term.

The ad is both cynical and ironic: cynical because Kennedy was neither mayor nor on the Council, and had nothing to do with the bi-partisan tax increase; ironic because Ballard ran his 2007 campaign on the promise to repeal a more recent 65-percent income tax increase (passed two years after Kennedy left Peterson’s administration), and he has refused to do so since becoming mayor. Indeed, Ballard has raised other taxes and fees during his term.

A far larger contributing factor to public cynicism is the continual cycle where politicians make promises to get elected—such as Ballard’s promise to support a comprehensive smoking ban—and then reverse themselves.

Ultimately, the voters of this city should evaluate the candidates based on their vision and recognition of the challenges we face today and tomorrow, not yesterday or four years ago. I’m hopeful that, if they do, they will see past partisan skirmishes and process fights and elect Kennedy.


David Suess

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