Opinion and Forefront

MAHERN: Ballard's lieutenants serve him poorly

August 18, 2012

Louis MahernDear Mayor Ballard,

You need to talk to your guys. They are not giving you the best advice.

When they drafted your veto message on the hotel housekeepers’ blacklisting ordinance, they told you a state anti-blacklisting statute is already on the books. There is such a law, but it applies only to workers who have been “discharged.”

The ordinance you vetoed is not about hotel maids who have been fired. It is about hotel maids who aren’t getting enough hours and want a second job. It is also about hotel maids who want to switch jobs but cannot because the hotels have agreed with the labor contractors not to hire anyone who is working for the contractors.

If at least one of your staff members had attended the hearings, that person might have told you this.

Including these mistakes in your veto message mistakenly makes you appear ill-informed.

You have 28 lawyers on the payroll at city legal and at least another couple on your personal staff. You might want to ask them how it is that they did not know the law applied only to firings and not to hotel maids who merely want to support their families. I don’t want anyone to get fired, but maybe someone should lose his seat in your suite at Lucas Oil.

When you went to Black Expo and were speaking to hotel maids, you repeated this mistake, saying there was already a law on the books against blacklisting. Mind you, I agree this was an innocent error on your part, but certainly not on the part of your legal advisers who should do a better job of keeping you up to date.

While still talking to the hotel maids, you said you “didn’t want to talk about this.” I understand and sympathize with your desire not to discuss public policy issues in public, but whoever advised you to say this did not have your best interests at heart. This comment unfairly makes you look unconcerned and somewhat aloof. I am confident this is not the impression you wish to impart.

And while you’re talking to your guys (I keep writing “guys” because the highest-paid people on your staff are males. I bet they haven’t told you that, either.), you might ask them when they were planning to tell you about the 24-percent pay raises they gave themselves back in May.

I know, I know. I’d be pretty upset, too, if I were you. Can you imagine the kerfuffle the liberals will raise when they hear about this? Your opponents will make all kinds of unfair criticisms about priorities. I can just imagine the invidious comparisons council Democrats will make when you announce public-safety service cuts in next year’s budget. Mark my word. They’ll compare your advisers’ $120,000 salaries to the pay of teachers, police officers and firefighters.

They might even stoop to compare your staff’s pay raises to those received by the average Indianapolis worker over the past five years.

Or even worse, compare your aides’ $23,000 pay raises with the $15,000 annual pay of full-time hotel maids.

From one Marine to another, whoever came up with this pay raise scheme has done you no favors.

But what I find really upsetting is the cheek your aides have shown in paying themselves so much more than you make. Where do these people get off?

Do they have to show up on Saturday mornings for bike rides in Garfield Park? I doubt it. Have they had to be at the airport at some ungodly hour to go on trade mission trips to Europe and Asia? I think not.

I realize you don’t always get the final say on your staff selections, but this current crop does not have your back.

All the best.•

• Mahern has been an assistant to U.S. Rep. Andy Jacobs and U.S. Sen. Birch Bayh and served in the Indiana Senate. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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