Opinion and Forefront

SADLER: Why Ballard so infuriates Democrats

August 31, 2013

SadlerWhat is it about our Republican political stars here in Indiana that they are constantly underestimated and under-rated? The reason, of course, is politics.

Gov. Mike Pence now joins Mayor Greg Ballard on the brunt end of a political assault that takes the tone of a patronizing and arrogant old wag. This assault does not usually come in the form of a policy debate, but rather a, “He’s not up to the task at hand” sort of argument.

From his first appearance on the political stage in 2007, Ballard has confounded the experts, infuriated his critics, and, most important, kept his charge to the people.

I remember well back in 2007 reporters calling me for the obligatory quote on the unknown Republican candidate for mayor. Most Republicans, including me, had given up on the office. After all, we could read the polls.

Then there was this strange and indefinable shift toward the end of the campaign. That shift acknowledged Ballard was real and understood the voters, and was not just another politician.

Ballard was immediately derided for his inexperience, that he didn’t know how the city and politics worked.

But four years later, the voters decided they liked his vision and elected him again.

Now, less than two years into his second term, Ballard is again the subject of political derision, and it has that same feel of the arrogant political voice that says he is not one of us.

These are the people who still can’t believe the voters rejected their mayor eight years ago and are baffled that it wasn’t a fluke the first time. They simply can’t accept the fact that he has connected to the people in his own unique way, with his own unique vision.

These same people criticized him for spending “only” $311 million on infrastructure since Rebuild Indy was launched a few years ago.

How much was spent on infrastructure in the budget submitted before Ballard took office? Just $7 million. For the entire county.

Many of the people complaining now about the way the money is being spent are politicians who didn’t even vote for the ordinance that made this unprecedented public investment possible. They are the same politicians who walked out at the beginning of the mayor’s budget speech in 2010.

The city is better than it has ever been. Economic development projects are booming. Young people are staying to start their careers because Indianapolis has become a hip, cool place to live, and yet is still affordable. Tens of millions more dollars are being invested in infrastructure. The city is maintaining its AAA credit rating and balancing its budgets.

We now even have a viable project in the works for the Market Square Arena site. This is just the next project in line to make downtown a showplace. Who among us has not enjoyed the restaurants, shopping and walkability of Mass Ave?

All these projects not only make the city a great place to live, but they also create hundreds of construction and permanent jobs, while pumping tens of millions of dollars into the local economy.

Greg Ballard has styled himself the anti-politician. The irony is that the Democratic assault has only bolstered that persona by deriding him as not understanding politics.

What he understands is what the people of Indianapolis want their city to be. And he is delivering it. Of course, the Democrats don’t like it.•

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Sadler is a lawyer and former Marion County clerk. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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