Opinion and Forefront

MACALLISER: Ballard has characteristics that transcend politics

June 14, 2014

MacAllister
I go back to that happy time when elections (and campaigns) occurred on a fixed, periodic schedule versus campaigning incessantly every day, of every month, of every year. Although our municipal election is 18 months off, the political winds have been blowing for a full year—and we don’t even know who’s running for mayor.

Finding that candidate might be easy for the Republicans if Mayor Ballard decides to run. Many think he’s “the man.” Why? “He’s the only one who can beat the Democrats,” they will tell you.

The Ballard saga is unusual. It began when he ran virtually unknown, which meant he owed no one any favors, and he won chiefly because Bart Peterson ticked off the electorate by instituting a midget tax increase. Ballard’s votes weren’t cast for him as much as they were cast against Peterson. That made the election a little hollow, lacking, as it did, a bold agenda.

But our history has been shaped by what we are against—new taxes on tea, impressment of American seamen, quartering of troops in private homes, lack of representation in government. So, what we are against obliquely expresses what we are for.

I’m not disparaging Ballard’s campaign, but given his military record and lack of local exposure, he wasn’t as easy as most candidates to defame and categorize, and he had little in the way of a record to shoot holes in. He seemed segregated from party favorites and had not been feeding at the political trough.

Once elected, it took Ballard some time to understand his responsibilities, but he learned the job and continues to improve at it each year. It takes a while to understand the complexities of government and the delicacy required to work with a Democratic council.

It looks a bit like character pre-empts experience here. The mayor comes across as honest and straightforward; we assume he will do the right thing. People like this guy and they trust him—not simply his political judgment but his integrity and character.

Charisma, I.Q., rhetorical capability and vision all are desirable, but the payoff is in delivered results. After 6-1/2 years, he can take some credit for keeping Indy on the “All America Cities” list.

Given Ballard’s popularity and record, there aren’t a lot of wannabes impatient to take him on. If one appears and the wind shifts—we are a “swing” county, after all— the following advice applies to him or her as well: It took a long time to transform our city, and it now requires as much effort to retain its quality as it did to achieve it.

Having someone who proves he can maintain the current status or make it even better ought to be more pertinent than which party governs. No one denies the benefits derived from change, providing it improves the system or the results. We have been wise enough in the past to find public leadership who drove us forward. If we have a good thing going, we’d do well to keep it in place hoping things might get even better.•

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MacAllister is chairman of MacAllister Machinery Co. Inc. and a longtime leader in Indianapolis Republican politics. Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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