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Mayor's communications strategist leaving city post

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The man behind Mayor Greg Ballard’s communications strategy will leave his city job next week.

Robert Vane, Ballard’s deputy chief of staff and communications director, plans to start his own firm specializing in crisis and strategic communications. His last day with the city is Nov. 5.

“I’d like to take my chances with the private sector,” said Vane, 42, who served in roles at construction firm Shiel Sexton, the Indiana Republican Party and in the Marion County Clerk’s office before joining Ballard’s administration in November 2008.

He would not discuss potential clients while still in his job with the mayor’s office. But he said he would be judicious about abiding by conflict-of-interest rules that prohibit him from working on projects in which he participated while at the city.

Vane started with the Republican administration after Ballard had been criticized by political opponents for saying what was on his mind without considering the political risk. A prime example was his statement to reporters that he would like to create a Chinatown on the Southside and turn Indianapolis into a North American hub for cricket.

During his tenure, Vane has coordinated political messaging on issues such as the sale of the city’s water and sewer utilities and the city’s choice to give $30 million to help the Indiana Pacers operate Conseco Fieldhouse.

Vane said he pushed to make the mayor’s office more transparent by holding dozens of public meetings on city matters and making documents accessible online.

“The mayor is insistent on transparency," Vane said. "We were able—in a readily apparent way—to make local government more transparent than it’s ever been.”

Political opponents, while critical of Ballard, complimented Vane for the job he did in improving the mayor’s communications.

“The mayor was very well-served by Robert,” said Ed Treacy, chairman of the Marion County Democratic Party. “He was able to do the best job he could with the raw material that he had.”

Brian Vargus, a political science professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis who studies elections and public opinion, said the role of communications director is highly important in any administration.

“Part of what they’ve got to do is fight against citizen incompetence,” Vargus said. “A good number of people don’t pay attention to what government does most of the time—it’s like elevator music until something doesn’t work right. The communications director has got to be able to reach out to those people who normally don’t pay much attention and generally put a positive spin on whatever is going on.”

Vane’s replacement has not yet been selected.

His departure follows the exit of other members of Ballard’s administration, including former Chief of Staff Paul Okeson, former Deputy Mayor Nick Weber, and City Controller David Reynolds, whose last day is Friday.

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  • Can I find one person who won't trade on public sector experience?
    "...he said he would be judicious about abiding by conflict-of-interest rules that prohibit him from working on projects in which he participated while at the city."

    But will Vane sell access by representing companies seeking contracts from the man Vane served?
  • Good-Bye- Take Ballard along too
    So is Robert Vane leaving because he can not put the positive spin on the corrupt sweetheart special deals to Ballard's cronnies, like selling to outside state business parking meter monopoly? The Carl Brizzi corruption? The selling/giving away city assets to private GOP donnors? Good riddence and Ballard, Brizzi, and the Gang of Corruption need to go too.
  • Is crisis management a growth industry?
    Is that really what we want from the Mayor's office? Someone "to put a positive spin on whatever is going on." Crisis and strategic communications. That's a job now. Did protesters just arrive at your building? Have negative headlines about you suddenly appeared in the news? Has tragedy struck your department today? Call now for Crisis and strategic communications. Isn't this the business Mayor Ballard's son is in? Seems like local politicians have been needing a lot more crisis and strategic communications lately. Maybe I should make the ungrateful child I'm currently putting through college at I.U. Bloomington switch his major. Is getting Indiana politicians out of crisis the next growth industry? The Carl Brizzi school of spin. Sometimes I don't even recognize the Indiana I grew up in anymore. Is it old fashioned to say I support the honest candidates and public servants I can trust?
  • Is crisis management a growth industry?
    Is that really what we want from the Mayor's office? Someone "to put a positive spin on whatever is going on." Crisis and strategic communications. That's a job now. Did protesters just arrive at your building? Have negative headlines about you suddenly appeared in the news? Has tragedy struck your department today? Call now for Crisis and strategic communications. Isn't this the business Mayor Ballard's son is in? Seems like local politicians have been needing a lot more crisis and strategic communications lately. Maybe I should make the ungrateful child I'm currently putting through college at I.U. Bloomington switch his major. Is getting Indiana politicians out of crisis the next growth industry? The Carl Brizzi school of spin. Sometimes I don't even recognize the Indiana I grew up in anymore. Is it old fashioned to say I support the honest candidates and public servants I can trust?

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