EDITORIAL: Stunning victory a call to change: But Ballard shouldn’t forget past

Stunning victory a call to change But Ballard shouldn’t forget past

The shock has faded and reality is starting to set in. Indianapolis really will have a new mayor in 2008.

Republican Greg Ballard’s victory over two-time incumbent Mayor Bart Peterson was more than an election stunner of historic proportions-it was a rare case of voters turning over a city to someone they knew little about.

Ballard, under-funded and under-supported by his own party, pulled off his epic upset for one reason: He wasn’t Bart Peterson. Peterson wrote his ticket out of office earlier this year, when he pushed across a 65-percent rise in county income taxes at the same time property taxes were soaring. That one decision seemed to eclipse all of Peterson’s accomplishments.

Voter discontent went beyond the mayoral race to the City-County Council, where Democrats lost three seats and their slim control. Questions about Council President Monroe Gray’s ethical behavior no doubt played a role in the turnover, though, regrettably, Gray kept his seat.

What happens next is anyone’s guess.

We still don’t know much about Ballard, who didn’t get much scrutiny from the local media before the election. That he wants to fight crime and run government more efficiently is well-known, but it doesn’t tell us much-all politicians say such things.

What we do know about Ballard is that he isn’t your typical politician. The 52-year-old has never held political office and isn’t as polished as most who are elected to such high-profile positions. But what Ballard lacks in polish he makes up for in candor. It’s refreshing that he isn’t afraid to say, “I don’t know,” when responding to a question from the media.

As for his leadership skills, they shouldn’t be in doubt. Nobody becomes a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps without being a leader. His challenge will be taking those abilities and making them work in a government environment, where collaboration and consensus are important.

He’ll get some help in that regard by tapping into the successful administrations that preceded him. Ballard told IBJ in an interview the day after the election that he’s a fan of former Republican mayors Steve Goldsmith and William Hudnut and won’t be shy about reaching out for help.

Ballard also seems willing to build bridges to those in the arts and business communities who opposed him during the election. A good working relationship with both groups will be critical if he wants to maintain and build upon the progress delivered by his predecessors.

Now that the election is over, people on both sides of the political aisle must work together with the new mayor to move the city forward. Ballard deserves congratulations and support as he makes plans to take office.

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