Ballard nixes new redistricting plan for Council

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard Friday afternoon vetoed a City-County Council redistricting plan, likely setting the stage for a lengthy court battle.

Ballard wants to stick with the lines drawn by Republicans in late 2011, before newly elected Democrats took control of the council. Ballard signed the current districts into law on Jan. 1.

“The maps that I signed into law earlier this year are legal, fair and compact,” he said in a statement announcing his veto of council proposal No. 372. “They have greater population and racial equality than those proposed by the council majority.”

Ballard’s veto was expected, since in June he issued a budget veto on $180,000 that the council requested to fund the redistricting effort. Council President Maggie Lewis predicted at the time that if the mayor continued his opposition, the issue would end up in court.

Lewis wasn’t immediately available for comment on Friday.

State law requires redistricting in the year after new Census data is released. Ballard believes he fulfilled that requirement by signing off on the current districts Jan. 1. Council Democrats say the districts fall short, because they don’t reflect the latest data.

The last time the council and mayor couldn’t agree on district boundaries, they were drawn by the Indiana Supreme Court in 2003. Those maps were “compact and fair and have drawn few complaints,” Julie Vaughn, policy director at Common Cause Indiana noted in a June 30 column for IBJ.

“It’s likely the Indiana Supreme Court will once again be the final arbiter on new maps, and that’s a shame,” Vaughn wrote. “If the court has to intervene, it will mean the two major political parties have put their squabble ahead of the needs of voters, and while that won’t be surprising, it will be disappointing.”

Also on Friday, Ballard vetoed a council proposal to use money from the sale of the city's water utility for public safety. Currently, that money can only be used on infrastructure.

"When the sale of the water utility was being discussed, I made a commitment to the residents of Indianapolis that I would use the revenue generated only for the infrastructure needs in our city,” Ballard said in the statement. “I intend to keep that commitment to the people of our city. Using one-time money for an ongoing expense is unsound fiscal policy.”

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