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EDITORIAL: Finishing touches for Ballard legacy

November 15, 2014

Mayor Greg Ballard may have begun his tenure as Indy’s top elected official with the label “accidental mayor.” But Ballard’s legacy will go well beyond the circumstances of his upset victory in 2007.

Historic countywide investments in roads, bridges and bike paths are among his most visible accomplishments in two terms as mayor. He’s also invested in quality-of-life efforts that defy traditional partisan labels, such as transitioning the city fleet to electric vehicles and investing in bike amenities, including a hub at City Market.

Downtown in particular has blossomed under Ballard, who announced early this month he will not seek a third term. While his predecessors helped bolster the Mile Square as a destination for sports and convention visitors, under Ballard’s watch downtown has added thousands of permanent residents.

The growing tax base has provided fuel (via a downtown tax-increment finance district) to spur millions of dollars of real estate investments, including CityWay, Axis at Block 400, and the former home of Market Square Arena, where developers are planning a residential and retail tower and Cummins Inc. plans an office building.

Ballard has promised to keep pushing in his final year, cementing his legacy with a public-private preschool program for low-income residents (see below) and a consolidated criminal justice center that would open up even more of downtown to redevelopment.

Critics say Ballard has delegated too much to his deputies, and has been too generous with subsidies for developers and secretive about the deals. At times, his priorities—including the Indianapolis World Sports Park—came across as aloof given tight budgets and persistent crime.

But ultimately, results count with voters, and the city has moved forward under Ballard’s watch. Indianapolis is more prosperous, progressive and ambitious than when Ballard took office seven years ago. His successor will have big shoes to fill.

Praise for preschool

The election of a reform-minded IPS board isn’t the only good news for the city’s schools. Mayor Ballard and some City-County Council Democrats also announced they’ve agreed on a plan to fund quality preschool for disadvantaged children.

The plan, financed with $15 million in city funds and $20 million from Eli Lilly and Co. and private donors, offers proof that elected officials are capable of working across party lines to do what’s right, even heading into a municipal election year. The preschool plan resurrects and modifies a proposal that died last month in a council committee.

Ballard, his staff and Democrats John Barth and Maggie Lewis deserve praise for refusing to let the plan die. Providing broader access to preschool is part of a long-range crime-fighting plan proposed by the mayor. We trust the council will do right by the city’s children and approve the measure as soon as possible.•

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