Let’s face it, 2020 has not been a great year for Indianapolis in general and the Hogsett administration in particular.
The COVID-19 outbreak, protests, riots, a city on track for a record murder rate, downtown businesses in basic revolt, police morale at a near all-time low, a $100 million revenue shortfall—and it’s only August.
It’s enough to make me wonder whether, with all the bad news lately, Joe Hogsett still wants to be mayor of Indianapolis. Right now, I don’t think so.
Here’s what makes me think that. The fact that the mornings after the riots, Hogsett never met with the downtown businesses that had been hit by rioters and looters. Instead of being downtown that Saturday after the first riot (please note that I am not dogging the protesters; I am talking about the rioters and looters), the mayor was nowhere to be found. I can say the same thing about the morning after the second night of rioting; the mayor put out an early-morning tweet, but that was about it.
There was no immediate tour of downtown, no conversations with the business owners. Let’s face it: There was no leadership. And there is the confusion about who told the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department to stand down and let the rioters have it. Was it the administration, or was it the top brass at IMPD?
Regardless, we shouldn’t even be asking this question because it should have never occurred in the first place. I will give the city a bit of a pass on the first day of rioting, but the second day, let’s be serious. Streets should have been closed off, marches should have been canceled, etc.
That is basic governing 101. Hogsett failed.
And to make matters worse, the city is basically throwing the police department under the bus with its public safety survey. Meanwhile, the number of murders, as I write this column, is about 133. That’s a murder every 1.6 days. And the year isn’t over. I can easily see us getting to 200 murders. This is not a good sign of someone who wants to be mayor.
And then there was Jason Larrison. Larrison is the former city employee who replaced Blake Johnson in City-County Council District 12. He is white and had the backing of the mayor. Meanwhile, his opponent, Karla Lopez Owens, a Latina, had the support of at least eight Democratic councilors. Larrison won 12-11, but Hogsett had to spend a lot of capital to get him appointed, and now there is more bad blood between the council and the mayor. I’ll just set that storyline over to the side, and you can draw your own conclusions.
Now, this isn’t to say that Indy’s mayors haven’t all faced tough times in office. Mayors Dick Lugar, Bill Hudnut, Steve Goldsmith, Bart Peterson and Greg Ballard all had them. But I never felt that any of them didn’t want the job. My conversations with all these gentlemen convinced me that, while they had their days, they loved being mayor. Hogsett, I’m not so sure.
Perhaps it is just the stress of the job this year. Hogsett told me recently that he does like the job, even though it has its challenges at times. Looking at everything, though, really makes me wonder if he wants to be mayor. And if he doesn’t, will he resign and go do something else? Or will he just phone it in for the next 3-1/2 years?
Your guess, right now, is as good as mine.•
Shabazz is an attorney, radio talk show host and political commentator, college professor and stand-up comedian. Send comments to email@example.com.
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