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Monday, March 4, 2024

Ballard turned forum into partisan politics

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The job of a community leader is an enormous task with an awesome amount of responsibility. It’s also a task that sometimes transcends beyond an “individual’s leadership” to that of the company, organization, or institute that such an individual represents.

I’m not quite sure if that’s fair, but realistically speaking, it’s certainly true.

With that said, the responsibility of a spiritual leader can sometimes be even more challenging than other leaders in the community. Their responsibility is more challenging because they seemingly have to balance a lot more and be mindful to not tread the line of spiritual unacceptance.

There was an event that took place Sunday where I feel that line was crossed.

Light of the World Christian Church invited the community to participate in a property and income tax forum. When I learned of the event, I thought it was an excellent way to effectively educate local residents about property and income taxes. I also thought it was a great outlet for the community to hear from experts in the field or from those directly involved in creating and implementing solutions.

Among the invited guests were state Sen. Teresa Lubbers, R-Indianapolis; state Rep. Vanessa Summers, D- Indianapolis; Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson; and Dr. Craig Johnson, of the Indiana University Department of Public and Environmental Affairs.

These invited guests were good fits for the topic of discussion. You have a state senator and state representative, members of the Indiana General Assembly, the mayor who along with the City-County Council is primarily responsible for allocating funds from property taxes, and also an expert professor who could give a balanced perspective on the topic.

Here’s where it gets sticky.

Also invited was Republican mayoral candidate Greg Ballard.

As with the other guests, Ballard was given the opportunity to speak, but rather than talk about creating solutions (which he can’t do now anyway since he’s not in an authoritative position), Ballard used the forum to display his political views. He tapped into citizen frustration, but used it for political gain.

It was extremely poor taste of the coordinators of this event to invite the mayor’s opponent when we’re looking at officials who are in power now to address the crisis. If Ballard wanted to show up and participate as a citizen, then by all means – but by no means should the church have invited him to speak.

Ballard’s presence somewhat turned the forum into a debate and put the mayor on the defense politically – that wasn’t the venue to do such a thing.

After a phone call to Light of the World, I learned that Mmoja Ajabu, minister of social concerns for the church, was the primary person responsible for the event.

Minister Ajabu is a person whom I have a tremendous amount of respect for, as is Light of the World’s pastor, Bishop T. Garrott Benjamin. Both men have for years been advocates of the community. Bishop’s stewardship has transcended this city to new heights and I’m extremely proud and humbled by his efforts. However, inviting Greg Ballard to speak at a forum about creating solutions was a major faux pas.

Political rhetoric should be kept out of this entire tax problem as much as possible because this is not a partisan issue – it’s a community issue.

And while Ballard, as ambitious as he may be, probably jumped at the opportunity to speak at such a forum, he should have devoted more time to contributing substantial solutions than canvassing for votes. Such churlish ways surely don’t reflect positively on him as a potential person to lead the city of Indianapolis.

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