Stunning and incomprehensible.
The mayor of America’s 11th largest city has officially dismissed the NAACP as irrelevant. This wasn’t before an all-white audience, but to America’s 13th largest African-American community, through its Black media.
Monday in a live interview on WTLC-AM (1310) “Afternoons with Amos,” Mayor Greg Ballard openly admitted that during his 1,260 days in office he’s never had a sit down conversation with the president of the Indianapolis NAACP. A first for any Indianapolis mayor in decades.
“We went to a breakfast together,” the mayor revealed. “I don’t think I’ve sat down with him in a discussion.” (The current NAACP president for two years has been a woman).
Ballard admitted he doesn’t need to talk with the NAACP.
“I have, since the beginning, an African-American leadership committee that talks to me pretty much quarterly. I’ve had that since the first year.”
I asked the mayor, “Why would that (committee) not include the president of the oldest civil rights organization in the city?”
“Well we have other civil rights organizations represented there,” the mayor continued. “You have to make the cut somewhere I guess.”
“The NAACP wouldn’t make that cut?” I asked, stunned at Ballard’s insensitivity.
The mayor asserted that he gets “a lot of good advice that he’s happy with” from his handpicked “terrific” unnamed group that’s “a very diverse group within the African-American community.”
The mayor refuses to reveal the group’s membership. But we know it doesn’t include the NAACP, the Baptist Ministers Alliance, Democratic elected officials, most Black trade unionists, Black media officials, Black businesspersons; in short anyone with the temerity to raise questioning questions of this mayor.
Deputy Mayor Olgen Williams was compelled to clean up a bit of the mayor’s arrogant disclosure mess, saying current NAACP President Chrystal Ratcliffe has met with him and Ballard’s chief of staff.
The Indianapolis Star and others blasted Ballard for his late entry into the conversation on Indianapolis public education and the crisis looming over seven IPS schools being state takeover targets.
I asked the mayor why he didn’t reveal his proposal the legislature approved that would allow local control of takeover schools?
Ballard’s answer is so confusing and illogical I thought he was speaking in Sanskrit.
“I’ll tell you exactly why (I waited),” Ballard explained, “Because no one was paying attention. The city generally speaking. I had a mayor’s night out in Martindale-Brightwood a couple of months ago. Did it come up? No. I knew that people were not necessarily thinking of this. The only reason that people really started to get dialed into it and started to get attention was when Tony (Bennett) started holding these forums at high schools and everybody said ‘Oh, my God he’s serious.’ Well we knew he was serious last year. We knew it.”
So, mayor why didn’t you say anything then? That’s called leadership.
Another news nugget. I asked Mayor Ballard if he was prepared to tell the Cultural Trail not to put the controversial Fred Wilson slave sculpture in front of the City-County Building?
“I think we are, but I want to let this play out,” the mayor said. “I suspect that when it appears someplace it won’t be on city-county property.”
But given the mayor’s other views, it probably means he’ll put the sculpture at the building’s front door.
What I’m hearing
in the streets
Indiana Democrats started the long process of rebuilding the party gathering Saturday at the annual Jefferson/Jackson Day fundraising dinner. The first woman Democratic National Committee Chair, Congresswoman Debbie Wassermann-Schultz was the keynote speaker. But she didn’t shine or inspire as I and others expected.
The party showcased their top prospects for 2011 and 2012. Beginning with their star mayoral candidates, Pete Buttigieg, who impressed many with his race, last year for state treasurer, is the Democratic candidate for South Bend mayor.
And of course Melina Kennedy, who had a good week as her strong stand for opening up meaningful discussions on education in Indianapolis were contrasted with Mayor Ballard’s ham-handed, inept education stance.
Congressman André Carson brought those in attendance to their feet with a passionate speech about the party’s and Republicans’ sins.
U.S. Senate candidate, Congressman Joe Donnelly told the crowd, “Tonight is the start of the comeback of the Indiana Democratic Party.”
State Senate Democratic leader Vi Simpson lambasted the radical Republican legislative session calling it “the worst legislative session of all time. A radical agenda waged against our way of life.”
The most watched speech was John Gregg’s, whom the party’s starting to rally around as their candidate for governor against Mike Pence.
A former House Speaker, Gregg has significant support within the party, but some women’s groups are fearful because Gregg’s pro-life, while African-Americans are wary because of tepid support for Gregg from Indiana’s Black legislators.
Gregg’s positioning himself as someone who’ll talk straight talk to Hoosiers – with views in tune with Indiana Democrats, independents and some Republicans.
Gregg said Democrats are “the party of leaders, solutions, collaboration, innovation, progress. We are the party of diversity, the party of tolerance.”
Then Gregg confronted his pro-life stance saying bluntly “We can’t take away medical care for women under guise of pro life.”
He added, “Attacking health services for women is not pro life.” And Gregg declared, “If you want to be pro family get someone a good paying job.”
Gregg’s Republican opponent, Congressman Pence, began his campaign for governor in his Columbus hometown.
I would’ve wanted to cover the event, but Pence’s inept gubernatorial campaign staff wouldn’t let me.
I’ve covered Indiana politics in this space for nearly 17 years. State and local Republican parties send me their press releases and advisories. So do a slew of GOP presidential campaigns, past and present.
Mike Pence is the first major Republican campaign to exclude Black media from day one.
Odd, because I’m flooded with press releases from Pence’s congressional staffers. But evidently they didn’t copy their e-mail press list and leave it in a brown envelope for his gubernatorial campaign.
I hope the Pence campaign’s exclusion of an invitation to Black media to their campaign kickoff doesn’t signal that his campaign’s out to replicate Greg Ballard’s insensitivity towards African-Americans in Indianapolis to do the same to Indiana’s 650,000 African-Americans.
See ‘ya next week.
You can e-mail comments to Amos Brown at [email protected]