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Tuesday, February 20, 2024

While Ballard ignores; Democratic mayoral candidates reach out to Blacks

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The 2011 Indianapolis mayor’s race began in earnest last week, as the three Democratic candidates came to speak to the Indianapolis African-American community through Black media, in prime time.

The three – Jose Evans, Ron Gibson and Melina Kennedy – each spent an hour on WTLC-AM (1310’s) “Afternoons with Amos,” discussing with the community the issues facing Indianapolis.

All three blasted Mayor Greg Ballard’s inept handling of public safety and police issues, especially the Brandon Johnson and Officer Bisard cases.

All three blasted Ballard’s ill-considered sale of parking meters for 50 years to the performance challenged company ACS and Ballard’s insensitivity towards neighborhoods, pointing out the mayor’s egregious closing the Wes Montgomery pool.

All three stressed jobs and a strong commitment to work to bring jobs and economic development to other neighborhoods other than downtown and the outer fringes of the city/county.

Each of the three brought their “A” games to the interview. Gibson was upbeat and articulate about the issues he feels are important, which include public safety and education. In the interview, Gibson was honest and direct about the obstacles his campaign faces, including the encounter with a policewoman that resulted in a court fight Gibson won.

Education was listed as a major issue by Gibson and Evans. Both stressed that as mayor they’d work to improve IPS. But when I reminded them that the only power a mayor has over schools is the mayor’s own charter schools, each was vague on what impact a mayor could really have over IPS.

Evans was expansive in his interview, discussing a number of initiatives he’d institute, including one called “Indy 2.0.” Evans not only blasted the mayor for the gas company/water company deal, but also chided City-County Council Democrats for not supporting his efforts to derail the deal.

Several callers said they’d support Evans partly because he’s African-American. While that may play well in our community, in a general election, with white voters still the majority voting bloc in Indy, that perception could hurt him. Already some whites are nervous about voting again for a Democratic mayor because of their perception that “the Black ministers and Al Sharpton” would run the city.

In her interview, besides economic development and neighborhoods, Kennedy stressed leadership as an important issue. She stated that she would be ready to lead and run the city from the start.

Kennedy addressed concerns about her campaign. She admitted that she will be leaving her corporate lawyer’s gig at year’s start. Her job kept her from speaking out on the gas/water deal because of ethics rules.

Kennedy also addressed the perception that she’s a loser, having lost the prosecutor’s race four years ago.

And in response to a question why she wouldn’t support one of the Black candidates in the mayor’s race, she reminded listeners that she supported Barack Obama for president over Hillary Clinton.

Jose, Ron and Melina are all quality candidates who I know well. All Democrats are faced with quality candidates who are better than the incumbent. I hope during this “family feud” campaign they will remain positive and constructive.

I strongly believe Democratic voters should have the right and opportunity to choose the candidate of their choice. This space will not endorse before slating or the primary.

The full candidate interviews are available on line at www.praiseindy.com/author/amosbrown.

Meanwhile, incumbent Mayor Ballard announces his bid for a second term this Saturday. In interviews with white media leading up the to the announcement (Black media again was dissed by the mayor), it seems the mayor touted his record, telling the Indianapolis Star “it’s pretty obvious to most people in the city that we’re making a pretty big difference.”

I’ll let that bit of hyperbole simmer for a while since it’ll probably be months before the mayor grants Black media prime time interviews; reserving his explanations to media programs in fringe weekend slots.

What I’m hearing

in the streets

I asked the mayor’s press posse to formally comment on our column and that Indianapolis Monthly story that former Mayor Steve Goldsmith and Mayor Ballard “talk often.” No response. And I’m not expecting one until the Colts return to the Super Bowl.

The Democratic debacle in Indiana, (but not Indianapolis), gives the party little input in how the Indiana Legislature will redraw legislative seats and Indiana’s nine congressional districts when 2010 Census data is released in early February.

Our African-American community must be vigilant in monitoring how Gov. Mitch Daniels and the GOP dominated, tea party-flavored legislature redraws the lines.

The Voting Rights Act and subsequent Supreme Court decisions say that redistricting must respect “communities of interest” as well as a minority community’s right to elect representatives of its choice.

The current and expected distribution of Indianapolis’ African-American community, a distinct “community of interest,” makes it difficult for Republican mischief makers to carve a district that would endanger Congressman André Carson or not permit our community of interest to elect a person of our choice.

But that’s not stopped Republican pundits from suggesting cutting our Black community up into several congressional districts, diluting our community’s power and influence.

This column will be vigilant during the redistricting process looking for GOP funny business and skullduggery that would illegally strip our African-American community of political representation. This issue is just as important as getting jobs for our people and curbing police abuse of power.

Author, political commentator and former campaign manager for Al Gore and Jesse Jackson and major figure in the Democratic Party circles Donna Brazile spoke to the annual Forest Manor Multi-Service Center’s Champions Luncheon last week. In an exclusive interview, Brazile told African-Americans not to give up hope and to stand with President Obama. Brazile said times would be rough, but that the president and Democrats are standing on the correct side of major issues, especially help for middle class and those without jobs right now.

Brazile’s speech electrified a packed house at the luncheon. And got several people thinking that Indiana Black Expo needs to invite her to the 2011 IBE Luncheon, which is in desperate need of a high-powered Democratic Party figure after the community angst and controversy over Expo’s Award to Mayor Ballard this year.

See ‘ya next week.

You can e-mail comments to Amos Brown at acbrown@aol.com.

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