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Friday, June 18, 2021

Slip sliding away; lack of mayoral leadership kept kids home from school

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Saturday morning, 108 hours after the worst ice storm in Indianapolis in a decade, an army of community leaders and volunteers fanned out to IPS schools to help them prepare to reopen after an unprecedented four-day closure.

Countywide elected officials, prospective candidates, some of the city’s biggest movers and shakers, even Democratic mayoral candidate Melina Kennedy, worked to smash ice covered school sidewalks and driveways.

The actions of these volunteers were more than we saw from Mayor Greg Ballard whose inept storm management actually kept kids from school.

Despite the herculean efforts of Department of Public Works’ (DPW) employees and contractors who actually manned snowplows and salt spreaders all week, their efforts were undercut by the cautious timidity of their commanders in warm offices, especially their “Chief Snow Fighter.”

Our mayor must have taken bad weather management tips from his confidant Steve Goldsmith, whose ineptness angered millions of New Yorkers last month.

In terms of snowfall, last week’s storm wasn’t bad; but it was ice that caused the severe headaches. And the Ballard administration was clueless over how to handle it.

In my years here, Indianapolis’ bad weather plan involved first clearing the main arterial streets. Once that was done, the priority always shifted to doing what was necessary so school buses could safely traverse Indy’s public side streets.

Sunday morning, DPW sent media a timeline on Mayor Ballard’s storm management. The timeline, which read more like a Lindsay Lohan “It wasn’t my fault” apologia, contained some damning information.

On Wednesday morning (Feb. 2), Mayor Ballard discussed “what the city could do to help children return to school.” The response to only send trucks to “connector streets and intersections near schools” didn’t solve the problem of making sure that school bus routes were clear.

Obviously the mayor and his minions failed to grasp the impact that 2 inches of ice does to school sidewalks, parking lots and school bus routes.

The DPW memo said “discussions” continued all day Thursday (Feb. 3) on what to do about schools. But no decision was made to move plows into residential streets until Friday.

According to the city, IPS didn’t request city help until “late Friday afternoon (Feb 4).” School lots and neighborhood streets weren’t treated until overnight Friday night/Saturday morning (Feb 4/5).

Part of the problem of last week’s snow fighting mess was the ineptitude of the DPW’s PR mavens, who repeatedly sent incomplete and contradictory messages to local media.

Saturday morning, one of DPW’s woefully inexperienced PR minions proclaimed “85 percent of residential streets” had been worked on; a declaration disavowed two hours later.

When I asked for guidance on the percentage of residential streets DPW had actually cleared, DPW’s chief PR maven Molly Deuberry responded that they didn’t know, despite her office’s previously firm 85 percent declaration.

Deuberry reflected the mayor’s attitude of detachment and invisibility during the storm. Unlike past serious storms when Indy’s mayors were constantly on live TV and radio explaining and updating the community on weather efforts, Mayor Ballard was virtually invisible. His only public media tours were Wednesday’s midday newscasts and a couple of radio programs. Despite the city’s sizeable African-American community, the mayor (as usual) made no appearances on Black radio.

By Thursday afternoon, the mayor had jetted to snowy/icy Dallas, but according to the DPW memo was “in touch” by phone.

Talking with Melina Kennedy and other Democrats fighting the ice Saturday at Shortridge High School, I wondered how prepared we really are for next year’s Super Bowl if we get the same weather Dallas had this year; or worse.

Indianapolis/Marion County residents deserve to know now, in specifics, how the city plans to handle bad weather Super Bowl week. How will streets be kept clean and safe for Super Bowl visitors and city residents? Or will our residential streets be clogged and our schools closed for days so the millionaires, billionaires and entertainment demigods can tool around town to parties and events the rest of us’ll never enjoy?

What I’m hearing in the streets

A hostile Republican, who tried to put Chrysler out of business and holds deep antipathy towards President Barack Obama, is running against Sen. Richard Lugar. State Treasurer Richard Mourdock latches on to the radical Republican agenda and is poised to become the greatest challenger in Lugar’s political career.

Could this GOP battle royal open the door for a Democrat to recapture one of Indiana’s Senate seats?

Indianapolis’ Ten Point Coalition returned to their roots of trying to reduce violence. At a press conference, the coalition, along with Indiana Black Expo, the Urban League, the mayor and public safety officials announced efforts to make February a “violence free” month.

The coalition plans a Feb. 15 meeting with “the business community, federal officials” and others and a town hall meeting Feb. 28 with parents.

But the effort seems disjointed and hastily put together. The problems of kids with illegal guns were cited. But when pressed by media, neither the coalition nor the mayor had solutions on curbing illegal guns.

Coalition members cited the need for jobs, but no plan on securing them.

The federal government has strong laws on battling illegal gun use. But Ten Point didn’t include U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett in their event. This opened them to the suspicion that the efforts were just a ploy to help Mayor Ballard’s re-election efforts.

And the event didn’t help Ballard because TV coverage left viewers believing Indy’s plagued with violence; while the mayor continues to insist that violence is down.

But, the first days of February have so far been murder-free. So their efforts have a positive start.

It was a joy to bring together, for the first time, Indy’s weekday African-American TV anchors. Deanna Dewberry, Angela Morehead, Ericka Flye and Grace Trahan all joined me on our WTLC-AM (1310) “Afternoons with Amos” program in a spirited conversation about their work, families, faith, goals and more. The city’s newest African-American anchor, Fanchon Stinger, got tied up, but joined us at the end for a historic conversation our community won’t soon forget.

Next week, the 2010 Census results.

See ‘ya then…

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

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