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Friday, January 27, 2023

A rarity – Indy’s mayor talks to Black folks

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In his first interview with Indianapolis Black media in over a year, Mayor Greg Ballard did something no mayor of Indianapolis ever did.

About 15 minutes into the hour-long interview on WTLC-AM’s “Afternoons with Amos,” the mayor uttered a line that was a combination of raw naivete and naked hubris saying, “If I wasn’t a Republican, you’d say that I was the most African-American friendly mayor in the history of Indianapolis.”

The stunning statement came after Ballard recounted his accomplishments that in his words “impact the African-American community. That without my support they would not happen in this city.”

Despite support and hard work from a broad cross section of Indianapolis, Ballard took full credit for building the new Wishard Hospital saying “that without me, without my support that wouldn’t have happened.”

The mayor shocked listeners when he said that leaking water wasn’t the only reason pools were closed last summer. “Kids were swimming over raw sewage and corroded pipes. It was embarrassing. It was shameful for the city.”

If raw sewage was spewing into a public swimming pool, the Health Department would’ve intervened and it’d been on the TV news. That didn’t happen.

Mayor Ballard feels his investment of millions in streets and sidewalk projects, the results of his controversial sale of the Indianapolis Water Co. to Citizens Energy, is another reason why Blacks should feel he’s the best mayor ever.

Ballard said, “Now on Michigan Road. For decades it was unsafe. Soon, there will be a sidewalk out there. Roads and sidewalks across the entire city. Go down Kentucky Avenue, Holt Road. It’s all over the city, it’s not just happening downtown, like a lot of people think.”

Ballard was bullish about the 38,000 jobs he claims his administration has brought to Indianapolis during his tenure. This despite the fact that the number of Indianapolis residents now unemployed or dropped out of the labor force grew by 41,830 during the same period.

Ballard was stunned when I told him that the 2005-2009 Census American Community Survey reports 45 percent of the city/county’s 211 census tracts were above the city/county average 9.3 percent unemployment rate; with 52.6 percent of the tracts above the average poverty rate of 16.6 percent.

The mayor gave a convoluted answer when I asked what he was doing about bringing jobs to those economically depressed areas, “We want to try to bring jobs into the city. (But) people don’t like commercial development in their neighborhoods. So we try to bring jobs to different parts of the area. And we give a little extra points for certain areas that are difficult like the Eastside.”

Our interview came two days after the passing of IMPD Officer David Moore. I asked the mayor what he was doing to make sure IMPD attracted and promoted African-American officers with the qualities of David Moore.

He at first responded, “You’re going to see a whole huge change in what I call the personnel continuum in recruiting, training and promotions and personnel evaluation. There’s going to be a big change in that because it has to be done. It has to change to be fairer along the way.”

But the rest of his answer to my question was disturbing and ominous.

“But I have to be honest with you. There are a lot of people in the African-American community who diss the police on a regular basis. And that passes on to the younger generation. That makes recruiting very, very difficult in that population.”

Then Mayor Ballard took at swipe at many in our community.

“There are people, sometimes upstanding, who do not treat police with as much respect as I think they should. And we have to overcome that. Maybe I’m just too emotional right now, but I’m going to start calling some of them out.”

But when I told the mayor of an incident where a white IMPD officer disrespected a mother and her medically-challenged child, he seemed shocked that such disrespect by officers occurs.

Mayor Ballard finally confirmed what had been the worst kept secret of his administration. The role of former Mayor Steve Goldsmith as an advisor.

“Do I talk to Goldsmith?” said Ballard, “Absolutely. I have talked to him in the last month or so. I talked to him a little bit over the years. He’s a good advisor. He really is.”

But I wonder how much Ballard takes Goldsmith’s advice.

Mayor Ballard bragged about his goal of putting up “50 urban gardens in Center Township in 2011,” saying it would deal with the problem of “food deserts in urban cores all cross the nation.”

“Food deserts” is an urban planner’s term for neighborhoods, mostly low income, minority areas in American cities which lack grocery stores selling fresh foods.

But while Ballard plants gardens, other places are finding solutions to bring fresh food and jobs to impoverished neighborhoods.

Walgreen’s just announced that they’re bringing fresh food to 700 stores nationwide to deal with food deserts. Wal-mart wants to add more stores in food desert areas.

But when Kroger abandoned stores at 38th and Post and West 38th Street, the mayor did nothing; allowing food deserts to flourish.

Mayors Richard Lugar, Bill Hudnut, Steve Goldsmith and Bart Peterson supported racial diversity in public safety hiring, kept lines of communication open to all factions in our African-American community, appointed Blacks to head major city departments, articulated a vision for Indianapolis that was inclusionary. Greg Ballard, on the other hand, doesn’t understand the dynamics of the complex city he leads; he’s not serious about public safety diversity; he’s hostile to a wide range of Black leadership and institutions and has yet to articulate his vision of an inclusionary city.

Mayor Ballard is light years away from being Indy’s most “African-American friendly mayor.”

What I’m hearing in the streets

The week’s other gala wasn’t in Carmel, but at 300 East last Friday for a surprise 75th birthday party for state Rep. Bill Crawford, D-Indianapolis. I’d need two whole Recorder pages to recount those there. It was a Who’s Who of African-Americans from business, media, current and past elected officials, grass roots folks, Crawford’s staff, Black Expo colleagues and many more. Even white power brokers past and present, including Gov. Mitch Daniels and, representing his legislative colleagues, House Speaker Brian Bosma. Significant by his absence? The current mayor.

Hmm.

See ‘ya next week.

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

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