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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Mayoral leadership at a time of rising city homicides

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The horrific tragedy of the Hovey Street murders — two Black babies shot dead in their mothers’ arms as their mothers were murdered — epitomizes the evil of violence permeating many Black communities today.

As Mayor Greg Ballard assumes office, fate may be handing him a bad hand as 2008 has begun on a pace to perhaps be the worst year for homicides in Indianapolis history. As of this column’s deadline, 11 have been murdered this year — 10 of them African-American. That percentage is obscenely and uncharacteristically high.

At this point in 2007 there had been just six murders; three victims were African-American.

The shocking, numbing nature of the Hovey Street crimes galvanized the Indianapolis Metro Police. Round-the-clock-work led police to apprehend four suspects; with the investigation continuing. Our Black community commends the professionalism and dedication of our police officers in apparently cracking this case.

Our community is to be commended for rejecting the attitude of “no snitching” and providing scores of leads and info to police.

Sheriff Frank Anderson spoke for everyone when he condemned the killings, in bold, stark language that sent a message. I’m told that the criminal community, shocked by this crime, provided information to police and put out the word that the killers needed to be brought to justice.

WRTV/Channel 6’s commentator Abdul Hakim-Shabazz, condemned Anderson’s remarks, saying they were unprofessional and could jeopardize the case. Poppycock! Sheriff Anderson expressed the feeling not just of our African-American community, but everyone. His remarks should be applauded not condemned.

Mayor Ballard has made a big deal that Indianapolis mayors should retain control of our now combined police department. Early next month, Ballard’s Republican-majority City-County Council will give him that power. (Though a companion plan to change state law is stalled in the Legislature.)

The Hovey Street tragedy provided our new mayor an opportunity to bond with our Black community. Here was a heinous crime that outraged a city and our Black community. Here was an occasion for the mayor to express the anger and emotion all felt.

If this heinous multiple homicide had occurred in cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Columbus, Detroit, Houston or Atlanta, their mayors would have been outspoken and forceful in their public comments. And because the crime touched their city’s minority community, those mayors would have spoken directly with that community through its minority media.

Mayor Ballard did none of that. Other than a brief press statement and an appearance at a prayer vigil, Mayor Ballard was mostly invisible. The mayor passed up numerous opportunities to speak on the city‘s Black radio stations about the tragedy and urge community cooperation with police.

No mayoral statement was specifically provided to the Recorder or the Indiana Herald about Ballard’s outrage and what his administration would do to prevent such crimes in the future.

I heard Mayor Ballard’s comments at a well attended prayer vigil at Great Commission Church of God just a day after the slayings. His words were adequate, but lacked power or passion. An African-American community hurt and angry about an unjustifiable slaying, a community skeptical about the new mayor, wanted a mayor who acknowledged their pain and anger, a mayor ready with healing words. Instead, they heard words that floated in the air and touched no one.

Part of a mayor’s job, part of mayoral leadership is to emotionally connect with people. The best leaders, even the best Marine leaders, are able to do that – to emotionally connect with people.

In a week when Indianapolis’ mayor needed to connect with his citizens, especially citizens from the community most victimized by crime, a community desiring real community policing, but fearful of Ballard’s intentions, our new mayor didn’t do the job Indianapolis expected him to do.

What I’m hearing in the streets

Signaling the seriousness the national Democratic Party takes in holding the 7th Congressional District seat, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) placed Andre Carson in their “Red to Blue” program which introduces candidates to the party’s donors to strengthen fundraising.

The DCCC placed Carson on the list to funnel buckets of bucks into his special election campaign and beyond. Now Carson must get his campaign in gear, blitz the base and the neighborhoods to get the vote out in just 47 days.

Carson was visible on Dr. King’s Day, speaking at a pro-janitors union event at Christ Church Cathedral and at the Walker Theater. State Rep. Carolene Mays, poised to challenge Carson in the May primary, also spoke at the Walker event.

None of the other 7th District candidates, especially Republican Jon Elrod, was visible at King Day events. Isn’t a day of importance to many in the district, important enough for Elrod to have shown his face at some Dr. King event, somewhere?

See ‘ya next week.

Amos Brown’s opinions are not necessarily those of the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper. You can contact him at (317) 221-0915 or by e-mail at ACBROWN@AOL.COM.

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