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Friday, June 18, 2021

Mayor Ballard’s eroding credibility imperils Justice Center deal

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Mayor Greg Ballard and his minions’ obsession with secrecy has repeatedly broken Ballard’s 2008 Inaugural Speech promise of following “principles of transparency and accountability.”

Between the parking meter, Rebuild Indy, electric cars, cricket field fiascos and the growing Regional Operations Center “ROC” scandal, Ballard’s credibility has exceeded Pinocchio levels. And it’s all coming home to roost with the Indy Justice Center mess.

Ballard’s Boyz’ (my term) have done an abysmal job explaining the project to city-county councilors and community leaders. Their credibility’s so toxic that top officials of Meridiam, the French company that’s the lead equity partner in Heartland Justice Partners, the entity that “won” the bid to build the Justice Center had to send in a flying squad of top officials to try and salvage the deal.

Jane Garvey, North American Chair of Meridiam, appeared on our WTLC-AM1310 Afternoons with Amos program trying to clean up the mess. Garvey told me Meridiam would be responsive to the Black community, hire Indy resident workers and engage African-American and other minority vendors.

Asked about Meridiam’s partner, Walsh Construction, the target of several discrimination suits by African-American employees, Garvey said they’re aware and Walsh is “dealing” with the issue.

Garvey, Deau and Meridiam officials hope this deal can get done by March 31st. My position is the Justice Center project must be done right from the jump! If that takes another six to nine months and costs a little more, in the long run it may be worth it.

What I’m Hearing in the Streets

Nearly a year launching an initiative to reduce African-American male violence and seven months after creating a task force to examine breaking down barriers impacting African-American males 14 to 24; Mayor Ballard has given up leading the effort.

With no advance warning, the mayor quietly announced Indiana Black Expo (IBE) will now lead the effort to implement the recommendations that encompass Indy’s efforts in President Barack Obama’s My Brothers Keeper Initiative and Community Challenge.

Even though the effort is of direct interest to our Black community, Mayor Ballard only commented to the Indianapolis Star; refusing interviews with the Recorder. Ballard also refused to speak to audiences of Indy’s Black radio stations; which had given the Mayor’s Office permission to use the stations’ Your Life Matters® trademarked slogan to use in the city’s effort.

IBE President Tanya Bell will attend a White House meeting next week to update Indy’s efforts to implement their recommendations.

Mayor Ballard’s decision to have IBE lead the follow-up effort is risky because of the strained relationships IBE’s had with many Indy African-American leaders and institutions.

It’s no secret IBE’s burned more bridges the last couple of years than Sherman did in Georgia.

However, to her credit, in recent weeks, Tanya Bell has tried to heal wounds. She attended the 10th Anniversary Champions of Diversity event sponsored by this newspaper and the Indiana Minority Business Magazine.

Given IBE fired the Recorder as a charter Expo sponsor last year, Bell’s appearance at the event was a surprising sign.

The Ballard Administration’s refusal, though, to include other organizations in the implementation of the My Brother’s Keeper recommendations, continues Ballard’s myopia and disdain toward African-American institutions.

Did you notice the interview by Victoria Davis with Gov. Mike Pence on the Recorder’s front page two weeks ago? Last time I checked, Pence is Republican. And a conservative one at that. Yet Pence had no fear or compulsion about giving an interview to Recorder journalists.

This is the Indianapolis Recorder’s 120th year. It will be embarrassing and worse for Mayor Ballard’s boycott of one of America’s oldest Black newspapers during its milestone year.

Rep. Andre Carson’s appointment to the House Select Committee on Intelligence is a big deal. This critically sensitive committee provides legislative oversight of America’s intelligence agencies. There’ve been African-American members of this committee, but Carson’s getting extra media scrutiny because of his Muslim faith.

The appointment also raises Carson’s profile in the Congress. Little known here in the district is the fact that this year Carson is 2nd Vice-Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. A critical leadership position in that key congressional caucus.

These two highly visible positions will put more pressure on Carson to be more forceful speaking out, not just on national issues of public policy affecting African-Americans, but on key issues impacting residents of the 7th District here at home.

While Republicans are laughing at Mitt Romney talking about poverty last week, he’s on to something. Here in Indianapolis while the stats say unemployment is down, the stats also say wages in Indiana are below the national average. Poverty and near poverty are at record levels.

Late last week, a national report said a majority of America’s public school kids live in poverty. In Indiana 49 percent of public school students are in poverty.

Given Indiana’s high percentage of student poverty, maybe Indiana’s GOP super legislative majority needs to heed Romney’s plea that the GOP must positively deal with poverty.

After universal community condemnation, IPS leadership abandoned their absurd changes for high school graduations. Meanwhile, IPS faces new crises at Washington High School.

Last Fall, there were skirmishes between Black and Hispanic students. Hispanics are livid over poor conditions at the school and the insensitivity of top IPS leadership to hear their grievances.

Black education leaders are stunned there’s a severe teacher shortage at Washington. So serious that it’s said some regular classes are being taught by special education teachers, which if true, is a violation of Federal law.

With a principal incapable of leading, Washington High’s in turmoil with IPS brass seemingly uncaring.

See ‘ya next week!

You can reach Amos Brown at ac-brown@aol.com, or follow him on Twitter at @amoswtlcindy.

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