With just a few weeks to go until the mayoral
are outdoing themselves running attack ads against each other.
Taken side by side, they represent two mutually
exclusive views of the city. Ballard's ads tell us that crime is down and the
city has never been more safe, thanks to the mayor's firm action to control
Kennedy's response is that crime is up and the
city is one of the most dangerous in the country; therefore, we need the kind
of strong leadership and rapport with law enforcement that only she can
And so on and so on. This campaign is not, by a
long shot, the dirtiest one in city history but it's been one of the most
cynical and misleading. Neither candidate offers much more of a vision for the
city than that their opponent would screw up everything. Neither has detailed
any kind of progressive agenda that would help Indianapolis create jobs,
rebuild infrastructure and move us forward as a community.
It's a good thing hardly anyone paid attention
to their recent debate, in which they reinforced those talking points, took
polite jabs at each other and, despite prodding by the debate's moderators,
continued to be specific only on the point that their opponent is unworthy of
Indianapolis deserves better than this campaign
and these candidates. The only thing the debate affirmed decisively is that the
Libertarian Party has just as many, if not more, good ideas as the two major
I was kidding, kind of, that either of the
candidates could buy my endorsement for some cash and booze. Wisely, neither
took me up on the offer. But I was hoping the frustrations expressed about the
tone and generic blandness of the campaign would spur at least one of them into
being more specific and visionary in their statements.
Their TV ads are disgraceful; even their soft
and fuzzy biographical ads make the candidates seem weak and unfit for office.
Meanwhile, the city is chock-full of issues
awaiting bold leadership. Public transportation is one of those issues both
candidates discuss in great detail without saying very much. It's a disgrace
that our city's transit system is not even in the top 100 nationwide.
The mayoral candidates agree this is disgraceful
and something needs to be done about it. That's pretty much where they stop.
Neither gives any credible explanation as to why the situation is so dire or
what they'd do to fix it other than to set up study committees.
The subject has been studied to death over the
past 40 years and every time the conclusion is the same: Taxpayers are
unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary to improve the situation and our
leaders are equally as unwilling to petition the General Assembly to allow
modernized ways of funding public transportation.
As a consequence, each year IndyGo passes a
budget that kicks the can down the road for 12 months in hope that help is on
the way. The service suffers as a result and we continue to have a
well-intentioned but woefully inadequate transit system that underserves the
And on every other major civic issue, the
mayoral candidates offer a choice between "more of the same" and "meaningless
gestures towards improvement." That is no choice at all and is something about
which we, as citizens, should express outrage.
Fortunately for the candidates, few people pay
attention to the mayoral campaign at all and even fewer examine the
backgrounds, qualifications and views of the candidates. If they did, they'd be
pissed off at the choices they've been given for mayor.
For more than a generation, Indianapolis was
governed by Richard Lugar and Bill Hudnut, two progressive Republicans who not
only kept the streets cleared of snow but helped design a blueprint of a
thriving city that attracted conventions, sporting events and tourists. They
oversaw a complete renovation of downtown and helped execute those plans.
During the last generation, we've had Stephen
Goldsmith, Bart Peterson and Greg Ballard, none of whom possessed even a
fraction of that willingness to lead and make tough decisions.
Where does that leave us as the election
approaches? With an incumbent who says he has done the best he could despite
being dealt a difficult hand and a challenger who says we could have done
better over the past four years.
Actually, both of them are right. But that
doesn't help us, the people of Indianapolis, who pay for and expect world-class
leadership. We deserve better. One can only hope the next mayor's term will be
more effective than the pitiful campaigns we have seen this year.