Editor's note: The print edition of
this story included an incorrect number of active duty police officers,
which has been corrected below.
As Indygov's chief executive, the mayor sits at the helm of the
nation's 12th largest city, accountable to Indy's estimated 830,000
residents for oversight of about $1 billion per year in taxpayer money
Make that almost $1 billion. The mayor's proposed 2012 budget totaled
$941.6 million, dipping below $1 billion for the first time in recent
years. It is, Indy's Republican Mayor Greg Ballard told the City-County Council "our toughest budget for years."
Projected 2012 income tax revenues for Indy's consolidated city-county
government, which covers most of Marion County — it doesn't include
remaining standalone towns such as Lawrence and Beech Grove — are down
about $85 million, or more than 30 percent, from their 2010 peak,
Ballard noted in his proposed 2012 budget released on Aug. 11.
To deal with a projected $64 million deficit, the mayor proposed 9.2
percent cuts in overall spending for the year. Every department will
take about a 6 percent cut while overall spending for public safety and
criminal justice programs will remain nearly flat, between 99 and 100
percent of 2011 spending levels. His budgeted 2012 spending shrank by
$20 million year-over-year.
The council added some spending for fire, police, animal control, the
sheriff and elections on Oct. 17 when it finalized the 2012 budget.
The city now employs 4,500 people. The county employs 2,871 people.
Over the next year, officials expect it to shed about 200 employees
Though Indygov is "consolidated," many of the functions are still kept
separate. Certain county offices such as clerk and auditor are
Which candidate is best capable of sizing up our fiscal reality and putting available resources to their best use?
Ballard lobbied for property tax caps and he'd once talked of repealing
the 65 percent local income tax increase implemented by his
predecessor, Bart Peterson. "But then property tax caps changed that
dynamic," said Marc Lotter, the mayor's communications chief. "But he
did take the 1.65 percent tax down to 1.62 percent."
The mayor's techniques to raise the money necessary to accomplish his
goals included signing a 50-year lease of the city's 3,600 parking
meters with Xerox Co.'s Dallas-based Affiliated Computer Services. The
city will receive technical upgrades to the meters and $620 million
over the life of the lease with $20 million paid up front.
Critics complain it was "a sweetheart deal," that the city could have
installed these upgrades itself and then kept a larger revenue stream
flowing to its coffers.
Detractors include his opponent Melina Kennedy,
who told a Clowes Hall debate audience that she had "grave concerns
about the parking meter deal," which allowed "hundred of millions" in
revenue to escape the city's grasp.
The deal includes a several-million-dollar, opt-out-early provision and
"provided infrastructure money for the long term," Ballard said.
Another significant fundraiser was the sale of the city's water and waste water systems.
Kennedy, in a speech earlier this summer, reiterated reservations about
the transfer. But, given that it is a done deal, she proposed
reconsidering the direction of the cash the city received.
Directing all the utility transfer funding to infrastructure projects
is shortsighted; use $150 million of the estimated $450 million to
endow a 2021 Vision fund to support early education, crime prevention
and job training efforts within the city, Kennedy said.
The city's initial investment could inspire sustaining gifts from local
philanthropic organizations, which she said, would provide greater
funding capacity to support the city's three main areas of interest.
She said her plan for revenue generation centered on a strong economic development plan.
In a recent interview with NUVO, Chris Bowen,
the Libertarian candidate for mayor, emphasized his concern that — even
with the utility transfer — property tax caps will lock the city budget
at spending levels that will not keep up with maintaining the city's
infrastructure as it moves forward, in addition to shortages for other
essential city services.
Though tax increases are not popular with Libertarians, and Bowen does
not support them, he said the city must explore new funding sources,
including revised fee schedules, to keep up with its responsibilities.
The Citizens Water deal, which also transferred more than $1.5 billion
in debt off the city's books, is "not creative at all," Ballard said in
response to suggestions that it amounted to creative accounting. "It's
just being responsible."
Which candidate's approach will best promote public safety?
The reality of the city's tight budgets can be seen by looking at the
stagnant number of sworn officers on the police force. In mid-October
2011, IMPD had 1,615 officers, near the 1,605 on duty in January 2007.
In addition, the city has 18 park rangers that have the same
enforcement authority as police officers. The 2012 budget includes
funding for a new recruitment class.
Public Safety Director Frank Straub sees some irony in the fact that
he, as a Democrat working for a Republican, bears more criticism from
Ballard's Democratic challenger than any other department head.
The once-independent Indianapolis Police Department became the
Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department when it merged with the
sheriff's department in January of 2007. In one of his first
orders of business, Ballard placed the police under direct control of
the Department of Public Safety, peeling it away from the sheriff's
office once again. It is under the same umbrella as the Fire
Department, Animal Care and Control, Homeland Security, Emergency
Medical Services and Public Safety Communications, which oversees MECA,
the Metro Emergency Communications Agency.
Ballard is unapologetic about the move to bring the police department
under the control of the public safety department and, in 2010, to turn
over the reins to Straub, a former public safety chief in White Plains,
N.Y. with nearly 30 years in law enforcement. Until just a few years
ago, Straub worked mostly for the federal government protecting
dignitaries around the world and focusing his doctoral attention on the
evolution of corruption in the New York State prison system. He also
served as a Navy Seal investigator, New York State inspector general,
New York City Police Department deputy commissioner of training and a
professor of ethics and investigating corruption.
In a recent interview with NUVO in his second-story office in the
City-County Building (which critics say received costly upgrades and
bloated administrative support) he said it's not typical to leave a
long-time federal gig for municipal government. But in his case, he
said, he sees his current position as a natural extension of his
training, where he can see the results of a focused effort over time
instead of running worldwide counter-terrorism campaigns.
Kennedy is blunt in her assessment that Straub should be fired for
failing to ensure that Indianapolis contributed to the Federal Bureau
of Investigation's Unified Criminal Reporting program. It's the only
large city not to appear in the FBI's annual report on crime, which
contains info from every other major city from Atlanta to Las Vegas.
All this, her campaign staffers emphasize, after Straub has taken over
direct control of the IMPD's information systems and reportedly shaken
up departments by removing long-term insiders from prominent posts in
retaliation for questioning the directives of his management team or
the overall approach to information management.
The DPS was 262 days late in reporting 2010 crime stats to the FBI,
Kennedy said on the July morning she introduced her eight-point crime
prevention strategy to the media.
Straub scoffed and said he questioned the quality of the data submitted
in the past. He says by the end of year the department will have
updated its antiquated equipment and, for the first time, be able to
monitor live data from crime hotspots in real time.
The competition is not impressed.
"It's hard to imagine being 262 days late and not receiving a pink
slip," Kennedy said as Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry and Sheriff
John Layton, both Democrats, stood by her side.
"The Marion County Sheriff's Office has "a lot of officers … who could
do more to help," Layton said. Aside from handling jails, serving
warrants by the thousand and tracking sex offenders, his 750 deputies
are "fully empowered" with policing authority for situations such as
first emergency response, reckless drivers and providing IMPD backup.
These changes aren't sitting well with the local Fraternal Order of
Police, which endorsed Kennedy this round after supporting Ballard in
Kennedy insists the delays reporting to the FBI signify political
maneuvering and obfuscation by the Ballard administration. Such lack of
participation has cost the city grant opportunities, she said.
"We have to be more dedicated to fundamentally changing the sense of
safety in the city than to employing bureaucrats to fudge crime and
manpower statistics in order to hope against hope that we are safer,"
she told a Kiwanis Club gathering.
Ballard retorted with a biting jab during the recent Butler University debate.
"If she looked at the FBI crime numbers she'd realize which way crime is going," he said.
Kennedy cited Congressional Quarterly's 2010-2011 ranking of Indy "as
the sixth most dangerous among the ten cities with a population over
500,000 with the highest crime rates."
She also highlights a recent uptick in aggravated assaults, the
category of violence closest to murder without actually being murder.
Ballard points to declining murder numbers. The FBI estimates that
Indy's annual murder count dropped to 96 in 2010 from 100 in 2009, 114
in both '08 and '07 and 140 in '06.
"That's going in the right direction," Ballard said.
Kennedy points to increases in aggravated assaults as proof all is not safe in the Circle City.
"I did not get the support of the Fraternal Order of Police, but if
reforms cost me that endorsement, so be it," Ballard told the audience
at the University of Indianapolis debate.
Which candidate do you believe will do the best at tending to the city's infrastructure?
It's not a question of whether Indy was behind on infrastructure
maintenance when Ballard took office. The question was and remains how
it is possible to ever catch up.
As traditional funding sources stagnate or shrink, the mayor sought
inputs from the utility transfer and the parking meter lease to support
a massive overhaul on city streets, parks and throughways.
The pace and priorities of this core Rebuild Indy program receive mixed reviews.
A showcase demolition in southeast Indy's Norwood neighborhood exposed
a whole wall of windows at the neighboring Penick Chapel African
Methodist Episcopal Zion Church as well as a whole new realm of
possibility for the church, which envisions future expansion into the
The only critical questions encountered in the crowd that day focused
on the use of huge machinery to do the teardown, whether more manual
laborers could be employed instead of using a machine-dominated
approach. Another observer wished that some of the building's parts,
such as windows and wood, could be reused.
People interested in urban design wonder what will happen to the spaces
left bare after the 2,000 structures slated for demolition in 2012 are
As with any massive outlays of government cash, oversight questions
abound about whether the work is being executed to the highest
standards, at the best rates and will stand up to the test of time.
"You will never see again in your lifetime infrastructure investment of
this scale," Ballard told the Butler audience. Pedestrians with walkers
and wheelchairs are forced to share the roads because sidewalks are
lacking, he added, calling the upgrades "a public safety issue."
An issue that had not received much attention, if any, at the debates
is the story of the city's sewers, which is, Ballard told NUVO, "the
biggest story of 2010 that nobody ever, ever, ever covers … the $740
million it's saving … even more than $740 million because the bids
coming in for the deep-rock tunnel are significantly less than we
And the mayor is right. It is a hell of a story.
Consider the headline from a Nov. 8, 2010, news release from the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency, which sued the city to address
systemic shortcomings in the combined sewer overflow network that,
prior to 2006, were leading to an estimated 7.8 billion gallons in
wastewater overflow into the White River, Fall Creek and their
Inadequate storm water drainage also flooded neighborhoods,
intersections and basements, creating inconvenient, unsanitary and
Public Works Director David Sherman, took Ballard's job offer after
retiring as chief executive of United Water, which handles municipal
water across the country and where Sherman began working on wastewater
management systems in 1974.
Sherman took a critical approach to the EPA's consent deal with the
city. He set out to provide more data points from which to devise a
solution that would enable compliance with the Clean Water Act.
Rather than using a 24-million gallon capacity shallow interceptor
sewer to drop annual overflows 91 percent to 642 million gallons for an
estimated 20-year cost of $1.73 billion, Sherman proposed the deep-rock
tunnel connector. The 6-mile long, 18-foot diameter tunnel will run
into bedrock more than 250 feet below ground, easing groundwater
contamination concerns associated with the earlier, shallower design
set for 35-75 feet below ground. DPW estimates the new design will
reduce the annual discharge overflow by 95 percent to 414 million
gallons. An accelerated building schedule will enable the capture of an
additional 7 billion gallons of untreated combined sewer discharge, the
The project may not be getting much play in Indy, but Public Works Magazine and Engineering News Record have featured Indy DPW.
Which candidate do you prefer to have lobbying the 21st Century transportation referendum case at the statehouse?
Improved mass transit is one area in which the candidates find much common ground.
Kennedy envisions a mixed effort between light rail and buses that
connects metro commercial hubs, neighborhoods and regional partners to
support larger-scale connectivity throughout the Midwest.
"A good long-term infrastructure plan requires regional participation," she told the Butler audience.
"I tend to agree with you," Ballard responded.
To the extent new technology and ideas will free us from the brutal
environmental and fiscal burdens of our car centered infrastructure,
all the candidates felt the citizens should be presented with a
referendum vote to determine whether they can agree on the logistics
and financing of a 21st century transportation plan.
"We can go to the statehouse and ask for the referendum and get that
done," Ballard said. "It's very important for economic development."
At this point, his specific IndyConnect plans are in continual
redefinition as strategists consider how to figure a rate of return, he
Kennedy badgered him during the debate for specifics about routes and costs.
All candidates pledge to play nice with the state's
Republican-dominated legislature in their efforts to obtain a
transportation referendum vote.
Which candidate's approach to education do you prefer?
Education and increased literacy efforts are pillars of Kennedy's core
message. She called third grade literacy attainment and early childhood
education the most important priorities for education. She may not
agree with the utility transfer, but she is certainly willing to put to
work the funds the city gained from the deal and pledged not to raise
Kennedy suggested that paving roads lacks vision, especially when the
repair backlog stretches into the foreseeable future without adequate
revenue support. She suggested that her 2021 Vision, so named in
anticipation of the city's bicentennial celebration — just a decade
away, will help in "transforming educational outcomes, public safety
and the economy," goals that move the city closer to what she called a
"quality of life capital."
Ballard chided Kennedy for "silence on the most important education
reform at the Statehouse," referring to efforts to improve
accountability, rewarding high-performing teachers and providing more
education choice through vouchers and charter schools.
People are worried about schools, neighborhoods, and struggling for
work, Kennedy said, adding, "I know (the mayor) has been trying hard,
(but) we can, need to do much better."
The mayor responded, "I want to keep working hard for the city I love."
Bowen plans to use every possible moment he can spare visiting schools
and encouraging kids to pursue a healthier lifestyle. He'd like to have
Biggest-Loser-style competitions, hand out bikes and work out with the
Which candidate do you believe will be most effective at reducing the state's unemployment rate and increasing the average wage?
Ballard said that, in addition to taking the city's reins during the
worst economy of a generation, he inherited financial mismanagement
demonstrated by the previous administration's need to take out a $100
million loan to cover operating costs, crumbling infrastructure and
Kennedy points to the 35,000 jobs Indy's lost during Ballard's
administration and asks why it's lagging cities like Pittsburgh, Pa.,
and Nashville, Tenn., in jobs created and average wages.
Ballard loves to brag about Forbes naming Indy one of the nation's next boomtowns.
Bowen posits "government can't really create jobs except a government
job, but what they can do is get out of the way so that a private
industry can start to thrive and grow again and create jobs."
Which candidate's approach to marijuana do you prefer?
Only one mayoral candidate, Chris Bowen, took an active stance on marijuana re-legalization.
"The mayor may not be able to legalize," Bowen said during his campaign
profile interview. "But what I can do is tell the police department …
"If all you find on somebody is possession of marijuana — there's no
illegal guns…there's no disturbing the peace, there was no violent
activity, no child abuse or neglect or anything else — drop the charges
or give them a ticket, make them drop it on the street or grind it in
to the ground, whatever you want … but don't waste your time arresting
them and waste time doing the paper work …"
"We don't want you impaired behind the wheel of a vehicle, so we are
going to suspend your license for 30 days, we will make you go to a
substance abuse program. You're going to give us a urine test. When
it's clean and at the end of the 30 days you will get your license
"If I'm elected mayor, if any city employee (is injured) as a part of
the insurance agreement … you have to get a drug test to see if you
were impaired at the time of injury. If those employees have to be drug
tested, then the mayor should have to be drug tested. As much as I
might agree with (the marijuana) lifestyle, and I agree with it, right
now it's not legal, so … if the people would choose to elect me, I
would have to be drug free."
Libertarian candidates are the only ones to extol the green herb's
promise of a green revenue stream to prop up the city's shrinking
"I would like to see it legalized and see the government be able to make some kind of tax revenue from it," Bowen said.
Bill Levin, Libertarian at-large candidate for city-council and, ethics
demand we disclose, a regular visitor to the NUVO offices freely giving
hugs, distinctly delicious cookies and cultural vision, is an active
force in Indy's re-legalization community.
Kennedy did not discuss marijuana either in relation to her crime
program – though she did say "it's the intersection of drugs and gangs
that leads to violence in the city." She called on the mayor to pursue
tighter gun policies. We did not ask her if she believes legalization
would reduce the money flowing to gangs engaged in illegal sales and
attack the violent paradigm that's for long been anathema to the
nation's inner cities.
Kennedy is, however, quite vocal in her desire to see the gathering places of Indianapolis 100 percent smoke free.
Ballard, however, said he is "not comfortable telling an Iwo Jima vet
that he can't have a smoke ... I'm not comfortable going there."
Neither has he taken a stance on marijuana re-legalization.
But the subject did arise at the mayor's Aug. 4 small newspaper round
table in which he assembled his cabinet heads to provide half-hour
briefings on the affairs of their departments.
NUVO suggested to the chief executive of Develop Indy, Marion County's
local economic development organization, that as a strong agricultural
state in need of incentive to save our rich soil from earth scrapers
and parking lots, Indiana could benefit from economic benefits that the
numerous value-added, non- narcotic opportunities for the herb's use
present — from tea and beauty products to fabric and oil.
CEO Scott Miller, who runs the quasi-governmental eco-devo group with a
nine-member, mayor-appointed board of directors, smiled as the
reporters and other city staffers looked on.
"You may be right," he said. But that was all.
Which candidate's leadership style do you prefer?
Choose a couple more questions of your own: Whose approach you prefer
to sustainability, urban connectivity, the arts, domestic violence,
drunk driving, veterans' needs, the homeless …
Consider what attributes you like to see in a leader and decide which candidate best displays those attributes.
Now, you denizens of civic duty, total up your columns, head to the polls and vote inline with your priorities. Viva democracy!