Every once in awhile, leaders must exercise a nuclear option - or two. Now might be Mayor Greg Ballard's time.
As the city gets closer to its budget deadline, Democrats have voted down a plan to eliminate the local homestead property tax credit which, the Mayor's Office says, would generate about $9.5 million for the city at an average cost of about $1.83 a month for a property owner in Marion County.
They're punting on expanding the IMPD taxing district from the old city limits to the entire county so ALL citizens will be paying for police protection as opposed to most of the burden being put on residents in Center Township. They also shot down, and this one kills me, a bipartisan plan which would have spent $150 million extra dollars on streets, sidewalks and infrastructure in many of the neighborhoods of the their own constituents. Ironically, Council President Maggie Lewis was a co-sponsor and Councilor Frank Mascari was at the news conference this summer when the mayor made the announcement offering praise for the plan.
This is not good.
I understand negotiations and jockeying to put yourself in a better position, but if you're going to jockey you need to get on the horse. I have watched numerous budget hearings and to date the Democrats have come up with a lot platitudes and hot air, but no plan. They haven't offered a plan on how to pay for police, they haven't offered an alternative to pay for infrastructure. No, I take that back. Democrats did offer a plan to pay for police it was using one-time money to create an ongoing expenditure and had no way to discuss sustainability. But why should that surprise anyone?
So what is a mayor to do? Ballard has already offered the Democrats a compromise. According to spokesman Marc Lotter, the mayor offered a phase-in elimination of homestead tax credit so it would be spread out over two years instead of implemented in one. He offered to take a one-time loan from the fiscal stability fund to cover the loss in revenue from phasing out the homestead tax credit; something he has opposed in the past. And he also offered to add a second police recruit class in 2014 of another 30 officers. And what response did he get from the Democrats? Ironically, crickets.
I think it's time for the mayor of Indianapolis to start acting like the mayor of Chicago and really start playing hardball with the loyal opposition. If the Democrats won't give him the money for public safety then he should "find" it in their districts.
There are millions of dollars being spent on road and sidewalk improvements in Democratic districts. If I were the mayor, I'd put those projects on "hold" for a while. In addition, city services in those Democratic districts would also take a brief hiatus. And just wait until it started to snow! Just to show the Democrats I wasn't messing around, I would take a look at the structure of the fire department and come to the conclusion that the city has one too many battalion chiefs and maybe it was time for a reduction and Democratic City-County Councilor Vern Brown might be the perfect candidate.
Luckily for Democrats, Ballard is too nice a guy to do what I suggest, but you never know. If Democrats keep acting as they do, the mayor may actually have to exercise his own nuclear option. I would have done it a long time ago.