"An open letter
Dear Mayor Ballard,
Congratulations! Have you gotten used to that title yet? It’s been over a week. I can only imagine how you must be feeling. If I were in your shoes, I’d probably be hard-pressed not to pause every now and then to stare out those windows on top of the City-County Building. It’s quite a view, kind of like staring down on a vast, flat-top haircut.
You must be amazed by all the friends you’ve made since last November’s election. I’m not necessarily talking about the people who voted for you; I mean the people who started showing up about the time the confetti was being swept off the ballroom floor.
Everybody needs friends. They make the good times better and the bad times bearable. In your case, I’m sure you’re hearing from a lot of folks who are eager to lend you a hand and light your way, help you save a few steps and all that. But I don’t blame you if you’re wondering where these folks were back in June, when you were trying to get people to remember your name.
While that view from the top of the City-County Building is tremendous, I hope you’ll take the opportunity to ride the elevator down, get outdoors and take a look around your city. I realize this can be a hassle — just getting through security in your building is a major pain. Don’t you hate it when those surly cops make you take off your belt?
I’m not talking here about all the ribbon-cuttings and ground-breakings you’re going to be attending. Those things are fine as far as they go, but we both know they’re the dog-and-pony part of your job. The part where you stand up, say some sweet nothings and shake a few hands before ducking in your car and reaching for the anti-bacterial wipes.
I hope you’ll want to do some basic prowlin.’ How else are you going to get a glimpse of the sorts of things most of us get used to seeing every day? Like that stretch of North Central Avenue they resurfaced just before the election. They blacktopped the middle two lanes just fine, but somehow forgot about resurfacing the lanes by either curb. Did they run out at the blacktop store? Talk about a half-assed job; you wonder how long it’ll be before they have to come back and do it over again.
Or there’s that corner house on Delaware that burned two winters ago. The place is still like it was the day after they put the fire out, with its melted vinyl siding hanging down like so many strips of charred linguine. Think how inspiring it must be to wake up every morning and see that.
Which reminds me: I know you think our property taxes are too high, but they’re not high enough for slumlords. We should be making it expensive to let a house run down — and finding incentives for people who fix their houses up.
But I don’t want to give you the impression I think you should be spending all your time fixing what’s broken around here. A guy can get burnt out doing that stuff (or bored by it — that’s pretty much what Steve Goldsmith said happened to him). So I urge you to set aside some time every week to simply enjoy this city. That’s a big part of what cities are for; they’re places where people gather to do things they can’t do by themselves.
I know you say your tastes are pretty basic when it comes to food, but Indy is growing some great independent restaurants. Take this opportunity to stretch your palate. And while you’re at it, take in a live performance, go gallery hopping on a First Friday, check out the Butler Bulldogs (I’ll bet you can get tickets). Nobody expects you to love everything you try, but I guarantee you won’t be sorry.
I don’t think we’ve seen our mayors out and about enough. That’s too bad, because I think people in Indianapolis need to be reminded that this is a city with a story and a culture all its own. That this is a place worth investing in. I know you’re going to be swamped with all the things you need to do — and all the distractions those new friends of yours will be strewing, like rose petals, in your path — but I can’t think of anyone who’s in a better position to be able to shine a light on this city than you.
Mayor Ballard, you’ve arrived.