Mayor Ballard looks back on 2013
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard recently sat down with Citybeat Reporter Mary Milz for a year-end interview. Here's a glimpse of how he sizes 2013 and what he hopes for in the new year.
The year ends on a violent note for Indianapolis, with 125 people murdered, the most in seven years. While the mayor calls that unacceptable, he also said, "Let's put this in perspective. The murder rate is up, but rape is down 18%, aggravated assault is down 17%. And the murder rate is up because it's been down so low the last three years. When you look at the historical patterns of the city, it's still lower than it has been (in terms of those) historical patterns."
Besides the murders, there were several violent home invasions in Indianapolis, crimes that provoked fear across many neighborhoods for their randomness and viciousness.
"That's scary stuff and it does have an effect on the perception and fear of crime," the mayor said.
Asked about his biggest accomplishments, he responded, "I like that the city keeps building and physically changing."
2013 brought the opening of Eskenazi Hospital, the completion of the Cultural Trail and a surge in new housing and retail projects going up downtown. Indianapolis also made the short list for hosting another Super Bowl. It's a finalist for the 2018 game, with the host city chosen by the NFL owners in May.
Among the mayor's disappointments? Not getting a stricter panhandling law on the books. He says panhandlers are hurting the city's image.
"I asked for this early in the year during the state of the city. We've now lost 14 conventions as a result of not having a good ordinance we can enforce," said the mayor.
Democrats have said a new ordinance also has to stand up to legal challenges. They've been working with Republicans to craft one modeled after San Antonio's.
But the mayor cites the failure to get "RebuildIndy 2" through the council as his biggest disappointment.
"There's more infrastructure that need to be done," he said.
The mayor proposed spending $350 million more on streets, sidewalks, bridges and trails, but Democrats questioned the mayor's plans to finance it.
Looking to 2014, the mayor will push for mass transit, a new criminal justice center and a new long-term contract with the Pacers. That contract will replace the "bridge contract" they're now operating under, one that provides the Pacers with $10 million a year to cover the operation and maintenance of Banker's Life Fieldhouse. It's a payment critics call a "subsidy."
In response, the mayor said, "It appears so many people do not understand that someone has to pay for the building and the first ten years the city did not and the Pacers did and they ran it on their own dime.. and people think we're subsidizing the Pacers. No other owner in the country does that, right? Just says, 'I'll take care of that for you.'"
Two years into his second term, the mayor continues to add his political coffers but says that's no guarantee he'll run for re-election.
"Winnie and I took a long time to decide last time. Everyone assumed I'd run again, but that wasn't really the case. I didn't decide until two to three weeks before the announcement," he said. "It's hard physically and mentally, but I do like the direction of the city."