Not in 40 years has an Indianapolis incumbent mayor lost a bid for re-election, but yesterday, we went to the ballot box and delivered a very clear, very strong message not only to former Mayor Bart Peterson, but also to Mayor Elect Greg Ballard. The message is simple. "You are beholden to the people. Treat us right and with respect."
Ballard got 51% of the vote while Peterson only managed 47% in the biggest "shock" of the election.
I'm not quite sure why it came as such a shock though. The city council in general also changed significantly as several incumbents there were voted out too. Why? Taxes. Peterson and the council thought they could get away with the exorbitant raise on our taxes. They thought they could just push it through and we would just accept it. They were wrong. People took to the streets, exercising their constitutional right to petition their government. The protests eventually forced Governor Mitch Daniels to order reassessments for most counties.
The next mistake was that of over confidence. The media kept telling us that yes, the taxes issue was bad for Peterson, but Ballard didn't have a strong campaign and Peterson was going to win anyway. I guess the people didn't agree.
Peterson did many good things for the City of Indianapolis, but he also did some things that rubbed people the wrong way.
- Make no mistake, we love our Colts, but I'm not sure too many people wanted the new stadium which is in large part being paid for with our tax dollars.
- The systematic cutting of the police force over the years was also not good at all. We've seen crime rates in the city rise significantly to the point where it now became a problem. Then suddenly we have to raise taxes some more to pay for more police. Not that I'm opposed to more police, but what happened to all the "savings" they got from cutting police in the past? Why couldn't that money just be reappropriated back to the police force?
- Taxes. The property tax scandal this year was the final straw. Most people saw a rise of 35% or more in their taxes while in some places taxes doubled or even tripled. Immediately you wonder, what the heck are they doing with the budget that so much more taxes are needed? Should fiscal constraint be the first order of business, rather than raising taxes? Of course, when the news broke that only residential properties were adjusted, that just did it. If you truly can't keep the budget in line and you must raise taxes, at least do it uniformly throughout residential, commercial and industrial properties.
Now Ballard will have an opportunity to do it right, but the message from the people is clear. Tread lightly Mr. Ballard because if you take us for granted, you'll go the same way Peterson did. We are not your subjects. You work for us, not us for you…