Busts of four former mayors of Indianapolis---all elected since Unigov was enacted (the "whys" of Unigov are for a later blog)---stand on simple posts on the South side of the East wing hallway of the first floor of the City-County Building, not far from the elevators for the Circuit and Superior Courts. The heads of Richard Lugar, William Hudnut, Stephen Goldsmith and Bart Peterson are arrayed in chronological order, left-to-right, as they harmoniously face the same direction. The busts appear to be made of the same substance, perhaps bronze, into which are molded each man's features in adherence to some protocol whereby those faces are portrayed in rough, sketchy fashion. Lugar's smile is reminiscent of those heady days when he was "Richard Nixon's mayor." Hudnut seems almost as warm as the guy who rode those snow plows in 1978 for photo ops or charmed women out of their....well, you know. One seems involuntarily to give Goldsmith wide berth, much as if a bust of Voldemort had been given a place of homage. Peterson's eyes stare out in wonder---whether in contemplation of a new PR disaster or how---dear for the love of some inscrutable "god" how---did he lose the election in 2007?
A fifth bust is yet to be built. When he leaves office, our globe-trotting Mayor Greg Ballard seems destined to have his head reproduced, although filled, ear-to-ear, with whatever substance, perhaps bronze, has been used for the heads of the others. A growing number of citizens of Indianapolis look forward to the day---in 2013? No! Don't make it 2017!---when the City considers erection of Ballard's bust to the West of Peterson's in the first-floor hallway.
Several questions, or perhaps points or issues, come with these prospects:
1) Bust, issuance of construction thereof and other logistics.
A competitive bid would result in a contract let to the lowest bidder. First, the notion of competition would be anathema to Ballard Mayor for whom no-bid contracts to major political contributors has developed into a variation of art along the lines of burlesque. Competition occurs for access to the office of He who lets the bids. Second, no one can consider payment for the bust in an amount less than more-than-would-be -paid retail. To issue the contract to the low bid would miss entirely some of the key points of Mayor Ballard's reign: throw money at a contractor. If the contractor flinches at the thought of suffocation under piles of cash, throw more money at he/she/it. Then give the contractor the ground on which he/she/it stands.
In what direction will Ballard face? Ballard was elected as (what many mistakenly perceived) a maverick; one who would go against the grain of "politics as usual." (WARNING: Beware of campaigns who use variations on the theme that the candidate will not follow "politics as usual," because usually those candidates follow the usual.) Ballard went against the grain, but not exactly as promised. Before Ballard, arguably two political parties existed in Indianapolis politics. Their members would argue over issues in chambers, then repair to the Columbia Club or the Indianapolis Athletic Club for drinks and polite banter. Things were not taken personally. Compromises were reached. The best interest of the people usually was paramount, personal aggrandizement came in second. Ballard, ever the former Marine, used a power tool to erase this grain. Why go against it when one can eliminate it? Two political parties were inconvenient to Him and those who feed at the trough into which pours (via the money we pay as taxes) the public funds. The General Assembly worked its part of the miracle and granted Ballard more power than even the original Unigov planners had seen fit to provide the occupant of the Office of Indianapolis mayor. With so much sugar to be dished out in the City-County Building, arguments between members of political parties only are wastes of time. Under the reign of Ballard Mayor the Best Interests of the (correctly connected) People became Paramount. The gaze of the bust of such a Maverick should not be fixed in the same direction as his predecessors. The head should be free to swivel on a track of ball bearings as if, symbolically, to cater to any who would approach it, with the right gift.
Lugar's bust smiles. Hudnut's grins. Goldsmith's? Who can tell? Peterson's puzzlement is fixed for the ages. In what expression will Ballard be displayed? In the run-up to the 2007 election, people who previously had not devoted themselves to politics did so for Ballard. The night of the election, they thought their efforts had succeeded. They were right. Unfortunately, their hopes, again, were misplaced. Ballard said one set of "things" during the campaign, then did other "things" once elected. He raised taxes, effectively cut the number of police---opposite what he had promised in the campaign. He saw to it that billionaire sports franchise owners should get more of a free public ride than previously they had enjoyed. And, as he most recently has noted as regards the Pacers, we should THANK those owners. So Ballard's visage should be fixed in a scowl, at those who thought he would keep his promises. But, like the Roman god Janus, Ballard's bust should have two side. The other---facing the wall in that first-floor hallway---would feature a smile on Ballard Mayor's face.
The post on which Ballard's bust rests should be made of a substance indestructible, but with a slot for monetary donations. Decades from now, Ballard's will be an administration known for the pointless debt into which he plunged Indy. In veneration of his saga, people should be able to deposit money into a slot that will be nothing more than an aperture to a den occupied by rats. If Indy has shoved money down a rathole in Ballard's time in office, so should people be able to shove money down a rathole in homage to Ballard Mayor, much like when the people put money into the parking kiosks.
2) And what of a "bust" of Ballard? Images of a Federal Bureau of Investigation pulled up in front of City-County Building comes to mind. Perhaps the bust of Ballard would be close to the court elevators for ease of prosecution. But no---the feds would take matters to the Federal Building at the corner of Penn and Ohio. Besides, what Ballard has done has been out in the open and above-board. He has taken in campaign money without promises (of which anyone has heard) of lucre to anyone. If, by coincidence, they donate beau coup (Hoosierism: bookoo) bucks to his campaign and benefits by receipt of a free parking garage or a too-generous contract here and there, well---why the hell do corporations and human beings give money to political campaigns?
3) The "bust" of Ballard as---failure. As all of the previous lines indicate, and Thursday's interview of Ballard, outraged at legitimate questions by constituents, indicate, Ballard's time in office has been a "bust" for the people of Indy. The same cannot be said of those who stand to take capital assets at dirt-cheap prices from the City in the fire sale that might be the last days of Ballard in office. We only can hope he chooses to stay overseas and mail in a letter of resignation.