This Hollywood writers strike is really starting to put a hurt on my TV viewing. It got so bad Monday night that I turned on Channel 16, the local government access station, and watched a bit of reality TV.
The station was airing the final City-County Council meeting of the year, which also was the final meeting to be run by a Democratic majority for at least four years.
translation: he would've rather watched chuck, but since that wasn't on, he figured he'd do his job and cover some politics.
Sitting at home watching a plodding council meeting is not the most exciting way to spend an evening. But the meeting this week was instructive, as it explained perfectly why Democrats lost their majority in November's election.
The explanation came from the silly political games Democrats continued to play even in the final lame-duck meeting of the year. With a new Republican mayor and council on deck, Democrats, acting apparently out of spite, pushed an unenforceable resolution that took aim at the income tax increase Democrats themselves approved this summer.
The ploy clearly wasn't about listening. It was intended to embarrass Mayor-elect Greg Ballard and members of the incoming Republican council majority. What bugs Democrats is that the same Republicans who bashed the income tax increase will now benefit from the additional tax revenue it brings in.
Fair point. And nobody would argue against the idea of trying to reduce taxes.
But the resolution was vindictive politics -- meaningless and silly. In their final day in power, council Democrats wanted to embarrass those on the other side of the aisle by forcing them to embrace the tax increase.
It didn't work.
foolish democrats! your spiteful partisan gotcha games didn't work! hmm... i wonder what else is in today's paper. oh, what's this?
Mayor-elect Greg Ballard said Tuesday that he would not push to rescind a 65-percent increase in the county income tax that took effect in October.
However, he said cuts in city government or the $90 million public safety spending plan the income tax funded could allow parts of the tax to be reconsidered down the road.
The tax provoked heavy criticism this year, but Ballard noted he never said he would repeal it.
so it looks like democrats didn't need to play those gotcha games to force republicans to embrace the tax increase. mayor-elect ballard managed to do that all by himself. considering this, tully's column would've seemed a bit less silly if it had been published yesterday—you know, the day after the council meeting—but i guess those are the rigors of writing a thrice-weekly column while simultaneously neglecting to update your blog. (i kid... tully gets enough grief from all the talkback nuts who think he & editor ryerson are socialists.)
ballard campaigned relentlessly against the increase in the county income tax (COIT for you n00bs). that, along with property tax repeal, were the pillars of his campaign. here is the money quote from his campaign website:
"After looking at the Mayor's proposed income tax hike it is clear his plan would dig Indianapolis into a deeper hole," said Ballard. "There is no way the average citizen can afford this $90 million income tax increase on top of huge property tax bills."
got that? there's no way the average person can even afford to pay this tax! yet ballard doesn't want to repeal the tax. oh, greg. needless to say, some of his former supporters are growing increasingly disillusioned.
now, he could have said this: "hey, i might like to repeal it, but legally i can't do so until at least 2009, so maybe then." that way he could've passed the buck without alienating any supporters. instead, he insists "i never said i'd repeal it!" it would be funny if it weren't so depressing.
here's the context tully was missing. to be sure, democrats were playing political games when they tried to force the incoming council to embrace the COIT. but it was a game they'd already lost, because republicans had already totally played them on this issue.
republicans had been screaming themselves hoarse for more than a year about crime. the now-deleted indyu blog had a party whenever another murder was announced. on top of that, cops had been complaining since time immemorial about unresolved pension funding, an issue countless previous administrations had left to fester. but there was no money.
republicans knew that fixing these problems would require a tax increase. mayor peterson and the council knew such a tax increase would be unpopular, especially considering rising property taxes. they could have decided to wait until after they were re-elected to raise the tax; that would've been the politically "safe" option. but they didn't. they had—to use the vernacular—"the balls" to do what was necessary, even if it was unpopular.
did republicans thank them for having such balls, for fixing the problems republicans had been crying about for so long? no, they actually criticized the democrats for having said balls! "how dare you raise my taxes?!" they exclaimed.
it was a brilliant political move. the republicans effectively tricked democrats into raising taxes and then criticized them as out-of-touch tax-and-spenders when they did. the dems never knew what hit 'em until they discovered they'd been voted out of office.
ballard and the republican council candidates were never truly against the COIT increase. they knew as well as anyone that we needed that money for public safety. they only pretended to be against it so they could bash democrats. and it worked. now that they're in office, they don't need to pretend anymore. ¶