Ballard Calls for Improved Schools in State of the City Address
Mayor renews plea for transit referendum, proposes panhandling ban
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard talks with well-wishers before delivering Friday's State of the City address. (WIBC.com photo: Eric Berman)
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard has set a goal in his State of the City address of creating 30,000 seats in "high-quality" classrooms over the next decade.
Ballard boasts the charter schools created by his office and predecessor Bart Peterson have outperformed the average Marion County school on the state's evaluation scale. But he says the next goal needs to be to have a topnotch school in every neighborhood, whether it's a charter, a traditional public school or a private school.
The city is one of 20 finalists for a $5 million grant to be awarded this spring by the foundation created by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Four runners-up will receive a million dollars each. Ballard says Indy's proposal to create new schools where necessary and attract high-caliber teachers and principals is the only education proposal among the finalists.
Ballard also renewed his plea to legislators to approve a mass-transit referendum. He says he plans to coordinate community development efforts with key bus corridors.
As expected, the mayor announced plans to seek developers for the long-vacant site of the former Market Square Arena, with the city set to post a formal invitation on Monday.
And Ballard called on the City-County Council to ban panhandling downtown. The mayor brands panhandling "a racket" to take advantage of charity-minded Hoosiers and visitors. He says a Coalition for Homeless Intervention and Prevention study finds that hardly any downtown panhandlers are homeless. And he says business and tourism officials report people's discomfort at being asked for money is starting to affect business.
Council president Maggie Lewis says she agrees with the goal of the proposal and will schedule hearings, but says she's concerned about the ordinance's constitutionality. Ballard says the proposal is modeled on ordinances in Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Saint Petersburg and Fort Lauderdale.
--> Read the entire text of Ballard's speech
Ballard delivered his address at the Alexander Hotel, which opened six weeks ago on the south edge of downtown. The mayor calls the development a symbol of the city's "incredible renaissance."
Ballard was originally scheduled to give the speech last month, but postponed the address after a car crash killed two Indianapolis EMTs.