Lugar Honored On 50th Anniversary Of Mayoral Election

On a historic day of ceremonial commemoration and lectures on political civility, we learned that Russia had nuclear warheads aimed at Indianapolis during the Cold War.
Time weighed heavy on Richard Lugar’s shoulders, the years having stooped him somewhat, and slackened the lines of his seemingly omnipresent smile. You could see this as he walked into the mayor’s conference room Monday, preceded by the four living Indianapolis mayors, there to fete him on the day that current Mayor Joe Hogsett renamed the City-County Building Plaza now under construction as the Richard G. Lugar Plaza.

There on the 25th floor of the City-County Building, though, Lugar’s own gravitas seemed to tilt the room on its axis, as Steve Goldsmith, Bart Peterson, Greg Ballard, and Hogsett orbited him with praise for defining the city through UniGov, which united the city’s government with that of Marion County.

Lugar’s appearance marked a day of nostalgia in the city, as two of the nation’s leading statesmen descended here to remind us of a bygone era when there once existed real-life politicians who aspired to more than just winning elections in favor of getting things done, dealing with their colleagues across the aisle. Not merely characters delivering a high-minded monologue during a walk-and-talk in an Aaron Sorkin drama.

In the afternoon, Hogsett credited Lugar as the mayor who “ushered in the era of modern Indianapolis.” Indeed, Lugar himself marveled at how the city had changed since his own mayoralty. “As Mayor Hogsett and I looked out through his window today, in the corner there on the 25th floor that I cherish so much, we see all sorts of beautiful condominiums, apartment buildings, other buildings,” Lugar said.

The honor came on the 50th anniversary of Lugar’s first mayoral election, and months before the plaza is slated to open next summer off Washington Street. The former two-term mayor served from 1968 to 1976, and then as U.S. Senator from 1977 to 2013.

And later in the evening, at Butler University’s Clowes Memorial Hall, former Congressman Lee Hamilton joined his longtime friend on stage for a talk about civility. Hamilton, sporting a buzz cut and quick with a self-deprecating quip, regaled the audience with tales of Congressional compromise from his time in office. Before the program even began, the crowd delivered each a standing ovation, awed by two statesmen who eschewed speaking in soundbites in favor of fully formed U.N. draft resolutions.

In a night of kumbaya dialogue, the two steered clear of mentioning Trump, of whom they have both been critical in other venues—and whose conduct in office seemed to necessitate the talk on civility. Lugar said in November that Trump “has not demonstrated civility.” In an op-ed earlier this year, Hamilton, a Democratic member of the House of Representatives for 34 years and a member of the 9/11 Commission, wrote that Trump “does not appear to know how to use or coordinate the levers of American power—economic, diplomatic, and political. He appreciates military power, but lacks a coherent, comprehensive strategy and the clarity, consistency, and discipline required to apply one.”

But Hamilton did end the night with a stark reminder, explaining to the audience that they had the ability to hire and fire public officials. Earlier this year, the American Conservative Union ranked the Indiana House of Representatives and Senate the nation’s most conservative and third-most conservative legislative bodies, respectively, a trend that Hamilton has been thinking of at the moment.

“I can name a number of Indiana officials who, if they come before an audience, will tell you how bipartisan they are,” he said. “They are pretty clever. Some who claim to be most bipartisan will have a 98 or 99 percent record of support for their party. Now, come on. Hold them accountable.”