As the Indiana General Assembly continues its assault on the goose that lays the state’s golden eggs–aka Indianapolis–members also demonstrate their utter lack of concern for ethical government behavior–state or municipal.
According to the Indianapolis Star, State Senator Jack Sandlin is proposing to void an Indianapolis ethics ordinance that prohibits a county chairperson from doing business with the city. Sandlin’s bill would allow a city employee to serve as both the county party chair and an employee, despite the rather obvious potential for conflicts of interest.
It just so happens Senate Bill 415 would benefit Cindy Mowery, one of four people who have filed to become chair of the Marion County Republican Party.
Welcome to Indiana, where any pesky ethics law that promises to erect a barrier to problematic behavior can be eliminated by your political buddies!
The legislature’s war on municipal ethics is just one aspect of its constant assault on local control and urban life. There’s a reason that, most years, out-migration in Indiana exceeds in-migration, and we routinely lose the young people we’ve paid to educate in our universities.
A recent discussion with my youngest son is–unfortunately–illustrative.
My son grew up in Indianapolis, attended college in Chicago, then traveled & worked in Japan. He fell in love with an Indiana woman, and (somewhat reluctantly) returned home. As he tells it, he was an urban kid who loved cities, and initially, he didn’t see much promise of a vibrant urban life in Indianapolis. But that changed as Indianapolis changed. After living and practicing law in Chicago, he saw the promise of a great quality of life and a reasonable cost of living. (Needless to say, this made his mother very happy.)
He bought a house in the Old Northside neighborhood, had a family. He and his wife work downtown, their children have attended excellent public schools, they have a wide circle of friends and neighbors with whom they enjoy the urban amenities Indianapolis offers.
So why–as they near college age–is he urging his children to leave Indiana?
He says that, while Indianapolis still has many great things going for it, its future—and especially the future it might be able to offer his children—looks far less rosy, thanks to the culture of the state. As he says,
Even modest efforts to improve the quality of residents’ lives is threatened by a hostile General Assembly and radicalized state electorate. In most places, cities enjoy a measure of local control, or “home rule.” Not Indianapolis — at least not today…
Indiana’s Republicans have gerrymandered electoral districts, with predictable effects on Indiana’s politics. It turned a “conservative” state into something else entirely; the party of “limited government” has become the party of “intrusive central control.” Republican legislators have stripped (or sought to strip) Indianapolis voters of the right to decide quintessentially local matters: to decide how much in local taxes it can raise to provide essential services, to elect local judges, to decide questions of educational funding for public schools, and most recently, even to regulate local matters like zoning, landlord-tenant relations and the issuance of gun permits. None of these limits are placed on rural, largely white counties; only on Marion County (Indianapolis).
My kids are approaching college-age, and I am encouraging them to leave Indiana. Why?
Because I don’t know what life holds for them. I don’t know if they will be fortunate, healthy, and financially secure; or whether they will be dealt setbacks that might make them need assistance or the support and protection of local government. What I do know is that I want them to find a place—a community—that cares for all its people, not just the wealthy, and not just white people. Which is why I am strongly encouraging my kids to find universities outside of Indiana and, thereafter, to find a place where people care for each other more than we do in this state.
I chose Indianapolis for a quality of life that is, piece by piece, being eliminated as the Indiana General Assembly decides that city folk can’t be trusted to govern themselves or to invest in people or a better quality of place.
Ultimately, I want my kids to find a place that cares for its people, even if doing so costs a little more. I want them to live in a place where their vote over purely local affairs matters at least as much as the vote of a rural Trump-loving farmer—and, importantly, where the politics are not animated so much by white grievance.
Unfortunately, that place isn’t Indiana.