Tag Archives: Eric Holcomb

Penny Wise, Pound Foolish: Zillionth Example

Today I’m delivering a brief Treatise on Government (apologies to John Locke…)in the form of a case study.

Fifty years ago, when interstates were first constructed, two were built through an Indianapolis downtown that had been largely abandoned for the suburbs–a downtown dramatically different from today’s vibrant city center. The routing decisions made at that time divided neighborhoods, exacerbated public safety problems, and delayed the ensuing commercial and residential redevelopment of our downtown.

Fifty years later, those interstates and their bridges are deteriorated and require repair. The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) has proposed to make those repairs, and in the process to further widen the interstate lanes and bridges and buttress them with enormous, dystopian concrete walls.

Thanks to the need for extensive and costly repairs, Indianapolis has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to dramatically improve a thoroughly dysfunctional system. A thoughtful revamping could improve traffic flow and restore community connectivity and walkability; it could also spur economic development that would significantly add to the city’s tax base. (Nothing to sneeze at, given our fiscal constraints.)

It is rare that a city gets an opportunity like this. Whatever decisions are made now will be in place for at least fifty to sixty years, so you would think that careful planning would be undertaken, to ensure that any project fixes current problems and is consistent with the city’s quality of life and transportation goals.

Thus far, however, both INDOT and the Mayor’s office have seemed disinterested in engaging in such a planning process, or considering anything other than a routine, “off the shelf” (and very expensive) repair and lane widening project that will simply lock the current problems into place.

In response to that disinterest, a group of planners, architects, landscape architects and residents who have made significant investments in the city center have come together to propose two potential alternatives to the currently proposed approach, and are urging INDOT to analyze and consider those alternatives.

Both alternatives would free up considerable acreage for commercial development that would add to the city’s tax base, while the plan currently being considered would substantially reduce the assessed value of a large number of properties, as well as the desirability of significant portions of downtown’s residential and historic neighborhoods. The alternatives would also mitigate noise and air pollution, which are a problem currently and which would be worsened by the addition of lanes.

When the current interstate routes were chosen, Indianapolis had no historic districts; today, those interstates disrupt five such districts. In our city, as elsewhere,  historic district designations have generated an enormous amount of investment. Property values have continued to rise due to the attractiveness, walkability and residential character of those districts.

We would be crazy not to protect these municipal assets.

Fifty years ago, mistakes were made. Indianapolis has a rare opportunity to correct those mistakes. It remains to be seen whether our city and state governments are willing to listen to the hundreds of residents and businesses that will be affected by the decisions being made–whether they will be responsive both to their citizens and to the data, and flexible enough to adjust a business-as-usual approach when the data indicates it will exacerbate those initial mistakes.

Why is this my “case study”?

I post a lot about national policies on this blog, and obviously, I think those policies are important. But decisions like those in my case study are where the rubber meets the road, as the saying goes. Everyday decisions, made by government agency employees and implemented by elected officials–Mayors and Governors–are enormously consequential for our day-to-day lives.

Providing disruptive and/or dysfunctional infrastructure, starving public schools of resources, failing to provide adequate public safety and other public services–all these things diminish our property values and degrade our quality of life. They’re important.

Hell, they’re critical.

Ultimately, that’s what governing is all about. It’s not glamorous.  It’s not about pomp and circumstance. It’s about the day-to-day grunt work necessary to provide a federal, state or local socio- political infrastructure that enhances the lives of citizens. I know Donald Trump doesn’t understand that, but most of the rest of us do.

Whether our state and local elected leadership recognizes the importance of these issues is an open question. When we know the answer, I’ll share it.

 

 


 

 

 

RFRA, Pence and Holcomb

What has been interesting about having Indiana’s Governor Mike Pence on the national ticket  has been the research on Indiana’s Governor being done by national media outlets.

Here in Hoosierland, we know Pence as an avid culture warrior uninterested in the day-to-day administration of state agencies. We know him as an opponent of Planned Parenthood whose disinclination to authorize needle exchanges led to an HIV crisis in southern Indiana, as an adversary of public education responsible for diverting millions of dollars from the state’s public schools in order to provide vouchers for religious schools, and of course as the anti-gay warrior who cost the state economy millions of dollars by championing and signing RFRA.

The national press has investigated Pence’s previous activities, both in Congress and as editor of the Indiana Policy Review, a (very) conservative publication. What they’ve found won’t surprise anyone who has followed Pence, but the research has confirmed that the Governor has certainly been consistent….

For example–and despite his disclaimers of discrimination to George Stephanopolous and others–Out Magazine unearthed an earlier article advising employers not to hire LGBTQ folks, and describing homosexuality as a “pathological” condition:

“Homosexuals are not as a group able-bodied. They are known to carry extremely high rates of disease brought on because of the nature of their sexual practices and the promiscuity which is a hallmark of their lifestyle.”

Another article, from December of 1993, was entitled “The Pink Newsroom” and argued that LGBTQ folks shouldn’t be allowed to work as journalists without being forced to identify themselves as gay publicly, since their LGBTQ status would surely create a conflict of interest when writing about politics.

Other outlets have reported his efforts while in Congress to defund Planned Parenthood, his speeches warning against the use of condoms, his insistence that climate change is a “hoax,” and his longstanding support of creationism and denial of evolution.

It’s highly likely that the Trump-Pence ticket will lose nationally in November, relieving Indiana voters of the task of defeating Pence at the polls. In his place, the GOP is running Eric Holcomb for Governor. Holcomb, it turns out, is pretty much a Pence clone. (The link has video from his meeting with the editorial board of the Indianapolis Star.)

Eric Holcomb had his chance to distance himself from the economic disaster of Mike Pence’s RFRA legacy in Indiana.

Instead, in a painful 4 minute answer to the Indianapolis Star editorial board, Holcomb doubled down on the same discrimination law that risked $250 million for state’s economy, and threw his weight behind Pence’s failed agenda.

Holcomb has previously embraced all of Pence’s agenda.

In November, we’ll see whether Hoosier voters have had enough of incompetence and theocracy, or whether we will vote to endure more of the same.

This is a very strange political year.

“Embracing” Mike Pence

Indiana’s political version of musical chairs has now resolved itself into a ballot that offers Hoosiers some unanticipated choices.

Who would have predicted a re-entry of Evan Bayh into Hoosier electoral politics? Who would have imagined Mike Pence on the Trump Train? And who, exactly, is Eric Holcomb, our sudden candidate for Governor?

Holcomb, who spent something like three months as Pence’s chosen Lieutenant Governor, after the departure of Sue Ellspermann (the only woman and arguably only competent member of the Administration) has emerged as our new and improbable candidate for Governor. As part of his introduction to the Hoosier electorate, Holcomb has told media outlets that he intends to “embrace” Mike Pence’s record. Holcomb has also been quoted as saying that he is “quite proud” of Pence’s tenure, and “proud of where the state is now.”

Holcomb has thus tied himself firmly to a record that many of us predicted would elect John Gregg in November.

I can’t help wondering just how completely Holcomb really “embraces” the particulars of Pence’s record. Does Holcomb share Pence’s “culture war” goals, for example? If so, which ones?

No sane candidate is likely to promote passage of another RFRA, given the civic and economic damage caused by that unforced error, but what about adding “four words and a comma” to Indiana’s civil rights law, and protecting LGBTQ Hoosiers from being discriminated against simply because of who they are? Governor Pence adamantly opposed civil rights protections for Indiana’s gay citizens. Does Holcomb “embrace” that opposition?

And which of Governor Pence’s approaches to pre-school funding does Holcomb “embrace”—his original decision to decline an 80 million dollar grant that would have created a statewide preschool program, or the U-turn he took on that issue this year, when his original decision turned out to be politically damaging?

Speaking of education, if Glenda Ritz is re-elected as Superintendent of Public Instruction, is Holcomb prepared to let her do her job, or will he “embrace” Pence’s constant efforts to strip her of authority over the state’s educational policies? Will he “embrace” and continue Pence’s practice of diverting funds from Indiana’s public schools in order to finance the nation’s most extensive voucher program–a program that largely benefits religious schools—even though a recent Brookings Institution study confirmed that voucher students’ reading and math scores were significantly lower than the scores of similar students who remained in public schools?

Does candidate Holcomb “embrace” Pence’s continuing war on Planned Parenthood and women’s reproductive rights? Did he support the bill the Governor so eagerly signed—subsequently struck down by a federal court—that, among other indignities, required women to conduct funerals for their aborted or miscarried fetuses?

Does Holcomb “embrace” and plan to continue Pence’s efforts to keep organizations like Catholic Charities and Exodus from resettling Syrian refugees in Indiana? Is he “proud” of this mean-spirited retreat from “Hoosier Hospitality”?

What about Indiana’s crumbling infrastructure? Is Holcomb “proud” of the condition of Indiana’s roads and bridges? And what about economic development? Is Holcomb “proud” that the majority of new jobs Pence brags about pay less than a living wage?

I can’t wait to hear just how far Holcomb’s “embrace” extends.