Tag Archives: Hogsett

Promises, Promises….

I post a fair amount about political hypocrisy: “family values” Evangelicals who love Trump, “fiscal conservatives” who are okay with his massive deficits, etc.  But Tuesday’s local elections were a reminder that hypocrisy and cant aren’t just national phenomena.

Indiana was one of the states that held elections this year for municipal offices. In central Indiana, Democrats had some notable first-time victories, including the election of a mayor and at least three councilors in suburbs of Indianapolis that have been reliably red for as long as I can remember. (And I’m old.) But I want to focus on the more predictable results of the mayor’s race in Indianapolis proper—which, like all urban areas with populations of over 500,000 these days, is currently bright blue—where the incumbent, Joe Hogsett, won re-election by a nearly 50-point margin.

I didn’t attend Hogsett’s election-nght party, but friends who were there reported that the Mayor’s victory speech included some interesting (and appropriately snarky) comments.

In particular, after thanking his Republican opponent, Jim Merritt, a sitting State Senator, Hogsett “welcomed” his return to the Indiana Legislature,  where, he said, Senator Merritt would have the opportunity to champion so many of the issues he raised during his mayoral campaign: additional resources for Indianapolis public safety and improved infrastructure, support for LGBTQ rights, and greater support for Marion County’s African American community – things that Senator Merritt has not exactly championed (or  supported) during his 30 years in the legislature.

(To the extent we still have media watchdogs, I certainly hope they will keep a watchful eye on Senator Merritt’s efforts to legislate improvements on the issues he suddenly discovered were important during his mayoral campaign.)

Of course, Merritt isn’t the only candidate who should be held accountable. It will be equally interesting to see what Hogsett does with his impressive win, which can rightly be considered a mandate. He will also have an expanded majority—indeed, a 20-5 super-majority—on  Indianapolis’ City-County Council.

How will he use this expanded authority?

One of my more cynical friends predicts that—based on the Mayor’s extremely timid approach to governing thus far—Hogsett will take his 71% victory as a “mandate to continue doing not much of anything.”

Maybe. But hope springs eternal….

Our city, like so many others, faces a number of critical issues. Those issues will demand focused, thoughtful initiatives from the Mayor’s office: improving inadequate and decaying infrastructure; working with the State DOT to avoid further exacerbating the 50-year-old mistake of running an interstate highway through downtown residential districts; continuing to revitalize in-city neighborhoods while avoiding the pitfalls of gentrification; supporting the extension of public transportation; the continuing effort to improve public safety; and so many more.

The Mayor now has an electoral mandate and a supermajority on the Council. It will be interesting to see how he chooses to spend that political capital.

I’m hoping for signs of bolder leadership and vision in his second term, and I’ve made a wager with my cynical friend, whose prediction is that Mayor Hogsett will “boldly middle-manage the status quo” in ways that keep Indianapolis a reasonably well-functioning but ultimately undistinguished city.

Time will tell.

Meanwhile, all eyes now turn to Washington and 2020.

Extra–For Indianapolis Residents Only

Although the lack of a widely-read local newspaper has tended to dim recognition of the fact, Indianapolis is in the midst of a political campaign for municipal offices, including Mayor and City-County Council.

In addition to a plethora of city-wide issues, those of us who live in Indianapolis’ historic districts have special concerns, and an upcoming forum is intended to address those. The HUNI (Historic Urban Neighborhoods of Indiana) + Indiana Landmarks Mayoral Forum on Neighborhoods is set for September 19th, at the Indiana Landmarks Center, 1201 Central Avenue.

The Forum will feature the three major candidates running for Indianapolis Mayor: Democratic incumbent Joe Hogsett, Republican Indiana Senator Jim Merritt and Libertarian Doug McNaughton.

The program will include a 15-minute opening statement from each candidate and an hour of Q&A from audience members. This free and open-to-the-public event is intended to  explore issues particularly important to those living in historic neighborhoods.

Seating at the Landmarks Center is limited and will be on a first-come, first-serve basis, so those interested should get there early.  Doors will open at 5:00 pm and the program will run from 5:30-7:15pm.

This is the third Mayoral Forum that HUNI has sponsored at Indiana Landmarks.

Historic Urban Neighborhoods of Indianapolis (HUNI) is a coalition of over 25 historic neighborhoods; its mission is to support the preservation, revitalization and interests of Indianapolis’ urban historic neighborhoods.

With nine offices located throughout the state, Indiana Landmarks helps people rescue endangered landmarks and restore historic neighborhoods and downtowns.

If there is one thing we have all learned from nearly 3 years of the Trump Administration, it is that who governs matters. Come listen to the candidates, and cast an informed vote in November.

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.

 

 


 

 

 

A Very Good Step

I get positively giddy when I actually get to blog about something positive, and these days, those opportunities are rare. But what do you know–Indianapolis’ new Mayor, Joe Hogsett, has provided me with that opportunity!

According to the Indianapolis Star, the Mayor is moving aggressively to close the gaping loopholes in the City’s ethics ordinance.

Today when a lobbyist wines and dines a City-County Council member, he or she has to disclose the cost of the meal, but not who ate it.

This is among a number of loopholes in the city ethics code that Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett is attempting to close with a package of reforms introduced at this week’s council meeting.

Co-sponsored by Democratic Councilmen Blake Johnson and Leroy Robinson, the ordinance would strengthen reporting requirements, impose stronger penalties for violations and create a web portal for easier public access to ethics disclosures. It would also establish a cooling-off period similar to that for state employees.

Many of the provisions contained in the ethics overhaul were introduced last year by then-Councilor Kip Tew. For reasons I have never understood, the Council declined to pass Tew’s version, which was very similar to the one introduced on behalf of Mayor Hogsett. Now, they will have another chance.

Under the pending proposal, lobbyists who repeatedly break the rules could find themselves and their firms subjected to lifetime bans. Contractors who violate the ordinance could be banned for a single offense.

These changes are long overdue. In the six years the current ordinance has been in effect, there has not been a single effort to enforce it, despite multiple accusations of “cozy” relationships between elected officials and those doing business with the city.

Giving the rules real teeth, making them clearer, and making access to documentation easier, will go a long way toward restoring trust in local government.

Now if we could just do something about ethical standards at the General Assembly….