Government

EYE ON THE PIE: Did you miss this last week?

December 19, 2005

Congratulations to the Crothersville Times on the occasion of its 25th anniversary. In today's world, most newspapers are declining in circulation. When a weekly newspaper, in a town of 1,500 people, survives 25 years, the owner-publisher-editor deserves our applause. Curt Kovener fills all these roles and more with passion, humor and grace.

Not commendable is the new Indiana license plate for the Indianapolis Colts. Has the Bureau of Motor Vehicles forgotten that the Colts are not a public institution but a private enterprise? Oh, I know many Hoosiers consider the Colts a public asset and are glad to contribute their taxes to support the team. But where will it stop?

Next, will we have special plates for GM, Lilly, Cummins, Toyota and Alcoa so employees can demonstrate their pride and loyalty? Perhaps we should have a Delphi plate so citizens can contribute to keeping the firm operating in Kokomo and Anderson. Given the nonsense going on about prayers in the Legislature, maybe we should have license plates for religious groups, so adherents can proclaim their faith to drivers behind them.

One good development is the call by Gov. Mitch Daniels to meet the state's $750 million obligation to schools and local governments. This responsible proposal flies in the face of the General Assembly's self-interest. Many of those (adjective omitted) men and women would rather lower property taxes for homeowners to help their re-election. They don't want to recognize that high property taxes are the result of prior actions by the Legislature. For example, the rising costs of child-welfare services are currently borne by property taxpayers; they should be paid by the state from its revenue. This is not just shifting taxes from one pocket to another, as Gov. Daniels says, but that is a subject for a future column.

Then we have the attempt to save an abandoned, decrepit church building on a prominent corner in downtown Indianapolis. This building is one of many in the state that radical preservationists would save because it is old.

Age alone is not sufficient reason to retain a structure no one wants. It also should have some distinctive architectural or historic value.

A group in Anderson wants to put part of the downtown area in that city on the National Register of Historic Places. Listing on the National Register would make buildings in the area eligible for special tax breaks. Yes, there are some nice older buildings in downtown Anderson, but they would look better if they were intermixed with new buildings in more contemporary styles. The only thing truly distinctive about most of the buildings in downtown Anderson is that they are in downtown Anderson.

Why do the downtowns of Indianapolis and Chicago impress visitors? Partly it is the variety of architectural styles and the obvious diversity of age among the buildings. Not every building is an outstanding example of its type, but the overall effect is dramatic and pleasing.

To create a historic district in downtown Anderson would tend to freeze the area. There would be restrictions on modernization, construction and investment that might be contrary to the community's best interest.

Finally, why were the state's recent major snowstorms so crippling? We have had snowfalls all our lives. When will we learn to drive in snow? When will all our cities learn how to clear the streets? If Indiana University can beat the University of Kentucky and the Indianapolis Colts can win 13 in a row, certainly urban snow cannot be such a formidable hurdle.



Marcus taught economics more than 30 years at Indiana University and is the former director of IU's Business Research Center. His column appears weekly. To comment on this column, go to IBJ Forum at www.ibj.comor send e-mail to mortonjmarcus@yahoo.com.
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