Local Government and Opinion and City-County Council and Viewpoint

POULAKIDAS: Raise demands for city-county councilors

September 10, 2011

PoulakidasIndianapolis is the 11th-largest city in the United States, with over 903,000 residents, making us larger than Jacksonville, San Francisco, Austin and Detroit. Anyone suggesting that Indianapolis is still the Naptown of the past is simply admitting they have not been paying attention to all Indianapolis offers. The remarkable expansion of our city’s convention business and international sports events reflects that Indianapolis is a great city in the eyes of the world.

But with this greatness comes a responsibility to lead and an opportunity for us to raise our expectations of what it takes to continue to be a truly vibrant and economically strong community.

I am a first-time candidate for City-County Council and am very much aware that the municipal elections are just two short months away. Historical evidence tells us that few of us will vote. For the last 18 months, I have been going door-to-door talking with neighbors, meeting with neighborhood associations, business groups, churches and community leaders. This has been a rewarding process, but I have also learned that few people know, or even care, who their City-County councilor is. This is not good for our community.

There are 29 members of the Indianapolis/Marion County City-County Council—25 districts and four at-large councilors. Our councilors are charged with overseeing how our tax dollars are spent. Their decisions affect the safety of our neighborhoods and influence whether our businesses will grow and create jobs. They influence the quality of our life by determining whether our arts community will be supported and whether our pools and parks stay open. They affect whether our kids are getting the best education possible. They influence whether we use mass transit to connect us to one another and our jobs. In many ways, they help ensure that Indianapolis is a place we all want to call home.

Despite the importance of these issues, one hears too often that this is “the job of the mayor.” While the mayor is an important position in every city, we must recognize the critical role of our councilors as the essential connection between city hall and our citizens, neighborhoods, businesses, parks and libraries. Maybe what has gone on for too long is that we do not expect our councilors to be as engaged in the discussion for coming up with the ideas and shared vision needed to make Indianapolis an even better city for our children.

Our city would benefit by raising the expectations of our local leaders—and we should seek ways to make sure our councilors live up to these raised expectations.

For instance, why is it not our expectation that councilors have a vision for the future of our city so we know they can lead?

Why is not our expectation that councilors come up with original ideas and solutions to the daily problems our communities face so we know they are qualified? Why is it not our expectation that all council candidates have one or two debates on the issues in each district so you know how they will represent you? Why is it not our expectation that your councilor is the person you meet with on a regular basis to demonstrate their degree of accountability to you?

All of us have gone through job interviews during which we are told the expectations of our employer and then we are measured by our performance against those expectations. Job performance tends to rise to the level of these expectations. We should do the same for our councilors so they will remain accountable and their performance will be measurable against those raised expectations.

There are good candidates running for council who have some great ideas for Indianapolis. Give them your attention, let them know your expectations, and then allow us to earn your vote.•

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Poulakidas, an attorney, is the Democratic candidate for City-County Council, District 4, and can be reached at www.kostas4council.com or kostas@kostas4council.com.

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