Like almost everyone familiar with the Marion County courts, I applaud Mayor Ballard’s proposal to address the long-recognized need for a judicial center. The proposal would leave the civil courts in the City-County Building but consolidate the criminal courts and their associated agencies in one complex.
Mayor Ballard proposes to create a judicial center that would bring the dispersed offices of the criminal courts, prosecutor, public defender and perhaps other agencies together with the county jail in one facility at a location to be determined, and free up the jail site for development.
Legislatures in Iowa and California have seen the wisdom of eliminating partisan gerrymandering and the polarized bodies it generates. The call for redistricting reform is growing now that the federal government has been shut down and the nation’s credit and the world’s economy threatened.
Those of us who have seen the progress Indianapolis has made over the last several decades are justifiably proud of what has been accomplished. At the same time, most thoughtful observers agree on the need to address a range of problems—notably crime, fiscal pressures, education, transportation and neighborhood development.
A two-front war is waging over control of the City-County Council. The General Assembly recently changed the Unigov statute to eliminate the four at-large council seats. Meanwhile, a special five-judge panel is considering a challenge to the city-county ordinance drawing the council’s 25 single-member districts.
After each decennial census, the law requires redrawing the City-County Council districts. A decade ago, after a Democratic mayor vetoed a redistricting ordinance adopted by the Republican majority following the 2000 census, the Indiana Supreme Court rejected the partisan maps proposed by the two parties and adopted a neutral map that established the districts through the 2011 election.
Marion County’s trial judges are selected by a process used nowhere else in the state, and, as far as I know, nowhere on this planet. In the May primary elections, the two major parties each nominate only half the number of judges that will be elected in the general election.