NOTIONS: A tale of two kings and one fortunate kingdom

June 12, 2006

For the fifth year, some colleagues and I have penned comedy for a cause. The Indiana Repertory Theatre, which usually chooses its playwrights more carefully, erred again by soliciting our scriptwriting "talent" for its faux-radioshow fund-raiser.

So on June 3, a cast of Indianapolis celebrities-from the media, not-for-profits, government and business-donned makeshift 17th-century garb, mounted the Indiana Roof Ballroom stage, and hammed up "Shakespeared: A Midsummer Night's Scheme."

Our tall tale featured two kings-Mitchard and Bartholomie-trying to outdo each other in constructing a jousting stadium for Lord James the Colthearted and his legendary lancers, Sir Passalot and Sir Catchalot.

But, alas, just as the royals resolved their differences (with help from lawyers, witches and muses), they hit a hitch: Lord Legume's bean factory, which stood on the chosen arena site.

After much angst, a balcony scene and the awarding of naming rights, all was resolved and everyone danced.

How we writers come up with such antics I'll never know.

While I cherish the chance to poke fun at my favorite pols, this former civil servant also takes pride in watching them star in real-life drama on the national stage.

On Memorial Day weekend, for example, my twin sons were in town to celebrate their 18th birthday. I awoke early that Saturday and trekked outside to retrieve the papers.

After pouring myself some Cheerios, I sat down to read The New York Times. Flipping to the editorial section, I found top-of-the page insight from Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Headlined "For Whom the Road Tolls," the governor's essay explained Indiana's toll-road lease debate and how it typifies our nation's struggle to fund a first-class transportation network in an age when, as Daniels put it, "the gap between road-building needs and projected tax revenue is estimated in the hundreds of billions of dollars, and growing."

"A case can be made for higher gas taxes," Daniels said, "but no economically rational or politically imaginable increase could close a gap this huge, even if leveraged through reckless borrowing. The only alternative to throwing in the towel was to bring to bear that handiest of revenue sources, Other People's Money."

Daniels then argued his case for leasing the toll road, recounted the controversy that ensued, and even ate some crow.

"I should have done much more than I did to walk Indiana through, in advance, both the business case and the realities of today's global economic competition," Daniels said.

As for concerns about foreign investment, Daniels turned that argument on its head.

"The reflexive patriotism that saw this transaction as a loss of control has it backward," Daniels said. "In a world competing for globally mobile capital, repatriating $4 billion that Americans spent on Sonys, Audis, or, in my case, Foster's beer, to put Hoosiers to work is not a loss

but an emphatic win."

When my son Austin awoke, I showed the governor's article to Indiana's newest voter. He read it, looked up and said, "I think I'm beginning to like this guy."

Then, on June 2, my friend Cheri and I took the day off to run errands. Early that morning, we stopped by an out-ofthe-way café for breakfast. When we arrived, only two tables were occupied, one by Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson and some aides. The mayor waved when we walked in, but he lacked his usual smile.

Having seen the news about a savage shooting of seven city residents the night before, I knew what the mayor and his minions were discussing. And I figured none of them had slept, nor would soon.

Yet in the hours that followed, my city, its leaders and my fellow residents did themselves proud.

The police caught the perps; one officer even announced the nab in Spanish. Equally important, in a crime with Latino victims; African-American suspects; and police, public officials and neighbors of diverse races, political parties and jurisdictions, Indianapolis avoided the uproar that's often occurred in similar circumstances elsewhere. Instead, people from all walks of life worked together, worshiped together and mourned together.

Five years ago, I wrote in this space about Cincinnati's botching the response to an interracial shooting, and how my hometown of Fort Wayne had handled so much better the attempted assassination of then-National Urban League President Vernon Jordan.

And I asked, "Would Indianapolis remain calm in similar circumstances?"

And I replied, "I'm never one to predict human behavior, but with a mayor who hosted a race relations summit within weeks of taking office, initiated race-relations training for police officers in his first six months, and who's launched many other diversity programs, I'm encouraged."

I then quoted my former boss, one-time Fort Wayne Mayor and now State Rep. Win Moses, as saying, "Race relations are best dealt with before a crisis, not after. The whole community has to be involved."

It's the stuff that good kings, and good kingdoms, are made of. And I'm honored to live in this one.

Hetrick is president and CEO of Hetrick Communications Inc., an Indianapolis-based public relations and marketing communications firm. His column appears weekly. To comment on this column, go to IBJ Forum at www.ibj.comor send e-mail to bhetrick@ibj.com.
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