What's the most pressing issue facing Indianapolis now and in the future?
Depending on a pundit's passion, answers can range from maintaining a professional sports team to supporting the cultural and arts community, from improving the quality of public schools and parks to making affordable housing available, from low taxes to a state-of-the art public mass transit system.
Yet each of these areas, while they may reflect an interest group's unwavering and at times irrational fixation, taken at face value are more akin to giving the rooster credit for the rising sun.
The greatest challenge for Indianapolis in 2006 will be the retention and attraction of the most economically powerful demographic of our community.
Long before there were yuppies and buppies and dinks-dual income, no kids-this segment of society provided both the greatest labor pool and largest market for economic development in cities and towns of all sizes. No group has more to do with creating stable and thriving communities than this group. Yet for all of its purchasing clout, it still remains largely ignored and tragically misunderstood.
Who are they? Simple. They're DIPs (dual-income parents) and SIPs (singleincome parents).
DIPs and SIPs contribute more to the eco nomic and social vitality of a community than all other segments combined. From an economic perspective, on any given day DIPs and SIPs are spending thousands of dollars. From daycare to clothing and toys, whether they are dining out or preparing dinner at home, families with children fuel our local economy. When it comes to large purchases, the same holds true. Parents with kids typically outgrow their homes, automobiles and other big-ticket items at a quicker rate than other demographic groups.
For DIPs and SIPs, there are three factors that determine where they will ultimately decide to call home: schools, public safety and taxes, in that order.
For instance, if they perceive that a school system doesn't meet their standards, is too crowded or seemingly out of control, they will move.
When it comes to public safety, if they perceive that they cannot be safe at home, on their way to work or in their neighborhood, they will leave the city.
The third factor is taxing policies. If they perceive that there's no value to the additional tax on their homes or income and that no tax relief is in sight, they will not remain or relocate within Marion County.
The reality for many of these families is that in each case Indianapolis has failed to respond to their needs. Through failed public policy, Indianapolis has accelerated the process of DIPS/SIPS migration to the outlying counties, a process that will ultimately lead to the re-segregating of our schools along both racial and economic lines.
Instead of creating a world-class city we are devolving to the dismal failures of urban centers of the late 1960s: high taxes, poor services and an entrenched and unresponsive bureaucracy.
As DIPs and SIPs prepare for 2006, I imagine they have two goals in mind: First, escape from the political jurisdiction of the city of Indianapolis. And second, once established within one of the contiguous counties, resist any attempts toward regional dialogue or cooperation with Indianapolis, thus sealing the fate of the state capital.
While a comprehensive solution cannot be proposed in a single newspaper column, I will offer a few general thoughts that should guide our future.
A strong emphasis on discipline and accountability of students and parents should be universally marketed and demonstrated in each school district in Marion County.
Charter schools should be encouraged as they offer incentives for families to reside within Indianapolis and especially within the "old city" limits.
The long-term costs associated with an adequately staffed police force, and aggressive enforcement, prosecution and housing of criminals need to be defined and funding solutions offered for honest public discussion and debate.
Moving beyond "election cycle" bandaid approaches to addressing the unfunded pensions of public safety personnel.
Like issues involving public safety, we need a permanent fix for property taxes, not band-aids.
Resist using tax abatements as the only economic development tool.
Aggressively utilize Brownfield funding packages to offer incentives for redevelopment of abandoned commercial and industrial sites.
Find creative ways to use Foreign Trade Zones for depressed or under-utilized properties zoned for commercial or industrial use to spur growth in the light manufacturing, distribution and import/ export industries.
The capstone solution that will allow Indianapolis to overcome the challenges of 2006 will be decided by one thing: visionary leadership.
Visionary leadership that understands it is families with children that ultimately drive our economy and stabilize our neighborhoods.
Visionary leadership that recognizes educating children will always be the first priority for parents of Indianapolis and should be for leadership as well.
Visionary leadership that recognizes the quickest way to fail parents is to fail to protect them or their children from harm.
Visionary leadership that focuses on "attracting" instead of "taxing" families.
Visionary leadership that recognizes making a world-class city starts by first making it a family affair.
Isaac Randolph is a Republican on the City-County Council representing District One and also an Indianapolis firefighter. Randolph