There’s more to the rural vs. Indy story

Keywords Opinion

Richard Sullivan [Feb. 3 Viewpoint] offers the perspective that Indiana’s rural areas “stick it” to Indy when folks in rural areas don’t support urban issues. He links this long-running, alleged battle to the lack of rural support for the anti-gay amendment in the news today.

Perhaps some of this alleged anti-urban sentiment emanated from the Senate days of Morris Mills and Larry Borst, when excise taxes from pickup trucks were taken from rural county road and street funding and placed into a statewide pool to be redistributed to counties based on miles of paved road.

The lion’s share of this revenue goes to Marion County, with thousands of lane miles within the county’s six interstates, six U.S. highways and four Indiana highways. Nearly one of four licensed vehicles in Indiana is a truck—yet excise revenue from a most-common rural conveyance is taken from those communities.

As a result, many Indiana rural counties are changing paved roads back to gravel because they are less costly to maintain.

Gene Sease, then-president of Indiana Central University, was wise to lead the rebranding as the University of Indianapolis in 1986 when Borst was promoting a State University of Indianapolis from the IUPUI alphabet soup. That IUPUI has the same name today has more to do with bipolar funding competition between Purdue and Indiana universities than anything else.

As for Sullivan’s claim that country bankers killed off Indiana-based banking, the near-extinction of Indiana-based banks probably had as much to do with the fact that most rural banks, and many urban banks, were closely held (many by just a few families). As the ownership generations changed and out-of-state banks gleefully paid multiples of the book value for Indiana banks, willing sellers met willing buyers and bank consolidations continue even today.

For the past 40 years (which encompasses the public service days of Mills and Borst), between 65 percent and 70 percent of Indiana’s population has been classified by the U.S. Census Bureau as urban (including Bloomington and Lafayette). If banking, anti-gay amendments, IUPUI and casino gambling issues are truly urban versus rural battles, then you would think the city folk would win every time.

Greg Finch, Carmel

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