Our 2009 wish list for Indianapolis

January 5, 2009
Now that we've closed the book on a difficult year, let's recognize some of the bright spots of 2008 as well as some areas that need improvement. We propose these new year's resolutions for Indianapolis:

Let's make all Indianapolis workplaces smoke-free. Hancock County just passed such a law. So have Bloomington, Cumberland, Fort Wayne, Plainfield and Zionsville. The partial local ban on workplace smoking enacted in 2006 was a good start. Now we need to finish the job by extending the prohibition to bars, bowling alleys, private clubs and outdoor dining areas. If Hancock County can do it, so can Indianapolis. Secondhand smoke kills—what more do we need to know?

Let's formulate a cohesive amateur-sports strategy. At year-end, three of the facilities that made a name for Indianapolis as an amateur sports capital were in danger: the Indianapolis Tennis Center, the Michael A. Carroll Track & Field Stadium and the Indiana World Skating Academy ice rink at Pan Am Plaza. Losing these facilities would seriously weaken what has been a strong economic tool for the city. IUPUI, the city and local sports organizations should work together on a shared vision for the future of amateur sports in Indianapolis. We cannot live by Super Bowls and Final Fours alone.

Let's get "greener." We applaud the SustainIndy initiative, one of the best things to emerge from Mayor Greg Ballard's office this year. The plan gives environmental concerns the visibility that has been lacking for far too long. The wide-ranging plan calls for adding bike lanes, promoting "green" building techniques and reducing energy usage by city government. Indianapolis ranked 44th among the nation's 50-largest cities in a major sustainability study last year, so clearly we have a long way to go. In 2009 Mayor Ballard needs to put his words into action.

Let's move on mass transit. You can't talk about sustainability without mentioning the gaping hole in our economic fabric created by the lack of public transportation. 2008 saw at least one positive development: The Metropolitan Development Commission gave city transportation planners the OK for an expedited study to show locations, costs and potential ridership for mass-transit routes region-wide. Effective mass transit benefits urban and suburban areas alike, and it's not just about moving people. It's also an economic development tool: Transit stops create hubs where businesses like to locate.

Let's support the arts. The arts took a hit last year, when the city cut by a third its already paltry arts budget. We commend the discussions of arts funding options being led by the Arts Council of Indianapolis. Arts groups are wise to search collectively and creatively for reliable sources of income. We urge government officials and business leaders to assist in these efforts. A vibrant cultural climate is an essential component of our community's quality of life.

It's tempting in these difficult times to batten down the hatches and be content with the status quo. But we must continue to find ways to move our city forward. In 2009 let's resolve to work together to do just that.

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