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SHABAZZ: Hogsett, Dems own Indy’s government—and its problems

January 16, 2016

Shabazz
“With great power comes great responsibility.” – Peter Parker



It’s not every day that I can quote something from “Spider-Man” in an IBJ Forefront column. But somehow I get the strange feeling that it’s going to be that kind of year here in Indianapolis now that Democrats have seized complete control of Indianapolis government for the first time in eight years.

With Joe Hogsett as mayor and the Democrats with control of the council by a 13-12 margin, they now have the power to put their vision into play.

They also get the responsibility if things go south.

They get to be responsible for crime. They get to be responsible for economic development. They get to be responsible for potholes.

And they get to be held accountable. Unlike President Barack Obama, who can point a finger at Republicans and label them as obstructionists for blocking his agenda, Democrats do not get that luxury. They can only point the finger at themselves.

In his inauguration address, Hogsett spelled out his top three priorities: tackling crime, addressing the city’s $50 million structural deficit and the issue of child poverty. Each one of these areas will not be easy to address.

For example, Hogsett announced recently a return to more traditional community policing and increasing police presence in the city’s most troubled areas. So the question now is: How will the administration accomplish that without taking officers from other parts of the city? The mayor has talked about adding 150 police officers to the ranks, but that’s a four-year process.

When it comes to dealing with the city’s structural deficit, I will be interested to see how Democrats close that gap. I have always argued the solution to Indy’s money problems is more taxpayers, not necessarily higher taxes.

Income taxes are becoming the city’s number one source of revenue, surpassing property taxes. And there are only two ways get more income tax revenue: raise taxes or get more taxpayers. The previous administration focused on the latter. That’s why there was a heavy focus on economic development, jobs, quality schools, etc. Those are the types of things that get you more taxpayers. I will be interested to see how Team Hogsett approaches this.

And third, on the issue of child poverty and hunger, you will never be able to tackle child poverty unless you tackle adult education. The National Center for Children in Poverty made it pretty clear: Nearly 60 percent of children in poverty have parents with no college education.

And not to be the morality police here, but the majority of children in poverty live in single-parent homes. The Brookings Institute said it best: Want to decrease your chance of living in poverty? Do three simple things: at least finish high school, get a full-time job, and wait until age 21 to get married and have children.

If the Democrats will preach that message, I will be the first one to stand up and applaud.

Now, as easy as it would be to start the early criticism, Democrats should be given an opportunity to prove they can govern. Numerous times council Democrats have said they can’t work with Mayor Greg Ballard. Now the voters have given them Hogsett. So now there’s no excuse. They control both branches of government, so let’s see what they can do.

It’s all theirs. Or if I may quote one of my other favorite films, Blazing Saddles: “Son, you’re on your own.”•
 

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