Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett didn’t have the clout or the influence to quell a coup that let the GOP pick the president of the Democrat-controlled City-County Council.
Or maybe the Democratic mayor didn’t try.
It’s not clear because the statements his office has released after the council’s Jan. 8 vote have been so vapid it’s impossible to know whether he cares about the power shift.
Either way, the rebellion happened under Hogsett’s watch. Four of 14 Democrats joined 10 Republicans to oust the council president, Democrat Maggie Lewis, in favor of fellow Democrat Stephen Clay. Days later, Clay replaced three Democratic committee chairs with Republicans. If the mayor was outraged, he didn’t show it publicly. In a statement Wednesday, he said he respects the council’s “autonomy as a separate branch of government” and has promised to avoid getting involved in their disputes.
So maybe it’s all a bunch of political shenanigans with no real impact on Hogsett’s plans for the city.
But, again, it’s hard to tell. Two years into Hogsett’s four-year term as mayor, his leadership on key issues, including the rejuvenation of Circle Centre mall and improvement of mass transit, has seemed as inadequate as his handling of the local Democratic Party.
Two years ago, Simon Property Group pitched a$20 million revamp of the mall to its ownership group, which includes Simon and 18 other local companies that helped fund the original project in the early 1990s. But the group needs leadership from the city—which might need to invest as well—which hasn’t materialized.
As a result, a recent walk through the mall revealed broken elevators and escalators, crumbling facades, and a tube snaking through a door to supplement heat. It’s not a sight that instills confidence in the future of downtown.
It’s reminiscent of the mayor’s position—or lack thereof—on the city’s transit tax increase. Hogsett didn’t offer support for the tax hike, which voters authorized in 2016 and the council approved in 2017, until just before the council’s vote, even though the revenue is earmarked for much-needed improvements in the city’s bus system. Fortunately, the Indy Chamber, the Indianapolis Congregation Network and others took the lead and persuaded Indy residents to approve it.
The mayor is not without real accomplishments. We appreciate Hogsett’s approach to locating the county’s criminal justice center in the Twin Aire neighborhood, his efforts to balance the city budget, and his push to improving streetlights throughout Indianapolis.
But we think he can do more. As he enters the second half of his term, we urge the mayor to be a stronger and more visible leader on key issues. The city has a long list of pressing needs—including reducing crime, squelching poverty, educating our workforce, and attracting higher-income residents who will pay the taxes needed to fund all those efforts.
We expect the City-County Council—both Democrats and Republicans—to aggressively advance those efforts as well. Our city can’t afford a leadership void.•
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