Abdul-Hakim Shabazz: Indy is my kind of town—let’s keep it that way

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Abdul-Hakim ShabazzAlthough I am a Chicago-native, went to law school in St. Louis and make it a point to travel to Seattle every other year, Indianapolis is still my kind of town.

This is why my head is still somewhat reeling from the recent mass shooting downtown that injured six people. Luckily, there were no fatalities. Unfortunately, all signs point to unsupervised juveniles with access to firearms and no or limited access to home training. And when these events happen, all the work that has gone into making downtown a safe and attractive destination gets called into question.

People need to realize just how important downtown is not only to the city’s economy but the entire state of Indiana. Allow me to put out a few facts I’ve been compiling over the last few days:

While downtown represents 1.6% of land mass of Marion County, it generates 11.3% of the property tax revenue for the entire county.

A little more than $95 million in sales taxes were generated by downtown businesses in 2017, representing 8% of Marion County’s sales tax revenue.

Almost 4% of all jobs in Indiana are located in downtown Indianapolis, which occupies only 0.007% of the state’s land area. In fact, there are 42,844 jobs per square mile in downtown Indianapolis compared to 67 jobs per square mile across the rest of the state.

More than 37% of all downtown workers have a college degree.

Downtown has approximately 153,000 workers. More than 1,500 jobs were created in downtown in 2018.

When it comes to tourism, downtown is a driving force behind the $5.4 billion spent annually in Indianapolis and the $1.26 billion collected in taxes, which lowers your overall tax bill by more than $960.

It’s because of those numbers, I get worked up over shootings, as well as and what seems to be on most days the endless supply of homeless and panhandlers who populate the mile square.

The leadership in this community needs to get a lot more aggressive in dealing with these problems. We shouldn’t have to call in the Ten Point Coalition and other faith-based and community groups to patrol the streets.

And it’s also high time the homeless industrial complex gets called on the carpet and we really question what they are doing to address the problem. They say the number of homeless in Indy is decreasing, but you wouldn’t know that watching them doing their laundry in the fountain on Monument Circle and then using the chain on the monument to dry their clothes.

Downtown generates a lot of jobs and tax revenue that benefits not only the rest of the city but the entire state. Remember, the operational costs of schools comes from the state sales tax, so even if you live in Richmond, Angola, Covington, Jeffersonville, Michigan City or Mount Vernon, your financial wellbeing is tied to downtown’s prosperity. If downtown is doing well, the odds improve that you will too. But that won’t last if we don’t crackdown on crime before it gets out of control and we get serious about the homeless encampments that are about to show up on the Circle.

Many of us love downtown Indy and we are not going to give it up to criminals and vagrants without a fight. This is our kind of town.•

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Shabazz is an attorney, radio talk show host and political commentator, college professor and stand-up comedian. Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.


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