Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett now has a second term, after annihilating his Republican opponent, Jim Merritt, in the election by some 45 percentage points.
The result is a sign of the deepening Democratic control of the city and a reflection of the anemic campaign effort from Merritt. But it would also be fair for Hogsett to see the results as a mandate—but a mandate for what?
The mayor’s first term can best be described as cautious, even as he made strides in several areas. Choosing a site and launching construction of the Criminal Justice Campus, which will include a center for people struggling with mental health problems and addiction, is an important step in the city’s war on crime.
Moves to spend more on infrastructure, hire more police officers and direct tax credits to key projects such as the Wheeler Mission Center for Women and Children are also among Hogsett’s first-term highlights. And one of our favorite moves would require companies receiving city incentives to pay at least $18 per hour.
But there’s a promise of so much more—especially when it comes to attacking poverty and bolstering growth.
Hogsett has set the table to tackle both problems by balancing the city’s budget during his first term. As he came into office in 2016, the city was facing a $50 million structural deficit, a problem he wiped out in his second annual budget.
“That’s an important accomplishment, because, when you put the city in a much more comfortable fiscal position, you can really start making investments,” Hogsett told IBJ before the election.
It’s time to use that fiscal stability to more aggressively attack the problems that keep Indianapolis from growing and achieving at the same level as some of its peers. Among the challenges we look to Hogsett to tackle:
◗ Downtown homelessness and panhandling. We know these aren’t the same problem and don’t have the same solutions. But to those who visit Indianapolis or work downtown, they combine to make the city feel less safe and welcoming.
◗ Crime. Violence that occurs downtown often gets the most attention, but confronting the problem in the city’s most violent neighborhoods is the way to make Indianapolis safer.
◗ Indianapolis identity. The moniker of “amateur sports capital of the world” once helped Indianapolis gain national recognition. But the phrase is just not true or effective anymore. The Hogsett administration should work with Indy Chamber and Visit Indy to create a new brand. Not just a slogan but a rallying point for tourism and growth.
◗ Regional cooperation. There is no way to fix what ails Indianapolis without doing so as a region. Hogsett must work with Republican officials from across central Indiana—and they must work with him—to make the region stronger.
◗ Poverty. Too many Indianapolis neighborhoods are getting poorer, and the gap between the haves and have nots is growing. The city will not continue to grow economically if that problem isn’t addressed.
We challenge the mayor to make this second term about bold and decisive action. The time to act is now.•
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