NATE FELTMAN: Don’t blame downtown businesses for boarding up

Keywords Commentary
  • Comments
  • Print

If you ventured downtown anytime during the last couple of weeks, you noticed that just about every business in the downtown core made the decision to board up its windows ahead of the presidential election. The possibility of a Trump victory, coupled with the anticipated grand jury decision in the Dreasjon Reed case, drove fear among business leaders that violence and destruction could return to downtown.

In the Nov. 15 edition of the Indy Star, columnist James Briggs placed blame on the downtown business community for deciding to board up windows ahead of possible violence. He questioned the businesses’ commitment to the recovery of downtown, saying “… the decision by businesses, landlords and property owners to board up downtown ahead of Election Day has been nothing short of destructive. The most frustrating part about all the window boarding is that it came from a posture of unfounded fear.”

Unfounded fear? Has Mayor Joe Hogsett done something I missed to instill confidence in our community that the riots, property destruction and homicides we experienced earlier this year will not occur again? Remember, ours is a city that avoided unrest in the wake of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in 1968 while other cities burned. Not once did Briggs mention the role of Hogsett and his responsibility for public safety. To lay blame for downtown’s struggles on the business community is ludicrous and irresponsible.

If the downtown business community had confidence that its property would be protected, business owners would not board their windows. Unfortunately, the mayor has not provided reassurance that businesses won’t once again face losses at a time many of them are facing economic calamity due to the impact of COVID-19 and downtown rioting.

What do people do when they have no confidence that they and their property will be protected? They help themselves. Downtown businesses are investing in plywood, shatter-proof windows, security cameras, private security and hurricane shutters like you see in New York’s electronics district.

There is no more basic responsibility of government than public safety. While we often look to our political leaders for a vision and ideas to move our community forward, the nuts and bolts of running the city is job No. 1. That includes public safety, education, economic development and roads.

On the public-safety front, the mayor is failing. Indy this year set an unwelcome record. Homicides have hit an all-time high, surpassing 200. The previous record was 179 in 2017 (also under Hogsett’s watch). At this rate, we are projected to reach 220 homicides by the end of the year—a nearly 20% increase over last year.

One of the first changes Hogsett made when he became mayor was to eliminate the job of public safety director. As a result, the police and fire chiefs report directly to him. Hogsett said he intended to become Indianapolis’ “Public Safety Mayor.” Clearly, this move has not worked. Indy no longer has any one person whose job it is to think about public safety 24/7.

We are on our way to a COVID-19 vaccine and effective treatments that will pave the way for the return of our sports and convention business next year. But if the mayor does not take steps to ensure a safe downtown, our convention and sports businesses will soon find a new home and give suburbanites more reasons to avoid downtown.

Act now, Mayor Hogsett. Hire a strong public safety director with a proven track record and ensure businesses that they no longer need to board up.•


Feltman is CEO of IBJ Media and a shareholder in the company. To comment on this column, send email to

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.

11 thoughts on “NATE FELTMAN: Don’t blame downtown businesses for boarding up

  1. Spot on article. Hogsett is a weak mayor and is way over his skis. It is incredibly embarrassing how little he has done to make our city safer and unfortunately the business owners are paying for it. The untalented and race-baiting writers at the Star like Briggs are also part of the problem as too many sheep believe what they read in that terrible excuse for a newspaper.

  2. New York City, with approximately 10 times the population of Indianapolis, has experienced 178 homicides this year, and that is considered to be tragic!

  3. I must have missed the part about the fact that Indianapolis actually has a mayor. I know he can’t possibly be at any ribbon cutting ceremonies. Perhaps he has repositioned himself to attend boarding up ceremonies. That alone would keep him busy 7 days a week. It is almost unbelievable how invisible Mayor Hogsett is. Very disappointing.

  4. Nate-
    As usual, you identified the issue (out of control crime) and, where the buck stops (Mayor). No blame, just charity of issue and accountability.

    The downtown businesses are the victims trying to protect their livelihoods. One would think (unlike Briggs) The Star would smartly acknowledge businesses that board up store fronts are being responsible to their employees and to the customers they serve every day. To knowingly allow your business to be torched and looted as we witnessed endlessly and repeatedly during the spring, summer and fall in NYC, Portland, Chicago and other American cities, would be irresponsible.

    The Mayor is responsible for law and order in our city, a critical role he has apparently abdicated, according to record murder metrics. Either he believes his policy and execution are working as designed (record murders and business property damage would state otherwise) or, he doesn’t know any better. Either option dooms our once great city. It’s time for leadership, and for actors to exit stage-left. Indianapolis deserves better. The citizens of Indiana deserve better.

  5. Nate, I totally agree! When I first read Brigg’s article I thought that he has a completed distorted of reality and it was quite dismaying he was blaming downtown businesses for all of this. But then again, I rarely agree with his columns. Thanks for speaking out — I was happy to see the article you wrote!

  6. Nate, I totally agree! When I first read Brigg’s article I thought that he has a completely distorted view of reality and it was quite dismaying he was blaming downtown businesses for all of this. But then again, I rarely agree with his columns. Thanks for speaking out — I was happy to see the article you wrote!

  7. It might be easy to blame the mayor on what looks like a local problem, and if this were the only city in the US that boarded up downtown, I would say heck yes, our mayor needs to go. BUT, James Briggs, and now Nate Feltman both over looked the elephant in the room.

    With the POTUS fanning the flames with inflammatory rhetoric all across the country over this summer, and that same idiot fanning the flame with irresponsible rhetoric before the election, downtown businesses are not stupid and they listened and I believe reacted appropriately, to a situation they knew no local politician would be able to contain if things went south.

  8. Thanks Nate. Per the usual Briggs has such a distorted view on things that it is amazing he is actually employed by the paper. The businesses saw what happened a few months ago. If Trump had won there is no doubt rioting was going to happen. Since the looting was allowed to happen last time why would the businesses think otherwise this time. Briggs called for a shutdown then several days later wanted all the plywood off the windows. You can’t have it both ways. You shut businesses down and they will be shut down permanently.

  9. Downtown of the nation’s capital was also boarded up as were other downtowns across the nation. Even if the mayor had given strong assurance of protection, it is highly likely that many businesses would have continued with the(ir) safety measures. Destruction is absolutely wrong and has impacted a pleasant downtown. Civil disturbance did not occur because folksier in a bad mood. It is clear equal justice and fair treatment do not exist for all citizens and that some entrusted to serve and protect act ruthlessly and with impunity; however, IMPD needs to be given not only physical but psychological tools and support to enforce law and order proactively, effectively and fairly for all citizens and to report misconduct without reprisal. Many citizens are at risk due to poverty and under education; this needs to change if the city in the one term is to improve. A lovely downtown for happy conventioneers and sports enthusiasts is great, but that formula is weak if not accompanied by a strong sustainable job market for all economic strata and an increasingly educated populace.