Letter: Lawmakers should back off heavy-handed limits on locals

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It’s been said that “decisions are made by those who show up.” As Indianapolis business leaders, we are obliged to show up for equity and inclusion, against policies that make it more difficult for our employees, customers, colleagues and neighbors to show up, speak out, and support our city’s comeback.

Efforts at the Statehouse to stifle local priorities—in public safety, transit, housing and more—will stall growth by diminishing the contributions of residents who feel isolated from jobs, unsafe in their neighborhoods, limited by housing and transportation options.

To rebuild our job market, we have to reconnect people and employment with accessible transit and affordable housing. To restore safety, we have to restore trust between police and the community they serve. But there are proposals in the General Assembly to take away local oversight of law enforcement, overrule local housing regulations and overturn a popular mandate for mass transit.

If people are left out of the economy, they can’t participate in its recovery. And we need everyone’s efforts as our city is being tested in unprecedented ways.

A deadly pandemic has claimed the lives of thousands of Hoosiers, closed schools and businesses, disrupted every part of our daily lives. Marion County accounts for more than $1 of every $4 of Indiana’s economic output, and our density of people and employment made us especially vulnerable to COVID. We’ve seen poverty spread along with the virus, driving violent crime higher across the nation.

Indianapolis isn’t immune to these trends. Public safety was a priority before COVID, but seeing crime surge along with the hardships of 2020 is a tragic reminder to focus on the social and economic causes of violence. As in health care, prevention is more effective than triage.

Indianapolis also isn’t untouched by civil unrest and protests against systemic racism. We don’t have all the answers. Neither do our elected officials. But we’re certain solutions are more likely to be found by listening to those closest to the issues at hand and working together. This confidence is founded in an Indianapolis tradition of civic collaboration.

The public, private and philanthropic sectors united to transform the “Indy-a-no-place” of the 1960s to a championship sports capital and host for major events. We reached beyond county borders to regionalize economic development and target high-wage, advanced-industry growth. Indianapolis shook off Rust Belt inertia to outpace most of our Midwestern peers in population and job creation since 2000.

And over the last decade, local businesses helped rally support for mass transit, endorsed by voters at the ballot box with an overwhelming referendum victory in 2016. Today, IndyGo’s plans for expanded transit are becoming a reality—and service connecting people, employers and neighborhoods continues to be crucial for a more resilient, post-COVID economy.

The state has often been another partner in progress: Allowing the capture and reinvestment of local revenues to revitalize downtown. Funding science and technology education and workforce initiatives that pay off for the state’s largest high-tech economy. Working hand-in-hand on major business attraction projects. Authorizing referenda to allow local taxpayers to have a say financing local priorities. And so on.

The relationship between state and local health officials through COVID offers another example, recognizing the value of following the data and empowering local decision making.

But a recent pattern of legislative proposals attacks local control in ways that would slow our economic recovery and risk long-term progress on public safety. For example, new mandates on IndyGo that effectively dismiss the results of a countywide pro-transit referendum in an effort to stop plans for cross-county rapid transit service.

Or overriding the governor’s veto of legislation overturning local ordinances on renter-landlord relations. By undermining practical transit and reasonable housing close to employment centers, these moves would keep more residents away from work and living in poverty—conditions where crime will flourish.

And crime will stubbornly persist without a partnership between police and citizens. A state takeover of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department would rob our citizens of oversight and ability to hold local policymakers accountable. It would further fracture the relationship between police and the community, making their jobs even more challenging.

As employers, we don’t claim a special privilege to speak for the people of Indianapolis. But we are invested in the success of our city, which continues to be the engine of Indiana’s economy. Imposing heavy-handed limits on local authority would stall our ability to drive Indiana forward.

David S. Graziosi, Allison Transmission president and CEO

Beth Keyser, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Indiana president

Darrianne Christian, BCforward co-founder

Justin Christian, BCforward president and CEO

Marshawn Wolley, Black Onyx Management CEO

Jennifer Dzwonar, Borshoff partner

Douglas R. Brown, Bose Public Affairs principal

Jeff Gaither, Bose McKinney & Evans managing partner

Greg Jacoby, Browning Day president

John F. Hirschman, Browning Investment president and CEO

James M. Danko, Butler University president

Patty Prosser, The Center for Leadership Excellence co-founder

Bryan Mills, Community Health Network president and CEO

Rev. David W. Greene Sr., Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis president

Stephen L. Corbitt, CorGroup LLC president and CEO

Rajan Gajaria, Corteva executive vice president of global business platforms

Gerry Bailey, Corvano LLC president

Drew Linn, Counterpart CEO

Marya Rose, Cummins Inc. vice president and chief administrative officer

James B. Connor, Duke Realty chairman and CEO

Jeffrey Simmons, Elanco Animal Health CEO and president

Lisa Schlehuber, Elements Financial CEO

Dave Ricks, Eli Lilly and Co. chairman and CEO

Gordon James Brooks, Eli Lilly and Co. chief procurement officer and chief financial officer of bio-medicines

Jeff Smulyan, Emmis Communications chairman and CEO

Tammy B. Robinson, Engaging Solutions managing principal

Philip G. Kenney, F.A. Wilhelm Construction CEO

Brian K. Brenner, First Person Inc. CEO and founder

Eric Gershman, Gershman Partners principal

Andrew Appel, Gregory & Appel Insurance CEO and president

Kelly Pfledderer, Haywire CEO

Denise J. Herd, Herd Strategies president

Tanya McKinzie, Indiana Black Expo CEO and president

Marlene Dotson, Indiana Latino Institute CEO and president

Moira Carlstedt, Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership CEO and president

Tony Mason, Indianapolis Urban League, CEO and president

Michael Huber, Indy Chamber CEO and president

Dennis Murphy, Indiana University Health CEO and president

Aman Brar, Jobvite CEO

Michael J. Jones, Lauth Group Inc. CEO and president

J.A. Lacy, LDI Ltd. CEO and president

Yvonne Shaheen, retired Long Electric Co. Inc. CEO

John M. Mutz, former lieutenant governor

Kristin Mays-Corbitt, Mays Chemical Co. CEO and president

Michael Grubb, The MDC Group president of construction

Michael F. Petrie, Merchants Bancorp chairman and CEO

Audrey Taylor, Netlogx CEO and partner

Nick Taylor, Netlogx partner

John McDonald, NEXT Studios managing entrepreneur

Deborah D. Oatts, Nubian Transportation Management, Nubian Construction Group, CEO and president

Nathan E. Oatts, Oatts Trucking Inc. CEO and president

  1. Scott Davison, OneAmerica chairman, CEO and president

Rick Fuson, Pacers Sports & Entertainment president and chief operating officer

Connie Bond Stuart, PNC Bank regional president for Central & Southern Indiana

Mamon Powers, Powers & Sons Construction CEO and president

Matt Sause, Roche Diagnostics North America CEO and president

Melissa St. John, Relocation Strategies CEO and owner

Billie Dragoo, RepuCare CEO

Jill Rose, Rowland Design

Syam Nair, Salesforce executive vice president of software engineering

Sarah K. Hempstead, Schmidt & Associates CEO

Kevin Hunt, Shiel Sexton president and chief operating officer

Paula Moan,  Stock Yards Bank and Trust market president

Ann D. Murtlow, United Way of Central Indiana CEO and president

Derrick Stewart, YMCA of Greater Indianapolis CEO and president

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2 thoughts on “Letter: Lawmakers should back off heavy-handed limits on locals

  1. Take any IndyGo funding off the board. They knew exactly what they were doing when they agreed to raise additional funds. I received an email from the Indianapolis Dept. of metropolitan Development today, Feb 12th. It has an outline for development, “Transit Oriented Development”, in areas around the Red and Purple Line. The deadline to respond is February 19th. This is the same tactic the City of Indianapolis and IndyGo used for the Red Line. Lots of time to digest and reply!! The previous plan expired at the end of 2020. Why? What was supposed to be accomplished in that time frame, did the miss some kind of goal? Current and past IndyGo management hasn’t a clue, and until someone comes up with common sense ideas and planning, all bets are off on additional funding. The Red was loosing from the start, even from the pandemic, highest ridership was when it was free.

    They blew millions on Chinese busses that were faulty from the start and knew it, and now will switch to hybred vehicles for new purchases, hopefully American built and designed. The public vote, stop bringing that up. The public was not fully aware of what they were voting on. The Red drew protests from all sections of the city, but nothing changed and IndyGo did not listen then either.

  2. Thank you Indianapolis business, philanthropic, and educational leaders for speaking up for home rule. The legislature has more than enough challenges to meet without micro-managing local police, housing, and transit issues.

    The proposed removal of home rule would also make it much more difficult for local citizens to gain relief from distant legislators who are unknown, unavailable, lacking in knowledge, and unresponsive to local needs.

    The same state legislators who say the government closest to the people is the best and who complain about Washington regulation are now removing local control with STATE interference. Indiana has tried state takeover of schools and did a worse job than the folks who dealt with the schools on a daily basis. But that isn’t really surprising. Micro-management by those far removed from the front-lines has a long history of inefficiency and failure. That’s especially misplaced when the state blames the city for problems sweeping the nation.

    The state has long taken more from Indianapolis residents than it has given in tax revenues. Please don’t kill the golden goose providing the rest of Indiana so many eggs.