Indianapolis is grappling with one of its most violent years, leading citizens to ask hard questions about why such crime is growing and what we can do about it. While this crime spike has generated loud calls for a much larger police force, the city’s lean budget cannot be our only solution.
Neighborhood and local government leaders in Indianapolis increasingly face a dilemma: Let tax-foreclosed houses sit vacant or enable their acquisition by large, scattered-site rental investors.
Downtown Indianapolis was recently ranked No. 1 for livability among smaller cities by Livability.com—gratifying praise after $9.3 billion of reinvestment. Recent debates and plans, however, have raised a fundamental question: Whose downtown is this?
Brookings Institute researchers recently published a book called “Confronting Suburban Poverty in America” that profiles how quickly poverty is migrating from many urban centers to their surrounding suburbs. Metro-area poverty has grown fastest in the suburbs over the past 30 years—experiencing a 64-percent increase versus 29-percent growth in urban centers.
I recently participated in a planning session for downtown Indianapolis that included cultural and civic leaders whom I consider very pro-urban Indianapolis. As the conversation turned toward the urgent need to recruit more taxpayers into city neighborhoods, one of my colleagues stated that it really wasn’t practical to raise a middle class family in the city, and many others agreed.
I am sitting on a plane with 90 representatives of Indianapolis returning from a leadership exchange to Portland, Ore., trying to puzzle out what we can learn from a city that is so different from our hometown. Portland is similar in size and has a blue-collar history like Indianapolis, but it followed a very different path the past 30 years.
I admit it. Even though I was a political science minor in college, I did not watch one minute of the Republican or Democratic national conventions. But I am not alone. In some very informal polling, I have learned that lots of engaged local leaders also skipped these television events.
The disagreement between Mayor Ballard and City-County Council Democrats over the use of tax increment financing sounds like a wonky tax policy debate, but behind this conflict are far more fundamental questions of how we use our city’s resources to prepare for its future.
The relative autonomy of charter schools will allow them to focus on their internal success in spite of the chaos of system breakdown around them.