Welcome to the archives for NewsTalk, an IBJ blog published from November 2007 through December 2010.

An outsider cautions Indianapolis

June 3, 2009
Before you hear Ed Morrisonâ??s warning for Indianapolis, itâ??s helpful to know the Cleveland-area resident is a fan.

Morrison, who was hired by Purdue University a couple of years ago to help Hoosiers think of new ways of solving problems, believes Indianapolisâ?? record of accomplishing big projects, whether launching IUPUI, building sports complexes or revitalizing the downtown, has created one of the best state capitals.

But he reminds that virtually all of the projects involved bricks and mortar. Theyâ??re things, not people. He thinks the power brokering and equivalent of smoke-filled rooms that revitalized the city since the â??60s will never work with arguably more important â?? and intractable â?? social problems like school dropouts.

Indianapolis mastered its strategy before there was an Internet and power began to disperse to more people, Morrison says. Now, the city needs to learn to take advantage of networks of people â?? not necessarily an easy transition.

â??A hierarchy like Indianapolis has is very capable and has shown they can build big things,â?? he says. But, â??Indianapolis has to adapt to this new world.â??

Like most other large cities, Indianapolisâ?? main problem is its schools, Morrison argues. Young people wonâ??t move here, and if they do, they wonâ??t stay once they have children, if IPS doesnâ??t make huge improvements. Indianapolisâ?? civic leaders â??donâ??t have a sense of the urgency. You hear the buzz around, but thereâ??s no focus or disciplined strategy.â??

Groups of citizens will be what ultimately solve social problems, not commissions, blue-ribbon panels or other top-down approaches, he says. â??The places with vibrant networks are going to be where the kids want to locate.â??

What do you think? Does Indianapolis rely too much on power brokers? Do you agree with Morrisonâ??s solution?
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