The elections of 2014 are over and now we must turn to another set of extremely important elections — those of 2015. Next year we will elect mayors in Indiana’s cities and those races are crucially important for our future.
The basic framework of how we live is determined, in large measure, by where we live. What businesses are available to us for jobs and for shopping? Are our streets and homes safe? Are health regulations for our children and our seniors enforced? Are businesses and families protected by intelligent zoning and code enforcement?
Answers to these and a dozen other questions are strongly dependent on whom we elect as our mayors. Indiana is fortunate to have many fine mayors who promote community harmony and progress. But it becomes increasingly difficult to find good people to run for those demanding offices.
Of course we do have a few mayors who sow discord and retard the development of their communities. It’s our job to see they do not get re-elected.
Each mayor must choose what services to augment and how to finance improvements in his/her city. Take these two examples: In Gary, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson is using federal funds to assist in clearing away many vacant, dilapidated properties for redevelopment. In Indianapolis, Mayor Greg Ballard has used and is being urged to use federal funds to make downtown streets exciting places for dining and entertainment.
Gary is a city that needs all the help it can get. The consequences of accumulated neglect and mismanagement are being addressed by an energetic, practical mayor. It is consistent with our national interest to see to it that endangered cities are given a chance to be resuscitated. Gary has suffered at the hands of the state Legislature and its own internal conflicts. Mayor Freeman-Wilson looks forward without blaming anyone. Her gaze is fixed firmly on what can be done today with available resources to build consensus and community.
Indianapolis, the core of Indiana’s most thriving metropolitan area, is the polar opposite of Gary. It has been on an upward trajectory of more than 30 years with a string of prudent, but progressive mayors. Yet, Indianapolis, like Gary and other Hoosier cities, has been throttled by the small-town, small-minded General Assembly.
Should Indianapolis use federal or state funds to create more outdoor eating on The Circle? What is the national or state interest in this $60 million project? Will Indianapolis fail to thrive if local property owners, the presumed beneficiaries of this project, foot the bill?
Gov. Mike Pence turned down the opportunity to receive $80 million in federal funding for pre-K education because strings “might be” attached. This sets up questions for Indiana and the nation. Should Hoosiers reject federal funds to improve our most damaged cities because of strings? Or should there be strings (safeguards) on federal funds to prevent them from being used to further enhance already prosperous communities?