Our Deteriorating Public Services

I’m officially pissed.

The rant I’m about to embark upon was triggered by the City’s recycling contractor, Republic, which–for the third straight time–picked up everyone’s recycling except ours. We’ve had plenty of reasons to be less than enamored of the recycling program, which charges extra for the service (thus incentivizing environmentally irresponsible behavior). My biggest gripe has been the refusal of Republic to come down the alley, as our regular garbage pick-up does. Since we live in the city–the “hood”–that means we have to schlep our container down one alley, then another, in order to get it to the street. Not only is this inconvenient for elderly folks (and we’re pretty elderly!), it means that the street looks cluttered and trashy for two or three days, while cans are taken out and then returned to garages.

It isn’t just recycling. Regular trash pickup has gotten hit-or-miss of late. Crime in our neighborhood has increased to a worrisome degree–initially, the increase was mostly petty thefts, or cars being broken into, but more recently, people have been mugged and homes invaded while the occupants were still there. Scary stuff that we haven’t previously experienced.

When apartments being built a couple of blocks from our house caught fire a couple of months ago, it took IFD what seemed like a long time to arrive. That may have been an incorrect impression, but several people in the neighborhood reported a discomfiting wait between their 911 calls and the first truck. In those minutes, the blaze became a huge conflagration (we could feel the heat on our front porch, which is a good two and a half blocks away, and the flames could be seen for miles).

Not far from where that fire raged is a city park that–despite repeated promises–continues to shows signs of neglect. It has a very nice pool, but the hours of operation have been sharply cut back since it first opened.

It’s hard to remember that during the Hudnut Administration, streets in the Mile Square were swept every day. Now, from the looks of it, they aren’t being swept at all.

Part of the problem is management. Construction and especially street repairs drag on for weeks more than necessary (and let’s not even talk about the Cultural Trail segments that kept parts of Mass Avenue and Virginia Avenue closed for months on end while little or no work got done). Accountability for garbage collection is a management issue. But the major culprit is lack of money. So we have too few police, too few lifeguards, too few managers generally.

It’s bad enough that we’ve starved local government; it’s worse that we’ve actually built that starvation diet into our state constitution. Indiana taxpayers have spoken, and what they’ve said is that they don’t care enough about the quality of public services to pay for those services.

Unfortunately, we get what we pay for.

One of the unintended consequences of a city with inadequate public services and a deteriorating quality of life is that the people who can, leave.  And they take their tax dollars with them, triggering a cycle of further decline.

We aren’t there yet, but the signs are ominous.


  1. Poorly provided services is just one of the consequences of a governmental organization contracting out to look smaller than they really are.

    I’m generally satisfied with the value I get for my tax dollars, but I would be happy to pay more to get more, though.

  2. I don’t understand; Ballard has outsourced how many services to make money for the city and save tax dollars. Daniels found how much surplus in the state budget he wasnt’ aware of and didn’t know what to do with it? What is wrong with this picture? Daniels will soon be gone (pity Purdue) but what will he be replaced with? And we are stuck with Ballard but, again, what will he be replaced with when the time comes? Letters to the editor of the Star and letters directly to the mayor’s office are ignored while problems escalate. Why do the residents of this city whine, cry, piss and moan about these conditons, then go to the polls and reelect more Republicans to carry on the lack of services we are forced to deal with? Why am I bothering to ask why the great unthinking masses of this city and state have done the same for decades? At this point, I will save my breath for bad COPD days and stop wasting cyber space with stupid questions.

  3. It’s not just Mayor Ballard. Our current governor and legislature pretty much guaranteed that these results would occur when they passed the law cutting property taxes instead of re-working the law so that the state and cities were able to continue to fund their budgets–and the schools, by the way, which were hurt terribly by this action. And THEN they made it a Constitutional amendment–just ridiculous.
    Our services are not as bad as yours, Sheila, but we don’t live in the same part of town–and that just confirms what you’ve implied that different parts of Indianapolis are being treated differently. Hmmm? Bigotry?? Racism?? I wonder.
    Sorry to have joined your rant so early on this Sunday. We ask for a referendum to consider public transportation, and the infrastructure is crumbling. So we have no comprehensive public transport, no referendum upcoming, and a failing infrastructure. I, too, am increasingly concerned.

  4. We’re told TIFs and professional sports teams are inducements for people to move to our city and contribute to our tax base.

    How bad does it have to get before people would move here because we offered adequate public safety, education, transportation, streets, and trash services?

  5. Let’s see – daylight savings time would put us all on one time zone in Indiana and generate jobs.

    Privatizing toll road managmeent to other countires would generate jobs and put us on the road to recovery.

    Capping property taxes and shifting those tax obligations to homeowners would incent businesses nation-wide to come to Indiana and generate jobs and others would stay here and create new jobs.

    Right to work to shift more funds from workers to corporate headquarters and supposedly generate more jobs will also make us more atrractive for businesses and job creation.

    And state government has eliminated regulations and ‘uncertainty’ for businesses for 8 years now.

    State government piled up a $2 billion state surplus and founds hundreds of millions more
    it somehow misplaced. Of course we cut schools nearly $1 billion over 3 years to comprise half that surplus.

    Things are so wonderful here that the state gave businesses another tax break – again without requiring that businesses create any jobs to qualify for the tax break. It didn’t work so well the first few times we cut taxes to create jobs so presumably we had to try it just one more time to convince ourselves it doesn’t work.

    Has anyone done a balance sheet to see if all these tax cuts generated enough new jobs to pay for the cuts?

    Mr. Romney – if you want to see how many jobs and new revenues Indiana’s tax cuts, privatization, and de-regulation have generated, just come to Indiana. We’re really in clover here as Sheila’s experience indicates.

  6. Nancy Papas deserves a standing ovation for her comments! On target, to the point and very few words to get her message across. You go, girl!

  7. Indy services are so bad that there are no handwashing stations or even sanitizing gel dispensers in or near the porta-potties at Holliday Park.
    It’s one thing when the General Assembly determines that Indiana should be a low tax, low-service state; but to force the same outcome on every community via tax caps is unconscionable.

  8. I have been complaining for years about the litter that fills our highways. My husband and I like to travel and we are appalled by the level of trash that litters our highways.

    Blue plastic bags waving like Christmas ornaments in our trees, the semi-truck tire snakes stewn all over our roadways, the science experiment of the dead deer that lays along the highway for weeks on end. Just filth…and then comes the Super Bowl and for that week only they had people out every evening around 10pm cleaning up the highway between the airport and downtown.

    Why do we expect anything better from individuals in this state when the state doesn’t care about cleaning its house?.

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