Can We Make You Care?

Yesterday, I argued that local elections are important, and that the many people who only bother going to the polls in Presidential years should care about the people running state and local government.

As Indianapolis gears up for municipal elections this fall, the Center for Civic Literacy is trying to get that message out.

In a collaborative project with NUVO, WFYI and a number of civic organizations, we plan to identify individuals who are Marion County residents and registered to vote, but who do not vote in off-year elections; people who only go to the polls in national elections. Through interviews, relationship building, and educational events we will try to persuade these voters that they should  care about local issues and that they should vote in the upcoming municipal election.

The slogan of this effort is: Make them care!

The initiative is modeled after a similar effort in California, called “Make Al Care.”

In addition, we are working with those same civic organizations to put together a series of forums to be held in September and October titled, “Electing Our Future: What You Need to Know in Order to Cast an Informed Vote.” The goal is to increase informed engagement in the civic and political life of our city.

The programs will take place from 6-8pm at the Indianapolis Public Library’s Central location on St. Clair St. Current officeholders and candidates for public office will not participate–this is to be a nonpartisan educational effort.

Mon, Sept. 21stHow does Indianapolis Work? The Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce will take responsibility for this initial presentation, and will include a brief description of where we are in the federal/state/local scheme of things; a discussion of home rule/state authority; and a description of city structure: Mayor, Council, Departments, Municipal Corporations and what each does. The forum will explain how Unigov makes Indianapolis different from other cities, and will describe how we finance city services.

Tues, Oct. 6thWhat are the issues we face? The Center for Civic Literacy and the League of Women Voters will be lead partners for this forum. How does Indianapolis deal with change? With diversity? What do citizens need to know to make informed decisions on quality of life issues: environmental, public health, education, transportation, arts and culture, civic life? How do we identify and allocate dwindling resources—with resources broadly defined to include civic, corporate and religious organizations and nonprofits, sources of expertise, & civic energy.

Tues, Oct. 20thWhat do we want Indianapolis to look like 5, 10, 15 years from now? If we want a city that is healthy, wealthy & wise, how do we get there? The Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee will share insights from its Indy 2020 project.

These efforts to increase civic knowledge and engagement will have no effect unless we can enlist people who already care in the effort to make their children, colleagues, co-workers and others understand why local government matters, and why their votes are vitally important.

How do we make them care?


  1. Oh, Sheila.

    Not voting is caring.

    We care that we won’t be forced to select from one of two false choices.

    We care that we won’t be voting for what is ultimately the same party.

    We care that the two parties have the election code rigged so that there will always be just those two parties.

    We care that we won’t vote just to make the establishment’s choice appear more legitimate.

    We care that all local politics is just a competition between the candidates of three or four downtown law firms.

    We care that it might be time for a new form of government and that a “winner” sitting in office with the support of 12% of the local electorate might not have much moral authority to govern.

    Your “Center” looks more like issue advocacy and a get-out-the-vote campaign adjunct than an objective observer.

  2. We were in Peru during elections a few years ago, and people told us they were compelled by law to vote. Yesterday I looked up compulsory voting – 22 countries have it – and the above are exactly the “cons” I saw listed. Maybe campaign and election reform are just as important as “caring.”

  3. I messaged NUVO this morning asking if they have mail subscriptions; I picked up copies when I worked downtown. Hopefully I will again be able to read their civic related articles.

    William; I met a new friend in 1994 when I moved to Florida, a native of Germany. Gertrud Grundling was 84, a young bride-do-be when she came to the states in 1932. Her fiance had been here for a few years, had a home, established in a job and had permission to bring Gertrude here to be married. The day prior to leaving Germany the local police came to Gertrud’s parent’s home to escort her to the polls to vote for Hitler before she left the country, their elections lasted for days. He was the only candidate and she would not have been alowed to leave until she voted for Hitler. How easily he mesmerized the country with his tactics and his control over every aspect of the lives of Germans…and many other countries before he was stopped. How has a foolish man like “The Donald” managed to mesmerize so many Republicans…or has he paid for their support?

    Republicans are using “boots on the ground” tactics in our current presidential primary election opportunity. Getting involved at any level to encourage people to care enough to pay attention to the current Comedy Central/SNL/Not Ready For Prime Time Players group of Republican presidential wannabes is of utmost importance…to all of us as Americans. The local elections are also of utmost importance to all of us as Hoosiers. To do this we must “increase civic knowledge and engagement” or we are doomed.

  4. Non-voting and non-involvement is a non-solution. With the advent of social media, it’s easier than ever to have an influence.

  5. Nancy: I wouldn’t deny that social media have made it easier to participate in the political process, but I would be wary of thinking that they “influence” voters. I think they reinforce voters who are already leaning toward a candidate. I don’t claim to be a social media aficionado, but my impression is they are more geared to electronic sound bites than policy statements.

  6. I happen to agree with Gopper on this subject. I will not be voting this time around in the municipal elections. No real choices in my District. Eugene Debs got it right – “The Republican and Democratic parties, or, to be more exact, the Republican-Democratic party, represent the capitalist class in the class struggle. They are the political wings of the capitalist system and such differences as arise between them relate to spoils and not to principles.”

    We have a Crony-Capitalist system in Indianapolis. Like Gold$mith, Peterson, Ballard the next Mayor will continue to hand out Tax Dollars to the Colts and Pacers. The Democrat Party has been almost totally silent during Ballard’s tenure as Mayor. The Democrats sat around in state of suspended animation and stupor as Ballard went on with his long term Parking Lot Deal, the ROC, a Cricket Field, Blue Indy, etc.

    You can tell us all you want about how the system is supposed to work. The fact is , the system does not work in Marion County. Mike Pence (R) won the Governor’s Race in 2012 with 49.6% of the popular vote vs John Gregg’s (D) 46.4%. This narrow margin is not at all representative in the Indiana House or Senate, the Republicans have Super Majorities in both.

    At this point I see one light on and that is Bernie Sanders.

  7. Louie; how do you plan to help that one light, Bernie Sanders, stay lit if you don’t vote. I am disappointed in you; you are one of the last people I would ever expect this from. No vote IS a vote for the status quo – please do not give them your support by not voting.

  8. I will vote; I always do, but it’s hard to be enthusiastic when we’ve been gerrymandered into a district where Mike Delph won again (good lord, Mike Delph!), and some of the male Democrats are nearly Republicans in disguise (Joe Donnelly, you’re one of the ones I mean).

  9. Louie. You are wrong to lump the Peterson administration in with Goldsmith’s and Ballard’s. How do I know this? I was there. And I can tell you that from the day he took office Bart Peterson and his staff worked tirelessly and honestly to bring reform and accountability to city government. As with all reformers, Bart Peterson faced intense opposition at every turn. With every success at reform new enemies were made. There was opposition inside of the city county building from corrupted long time employees and from outside of the building from those who corrupted them. That he lasted two terms in the political environment that is Indianapolis is due only to his integrity and political skills. The city under Ballard is nothing but a return to those Goldsmith days. For further proof I suggest that you take a walking tour of the area around the city county building. Check out the broken brick streets, the cracked and crumbling sidewalks. Getting there be sure to take notice of the pot holed streets, the decaying neighborhoods, the unenforced zoning ordinances and code violations. Local elections do matter. They matter very, very much.

  10. Theresa, Bart may have been a paragon compared to Steve Goldsmith, but I’ll always remember him as the one who opened the crack which allowed charter schools to steal money away from public education.

  11. Wow. It seems that those who choose not to participate in democracy fall into a couple of categories. Those who are satisfied with the status quo and those who believe that democracy has already left the stage.

    The pollyanists and the defeated.

    When someone questions my political beliefs I try to keep things simple by saying that I’m merely addicted to freedom and have spent my life as a problem solver so I can’t stop.

    I know that the freedom that I have always enjoyed came from an environment where my government was Constitutionally prevented from legislating in any of the areas critical to my freedom, and Constitutionally empowered to protect me from private forces who did not “play” by those rules.

    And that in my 73 years I have learned that problems are life and solving them is what makes life as good as it can be. We need everyone engaged in that. Every person, institution, community, and profession.

    So when a politician or preacher or purveyor of goods ends their pitch with a long list of problems and a short list of solutions I know that we don’t need them occupying a space in our institutions.

    Probably simple minded but I dance with who I brought to the dance.

  12. Thank you, Theresa, for jumping into this frey. You and I were there; I watched Goldsmith’s destruction of city government and you saw Peterson clean up the mess and try to rebuild what Mayor Bill Hudnut accomplished in his 16 years.

    For some reason, neighbors ask me to contact the city regarding problems in this area. Until Ballard changed the MAC reprorting site this was a simple, straightforward matter with response regarding receipt of complaints. Not so under Ballard; it is confusing, makes little sense, has fewer options regarding types of problems, and lack of action for weeks. I reported a dead possum laying in the middle of 17th Street, waited almost 2 weeks before reporting thinking neighbors would do something. Actually; the neighbors could have scooped it up with a shovel and put it in their trash before it began to rot and smell. I, in my 70’s and disabled, managed to do that with a dead squirrel in front of my home. I did finally get a response that the problem had been resolved – but the dead possum was still in the street for more than a week after that. I messaged Ballard directly with my 2nd complaint, received a response that they consider the issue resolved when they give it to someone else in city government to handle.

    The fenced off DPW 8 ft. deep drainage ditch with cement retaining walls had again filled with weeds, brush and actually had 15 ft. tall trees growing in the center of the stream. Rats have long been a problem in and out of the area and under Peterson the water had been tested, finding e-coli. One 3 ft. section in a yard next to the retaining wall had collapsed so the home owners laid boards across it to keep their kids from falling in. The ditch runs under Pasadena Avenue and 17th Street; neighbors on all sides had reported the problems for over 2 years. I contacted Mary Moriarty-Adams; explained I couldn’t get the MAC form to go though, I am deaf and cannot call but other neighbors had called with no results. About 10 days later she messaged back asking if anyone had done anything to help – of course not. A week later she contacted code enforcement who investigated and resolved the matter. We should not have to go to the City County Council for these problems; that is what the MAC is for and what MAC used to accomplish.

    This is another example, along with those Theresa listed, as to the importance of electing qualified local politicians to office. Votes do count; do not let gerrymandering keep you from helping in the only way you can. Gerrymandering over county lines needs to be stopped; the elected officials should live in the district they represent at all levels.

  13. These words come from a recent article on climate change.

    “The Republican field falls mostly into two camps. First is the “there is nothing happening” group. These are your classic climate deniers. Many of the Republican presidential candidates do not accept the scientific consensus that the climate is changing because of human activity. Denying climate change is occurring — much less that there is anything we did to cause it — makes it much easier to say we don’t need to address it.”

    “The second group is can be broadly described as “there is nothing we can do about it.” They believe that climate change is happening, and people may or may not be causing it, but American action is meaningless.”

    Climate change is the canary in the mine. It lets us identify the pollyanists and the defeated.

  14. Rosemary; isn’t the school voucher issue a decision made at state level, not city? Daniels and Pence have both crowed regarding their succful voucher program.

  15. JoAnn, my experience with the MAC has been a positive one for the most part. I also engage on a regular basis with the neighborhood liaison for our area. The most unresponsive groups are not the city departments but those like the CEG who have failed on almost all occasions to respond to requests for action. Corporations like Comcast and AT&T are notorious for poor responses to service requests, but that is a toic for another day.
    That is a huge problem as far as our city infrastructure is concerned and is a direct result of the privatization policy currently in vogue. When public services are handled by those who are in it for profit, profit becomes the motivation, not the public good. (See charter schools.) Large parts of the city are in dire need of maintenance. DPW has its hands tied when waterways are involved as CEG has responsibility for much of that system. Money is budgeted two years out so if you are waiting for any repairs sooner, good luck.
    As usual, the Mayor and his cronies push through projects to virtual completion with little transparency and almost no general community involvement. The car share program is only the latest of many such deals. However, I will say that most of the community meetings I attend have more people from the city departments and private groups who are running the show than members of the public who have a real stake in the outcomes.
    Indifference can be a matter of too much to do, too much waiting to be done or ignorance of the events altogether. Generally, young neighbors in our area do not read the local papers or watch local news. Most of their local interest is focused on entertainment and sports. It is hard to engage them in civic issues, even those that directly affect them, unless there is an immediate personal outlay of money involved. Most have given up on trying to initiate change if they were even engaged at all in the first place.
    They do not care unless they are inconvenienced in some immediate and meaningful way. Cynical or indifferent, the end result is a loss for all.

  16. JD; I am profoundly deaf so cannot call MAC, I must use their on line system. Under Peterson you simply went to the Mayor’s Office page, clicked on MAC, clicked on the problem from a list of options, filled out the form and clicked “send”. Next time you report a problem, try the on line site, I can’t even remember the options or steps it takes to discribe it. Since Ballard’s election, I resorted to contacting some of my old city friends from the Hudnut administration who were Department and Division heads or manager level for help. Some good people from the Hudnut administration were kept on through Goldsmith, Peterson and into Ballard’s administration. Daniels, Pence and Ballard used Goldsmith clones, some of whom are still with the state and/or back with the city. I recognize their handiwork in the privatization, little (or no) transparency and little (or no) general community involvement.

  17. Gopper believes that “it might be time for a new form of government”. I’m not sure of what he’s thinking in terms of the “form of government”. Can you clarify Gopper?

    That many of the players in government need to be replaced is evident as the number and seriousness of problems rises around us. Our biggest national problems, the economy, war, health care, and climate change are being mitigated in a slow and steady way despite efforts towards preventing progress but local problems like education, racism, poverty, and infrastructure seem not effectively addressed in many locales.

    Hopefully the educational efforts that Sheila talks about will help voters untangle the confusion among local, state, national, and global responsibilities and the relative contributions of government, business, church, citizens and charities in solving different problems.

    The responsibilities inherent in freedom.

  18. JoAnn, I have used the online system on many occasions, especially for potholes, missing street signs and very dangerous situations such as rebar sticking out into the curb lane on N. Keystone. I am not sure why you have trouble selecting and entering a request. RequestIndy is the easiest way to enter especially when I see some problem after hours.
    I hope you try again if you have not done so recently.

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