Life in the City

INIndianapolis will be holding its elections for Mayor and City-County Council in November, and the candidates will be talking about the issues that face our city–and hopefully, how they plan to address those issues.

It will be interesting to see how many of the challenges they identify are the same ones that mayors of other cities cited most frequently at a recent conference on the state of the nation’s cities.

Our annual State of the Cities report examines what is happening now in cities. The top 10 issues discussed by mayors in their 2015 State of the City addresses are essential to operations, development, and livability.

The analysis reveals what issues mayors are focused on by measuring the percentage of speeches significantly covering an issue. We examined 100 State of the City speeches in cities large and small, with a regionally diverse sample from across the country. These are the top issues that matter to cities.

The issues identified were, in ascending order of frequency, healthcare (especially in states that have refused to expand Medicaid under the ACA); demographics (race relations, cultural diversity, sexual orientation, and immigration); environment and energy (a category that includes public transportation); data and technology; housing; education; budgets; public safety; infrastructure; and economic development.

All of these issues face us here in Indianapolis. Unlike cities in states with genuine home rule, however, the ability of our mayor and council–no matter whom we elect–will be severely constrained by the fact that, in Indiana, municipal governments can do very little beyond what the state legislature in its “wisdom,” allows. (You will recall we spent a good two years begging the General Assembly for the right to decide whether to tax ourselves in order to expand mass transit.)

So–as the candidates mount their campaigns, hold “meet-and-greet’ events and fundraisers and otherwise make themselves available to We the People, in addition to asking about their preferred policies, we also need to ask them how they intend to work with our “overlords” at the Indiana General Assembly.


  1. That is a lengthy list of vital issues to be addressed in approximately 10 weeks time and so far, I have seen little information from candidates. If we could get local media interested in seeking and reporting candidates views and campaign platforms – do they have campaign platforms – we would/could be better informed to cast our votes – assuming people are interested enough to vote – based on facts and figures rather than sorting out their personal preferences vs. our individual interests.

    This also brings into play Sheila’s oft repeated references to the general lack of civic knowledge and awareness. Are candidates waiting till days prior to November 3rd to bombard local airwaves with their proposed goals and means to attain them? Each and every one of the issues listed will in some way have an effect on our lives and the lives of our families. We all have a stake in decisions to be made; some of which should have been addressed before now by current sitting elected officials. The voting public is limited in control and ability to resolve the identified issues due to either electing current lawmakers or not bothering to vote and being stuck with the current administration. I am not the only elderly, deaf and/or disabled voter in this city or state who must rely on the media and internet for information; I rely heavily on Sheila’s daily blog to keep me informed, I have placed my trust in her and so far have not been disappointed. Thank you, Sheila

  2. Sheila, would you please list some of the other cities outside of Indiana that do not have genuine home rule? Thank you.

  3. Very interesting information. Since I don’t live in a large city that could tax residents for valuable amenities, I was not aware of the limits placed upon municipal government leaders by our legislature. Checks and balances can be a good thing, but apparently not in this situation.

  4. FYI. A July 2010 report by the IU Public Policy Institute, “Home Rule in the Midwest,” helps clarify the issue.

  5. Cities aren’t supposed to be government laboratories or corporate partners. Cities have only narrow grants of authority from superior governments.

    City governments are supposed to pave the streets, put out fires, and ensure the trash is getting picked up.

    That’s about it.

    Anything beyond that is suspect. A city wanting to get beyond its very narrow charter bears the burden of proof of showing how whatever action it proposes has been specifically authorized by the State.

    The State is government. The city is administration. If the State hasn’t passed a law, the city has no place imposing novel and disallowed government on certain citizens of the state.

  6. JoAnn–thanks for the compliment, but you should also fact-check me; I try to rely on credible sources, but you never know…

    Theresa, no city or town in Indiana has home rule.

  7. Sheila; there has been a rare occasion when I did fact-check you because I disagreed. Just because your facts checked out doesn’t mean I changed my mind and agreed with you or the facts:)

  8. Local units of government in Indiana have home rule, but not with respect to financial (taxing) matters.

  9. I should have been more specific in my previous comment. Unless specifically prohibited by the Constitution or statute, a local unit of government (city, town, and to a lesser extent, township) has all the powers necessary to operate, with a few exceptions, the power to tax being the biggest. The general rule is contained in IC 36-1-3.

  10. GOPper: Does that also exclude law enforcement, water treatment and distribution, waste water treatment and collection and water quality monitoring, code enforcement, building plan review and approval, emergency response, air quality and monitoring, zoning, etc?

  11. Dale:

    What did I say? How can you in any way be confused by that or have a subsequent question?

    A city needs to make sure all the crappers flush and the streets are plowed.

    A pothole doesn’t give a **** who drives into it.

    Don’t ask questions you already know the answer to.

  12. GOPper: Your list was so short: pave streets, put out fires and ensure trash is picked up. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t literal. It’s hard to tell if your comments are meant literally or are expressing your views in a more poetic manner.

  13. One of the ways that politicians troll for voters is by promising them jobs then giving public funds to corporations in the vain hope of creating a few. So, guess who’s behind the funding of that message? The businesses receiving the funds.

    Of course there’s little to no data supporting any connection between government spending and jobs save for the CEOs job which becomes better paying.

    So when the economic campaign BS starts its election year avalanche the right position for voters is skeptical to cynical.

    Business creates jobs but in the spirit of make more money regardless of the cost to others they need government help in paying enough to move folks to independent living. If their business plan doesn’t support living wages than we don’t need them. Wait for an economically viable business to come around.

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