Promises, Promises….

I post a fair amount about political hypocrisy: “family values” Evangelicals who love Trump, “fiscal conservatives” who are okay with his massive deficits, etc.  But Tuesday’s local elections were a reminder that hypocrisy and cant aren’t just national phenomena.

Indiana was one of the states that held elections this year for municipal offices. In central Indiana, Democrats had some notable first-time victories, including the election of a mayor and at least three councilors in suburbs of Indianapolis that have been reliably red for as long as I can remember. (And I’m old.) But I want to focus on the more predictable results of the mayor’s race in Indianapolis proper—which, like all urban areas with populations of over 500,000 these days, is currently bright blue—where the incumbent, Joe Hogsett, won re-election by a nearly 50-point margin.

I didn’t attend Hogsett’s election-nght party, but friends who were there reported that the Mayor’s victory speech included some interesting (and appropriately snarky) comments.

In particular, after thanking his Republican opponent, Jim Merritt, a sitting State Senator, Hogsett “welcomed” his return to the Indiana Legislature,  where, he said, Senator Merritt would have the opportunity to champion so many of the issues he raised during his mayoral campaign: additional resources for Indianapolis public safety and improved infrastructure, support for LGBTQ rights, and greater support for Marion County’s African American community – things that Senator Merritt has not exactly championed (or  supported) during his 30 years in the legislature.

(To the extent we still have media watchdogs, I certainly hope they will keep a watchful eye on Senator Merritt’s efforts to legislate improvements on the issues he suddenly discovered were important during his mayoral campaign.)

Of course, Merritt isn’t the only candidate who should be held accountable. It will be equally interesting to see what Hogsett does with his impressive win, which can rightly be considered a mandate. He will also have an expanded majority—indeed, a 20-5 super-majority—on  Indianapolis’ City-County Council.

How will he use this expanded authority?

One of my more cynical friends predicts that—based on the Mayor’s extremely timid approach to governing thus far—Hogsett will take his 71% victory as a “mandate to continue doing not much of anything.”

Maybe. But hope springs eternal….

Our city, like so many others, faces a number of critical issues. Those issues will demand focused, thoughtful initiatives from the Mayor’s office: improving inadequate and decaying infrastructure; working with the State DOT to avoid further exacerbating the 50-year-old mistake of running an interstate highway through downtown residential districts; continuing to revitalize in-city neighborhoods while avoiding the pitfalls of gentrification; supporting the extension of public transportation; the continuing effort to improve public safety; and so many more.

The Mayor now has an electoral mandate and a supermajority on the Council. It will be interesting to see how he chooses to spend that political capital.

I’m hoping for signs of bolder leadership and vision in his second term, and I’ve made a wager with my cynical friend, whose prediction is that Mayor Hogsett will “boldly middle-manage the status quo” in ways that keep Indianapolis a reasonably well-functioning but ultimately undistinguished city.

Time will tell.

Meanwhile, all eyes now turn to Washington and 2020.


  1. In an age of national government chaos and political/social divide on a scale never seen in the country before, “a reasonably well-functioning but ultimately undistinguished city” ain’t all that bad.

  2. We can liken Mayor Joe Hogsett’s inheritance of Republican Greg Ballard’s 8 years of infrastructure decline and the escalating abandoned buildings providing areas for criminal activities, to President Barack Obama inheriting George W’s mess at the federal level. President Obama only had Democrat control in Congress for one year; Mayor Joe has had 4 years of decades of state Republican leadership to work against him. He now knows he has the majority of voters behind him; will this overcome his “timid approach”, I have faith that it will.

    As far this local City-County Council Democratic majority; when major infrastructure repair and neighborhood improvements are provided primarily in higher income areas due to Council decisions, we can’t place the blame in the Mayor’s Office. The City-County Council makes the final major decisions here; they have a heavy load of responsibility so many areas fall through the cracks.

    “Meanwhile, all eyes now turn to Washington and 2020.”

    I’m not so sure that should be the direction we should be looking; we need to keep our eyes on promises made and promises kept in our own neighborhoods as we follow what is happening in Washington. The Democratic presidential wannabes have to sort out their differences and find mutual ground for their campaign foundation in 2020. And now, to add to the confusion, Bloomberg has decided to enter the presidential race. Sessions is going to run again for his old Senate seat with Trump as his enemy and Merritt is hoping to maintain his current Senate seat hear at home after only 27% of the vote in his Mayoral run. Meanwhile, cowardly Republicans in Congress sit idle and mute; is the same situation true here in Indiana due to decades of Republican control? Is Merritt’s heavy loss a sign of cracks in the state Republican wall here?

  3. Having lived in vibrant, progressive, diverse Minneapolis for over 30 yrs., I moved back in 2009 as my folks were transitioning to a retirement community and both over 80.
    I was shocked to discover that nothing had really changed in Hoosier thinking, governance or culture.
    Dynamic and future-oriented have never been words you could really apply to Indy. And, that is what Indy needs in its’ leadership in the 21st Century. Many metro areas around the nation have made some really innovative desicions and taken actions. There are a lot of examples Indy can look at and learn from and adapt for Indy. There always seems a reticence to do just that.
    I’m hoping for some change but, not holding my breath.

  4. in Evansville our relatively popular and moderate Republican Mayor (who was conveniently out of town when Trump visited) ran unopposed and won with 80% of the vote. He used his not insignificant war chest to bolster republican council candidates. However, the Dems took 7 of 9 seats including a reliably red seat.

  5. I used to think of Indy as a kind of Zenith. No, not the high point of cities, but the Zenith described so well by Sinclair Lewis in “Babbitt”. Too self-conscious to dwell on its shortcomings and busy giving out awards to make all of the businessmen feel good about themselves. They seem to have outgrown that phase of urban development and they have some of the elements of a vibrant city. There are a number of excellent restaurants, good museums, good venues for a relatively vibrant music scene, decent theater options, and good sports venues.

    They need to really give consideration to their government and how it can work to address the needs of lower income residents, to eliminate homelessness and provide access to services to those without. They might consider freezing property taxes for low income owners in areas undergoing re-gentrification. They also should work with both the medical and law schools to provide services (storefronts) to low income neighborhoods. They might also consider working with the university to consider what the city should look like in the future. If you have a nearby braintrust, you should use it.

  6. Those of you who have a long institutional memory of the Marion County Democratic Party can forecast the next four years of Hogsett’s’ leadership based on facts. Bart Peterson was the first Democrat mayor in 4 decades. If memory serves, Hogsett, like Peterson and many smart, charismatic young including former governor Evan Bayh were anything but “progressive.” Can we expect initiatives in the coming 4 years beyond corporate Democratic “safe” stuff? The new Councillors are not the same generation as Hogsett. Will they be able to form a caucus of more progressive members and push Hogsett to the left?

  7. Hmmm. I’m going to guess that the voter turnout across Indiana was at near-record levels. We thinking people cannot win the electoral college vote next year without OVERWHELMING voter turnout. With gerrymandering and voter suppression rampant across the nation, Democrats have to absolutely flood the ballot boxes with sane votes. Otherwise, we’ll get four more years of complete madness and corruption in the Oval Office as well as in legislatures across the country.

  8. A correction in the last paragraph of my earlier comments; it should of course say “here” in Indiana, not “hear”.

    Peggy; excellent recommendations for progress here. Also needed is transition assistance for low-income, senior and disabled people turned out of their homes and neighborhoods due to gentrification. So many of the developers are out-of-state and receive tax incentives/abatements while turning people, whose tax dollars built their areas, out of homes and businesses. This adds to our homeless numbers as well as adding burdens to what few social services are available to hundreds of residents at a time. I’m sure this is a problem nation-wide; if other states provide this assistance, our government needs to seek information for local residents.

  9. Sheila, Thanks for the snark alert. Merritt’s hypocrisy was apparent about two minutes into his campaign. I do hope that it might have given him a different point of view, but that might just be a vague hope.

    As for Hogsett’s mandate, while he is not very an inspiring mayor, he has been a mayor for the entire City of Indianapolis, and not just a democratic mayor. I think that was what won him such broad support. I also hope it does give him some confidence to come up with a better vision, than “Indianapolis, the city where things aren’t falling apart”. While that is not a bad thing, it is not what makes a great leader.

  10. I will have to say what is interesting is the flood of blue seats in the Indianapolis City-County Council. After the 2012 gerrymander by the Republican controlled council, it seemed like many of the seats would be locked into red for a long time. The only 4 seats to remain red are the quasi-rural, mostly white, far south side Indy seats.

    I hope that is a sign for the 2020 elections.

  11. Wayne asks excellent questions about Indy’s future leadership. How do they bring suburbia from the donut ring around Indy back to downtown?

    It seems that Indiana spends a fortune on infrastructure, getting people from the burbs into the city, and there it ends. Unless a community feeds Indy, it is considered a forgotten city. It’s been this way for decades. I see nothing on the state level, which would indicate a change.

    What percent of registered voters in Indy cast a ballot on Tuesday?

    In the blue city of Muncie, our red communities turned the city leadership red. Democratic voters stayed home due to the corruption of the current Dem “leadership.” Only 25% of registered voters cast a ballot, which is pathetic. We could say they protested the corruption by staying home and not voting.

    I don’t think the words “Indiana” and “progressive” will ever be uttered in the same paragraph.

  12. Peggy and all; here is something to consider about our local government, furnished housing is found for sex abuse registrants, a vast number of them are child molesters. Motels in the 6800 and 7400 blocks of East 21st Street and others are filled with these sexual deviants with no warning to actual travelers who stop in these motels. Per IMPD and the Sheriff’s Department, it is their civil right to be allowed to have living areas; it is against their civil rights to post the possible dangers they pose to anyone around their living space. I get regular postings from the Marion County Sheriff’s Department regarding sex offenders moving into my nearby area. Housing can be found for criminals but not for those dispossessed low-income, seniors and disabled to gentrify neighborhoods, they do not have the required first and last months rent and often security deposits required but they can pay their rent once they are housed. They also cannot pay moving expenses and are often unable to move themselves. What is wrong with this picture? This problem needs to be added to those “thoughtful initiatives” which are the responsibility of the Mayor and the City-County Council.

  13. Indiana Democrats with probably some exceptions have never been Progressives, to a certain extent there was not much daylight between a Richard Lugar, Bill Hudnut and the Democratic Party in Indiana.

    I have thought of Marion County as having a Republicrat Party. Some Social issues have defined boundaries in Marion County. Both political parties eagerly embrace Corporate Welfare for the Colts, Pacers and Circle City Mall, with the demise of local reporting we do not know how many deals are struck behind closed doors for TIF’s, tax abatement’s, etc.

    The Red Line was and is a colossal waste of money. There was no public discussion as far as I know of as to less expensive alternatives to the Red Line. The “Commons” like public parks, public transportation and our streets and roads have always been treated as after thoughts.

    Once you move out of the Potemkin Village of “Downtown Indianapolis” to the east or west you see a far different Indianapolis.

  14. The country needs rebuilding into a future with very few similarities to the past. We have already wasted a few decades on Republican created problems, either recovering or suffering from them, but now we have delayed preparing for a world of more humans than earth can sustain beyond what any of us can afford.

    We simply are out of time.

    One thing that we can’t afford is to wait to do nothing about re-sourcing energy until there’s nothing that can be done about antropogenic gobal warming. We also can’t wait to restore democracy until we have completely lost control of who governs.

    Times up.

  15. Per Todd: “In the blue city of Muncie, our red communities turned the city leadership red. Democratic voters stayed home due to the corruption of the current Dem “leadership.” Only 25% of registered voters cast a ballot, which is pathetic. We could say they protested the corruption by staying home and not voting.”

    Sorry – not voting is not a protest – pathetic! Not voting is saying “I don’t care”. The payment is whatever happens as a result of that election…and you have zero right to complain or even comment about it.

  16. Just a note on turnout for Vernon, Todd and others.
    From the Clerk’s office, turnout was 24.23%
    In contrast, 2015 municipal elections – 22.68%
    2011, when I ran for council – 29.98%

    The Democratic vote in my “red” 2nd District went up from 2011 to 2015 – This year the Democrat got over 61% of the vote – the situation and candidates were very different each year, but in Marion County, the Republicans seemed to give up and stay home – it was very surprising, even to those of us who thought that the Democrats were going to pick up several council seats.

    As for Merritt, I thing there is a better chance of winning the lottery than him following through with those issues.

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