Tag Archives: suburbs

Time for Tough Love

The folks who live in Indianapolis’ suburbs are a lot like the kid who moved back into his parents’ basement after college, and despite having a job, doesn’t pay rent or contribute to the grocery money, so he has money to spend on a snazzy new car and vacations.

More than 180,000 suburban residents drive into Indy to work every day. Approximately 50,000 drive out to jobs located in the suburbs. That means we have a 130,000 net influx of people who regularly drive on streets paid for by Indianapolis taxpayers, rely on police protection furnished by Indianapolis taxpayers, flush toilets into sewers paid for by Indianapolis ratepayers…all without paying a penny for those services.

It isn’t just the people who drive into the city to work. Residents of the collar counties have easy access to Indy’s arts, sporting and cultural events and other urban amenities that improve their quality of life without affecting their property taxes. At least in those cases, nonresidents are patronizing important activities–and when they eat a meal in a downtown restaurant, they do pay a small surtax. Commuting contributes nothing.

Indianapolis business and political leaders have talked about imposing a commuter tax for at least thirty years. We discussed it when I was in City Hall. It hasn’t happened–hasn’t even been seriously pursued, to the best of my knowledge. The politically cynical and criminally shortsighted decision to include property tax caps in the state constitution may change that.

Local governments are starved for revenue. We don’t have the money to hire enough police, to maintain public parks, to pave streets and build sidewalks. Important public amenities like the canal are being allowed to deteriorate. The Mayor is trying to cope by selling off public assets–a “penny-wise, pound-foolish” effort that trades up-front money for long-term income streams and shortchanges our childrens’ futures.

Indiana does not have real home rule. Indianapolis lacks the legal authority to raise property taxes. We have to look elsewhere if we are to invest in our public infrastructure and keep our city from going the way of Detroit. We are rapidly running out of public assets to sell off. The logical thing to do is to levy a commuter tax–to insist that the people using our public services pay something toward their maintenance.

Mayor Hudnut used to warn against allowing the city to become a “doughnut” with a hole in the middle. Civic health, he insisted, required patterning ourselves after a “cookie,” solid clear through. Without sufficient revenue, all those suburban residents who depend upon Indianapolis for their employment and quality of life will find their property values diminished along with their job prospects.

It’s time to charge that kid in the basement some rent.



Leaving Croatia

Tomorrow we fly to Rome, for a couple of days at the same little pensione we stayed at when we first visited the city twenty-five years ago. From Rome, we will fly home. It has been a long vacation, and filled with impressions that will take some time to sort out.

We took a boat to Trogir today to tour extensive Roman ruins–yet another World Heritage site. Everywhere you look in Croatia, it seems, is another amazing landscape.

A few unconnected observations I haven’t previously noted:

Several of the old churches here depict the Madonna and Child as black. I am not sure why, or what the history of such representations is, but I do get a chuckle when I consider how disconcerting those depictions would be to some of our homegrown “Christian” politicos…

As I’ve previously noted, people continue to live in apartments carved into thousand year old walls of the central cities. It’s a reminder that in much of Europe, wealthier people live in the center cities, and poorer folks must settle for what we would call the suburbs. I’m not sure why Americans have inverted that pattern, or when and why density–having neighbors–became something to be avoided. It is density that makes so many services economical, and I have always preferred living in genuine neighborhoods…It’s a puzzle.

Everywhere we’ve gone on this trip we see people wearing English-language t-shirts: everything from Motown to sports teams to University logos to “I heart NY.” And in virtually every case, as the person in the shirt passes by, s/he is speaking German or Italian or French or some other language. For that matter, it is impossible in most cases to tell where people are from. It used to be that you could tell which passersby were Europeans and which Americans with some degree of accuracy; those days are gone. The whole world, it seems, wears jeans and flip-flops, uses IPhones and IPods, and has a Facebook page…

Unless my gaydar is badly malfunctioning, Croatia is a very gay-friendly country…especially the islands. (I will admit to being a bit surprised by a tee-shirt in a local souvenir shop that said–in English–“Just Do It” over a very graphic graphic of male same-sex sex…).

We took a sightseeing bus yesterday, and the guide told us that Croatia is 90% Catholic and 10% atheist….No Protestants, no Jews, and presumably no Muslins, although she didn’t mention them…

I don’t know what my connectivity will be in Rome, but in any event, I will be back in the USA on Friday–air travel permitting–and these posts will revert to the policy and politics subjects that continue to piss me off.