Compiled by DRH
ï Big cheers to the Broad Ripple High School Theatre Magnet! Having done the impossible and raised the thousands of dollars necessary to go and perform at the famous Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, these public high school students kicked things up another notch by being the only high school ensemble to receive a review in Edinburgh"s daily paper, The Scotsman. And they got a four-star review to boot. Their last of four performances was standing-room only. Here"s to the students, their directors, J Becker and Daniel Uhde, and all the parents and organizations who supported this IPS program - the city couldn"t have asked for a more successful cultural initiative. ïPeople are hungry in Indianapolis. From January to July 31, Gleaners Food Bank sent nearly 12 million pounds of edibles to Central Indiana food pantries, up from 9.5 million during the first six months of 2001. This is nearly twice the amount given out during the same period in 2000. Food donations usually drop during the summer months. But this summer, charities are handling more requests for help, partly because of 43,000 layoffs in Indiana - triggered by the slumping economy. According to Gleaners" estimates, 738,000 Hoosiers regularly go to bed hungry.
ï The Coalition to Preserve Public Safety has formed to educate the City-County Council, county elected officials and the public on the need for a comprehensive solution to the city"s vast tax inequities and funding for public safety. Co-chairs of the coalition are Jerry Semler, chairman of Indianapolis Downtown, Inc.; Francine Kelly of the Mid-North Weed & Seed program; and small business owner Mark Easley of Easley Winery. The coalition pointed to many problems that coalition members say need to be addressed:
Tax inequities. The Indianapolis Police Department and the Marion County sheriff both provide police services citywide. However, businesses and residents inside the old city limits pay for both, while those who live in the townships pay only for the sheriff, giving the center city the highest property taxes in the city.
Threat to economic development. Saddled with the highest tax rates in the city, it is harder for the center city to attract jobs, businesses and corporate headquarters.
Most funding for parks, sewers, public works and most other city functions were consolidated successfully in 1970. Public safety was one of the only funding districts left fractured 30 years ago.
Potential cuts in public safety. Marion County has a $25 million deficit. To fill the deficit, the county would need to cut county services, force layoffs of city police officers and firefighters or raise taxes.
Pension shortfalls. Because of changes in the way pensions are paid statewide, the city will face $800 million in unfunded pensions with most due over the next 25 years as officers retire at an ever-quickening pace. The annual cost was $17 million in 1996, but will be $23 million next year. It crests at $75 million per year in 2026.
Criminals on the street. In the last few weeks, hundreds of criminals have been released early from jail because there is no money for extra jail beds. A citywide district would direct funding to the sheriff to help buy more jail beds and plan a comprehensive overhaul of the criminal justice system.
The coalition believes the best solution to date that addresses these issues, and still allows tax rates to go down, is a citywide district for police funding. A citywide district would expand the city public safety funding district from just the old city limits to all of Marion County (except Speedway, Lawrence, Beech Grove and Southport), making all Indianapolis residents equally responsible for funding both departments.
ï Get out your scorecards. In Sunday"s Star, Sen. Richard Lugar outlined five conditions he thinks the Bush administration will have to meet in order to go to war with Iraq. They include: 1. Strictly enforcing no fly zones and embargoes. 2. Gathering better intelligence about Iraq"s development of weapons of mass destruction. 3. Fully disclosing to Americans what the projected costs of such a war would be. 4. Putting together an international coalition to dump Saddam. 5. Congressional approval of military action. In the coming weeks you can check this list to see if the administration meets all five points - and to see if Lugar holds them accountable.