Congratulations. You've won. As political races go,
this was a pretty low-key campaign. I'm not sure whether that was because of a
lack of real controversy, voter apathy or because you were all so doggone civil
(at least until this last week), but this will go down as one of the quieter
mayoral contests in Indianapolis history.
There could, of course, be another reason all of you
kept the mute button pressed over the past few months. That would be because
you've read the writing on the wall and concluded the next four years are
likely to amount to a long fight just to maintain today's status quo.
There's hardly a city in the country that's not
afflicted with red ink. Most urban centers are hard-pressed to come up with the
funds necessary to provide the services people need. This situation is probably
going to get worse.
In Washington the rage to cut the budget deficit will
mean that federal funding to cities is bound to be seriously
reduced. That may look good to deficit hawks, but in a city like
Indianapolis, it means that dollars we've depended on for housing and community
development, transportation, education, health and public safety projects are
likely to be seriously curtailed in the near future.
In Indiana, we have a Republican-controlled state legislature
legislaturethat, time and again, has demonstrated a decidedly anti-urban bias.
This group is not only allergic to taxes, it has legislated against the
diversity that makes cities thrive by endorsing a constitutional amendment that
doesn't just ban same-sex marriages, but civil unions as well.
As for public transportation, you can forget it, as
far as this bunch is concerned. It's going to take a minor miracle even to get
them to allow a referendum aimed at determining how many of us are ready to
leave our cars behind.
All of which suggests that Indianapolis is going to
have to be self-sufficient to an extraordinary degree during the next four
years. This doesn't mean learning how to do more with less — that slogan
will be about as relevant as a VHS machine. It means that you're going to find
yourself saying "No" a lot — and to a lot of ideas you're sure
would make the city better.
But you didn't go to all the trouble of running for
mayor to just say "No." Being mayor gives you the chance to make a
difference, to create policies capable of shaping the character of this city
for years to come. Times may be tough, but tough times can create new openings
It's time for Indianapolis to finally come to grips
with its identity: with what it means to be a medium-size city in the middle of
North America in the 21st century.
We may not have the financial muscle of larger metro
areas, or the natural attractions associated with the coasts, but we have the
talent to make Indianapolis a strikingly livable city — and a beautiful
It's high time Indianapolis borrowed a page from some
of our farming neighbors. These folks have been creating a renaissance in
Indiana food through the creation of artisanal products, ranging from grass-fed
beef and pork to goat cheeses, maple syrup and brandy capable of winning
national awards and sought by chefs in world-renowned restaurants. Within our
metropolitan area, Traders Point Creamery is producing state-of-the-art dairy
products with grass-fed cows that are raised in an environmentally sustainable
It's time we applied this model to our city as a
whole, emphasizing best practices in urban design, neighborhood redevelopment,
and environmental well-being.
As mayor, a major part of your job is about selling
Indianapolis so that people in other places are made curious enough to want to
come here to see what we've got. Imagine being able to say that in Indianapolis
it is our city's policy to seek out the best ideas when we design our buildings
and public spaces; that we actively create opportunities for creative people to
contribute to public works projects through incentives like a percent for art
set-aside whenever new construction is undertaken.
What if you could say that Indianapolis isn't just
about supporting the arts, but putting artists to work on projects that help
revive struggling neighborhoods and provide kids with pre-school enrichment opportunities.
Think about what it would be like to tell people that
Indianapolis is a success story in how an urban area can clean up its air and
water. That in this city we reward people for recycling, and we're a leader in
the transformation of waste into moneymaking materials.
We've seen how locally owned, independent restaurants
have brought a fresh sense of place to particular neighborhoods. These
businesses aren't just places to eat, they impart an atmosphere and energy that
help to define their community's character. Indianapolis should brag about
being a city where independent and local transactions are our preferred way of
Mayor, we both know that Indianapolis is facing more
than its share of challenges in the next four years. But we're not so big we
can't get our arms around these things. Sometimes small really is beautiful.
Making this city truly beautiful — for as many people as we can —
is within reach.