Indy Works comes back to haunt

Last week Mayor Bart Peterson announced that, in the wake of the failure of the far-ranging Indianapolis Works plan to pass the General Assembly, numerous cuts in public safety officers via attrition and many cuts in services and funding would take place immediately in order to cover the city's budget shortfall. However, he also said that the cuts would be restored if Indianapolis Works passes when it's presented again to the General Assembly next year. Deputy Mayor Steve Cambell in his downtown office

Deputy Mayor Steve Campbell pointed out that the situation could easily get worse; for example, if police and sheriff's consolidation does not pass the City-County Council, actual police layoffs may have to begin.

"Police officers in New York have not gotten a raise in four years," Campbell said. "We're starting down that path, and we have a choice as to whether we want to continue down that path, or go another way. That's what makes us different. Thirty-five years ago we had that choice and ended up with Unigov. And that's what Indianapolis Works is trying to do."

Campbell said that even with the attrition of officers, he doesn't expect public safety to be lessened, but it will require a re-evaluation of strategy.

"What Chief Spears said is, he's going to start evaluating how to deploy his officers," Campbell said. "He said there are some sworn officers who don't have a direct investigatory or prevention or patrol duty, and he's going to have to evaluate all that. They've got special units and efforts, all of which are great, but he's going to divert his resources towards patrol, prevention and investigation. We hope this is a temporary situation, because we think we'll get police consolidation, and we're optimistic that we'll get Indy Works next year."

During the push for Indianapolis Works, when the mayor repeatedly warned of service cuts and public safety layoffs and attrition, he was accused of bluffing and making threats, a point which still irks staffers.

"When people say it's a bluff, that's nonsense," Campbell said. "He's the mayor of a city. You don't go around bluffing with people's lives. That's why every time someone said that was a bluff or a threat or a scare, we kind of scratched our heads. Because you don't play political games with your city. We felt we had a responsibility to say, 'Here's what we have to do, and here's what's going to happen if we don't.'"

Besides public safety issues, there's also the question of quality of life, which will be affected by such cuts as shortened park hours, less arts and community organization funding and fewer capital improvement projects.

"This is the first time we're going into real services," Campbell said. "A good way to capture it is things aren't going to be as 'nice.' A good deal of the parks, our roads. Indianapolis has this outstanding reputation of being clean and having this outstanding quality of life. We're not going down the tubes, but it's going to suffer somewhat. I do fear what's going to happen. That's our biggest concern, that we believe we have a very nice quality of life here, and if nothing is done, it's going to keep going that direction. And we're going to do everything we can to stop it."

The city is looking to private investors to help with making up for the cuts in arts funding.

"We've cut arts funding, which is painful to do," Campbell said. "But the good news is that we've been able to attract a lot of private funding for that. We still have the Lilly Endowment and the Capital Improvements Board providing funding for the arts. Right now we're OK, but I fear for the future."

Despite the difficulties posed by the cuts, Campbell spoke of a potential light at the end of the tunnel if Indy Works gets another shot next year.

"We have an opportunity to do it, and now we just have to go do it. And we can't do it without the state Legislature," Campbell said. "If you want to be considered as a Seattle, an Austin, a San Francisco, you can never rest on your laurels. That goes for our arts scene, the talent capital stuff that battles the brain drain issue, and government reform. Government reform is a boring topic to talk about, but it's important. [The situation] doubles our desire to get it passed next year. We wanted it bad last year, we want it twice as much next year, and we're going to go after it."