The city's idea
of closing off Monument Circle to vehicular traffic during August is a good
one, I think. Turning the Circle into a pedestrian-only enclave will eliminate
idiotic drivers zooming around dangerously and make the Circle what it was
always intended to be, a gathering point for the people of this city.
If it works and
is made permanent, it will mark the first time in recent history that the city
has taken a step to improve the everyday lives of people who live and work
Just about every
other addition to the city over the past three decades, as wonderful as some of
them have been, have been implemented for rich people, conventioneers, tourists
or all three groups. I'll be paying taxes for Lucas Oil Stadium for the rest of
my life, but it's doubtful I'll ever be able to afford tickets to a Colts game
unless they start sucking again.
The Circle Center
Mall is a lovely place but just about the only thing I can afford to buy there
is a cup of coffee or a Cinnabon. More importantly, when actual citizens of
Indianapolis try to use the mall, for example, during Black Expo and Classic
weekend, they often get ushered out in order to make room for out-of-towners
who might be frightened.
spawned dozens of great restaurants but almost all of them are priced out of
most people's range. They're there for the conventioneers and business
travelers, not the average Joe, Jane or Jamaal who works in a downtown office.
I have no problem
with tourists, business travelers and convention-goers. It doesn't bother me
when they come to town, injure themselves, drink our liquor and frequent our
prostitutes. I would do the same things if placed in their shoes. I also
understand the economic benefit of hosting tens of thousands of yahoos on an
But make no
mistake about it: Whatever improvements that have been made downtown, rest assured
they weren't made for the benefit of you or me. If you happen to get some
enjoyment out of some of them, then good for you. It's entirely accidental.
interests of the big-money people and me overlap each other. For example, the
likely city-county bailout of Conseco Fieldhouse's operating costs will keep my
beloved Indiana Pacers in town for a few more years. But the government won't
be doing it because I don't want the Pacers to leave; it's because there will
be a corresponding drop in revenue and prestige if they go.
most of what the city government does directly negatively impacts me. Cutting
mass transit routes when we need them most hurts me. Closing library branches
at a time when people most desperately need the information, knowledge and
sense of community they bring hurts all of us. Not finding appropriate,
sustainable revenue sources to keep buses running and libraries open while
sports teams get bailouts is contemptible.
At this time last year, I was in downtown Detroit on a week-long business trip.
I saw firsthand what a dying city center looks like: entire blocks of vacant
retail space. Skyscrapers with boarded-up windows. People too frightened to
leave their homes after dark. I'm not hoping anything similar happens to
And I'm old
enough to remember when Monument Circle was not a pleasant place to be and the
downtown area was somewhere you avoided at all costs. The transformation of the
city since the 1970s is nothing short of amazing. It's one of the cleanest,
safest and most pleasant of all the great city centers of the nation.
transformation has not been without cost: shopping areas where locals are not
especially welcomed; restaurants and hotels you'll never likely enter; massive
taxpayer-funded sports arenas the inside of which you'll only see on
television, never in person.
So it's nice to
know that, for a month at least, I can walk to Monument Circle during my lunch
hour and enjoy my PBJ sandwich without some asshole driver almost running me
over. It's better than nothing. It's also quite literally the very least the
city government can do to make a positive impact on my life.
As I sit in the
sun and eat my sandwich, though, I'll be secure in the knowledge that this
small pleasure benefits me only by accident, like everything else the city
government has done in the last 35 years.