Among the many issues normally ignored by the Indiana General Assembly is the fate of our cities and towns. Over the years, the legislature has cut back the revenues of local governments while increasing the responsibilities of those units.
<>In 2013, about two-thirds of Hoosiers lived in 568 places incorporated as cities or towns. But of these 568, most (293) declined in population between 1970 and 2013. Some were very small towns with extremely small loses like Little York in Washington County where the population in 2013 was down just one from its 1970 level of 191. However, what level of population loss is acceptable?
Altogether 166 towns with populations of less than 1,000 persons in 1970 lost over 15,600 people (18.2 percent) by 2013. Perhaps there is no future for these smallest places.
What about places with populations over 1,000, yet under 5,000? By 2013, 61 of these towns lost 15.7 percent (over 23,000) of their population. Are we ready to write off Sullivan, Bloomfield and Kentland as no longer suitable places to live?
Should we stop caring about the decline of places with populations over 5,000 yet fewer than 25,000? Do we dispense with Logansport, Portland, New Castle, LaPorte, Griffith and Whiting? Are we to watch the 23 cities and towns in this group, with their 250,000 people, wither another 12.4 percent (35,400 people) as they did in the past 43 years?
Where is the concern about the ten cities that together dropped 238,500 persons since 1970? For them it was a full quarter of their populations. These places included New Albany, Michigan City, Marion, Richmond, East Chicago, Terre Haute, Anderson, Hammond, South Bend, Evansville and Gary. All of these are cities whose names should be known by members of the General Assembly.
Yes, it is a long term problem, but that does not mean it should be pushed under the legislative carpet. Indeed many places have grown, but to what extent is their growth a burden upon us all? Are the billions spent and to be spent on improving transportation for the commuters from Fishers, Carmel and Noblesville wise expenditures while infrastructure deteriorates in Indianapolis?
That same question should be asked about more money from the federal or state governments for advancing the welfare of Muster, Dyer, Valparaiso and other places in central Lake and Porter counties while the northern portions of that metro area continue to struggle with the forces of decline. Suburban Louisville and Evansville residents are the beneficiaries of the neglected areas of those central cities.
We can only hope that a conservative, fiscally responsible legislature will see that policies favoring continued expansive land uses are not in our long run interest. This will mean fighting back against the trends and interest groups of the past century.
If the Indiana we knew is to be saved from decay and demolition, it’s time for the political right wing to embrace strong environmental urban policies.
Mr. Marcus is an economist, writer, and speaker who may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.