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Labor Day marks the traditional kick-off to campaign season, so we went further back than our typical old-school library to borrow a title from the O’Jays as municipal races shift into high gear across Indiana.

What do the people want from their local officials? Joe Hogsett and Jim Merritt pitched their respective plans to voters at the Indy Chamber’s annual HobNob last week, as we co-hosted the first Indianapolis mayoral debate with the Indianapolis Business Journal.  And we also heard from the electorate itself, through the results of a new survey from our partners at MIBOR REALTOR® Association.  So…what did they have to say?

Back to Basics
According to the MIBOR poll, sentiment about the direction of the city is generally positive (58% agreeing that Indianapolis is on the right track). Otherwise, the desires of Indy voters are easy to sum up: Safer – and better-paved – streets.  ‘Crime and violence’ topped the list of key issues, cited as a top concern by 33% of respondents (another 8% listed ‘gun violence,’ pushing public safety as a broader issue over 40%).

While crime was considered the most urgent issue facing Indianapolis, it’s notable that most respondents didn’t feel unsafe in their own neighborhoods.  Concern about crime closer to home rose sharply among African-Americans and residents of the central region of the city, emphasizing the effects of racial disparities and concentrated poverty (the same voters voiced greater dissatisfaction with the number of nearby groceries and healthy food options).

Infrastructure (roads and potholes) came in second, with 24% making it their #1 priority (“fixing the damn potholes” was the most succinct response from the survey verbatims). Education came in a distant third, at 9%.

When it came to intensity (ranking the importance of each issue on a 1-10 scale), public safety still commanded the most attention (8.9 mean ‘score’), but education moved up to second (8.4) with a cluster of three other issues close behind: Roads and infrastructure (8.1), the economy and jobs (8.3) and making sure employers pay a living wage (7.9).

The Mayor of Indianapolis has limited control over public education, though they can authorize charter schools, provide local funding to expand pre-K access and support students and teachers in other ways.  The debate at HobHob rightfully focused on other core issues, with plenty of emphasis on public safety and crime-fighting strategies, infrastructure (and how to pay for it), poverty and the need for better jobs and a more inclusive economy.

It was an important discussion that will help frame campaign as we enter the homestretch to Election Day on November 3rd.  If you weren’t able to join us last Thursday at HobNob, you can still check out the video replay of the debate on Facebook – find ‘IBJ News’ and scroll down to the August 29 ‘First Mayoral Debate’ post.

We aren’t running, but…
Your Business Advocacy team helps develop and lobby for impactful public policy, working with state and local elected officials and supporting candidates for office.

You’ll never see ‘Indy Chamber’ as a choice on a ballot, but we couldn’t help notice our agenda aligns pretty well with the issues that voters emphasized in the MIBOR poll – a reminder that the business community and the community-at-large share common cause for a stronger Indy.  For example:

  • Exploring realistic ways to fund essential services and infrastructure that recognize regional growth and connectivity – reforming a revenue system that hasn’t evolved to meet the realities of our regional economy and the need for interlocal collaboration;
  • Attacking the root causes of crime by emphasizing economic inclusion, pushing policies to make it easier for ex-offenders to re-enter the job market (and creating new programs, like REDi, to give them more tools to start their own business or be valuable contributors to other up-and-coming employers);
  • Working with IPS to push more dollars into classroom programs and teacher paychecks by finding operational efficiencies, to improve education and protect taxpayers (taxes had a lower profile in the MIBOR results, but concerns about affordable tax burden were modestly higher in the urban core).

Yeah, the Chamber ‘platform’ aims for impact. And speaking of platforms…

Green Light for the Red Line!
The platforms of the 28 new Red Line stations were packed with on Sunday as the new bus rapid transit route opened for business! We revisited the case for the new service in the IBJ last weekend, but the most compelling testament for expanded transit options connecting people, employers and neighborhoods across Marion County (and ultimately, the region) came from the genuine excitement from veteran IndyGo patrons and first-time riders alike enjoying the benefits of more frequent, accessible public transportation, with BRT as the backbone for city-wide improvements.

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