A crumby deal for the region

June 25, 2008

I’ve written some controversial editorials in my time and gotten roundly denounced by people in authority for causing some kind of damage or other to some cherished belief or community institution. But I don’t think I ever got accused of doing the most damage in 50 years:

What an extremely provincial attitude The Indianapolis Star has exhibited to the people of Central Indiana. Its June 16 editorial pertaining to the Regional Performing Arts Center, now under construction in Carmel, showed that it is still tied to the Indianapolis/Marion County power structure. The words penned by the editors of The Star may have done more to hurt regional cooperation than anything else that has transpired on the civic and governmental scene in the past half century.

This editorial really says that the suburbs in the surrounding counties must strive for mediocrity. It says we must not build anything first class, leaving that solely to the one-mile square around Monument Circle. The Star’s editors seem to say that, even if Indianapolis and its patrons don’t have the vision to build a project, cannot afford to build it, and have no intention of building it in the near or long term, the suburbs dare not undertake it.

Whew. Somebody’s mad. The piece, written by a Carmel City Council member, goes on to say that the evil Indianapolis/Marion County power structure just wants to suck in money from the surrounding region so it can build more fun things in that infamous one-mile square. And otherwise, “You just be content with the little stuff, the mediocre stuff, the crumbs off the table. Remember your place. But be ready to help when we call.”

I hunted up the editorial in question, and it’s about as insufferable as the writer says it is.

Likewise subject to conjecture is the impact the Carmel center may have on the arts in Indianapolis. Can the region, in short, support an opulent new suburban venue without shifting some music business from the hard-pressed central city?

So, regionalism is vital (I’ve even read that in the Star), but the “hard-pressed central city” is the biggest concern? That’s not just provincial; it’s downright arrogant and narrow-minded. That’s the danger of letting a newspaper become a cheerleader for the community. You’re not exactly sure of what the “community” is.

And substitute Fort Wayne for Indianapolis/Marion County, and I’d say this is a reflection of the tensions encountered here by those who want to preach a regional message. Those in the rest of the region see Fort Wayne as the big bully that always wants its own way. That attitude may be misguided at times, but it has to be recognized.

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2 Responses to “A crumby deal for the region”

  1. Harl Delos Says:

    For years, we’ve all been reading (et tu, Leo?) about the problem of urban poverty.

    Why only urban poverty? Poverty levels in rural America have actually been higher than in urban America for the last half century, and what’s more, poverty is harder to deal with in rural America. Instead of walking a block or two to a bus stop, it may be a walk of 10 miles or more to get a loaf of bread, a walk of 17 miles to a public library, a walk of 40 miles to an emergency room. Hope it wasn’t really an emergency.

    If you want to renew the city’s center, it’s pretty easy to do. Buy entire blocks with eminent domain, bulldoze them, zone it appropriately, and sell them – as single properties – to developers. It wouldn’t cost the taxpayers much; developers would pay a lot to get parcels of that size in the center of the city.

    Remember Murphy’s? It stayed open for the last couple of decades because the losses were fairly low (the bakery, donut machine, and popcorn machine were highly profitable) and giving up the lease would have been very expensive. They couldn’t easily buy the land because there were five parcels of land involved, most with many heirs, and ending a triple-net lease any other way meant turning that one building back into the five buildings that were originally there.

    But once Ames bit the bullet and consolidated ownership of the real estate, there were multiple developers eager to raze and build new.

  2. Steve T. Says:

    THIS thread might as well have been the one entitled “Nattering Nabobs of Negativism.” Props to the Carmel council member for not letting such high-profile ignorance go undefeated.


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