An open letter to Governor Pence,
My name is Matt Stone. I’m a lifelong Indianapolis resident, a former candidate for local office, and I dab a bit in political punditry as well. I feel as if I need to disclose that I didn’t vote for you, but I’m not writing this letter to tell you where I disagree with you. Just the opposite, I’m writing to tell you that you are a breath of fresh air to Indiana government and that now, more than ever, we need someone like you who hasn’t been wined and dined by the special interests that invade the State House the first few months of every year.
Your recent comments on the mass transit and the Speedway bailout are what inspired me to write you this letter. As an Indianapolis resident, I believe that the city of Indianapolis and Marion County have had more revenue these past few years than they ever have had before. And I believe Indy Go, our public bus system, is underfunded. But it is underfunded because of priorities, not because of a lack of revenue. We have chosen, through our local government, to fund business developments, parking garages, and sports stadiums over libraries, bus service, and public safety. I’d much rather have an extended bus service that goes beyond mostly downtown and the east side of Indianapolis, as well as a new police recruit class, over a bailout of the Indiana Pacers and a $15 million parking garage. But unfortunately, our elected and appointed officials have not decided that. So instead of asking for more revenue for stuff I favor, I believe we should advocate for better governance rather than more revenue. And maybe there is a role for state government to provide a hand in advocating better governance in that.
Additionally, I think there are fine details in the mass transit proposal that are absolutely horrifying. Marion County property tax payers will continue to pay for the municipal corporation that is Indy Go, but that property tax money will be funneled into the new regional mass transit board. In addition, all working Marion County residents will pay an increased County Optional Income Tax to support the mass transit regional board. Hamilton County, which has no public transit at this time, will only be paying the County Optional Income Tax. I have concerns that Marion County property tax payers will be used to subsidize the more extravagant portions of mass transit, such as the lite rail line from Noblesville to Indianapolis. It is my belief that any lines that run from Hamilton County to Indianapolis will largely favor Hamilton County residents. There is a lot of incentive for those in Hamilton County to come to Indianapolis. But there isn’t nearly as much incentive for those in Indianapolis to go to Noblesville, Fishers, or Carmel.
I also was absolutely supportive of you on what you said of the Speedway bailout. There is nothing in there that requires IMS to provide a single penny towards the improvements on the race track. And it is my understanding that a clause that’ll prevent IMS from selling the Speedway isn’t likely to be in the final bill.
In both of these proposals, these respective special interests have been wining and dining state legislative representatives and the powers-that-be for a very long time. As someone who hasn’t been on their radar until recently, I believe that you have some independence that other leaders of state government do not. I urge you to use your influence to encourage responsible changes in these bills. And if they aren’t changed, then I urge you to use your veto pen.
The other proposal I want you to keep an eye on is Senate Bill 621, which passed the Senate and is now being considered in the House. SB621, written by Senator Mike Young at the request of Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, would greatly consolidate power that currently exists in the Indianapolis legislative body, the City-County Council, and put it under the Mayor’s office. He or she would have the authority not only to line-item veto budgets, but re-write budgets to his liking, essentially making the Council’s participation in the budget process an exercise in futility. SB621 would also eliminate the four At-Large positions on the City-County Council, leaving only councilors who have a limited interest in governance and doesn’t provide a single councilor who thinks about the entire county as a whole. Finally, one of the oddest bits of SB621 changes the residency requirements to run for Mayor of Indianapolis from five years to two years. I don’t think someone who has only lived here for two years should be allowed that amount of power.
As someone who generally leans to the right, I do believe that there is some smart consolidation and reform that can be done with Uni-Gov. But it needs to be done carefully and without regard to partisan power grabs. This bill is a blatant attempt to consolidate power under Mayor Greg Ballard and whoever Mike Young has in mind that currently resides in Fishers or Carmel who wants to run in 2015. I urge you to veto this bill, and issue a statement for a Marion County government reform study committee so that serious reforms can be drawn up in public, instead of behind closed doors.
I also wanted to write to you on a more general topic: the condition of the Hoosier family. During your campaign, you said you wanted a family analysis on actions of state government. You’ve also spoken out against expanded gambling in Indiana. I believe that is key to protecting Hoosier families. And I hope you expand that same skepticism to the more wide-spread version of gambling that is the Hoosier Lottery.
With the pseudo-privatization that has taken place, the Hoosier Lottery is poised to increase their presence further in mostly poor, working class neighborhoods and those who are retired but living on a fixed budget. While ultimately the decision to play the Lottery is an individual choice, putting them in convenience stores close to neighborhoods makes it more likely those residents in that area will play. Moving them just a few blocks out of the neighborhood, out of walking distance, or in large general stores where people have to wait in long lines regardless of how many items they’re purchasing, would dis-incentivize people from playing the Lottery who are only visiting to play it.
In an ideal world, we would’ve ended the state-sanctioned Hoosier Lottery long ago. But politics is about the realm of the possible. So instead of wishing for something that isn’t going to happen, I hope you’ll keep a watchful eye on the Lottery. I know it brings a lot of revenue for state government, but I think it does more harm than good and I hope your administration can work on changing it so that it does more good than harm.