Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Transit Thoughts

The process to expand transit in Marion County is coming to an end as the Indianapolis-Marion County City-County Council voted 17-8 to raise city income taxes by 0.25% to fund expanded transit. The proposal that passed the council is only to increase the tax rate. If the Mayor of Indianapolis signs the tax increase into law, the city and IndyGo will still need to establish what expanded transit will look like, though testimony before the council indicates that the bus rapid transit line known as the Red Line will be prioritized if federal funding doesn't come into play.

While I voted in favor of the transit referendum in November, I am personally lukewarm on the tax increase, the entire process, and even the transit plan.

I agree with what my friend and blogging colleague, Jon Easter, is likely to post today. That this referendum is essentially leaving large chunks of the city in the dust, and that unless you live along one of the proposed bus rapid transit lines, your geographic distance to a transit stop probably won't increase. Under served  areas will continue to be under served. This should be addressed in an honest way, and not simply written off that there aren't destinations on the south side.

I am frustrated that the surrounding counties aren't participating in this transit referendum. While many city officials in Fishers, Carmel, and Greenwood have spoken favorably for the regional transit plan, these decisions are left to the county and the counties haven't authorized the referendum. This is frustrating because Plainfield is recognizing the need for transit services and businesses are even funding a Plainfield commuter line in hopes of bringing more workers to the southwest side suburb.

And I personally likely won't benefit from the transit referendum. The routes for the Castleton area won't change. It will still be a half mile walk to get to the nearest bus stop. And for someone who works in Carmel, the transit system really doesn't benefit me during the week.

That being said, I think my old stomping grounds of Irvington and the east side overall will benefit with the Blue Line rapid transit system making it easy to access Broad Ripple, downtown, and other neighborhoods along their routes. While the routes proposed aren't perfect, I think they're a good start and I hope the council, the Mayor, and IndyGo invite public comment so we can have a good and deliberative discussion on the proper plan now that the transit tax is all but decided. And people trying to get around Indianapolis from the airport won't have to deal with confusing bus schedules or a ridiculous Uber charge and just hop on the rapid transit bus that'll service the airport area.

I honestly believe that, while not perfect, that this is the right move as long as our representatives proceed with an open and honest discussion now that the tax has been voted on.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

My MLK Day

As a native Hoosier, I have never been to the MLK Memorial Park even though I used to live fairly close to it. This is the park where Robert F Kennedy broke the news to a largely African-American crowd that Martin Luther King Jr had been assassinated. The full speech is published on one of the nearby memorial markers. An additional marker marks the exact place where the speech occurred (closer to the park's southern edge).

I was able to spend the day with my dog, walking around Crown Hill, and saying goodbye to an old growth forest that will be chopped down by the federal government. I also went to the MLK Memorial Park, hoping to see the memorial for myself. I walked around the neighborhood and it was a mix of new apartments, homes being built, homes being fixed up, and some homes that probably haven't changed much since RFK was here.

But as I stood there at the memorial, I only saw myself and three other white folks around. As I thought about why that is, I started to reflect on my life over the past few years.

Three years ago, I worked in retail pharmacy on the retail end. If you took the staff of both the retail end and the pharmacy end together, the entire staff of the store I was in was at least 2/3rd minority, and more than half were women. At that employer, I wasn't a full time employee, so I didn't get paid holidays or paid time off at all. And any request to take a holiday or a weekend off met with a lot of resistance. Now, I have a job where I get weekends off, most bank holidays off, and I have an incredibly generous amount of PTO. And I wonder if I've benefited from a system where citizens who are minorities often don't have the same opportunities.

Maybe they're at a dead end job that works them to the bone, that doesn't care that everyone else has the day off. And because they have that dead end job, it makes it hard (if not impossible) to take time to go find a better one. And you can't just take time off, because you need the money.

Maybe they're using the day off to catch up on school work, something that I (a two time college drop out) probably should've done more of.

There's a line in MLK's "Dream" speech where he talks about how 1963 is the starting point and that the movement for civil rights will eventually lead to "an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality". MLK's message in his "Dream" speech and his many speeches and sermons is that there are legitmate issues that need to be addressed but that we will make it through. And today, as I stood there with three other white people at a MLK memorial on MLD Day, I wonder if we are in that "autumn", or if we're still stuck back a few seasons and waiting to get to autumn.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Will The Indianapolis Star Ever Post a Circle Centre Disclaimer?

The Indianapolis Star has published a variety of articles concerning downtown retailers and restaurants closing over the last several months. But a particular interest is the closing and opening of stores within the Circle Centre Mall, where the newspaper is both a tenant and an investor. None of these stories contain a disclaimer. And if you click on IndyStar.com's "About Us" section, it still claims the newspaper is located at the intersection of New York and Pennsylvania in downtown Indianapolis.

It isn't unusual for local news media to cover the opening and closing of restaurants, particularly ones with a long history within Indianapolis. But it is my view that The Indianapolis Star has almost an obsession with Circle Centre Mall. And they should make it clear to their readers what their business relationship is with the mall and that they have a vested interest in the success of the mall.