Indianapolis should abandon parts of the city

My house is in a completely useless part of town. I live on the southeast side of Indianapolis and you’d be excused if you didn’t know what was down there. It’s a sparsely populated (relative to the rest of town) area with no major industry or cultural significance. So is much of the southwest and northwest side. They should be abandoned by the City.

In the 70’s when then-Mayor Richard Lugar put together the UniGov plan to merge the City of Indianapolis and Marion County governments, it made sense with the information they had. It increased the tax base, propped up and spread the wealth around a bit, and was a useful mechanism for capturing suburban flight.

But today the suburbs extend beyond Marion County, which in all aspects should be considered exurbs. The suburbs we inherited through to today, like Lawrence, Beech Grove, Speedway, and Southport, don’t even want to be part of Indianapolis. And as we’ve seen with mergers of fire departments and other services, there’s really not a ton of savings to be had from merging them in anymore.

Indianapolis should abandon the outer portions of Marion County and some of the inner rings, and I’m not talking about “undoing UniGov”. I’m talking about consciously declaring no more investment in those areas.

What are these areas? Anything south of Raymond is a good start. On the southeast side anything east of Emerson and south of Brookville can go. And on the southwest side, anything east of Kentucky Ave and again south of Raymond can go. To facilitate some thoroughfares and chunks that have “expensive infrastructure”, like the Harding Street IPL plant, maintain corridors along Harding, Troy, South Emerson, and Meridian and Madison. That props up the University of Indianapolis, some decent development along the northern boundary of Johnson County, existing hospitals, and electric infrastructure.

Likewise, on the Northwest Side anything in that corner of town north of Eagle Creek Park and south of US 52 in Pike Township can go.

Maintaining these borderline rural areas of Pike, Franklin, and Decatur Townships is cost prohibitive and holds the rest of the viable City back.

Decatur Township has a population of 32,000 people. Franklin with 54,000 and is so broke they can’t afford to bus kids to school, and Pike 78,000.

Whereas Center Township has 146,000, Lawrence 118,000, Perry 108,000, Warren with 99,000, Washington with 132,000, and Wayne 137,000.

In other words, Decatur, Franklin, and Pike Townships have only slightly more people combined than any of the others do alone.

What specifically, then, should Indianapolis do?

  • Resolve not to expand roads in the south side and northwest side, barring the unlikely advances necessary to support Indianapolis International Airport.
  • Only major existing corridors like the aforementioned Madison, Troy, and Harding Streets, should be maintained modestly.
  • Building permits should be denied in these zones.
  • Water and sewer infrastructure should maintained to the necessity of public safety and health, as should police, fire, and medical coverage.
  • As buildings deteriorate, fail, or are otherwise abandoned, they should be razed.
  • Public transit should stop service.
  • Public schools should close and be razed as population declines.

Indianapolis, like a lot of cities, are unable to do enough to maintain a high quality of life in large parts of town. Lack of viable sidewalk, sewer, transit, fitness, multi-use, and new roads are plague these parts of town now. Indianapolis should signal to the people who live there, “We will not be investing any more in these parts of town.” Stop people from moving there expecting to receive viable services.

Taxes for those residents living in these zones should be maintained at current legal levels and instead of updating sewers, roads, etc. as needed, money should instead be spent on buying people out of their homes, allowing the elderly and those with no mortgages to sustain themselves, or assisting them with relocating. This will be a long process that will take over a generation. But in three, four, five, generations, Indianapolis will have a stronger core at a sustainable rate of taxation and investment.

When the City looks around and doesn’t know how to pay for or maintain the roads it has, you have too many roads. When schools don’t know how to pay for or maintain their buildings or get kids to school, you screwed up and live in an unsustainable area.

Return it to a truly rural area and leave it as such for those that choose or desire that life. But as with a rural life, that comes with no municipal water, sewer, transit, numerous roads, sidewalks, parks, or other desired municipal benefits.

Refocus the efforts and money of the City’s resources to the parts of town where people can receive more benefit.

This dance we’re doing of trying to keep stuff together isn’t working, because most of these Townships are falling apart or undesirable.

The only way to fix this without abandonment is to receive State legislation barring more development in the outer ring “doughnut” counties, which would force smarter land use and make developing Pike, Franklin, and Decatur Townships more desirable to developers and make rehabilitating existing structures necessary. This would, however, drive up real estate prices and rents, which can be useful and harmful at the same time.

We have too much city proclaiming to be an actual city. It isn’t, and it’s dragging the rest of the area down.

Sex is gross and other things we learned Friday

Maybe you heard, but the Supreme Court finally put the gay marriage debate to rest last week.

I have had so many opinions for so long on this, and most of them do nothing to make anyone happy. I don’t fit into this neat little “us vs. them” on some things, and in other respects I want nothing but to see “the other side” destroyed. Allow me to explain…

Marriage should be private

Rand Paul seems to have come out for private marriage literally yesterday, at least vocally. I’ve long told people marriage is an obnoxious merging of church and state. As long as we tolerate that, we’re going to keep having problems.

Marriage should be reserved for churches and religious institutions. The government should be in the civil union business. You can get one, the other, or both. So if you’re not religious and want to get together for legal and financial benefits, the government can square that up. If you’re religious but don’t want to involve the government, your church can take care of that in the view of your faith. If you want both, get both.

This way no one has any problem either way, except in cases where people get miffed at churches for being way behind the times in most cases. I can see an instance where the Catholic church, for instance, might catch heat for not allowing same-sex marriages for the next 100 years or whatever.

But again, this is where the government can divorce itself of church and allow people flexibility and basic protections, as it should.

Republicans and Democrats are right

Great, I can get married now. But I can still be fired for it in a majority of states.

The Republicans and Democrats on the Supreme Court are not wrong. Chief Justice Roberts is not wrong when he says the Constitution has “nothing to do with” marriage.

This is just a muddy, gray area where a compass is pointing in one direction and our laws are not.

Our government is designed in such a way that when one branch is weak or ineffective, other branches will step up. So in the absence of a functioning Congress, our Executive (the President) and Judiciary (the Court), step in to fill the void just because pressing matters continue to be problems. Problems don’t stop just because Congress puts their hands over their ears.

So without Congress, SCOTUS stepped up and did what we did in the 60s with race: a big fat fiat that pushes things along. Does anyone think that Mississippi would have done away with slavery if not for the federal government? It took them this long just to kinda think about taking down the flag they used to represent that whole movement.

The Court’s opinions were weak. The reasoning was, basically, “Just because people have moved this way”.

I’m tired of this fight and every one after it

I generally do not like to be a “fighter”. So when I hear things like, “This battle isn’t over” or “The fight continues” for other rights and protections, I am thoroughly exhausted. I’m the guy who just gets up and goes to do something else.

But I am also incredibly irritated, angry, and confused.

I am irritated and angry by religious people. Every last one of them. I don’t care if you’re in an “open and affirming” church or the Church of Cannabis. I am angered by the very existence of religion most all of the time.

Every time a terrorist blows themselves up in the name of Allah, or someone answers any question with “CAUSE JESUS!”, or anytime someone votes in a State house or Congress to do something because of their faith, I am absolutely enraged.

For every major problem we face as a city, a state, a country, and as a people I can almost always trace it back to the tentacles of religion telling someone “This is okay”. It is not okay.

I am still shocked that we, as a country, have not heard stories of school children writing “God” in an answer field on a test when solving a question for “x”. Or adults claiming they don’t need to take a driver’s test, but still deserve a license, because “God told them so” and then filing court cases or petitions to make their non-answer the ONE TRUE ANSWER. That’s in “voices in your head” territory, but I have no doubt that if that happened, some base somewhere would get fired up to get it done.

My experience in church for years was one of shock and horror. People openly praying and opining for things like a job, their health, or marriage. For a group of people closely aligned with the “personal responsibility” crowd, they seemed to take little of it. The people praying for health so frequently ate crap and didn’t exercise. The people praying for a job seem incapable of reading a book other than the Bible to help them increase their skills. The people praying for their marriage don’t seem inclined to talk to each other, but instead to God. I’m aware there’s something to be said for “God enabling people” or “Giving you to the tools”, but not many people seem to catch that hint at the churches I sat in for years. Not to mention the notion that every bad thing that you do is “Satan”, because without him you might have to take responsibility for your own failure.

When it comes to some sort of culture war, my libertarian bent doesn’t want to care. Just leave me alone. And you dictating terms of my government defies that. This is like the government dictating what we can eat for dinner because someone’s a vegetarian.

I get it, you think gays are gross

Sex is pretty gross. All of it. Men have a floppy piece of ugly urine-piping, women have a smelly cavern of blood and urine, and everyone poops.

When people say “Being gay is a choice”, “Gays can’t have sex”, “Gay sex is an abomination”, that seems to ignore the obvious reality that all sex is pretty gross and everyone who has sex is touching something or putting something somewhere that leaks something.

And gay people no more choose to blow a bag of dicks than any straight woman or no more than any straight man chooses to fondle breasts. You like what you like, because you do.

And yeah, Pride parades are pretty weird. But don’t tell me that the Snake Pit at the Indy 500 is some bastion of upstanding class and purity. Or wrestling hogs or running a mud dash at a county fair isn’t a little unusual.

At the heart of all of my feelings, there’s one inescapable logical conclusion that causes my sense of confusion: people think and do what they do because it’s what they do. I can’t change people’s minds, I can only try to carry on and, at best, ignore them. People have different opinions and thoughts, and I am not blind to that.

But it becomes very hard for me to do as my mother said and “mind my own business” when people go running around making laws making it impossible.

Religious people ruined marriage

If anyone’s ruining marriage, it has to be religious people. They’re the only ones who had it! If your neighbor’s ladder breaks and he blames you for it because you asked to borrow it a month ago, that’s pretty rich. Or, more aptly, if he blames you for his ladder breaking after yelling at you to not even look at it.

Marriage wasn’t any better or worse off yesterday than it is today or will be next week vs 600 years ago.

Stop calling me a faggot

I got called a faggot last week. In Indianapolis. Just walking down the street. Like I have countless times before. I don’t yell “Tiny penis!” randomly back at you.

So learn to leave people alone.

What an amazing opportunity Avon, Ind. has

Imagine if humans could travel through space to another inhabitable planet. There’s a lot we could and would do differently, right? It’s unlikely that if a group of 100 people landed on another planet that one or two would immediately head off and say, “Bye guys!” and go live alone.

It’s also unlikely that we’d say, “Okay, let’s figure out how to make some cars and build an Applebee’s.”

But that’s what we do now every time a new suburb starts or someone goes to a small rural town. It’s a horrible use of resources and we don’t think about it because, simply, most people just don’t think about it.

Indy’s suburbs are starting to rethink what it means to be a suburb, and there are a lot of options right now.

Carmel’s mayor Jim Brainard has shown an obvious desire to increase the quality of life for Carmelites. Knowing that Indiana can never compete with sunny warm-weather places like Florida and the Southwest, Carmel is focusing on building things that are aesthetically pleasing and visually interesting to make up for it. This is expensive, however, and Carmel has about a billion dollars in debt to prove it. For comparison, the entire city of Indianapolis runs on a budget of $1.1 billion.

Greenwood is debating how to use its original Old Town Greenwood space, something they can learn a lot about from Fishers and Brownsburg. Fishers has practically destroyed what tiny sliver of their history they had in favor of me-too mixed-use construction. So if you want to live above a Chipotle and an ice cream stand, Fishers’ is soon to be your place.

Brownsburg is still something of a blank slate, but they’ve already set the tone with how they built their downtown to facilitate auto traffic. People in cars are by their very nature on their way someplace else.

And then there’s Avon and Plainfield. I feel like Plainfield has established itself as “the thing next to the airport”, and they have the industry and warehousing development to prove it. But Avon is different.

Avon seems to be quietly sitting there and growing rapidly, but with no central plan. At least not a structured one. Without the government offices and historic structures of Hendricks County’s nearby seat of Danville, Avon has no significant draw like the other suburbs. It doesn’t even have a highway. And that’s where Avon is more interesting.

Avon sits in a strip along US 36 and between Interstates 70 and 74, and west of I-465. Avon, if its leaders wanted to, could be the place where we’d do things completely different. Avon could be the place we’d build if we setup shop an alien planet.

Avon doesn’t have the noise pollution or divisive highways of other suburbs (Greenwood, Carmel, and Fishers have all picked distinct sides of their highways for most of their development). Avon has access to money and plenty of land for development.

It also doesn’t have as much already-aging infrastructure as places like Fishers. At some point, all of that aging water and sewer infrastructure in Fishers is going to come home to roost. If you lay it all down in a span of 10 years, you’re going to have a problem all at once decades later. We see this with places like Lawrence, Beech Grove, and Speedway today.

Imagine how Avon could build a city that was more bike and pedestrian friendly than car-centric. It could avoid building costly and unhealthy cul-de-sacs in favor of gridded, tree-lined streets. If built densely, it could have affordable and easily implemented transit straight along US36 into Indianapolis.

What an amazing opportunity Avon has to create its own history and be an example for a new way of thinking in urban development. It could be the Disneyland of Indy’s suburbs. Dense, purposeful, familial, efficient, and sustainable.

That Sunday Evening Feeling

I think you could very reasonably plot my income and overall happiness over the last decade and find they are two opposing forces. When income goes up, my happiness goes down and vice versa.

When I was 15 and didn’t really have much experience to think otherwise, I just thought “This is the way work life is. We all come to a place we don’t want to be and eventually we go home.”

Then when I started working at the State, this notion carried on. But the whole time I was just doing web work in the evenings and weekends, mostly for a little extra money, but also because I enjoyed it. What I enjoyed was the control and flexibility. I am not a person that likes to be tied to contracts. Just ask anyone who’s ever tried to lock me into a contract spanning more than a few months.

Eventually what did it for me is that “Sunday evening feeling”. You know that feeling. It’s how you feel when it’s Friday night or Saturday night and you think, “Whew. I don’t have to go to work tomorrow.” But on Sunday morning that feeling wanes and it becomes, “This is my last day.”

By Sunday afternoon, say around 4 pm, it’s, “I only have a few hours left, but at least I have a few hours left.”

And then on Sunday night, say around 8 or 9 pm, it becomes that hurtful pit in your stomach that says, “You’re out of time. You have to go back to work tomorrow.” That’s “the Sunday evening feeling”.

I hate that feeling. And when I started working in Connecticut I felt that Sunday evening feeling again in short order. That, among a whole host of other reasons, was when I knew that was the end of that.

I don’t get that feeling anymore. I have a workplace I can tolerate, mostly because it’s my own. But anyone who comes to work through my doors should never have that same feeling. If they do, I want to know how to relieve it.

It’s also for this reason that I recognize I am highly unemployable. Not because of a lack of skills or education (I have a library card and an Internet connection and I know how to use them), but because I just can’t handle working at a desk tied to arbitrary time shifts and perceived trading of minutes and productivity for dollars.

I recognized the stupidity of that when I worked for the Court. I don’t work well after 3 pm. I work best at 6, 7, and 8 am. But if you won’t let me work those hours, that’s your own fault, not mine. And if I do come in early, don’t look at my weird when I leave at 5.

So to any current or future individuals who work alongside me: don’t ever work your least productive hours and don’t ever dread the work. Because if and when you do, we all lose.

Thoughts on Pride

The older I get the more I recognize the world is full of a lot of gray areas. One that evades me, however, is Pride. It exists in a, uh, much more colorful space.

June, and more specifically this weekend, is Pride, the annual event for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people to come together. So far so good.

The event is marked by a parade. So far, I’m still with you. Except this isn’t so much a parade as a borderline offensive display of people’s naughty bits.

Let’s be clear on one thing: gay pride parades are really only known in the public consciousness for men in underwear. Or men dressed as women, or women dressed as men and also possibly naked, but usually less so.

For years I have thought, “People walking around mostly naked is not helping.” It associates gay and lesbian people with lewd behavior or, worse, poor taste and a disregard for some pretty easy social norms. I have said so consistently and every year it doesn’t improve. When you have to work to get the majority – in this case, middle and upper aged white people – to think of you as an equal or at least not vote against you, this doesn’t help.

Supporters have long said Pride parades and festivals are a way to get in front of the general public, to make people more accepting by effectively becoming desensitized to the gay and lesbian community.

Except I don’t know that I’ve ever met a straight person who saw a pride parade and thought, “You know what, they’re all right. Let’s stop voting against them.”

The gay rights movement in this country has seen unparalleled success, but it’s probably more because of Glee, Frasier, and other primetime television shows that put gay and lesbian characters in relatively normal, but somewhat different, situations from straight counterparts.

I’ll probably end up at this Saturday’s Pride parade and it’ll be my third one. But it’ll probably be like last year: watch the parade and wonder how the City doesn’t get sued for issuing the permit and see it as an excuse for perpetuating the stereotype of over-sexed gay men and women. And also drinking before noon.

I’m not sure it helps, but they keep doing it, so maybe eventually everyone will become desensitized. The libertarian in me says “Whatever”, But I get why so many straight people are repulsed and turned off by it.

I’m thankful efforts by so many people to come out to their friends and families have been able to temper the knee-jerk reaction people have toward the community at large.