Honest to Goodness must go, so let’s make a new one

Three years on and Visit Indiana’s “Honest to Goodness Indiana” slogan is still lousy. It doesn’t make us feel proud. It doesn’t make us or anyone else love Indiana. It’s also barely lifted off the ground. A quick Google search reveals a few solid hits, but mostly just a bunch of negative press about it. An Image search shows almost nothing – though a simple Mayberry post from yours truly sits out there.

We need to believe in Indiana again. We need to understand our history, look to the future, and be optimistic.

In true government fashion, the state has dozens of slogans all competing against each other. “Indiana: A State That Works” is emblazoned on the side of the Government Center. The DOE has “Working together for Student Success”, and the State Police have “Step out of the vehicle”, probably.

That’s not even counting all the little sub-agencies and sub-sub-agencies that exist to market various things, like Hoosier agriculture products, clothing, big business and commerce, and so on AND the various icons and metaphors that go along, like gears, light bulbs, and other household cliches that get through committees.

The old “Restart Your Engines” had a bit of cleverness and whimsy to it. But the other 91 counties that didn’t have an “Indianapolis Motor Speedway” within their 2,709* governmental units complained it didn’t focus on them. Counties need something to work with, too.

Indiana needs a new, authentic, unifying rally cry. Something that can be adapted to any situation that Indiana is uniquely positioned to capitalize on. Something that works for every corner of the state, for every person who works and makes something of their day and life, for every small business, big business, loyal worker, and entrepreneur. Something that works as part of our state’s history and its future and something that people already associate us with.

It turns out, we’ve been using a phrase for generations: “Made in Indiana”.

From Elkhart to Evansville, Shipshewana to Shoals, things are made in Indiana every day. More things are made in Indiana than anywhere else in the United States. Let’s acknowledge that more things are made in more places than we give them credit for.

Columbus Architecture Made in Indiana

 

Holiday World can use “Excitement: Made in Indiana”, rural communities can use things like, “Hand-dipped ice cream: Made in Indiana”, and state agencies can run with this for all manner of things. “Great students: Made in Indiana”. “13,000 new jobs: Made in Indiana”. “1,200 new lane miles: Made in Indiana”. “Memories: Made in Indiana”. Workforce development and others can tweak it a little to get the tense right to say things like, “Make it in Indiana”.

Ice Cream Made in Indiana

It’s flexible, indicative of our strengths and our future, and applies literally to every single Hoosier in the state.

Memories Made in Indiana

Illinois can keep “Are you up for amazing” because you won’t feel so amazing after you see the tax bill. Michigan can keep “Pure Michigan” until it eventually rots like spoiling milk. Kentucky can keep “Unbridled spirit” since it seems all they must have is their hopes and wishes down there. Ohio can keep “Find it in Ohio” as if grandma lost her glasses there. Then everyone can drive to Indiana and make something.

Dreams Made in Indiana

 

*That’s more than Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, Nevada, and Hawaii – combined! We’ll have to do something about that, too.

Indianapolis must stop apologizing for winter

Hallway whiteboard

Last week’s hallway whiteboard outside SuperPixel World Headquarters asked passers-by if expense weren’t an issue, would you move away from Indianapolis or stay here? There was also a little follow-up about why.

It’s highly informal and doesn’t mean much, but it does echo a common refrain: “Indiana’s weather is bad” and “Indiana’s politics are wrong.”

The political issue is what it is. But we have a better chance of changing the weather than we do the Legislature. Or at least we have a better chance of embracing the weather.

Everyone’s gripe is that it’s cold and it snows; which are certainly two defining criteria for “winter.” Indianapolis should stop apologizing for winter. Lots of places have winter. Chicago has a winter. Buffalo has a winter. No one in Buffalo sits around crying about the snow and neither should we.

Instead, Hoosiers should embrace and prepare for it, because there’s another one coming around.

Encourage everyone to put on a thick coat and snow boots and promote sledding, ice skating, skiing (yes, skiing – there are two great slopes just a 90-minute drive away from here), and hockey.

Indianapolis promotes itself as the Sports Capital of the World. We’ve done a lot for basketball, football, racing, and swimming. We’re continuing to improve in baseball, hockey, and soccer. Why not extend that to snowboarding, bobsledding, figure skating, curling, and other winter Olympic sports?

We already have the facility for curling, hockey, and figure skating. Carmel’s interested in building an ice skating rink. Building facilities for Bobsleighs and other winter sports doesn’t seem any more impossible than what we’ve consistently already done. Except skiing, none of this requires a mountain or some other geographic trait we don’t already have.

Open the spectator sports for sports lovers, and you’ll have facilities people can enjoy themselves. Then instead of always complaining about winter and apologizing for it, we can market it and make Indianapolis the most kick-ass winter city in North America.

Is your social media unbalanced? Here’s some help to fix it.

Several people have commented that their social media feeds are depressing, upsetting, bitter, and in most cases: an echo-chamber.

I wrote about this recently on what you can do about “Your Facebook Bubble“, how the algorithm works (particularly on Facebook), and why it’s important. So today I thought I’d share a list of Twitter and other sources you might consider adding to your feeds.

I took the effort a year or more ago to balance out my streams and sources with opposing and bi-partisan sources. if you’re reading a lot of Slate, or getting all your news from Sam Bee, Sean Hannity, or Jon Oliver, try balancing out with some of these folks. I watch Jon Oliver, too, but that doesn’t help the echo-chamber.

I have tried to avoid large “ad” entities, like political parties’ sources, though I follow each just to read what they’re saying. There’s no Drudge or Breitbart here. There’s no hate-mongering people here. I’m looking for smarts, not entertainment.

I also include several Indiana-specific people, too. If you find yourself lacking in knowledge about what’s happening at the State House, these folks are indispensable.

And if you find yourself saying, “Oh, no, I don’t want to see that”, you’ve missed the point and opportunity. If you feel angry at these things, then it’s probably working.

Is this the end-all list? Of course not. But this has helped me understand more sides of important issues.

I’ve linked to Twitter and sites where possible here. Facebook and other URLs can often be found in the bios of these people. You can follow me directly on Twitter @jlharter.

Nicke Gillespie – Journalist at Reason.com, a libertarian-leaning news source.

Reiham Salam – Writer for Slate and the National Review.

Adam Wren – Writer for Indianapolis Monthly and POLITICO.

Charles Cook – Editor for the National Review, frequent panelist on Real Time with Bill Maher

Grover Norquist –President of Americans for Tax Reform (“the tax pledge”), which has the ear of every elected representative in Washington.

Brian Slodysko – AP Political Reporter for Indiana.

Dan Carden – Statehouse Bureau Chief for the Times of NW Indiana.

SCOTUS Blog – Indispensable source for Supreme Court coverage.

Indiana Law Blog – to add to the former, Marcia Odi has done stellar work over the years covering Indiana’s Judiciary.

Abdul-Hakim Shabazz – Veteran Indiana politics reporter with a conservative tilt.

Nikki Kelly – can’t recommend following her enough. Great Indiana government and politics reporter covering the State House. One of the few left.

Aaron Renn – Indiana native now working at the conservative Manhattan Institute. An urbanist covering issues related to city growth and economies.

Doug Masson – Lafayette attorney covering Indiana’s politics for about a decade.

Alex Griswold – Media reporter at Mediaite.

Matt Welch – Co-author of the Declaration of Independents.

HHR – The urban conservative blog.

Matt Taibbi – excellent writer and journalist (left-leaning) for Rolling Stone. Also a regular on Real Time With Bill Maher.

Windsor Mann – Writer and editor of The Quotable Hitchens.

David French – Senior Fellow at the conservative National Review Institute.

The Justin Harter Voter Guide to 2016

In case you were wondering who I’m voting for this year, I share my ballot choices here and the reasoning behind them. It forces me to think about my own choices by writing them down. I’ll try to do this in as short and succinct way as I can. Obviously, your ballot choices outside of eastern Marion County will differ.

Public Questions

Amending Indiana’s Constitution to grant the right to hunt, fish, and farm

I voted no. I don’t favor meddling with constitutions and we’ve nearly had 3 measures in recent memory. First among them was the property tax caps, second was barely but not quite a measure to define marriage, and now this. Like I wrote on Facebook, this is a solution in search of a problem for average Hoosiers. Hoosiers haven’t been denied the ability to hunt or fish or farm and likely won’t ever be. What this does do, however, is make it easy for this legislation’s sponsors to run with constitutional authority to build large industrial farming operations. It’s unlikely to impact me in Indianapolis, but if I lived elsewhere and some large CAFO popped up and cratered my property values, I’d be pissed. I’m voting for homeowners, home rule, and local control on this one.

The Marion County Transit Plan – a .25 increase in the income tax

I voted yes. I’m not for or against taxes on principle. I want my taxes to go to things I can at least see and use. In the funding funnel of expensive federal taxes, cheaper state taxes, and even cheaper local taxes, I wish this were inverted. There’s so much confusion about this question in particular and there’s a lot to digest with this.

For one, IndyGo’s banking on this in order to fund the operation of the Red Line rapid transit system. The construction is paid for and likely a done deal. But working within the confines of Washington’s ridiculous funding games, IndyGo has to build the system and worry about funding it later. If this fails, who knows where the money comes from in 2018. But more importantly, I see transportation funding a general win for everyone. If you don’t take the bus, fine. You get to enjoy fewer cars on the road. Neat! If you do, you can get places quicker. Our current system is a tax on people either way. Currently we tax time. We tax people’s time to drive, sit in rush hour traffic, and get to work. I’ll never vote against a measure that helps people get to work – rich or poor.

Elected Offices

President

I’ve written about this before, but I felt pretty okay with my vote for Gary Johnson. Hillary will make for a solid President. Whether she’ll be great, who knows. But in my worldview, the federal government is becoming larger than it can reasonably good at. I’m in favor of local taxation and local control. And, as a matter of health for the country, having more than “two” political parties is a good thing. My two biggest issues with Hillary: I don’t like the idea of the White House passing through families. My first memory of the presidency is of Bill Clinton. Then George W. Bush. I voted against Clinton and for Obama for this reason in 2008 and I still feel the same way.

US Representative, Indiana’s 7th District

Andre Carson vs. perennial runner-up Cat Ping and Libertarian Drew Thompson. I voted for Drew Thompson. I’ve met Drew and he struck me as well-informed, like-minded, and thoughtful. He actually introduced himself to me at an artist’s open house and we chatted for a good 20 minutes. Andre Carson will win because of his family’s name and while I don’t have a problem with him, I believe all elected office holders should have term limits. Carson is past his.

US Senate

It’s Bayh v. Young v. Brenton. This is hard. Really hard. It’s likely a two-way race between Evan Bayh and Todd Young. I voted for Evan Bayh. Which was really hard to do. But I’m not convinced Todd Young knows a dumpster fire when he sees one. He’s moved closer to Trump despite…everything. And I’m unconvinced he’s secular enough or an advocate for personal liberty for gays and lesbians. Therefore, this was my true “lesser of two evils” vote. Bayh violates my term limit rule, but I know what I’m getting with him and if I squint he’s at least been out of the Senate for a couple terms. I expect this race to be very close and thus, I voted for Bayh to ensure a vote against Young where it would presumably count the most.

Governor of Indiana

Anything tied to Mike Pence is to be shunned. Eric Holcomb is too close to Pence. He’s too religious and unlikely to move the ball forward in a progressive Republican way (like Mitch Daniels). Therefore, I’m picking John Gregg.

Ind. Supt. Of Public Instruction

Seeing as how Mike Pence dismantled much of Glenda Ritz’ authority to do anything, it’s hard to say what kind of person she really is. But I’m generally in favor of more school choices, more charters, and more competition. Therefore, I voted for Jennifer McCormick.

Ind. State Senator, Dist. 32

Aaron Freeman strikes me as a loathsome, super-conservative, religious, Pencey toad. I voted for Sara Wiley as a vote against Freeman that would presumably count a little more. Freeman is currently an Indianapolis City Councilor. The kind of dummy who asks questions he knows the answers to just to be spiteful and dickish. He sneaked in on slating for this Senate seat by one last-second vote. The seat is being vacated by 412-term Senator Pat Miller.

State Rep., Dist. 89

A vote for Cindy Kirchoffer is a vote you can feel good about. I’ve met Cindy on a few occasions and have helped knock on some doors for her. If you like sanity in your representatives, you should vote for Cindy. Here’s a fiscally smart woman who bucks her Republican party, presumably despite her own faith, in matters of women’s rights, abortion access, marriage rights, local control, and local planning.

Attorney General

Honestly, this race was so low-key I barely knew it was happening. Attorney General is important because they’re the ones that decides what to waste taxpayer money on “defending”. Judge Arredondo is running from Lake County against Curtis Hill. I don’t know much about either and encourage you to do your own research. But I do know of Judge Arredondo from years ago and found him to be a good fit for Lake County. I voted for Hill.

Judicial Retention

Speaking of judges, two Court of Appeals Judges are up for retention. I voted in favor of retention for Judges Riley and Kirsch.

Indianapolis landscapers should be considered hellscapers.

The funny thing about Indianapolis is how you can bump into people in ways like you might think of in a small town. I guess it’s not impossible a person in Chicago or New York might randomly see someone around town in the course of a day’s errands. But I think it happens more here.

To give you an example I met a guy for coffee one afternoon. I can’t even remember where or why I extended the invitation, but it was probably Facebook. After seeing this guy’s name in a few circles about some website work I figured it was worth a chat. I make it my business to know people in my business.

We meet for bad coffee and service at Mo Joe’s and we talk about the usual niceties. He’s from El Paso, Texas. Works for a local shop that makes websites for high end service groups. In both cases he’s simultaneously more southern and more webby than me. Which is annoying.

Before we go he mentions his boyfriend was at the table right behind me the whole time. Not coincidentally, of course, but we took a few moments to talk about his work. Turns out he’s interested in freelance architecture design that’s more approachable and affordable for average people.

We part ways and a few weeks later my ash tree in the front lawn dies. Those two facts aren’t related, but I also have no proof they aren’t.

And in the funny way Indianapolis ticks, I saw these two guys a couple more times. Once on my bike on the way home. Then again twice in one weekend at two distinctly different places miles apart from each other.

The whole time my ash tree continued its slow death slide into being a literal stick in the ground.

In pursuit of finding a guy to cut down and replace the tree I discovered that the people who cut down trees aren’t the people who put them in the ground. Those seem like obvious lateral business moves to me, but I’m not a lumberjack or a landscaper.

After finding a bunch of quotes from landscapers and tree removers in the range of $500-$1000, these were all far higher than I valued such a service. So applying a process I call “encouraging people to do it for less”, I managed to get a guy to do it for $375. Henson’s Landscaping did a fine job of chopping down the tree and grinding out the stump. I just wish I could have gotten them to give me ideas on the “landscaping” part of their name. But they never returned my call. Like about a dozen other places in town. It was starting to become a vast hellscape of broken promises. I wasn’t indicating anything other than “I have a house. I’d like some landscaping.”

So I turn to calling all kinds of places for quotes on landscaping. All the ones that showed up in trucks with logos on them were immediately out of the running. Too pricey with too much overhead. I know how much guys like me cost, and someone has to pay that logo designer.

And in step with Indianapolis’ modus operandi, these two guys I met for coffee popped in my head. “I bet they know people who know things about trees.”

Turns out they know things about trees. Joey Ponce and Brian Burtch, both operating under the banner of “City in Green” came out to the house and gave me 100% more than at least a dozen other places around here would: in that they actually came to the house and gave me a quote. No other landscaper seemed to bother giving me the quote or showing up when scheduled. Brian’s a licensed architect with his firm NEON Architecture, so the quote even had schematics of my house and property lot. Which was both helpful and creepy.

I like hiring people who operate at small scale. They care more and are way more affordable, but are the hardest to find. I got lucky bumping into these guys.

Brian and Joey gave me an estimate, they stuck to it, and we were able to split things into phases to meet the seasons and my budget. This weekend they came out and replaced the death hole in my front lawn with three new trees. A red maple, dogwood, and eastern redbud. They’ll grow quickly, look good, and they’re not ash trees, so they stand a solid chance of not being eaten alive by supper.

City in Green's first project

Next spring we’ll throw down phase two: a mulch bed off the front of the house with native grasses and plants. And by “we” I mean them while I stand around remembering how much I don’t like to be dirty and Jeremiah makes dinner.

As it turns out this was their first landscaping project. You should be their second. Because this is how Indianapolis works and and stays looking nice.