Public Safety is the most important issue facing our city right now, and the City-County Council has a vital role to play in creating a safer Indianapolis. This is why we cannot delay a public vetting on the administration’s proposal for a modern, safe and efficient Justice Center, and more importantly, we cannot allow political bickering on fringe issues to take the place of a genuine discussion on the merits of the project.
Indianapolis needs a new Justice Center – one that allows the Sheriff to focus resources on keeping criminals off of our neighborhood streets; one that allows tax dollars to fund programming rather than deferred maintenance costs on crumbling facilities; one that allows staff, judges and jurors to safely carry out their duties.
The need for a consolidated justice facility is not new. This issue has been studied in a bi-partisan, public manner for more than three decades. Nearly 13 years ago, the Indianapolis Star’sEditorial Board said it best, “It’s time for all agencies involved in the criminal justice system to start discussing a long-term solution.”
The Mayor, Sheriff and judges have proposed a solution to this lingering problem, and it is our job as the legislative body to give the proposal a fair review in the public light. Discourse and debate are healthy parts of the process. They refine our approach, and usually, through compromise, we create a stronger product in the end. But we have to be honest about facts along the way.
Claims by some councilors that the proposal has been sprung upon us, with a vote being forced in a matter of months are simply not true. By the time this proposal is heard in committee,more than 70 Council briefings will have taken place, with many additional opportunities to hear and discuss the project during public meetings.
The Council has been involved in the process since Fall, 2013. Both caucuses have formed individual task forces to meet with the administration to understand the concept, the financing, the delivery model, and the department savings. The Council CFO was even on the committee that selected the winning bid. To claim that the Council has not been involved in the process is disingenuous.
Claims that this project should be put on hold until the next administration takes office amount to nothing more than unnecessary delay. Councilors, the Mayor, the Sheriff, judges and every other office older have a duty to act in the best interest of taxpayers from the first day in office until the last. We can’t allow our justice system to languish in an inadequate state for another 30 years until election cycles perfectly align. A long-awaited comprehensive solution is now staring us in the face, and it is incumbent upon us to act.
So let’s have the debate, but let’s have it now. Let’s tear into the deal and ask tough questions about anything and everything we don’t understand – something most councilors have been doing all along. Let’s argue about the best way to appropriate the tax dollars this deal will save. But let’s not delay for the sake of political gain.
Our city continues to boom, gaining international recognition for so many exciting projects. Development abounds from 360 Market, to Cummins, to the Transit Center and many more. We cannot shut down all progress in our city just because we have an election on the horizon. To do so would mean turning our backs on our citizens who expect us to make the tough decisionsand work diligently to keep Indianapolis on the right path.
The administration has put forth a proposal that they project willallow us to build a modern Justice Center at no new cost to the taxpayer. It is the Council’s job to vet and vote on such a project. It is our job to make these decisions in the public sphere, and punting to future lawmakers is abdicating our duties as elected officials.
Indianapolis City-County Councillor Jefferson Shreve, District 23
Indianapolis City-County Councillor Jeff Miller, District 19
Indianapolis City-County Councillor Will Gooden, District 3
Indianapolis City-County Councillor Jack Sandlin, District 24