by Abdul-Hakim Shabazz
It’s a been a while since I’ve had the chance to sit down and talk with incumbent Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett.
Between the Indiana General Assembly, practicing law, teaching and helping a Chicago radio station with its coverage of the recent Chicago Mayoral primary, my schedule has been pretty full, so I haven’t had the chance to chat with Hogsett at either his various news conferences or other events.
That changed on Wednesday when I cleared my schedule so I could attend one the Mayor’s regular morning briefings with the Indianapolis news media.
The Mayor was under the weather due to fighting a flu bug, but he stuck it out and answered all our questions.
We talked crime, potholes and homelessness; three of the big issues facing the city right now.
My big takeaway is that while the city is making progress in those areas, I think city officials would agree with me that there is room for improvement; especially when it comes to explaining to the public why things are they way they are.
For examples, when it comes to potholes, the Department of Public Works has literally filled thousands of them, 85,000 of them since the first of the year and 65,000 since February.
But if you don’t feel like you may have noticed that in your neighborhood, that’s because the city’s priority is main streets and thoroughfares and residential streets come later. Also, if you live in a place that has a homeowners’ association, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s not the city’s job to fix your street, it’s your HOA. Sorry, but that’s how it is and someone should have told you. And individuals who take matters into their own hands to repair potholes run the risk of getting in trouble with the city.
In the crime universe, overall crime is actually down, at least when it comes to robberies and burglaries, by about 12 percent. However, when it comes to the city’s murder rate, we are pretty much on par with last year which was another record year. And since the administration ran on public safety, they get the blame as much as they would get the credit. What I wonder is that this city spends millions on crime prevention and has employed “peacekeepers” to help stem violence in neighborhoods, but I have to wonder how effective those efforts are if our murder rate doesn’t change.
With respect to the homeless and panhandlers issue, IMPD has done a really good job stepping up patrols on Monument Circle and working with downtown merchants, but once again, thousands of dollars have been to tackle homelessness and at the end of the day, it doesn’t seem to move much of a needle, which makes me wonder how effective these efforts are in the long run. I am skeptically optimistic about the new efforts to hire panhandlers to clean up downtown. I am all for putting these guys and gals to productive use, but I wonder about paying people to clean the mess that they are partially responsible for. However, I do have faith in Deputy Mayor Jeff Bennett to do his best effort to make this program work.
So what was my big takeaway from my most recent encounter, the city is doing okay, but it could be doing a lot better. I’ll be looking forward to my next sit down with his honor to see how things are going; hopefully, they will have improved.
Abdul-Hakim Shabazz is an attorney and the editor and publisher of IndyPolitics.Org. His opinions are his own, but you are free to adopt them as yours.