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Saturday, March 6, 2021

New Year. New decade. Same problems.

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After being defeated with their reform efforts in the legislature and despite the overwhelming opposition to their schemes by our Black community, those who favor government reorganization, especially the elimination of township government, did nothing during 2009 to try and either educate or lobby our African-American community with positive reasons as to why township governments should be abolished.

So, now the forces that would deny Black folks the right to elect the government and leaders of their choosing are back. Armed with their torches and pitchforks to impale township government on alleged sins of fiscal irresponsibility.

All last year, whenever examples of fiscal shenanigans were levied against township government, the examples provided were abuses in rural townships. The township haters rarely levied fiscal sins against Indiana’s biggest townships, especially here in Marion County, which contains six of the state’s 10 largest townships.

So, the Philistines opposition to township government have begun their battle in the halls of the Statehouse again. Again, they’re backed by the myopic editorial writers of Indianapolis’ daily newspaper, the city’s rightwing talkshow hosts and Republican political operatives angry that eight years ago, fueled by a growing Black vote, Republicans began losing their decades-long stranglehold on township government.

The anti-township forces want to deny our community the right to elect the government of our choice by abolishing township boards.

Township boards are the boards that govern township policy. Here in Marion County, because of a lawsuit 20 years ago, by Blacks, which charged the boards with racial gerrymandering, township board members are elected from small districts, representing neighborhoods and communities of interest. (Hear that Todd Rokita)!

Township board districts are far smaller and more representative and grassroots than legislative or City-County Council districts.

So, why do the forces trying to carpet-bomb township governments try to eliminate these boards? There are no good reasons, just because they can.

If they get their way, scores of Blacks, elected by their neighborhoods and our community, would lose their positions. Again, for no good reason.

Meanwhile, the drive to eviscerate township trustees has also returned. But instead of being spearheaded by Republicans, a renegade Democratic state legislator from Marion County, one elected on the backs of Black folks’ votes, is leading the charge.

This renegade representative released a press release Monday saying he wants to turn the power of township trustees over to a county’s top executive. In Marion County, that would be the mayor.

The misguided Democrat also said he wants to create an elected “countywide advocate for the poor.” And in an even more bizarre proposal, this leave of his senses legislator wants to convert the tax dollars township trustees now use for emergency poor relief into “ways to reduce poverty levels across Indiana, including financing teaching and academic research in those areas.”

Instead of meeting Hoosiers’ emergency needs, or helping find jobs for those in poverty, this renegade representative would spend it on high paid professors and consultants!

This bizarre, absurd scheme from a turncoat Democrat from a 26 percent Black district needs to be scuttled – now!

Speaking of schemes, Mayor Greg Ballard is working on one to combine the company that provides fresh water with the company handling sewer treatment.

Several companies have filed proposals with the city to buy the Indianapolis Water Company and the Indianapolis Wastewater Treatment system and create one big utility.

Ballard and the city would get hundreds of millions in cash they say they’d use to fix streets, sidewalks and other public infrastructure needs.

But what would citizens and taxpayers get in the deal?

Obviously, based on the track record since the city bought the water company, rates have gone through the roof, while service has deteriorated.

Even though Veolia Water, which manages the water company, has an African-American, my friend David Gaddis running it, (the highest ranking Black utility executive in Indy), water bills are increasing, in percentage terms, higher than the gas company.

And at least gas rates are down this winter. Which you can’t say for the water company.

And let’s discuss the water company’s odious practice of estimating bills; shocking customers with unforeseen monthly hikes. Followed by suddenly lower bills when the meter is actually “read” months later to find the estimates were way off base.

Having to pay skyrocketing water and sewer rates, with estimated bills, so the city gets cash to fix infrastructure, is nothing more than a hidden tax increase for Indianapolis residents.

And I thought the mayor was against tax increases.

This year expect a major push about what form mass transit should take in Indianapolis. Our city and region has the dubious distinction of having the lowest use of mass transit and the worst mass transit system of any major city or metropolitan area in America.

Indianapolis’ dysfunctional mass transit system, which mainly consists of IndyGo buses and extremely expensive deregulated taxis, has been that way for decades. It’s ingrained in this city that you don’t use mass transit; that you must have a car, no matter how raggedy or vintage, to get to work, shop, school or play.

However, those who use mass transit tend to be Blacker, and poorer than the city and region as a whole.

The coming debate and discussion over mass transit will be critical. And our African-American community must be engaged in it.

Usually debates over mass transit revolve around building a commuter train or trolley (“light rail”) from the affluent northern suburbs to downtown. Every one of those schemes has involved plenty of stations/stops in affluent neighborhoods and few stops in Black, poor or working class neighborhoods.

Yet, there’s been no real discussion about blowing up IndyGo’s route system, which is still based on where people lived in Indianapolis in 1950 and create a true bus system that takes people to where the jobs and shopping really are today.

Indianapolis needs a coherent mass transit system. One funded by the people of the region, not just those in the city or county.

But, our African-American community, whether you ride the bus now or not, needs to be engaged in the discussion, loudly and actively, once it begins.

See ‘ya next week!

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