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Tuesday, March 2, 2021

I’m Just Sayin’: You have two civic responsibilities

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We’ve got two civic responsibilities this year — vote and complete the census.  

Every 10 years the census does a count of the people of the United States. Everyone counts. It isn’t just because the government wants to know how many people are in the country.  

Key decisions are made by government, nonprofits and business. 

Governments use the data to create political districts including deciding how many congressional representatives we get in the House of Representatives.  

Depending on our population we can gain or lose a congressional representative depending on the count. We can also see political districts shift based on the composition of census tracts.  

Nonprofits, and governments rely on census data to develop and evaluate programs. The census is also used by businesses to determine where to move. Completing the census can mean jobs coming to a community.  

The important thing is everyone counts. The law doesn’t care if you are a returning citizen (for the record returning citizens can vote). It also doesn’t care if you are a “citizen.” 

If you are in the country — you count.  

Black Indianapolis has grown despite the many challenges we face.  

As we continue to grow, the decisions made by the census will be even more impactful to our community. It will be our population that is used to figure out how to draw district lines for federal, state and even local offices like school boards.  

We will also need the data for the battles ahead.  

Gerrymandering, or the drawing of districts with specific rationales that either help or hurt marginalized communities, is not only implicated in the census but is on the ballot.  

Whoever controls the Indiana General Assembly and the city-county council will determine political districts for legislators both at the state and locally — so our second civic responsibility is actually connected to the other in this way.  

We will need to vote.  

I’ve written about my understanding of the frustrations of some in our community who feel left out of the process. One sure way to stay left out is to not vote.  

To often our community has focused on voter registration instead of voter turnout and voter education. 

Several organizations have shifted their focus to voter turnout and voter education while others have continued the work of registration.  

With COVID-19 we face the additional challenge of voting while practicing personal distancing. This year more than any other voters will need a plan. Make your plan. Work your plan. 

But make sure your plan includes others.  

What I am hearing … 

Several organizations including the CAFÉ, Promise Prep, the ACLU and Count Me Indy are hosting a Family Block Party 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept 26th at CAFÉ, 8902 E. 38th St., to provide a place for online voter registration, census completion and giveaways. The event will have a food truck and music.  

Lots of activity happening in Pike Township.  

Apparently, an effort to move the Northwest IMPD police station out of Pike Township was strongly rebuffed by elected leaders and community residents. A lot of work occurred behind the scenes to make sure an equitable decision was reached. Rep. Cherrish Pryor and city-council President Vop Osili made some key moves that rectified the situation. Councilor Monroe Gray was involved as well. State Sen. J.D. Ford was conspicuously absent on this issue until very late.  

And why is one of the most diverse townships in Indiana without a satellite voting site? Pike Township will not have an early satellite voting site this election. Apparently, a Democrat controlled election board thought it was a good idea to not have an early voting site in the most diverse township in the state.    

Over three years ago Mayor Joe Hogsett committed to doing a community review of the Citizen’s Police Complaint Board. Over 1,100 days later the city is sending out a survey to the community to do a community review of the Citizen’s Police Complaint Board.  

There were some efforts passed by the city-county council to address community concerns with this board including a transparency portal to show the results of complaints as well as allowing for brief impact statements at hearings. When these kinds of reforms take so long to occur, it undermines the credibility of the reforms.   

I’ll also note that only 400 officers have body cameras and the summer is over.  

And we still don’t have a use-of-force board in operation right now.  

It is uncertain whether any of the ideas presented in the IMPD Office of Diversity and Inclusion have seen the light of day. We know the report exists, but it has not been released to the public.  

Credibility is on the clock.  

The still incomplete policing reforms in Indy are occurring within the backdrop of community anxiety surrounding a grand jury decision regarding the Breonna Taylor case in Louisville.  

See you next week … 

Marshawn Wolley is a lecturer, commentator, business owner and civic entrepreneur. Contact him at marshawnwolley@gmail.com

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