The Privatization of Indianapolis

The people who run our cities … think nothing has the right to exist unless it makes a profit, which makes their opinion worthless.  The people who truly deface our neighborhoods are the companies that scrawl giant slogans across buildings and buses trying to make us feel inadequate unless we buy their stuff. -Banksy, Wall and Piece, 2005

It is a common idea these days for politicians to speak of running a city like a company.  What a stupid idea.  Just when we abandon the failed idea of living in a machine, we unfortunately embrace the dystopian vision of a for-profit public realm.

Indianapolis has been privatizing public space for a long time now.  The parking issue is just the latest signal that our city leaders are willing to sell out the future of our city for a few coin now.  The civic leaders justify this by preaching the gospel of market efficiency, but conveniently forget that what we gain in efficiency we lose in equity, community, and harmony.

While some believe it is a foregone conclusion that government fails at every task, the real story is hardly that simple.  We all know that 90% of small businesses in the US fail within 5 years, but this doesn’t mean we should abolish private ventures, it only means that success is hard to achieve.  The same is true in the public world.

Our government is merely a reflection of our own abilities and values.  When a public effort fails it does not prove anything other than the people in that community did not have the skills, resources, or fortune to get it done.  Indianapolis has always been a community of visionaries and hard workers, and they built a great city for us.  There is no greater shame for a politician than to turn their back on this heritage and champion the sale of our public assets.

Comments 3

  • Privatization occurs in democratic cities like Chicago. It’s not only occuring here. I don’t think privatizing parking meters is bad, but they sure got less than they should’ve.

    Government is a four letter word in Indiana, and that’s a big reason why there are so few great communities (Bloomington and Columbus are all that come to mind).

    Eventually, Indy will run out of things to sell, and the streets and other infrastructure will crumble like it is in Michigan and other places.

  • It’s the end result of political paralyzation. Raising taxes is politically toxic. Cutting services is politically toxic. What do we do when we want to change or fix something? Sell it to the only bidder! The problem isn’t solved, but at least it’s not our problem anymore.

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