A Simple Solution to Stem Public Discontent

Twice over the past few days I’ve overheard discussions and complaints about how slow construction has been on the Cultural Trail in Fountain Square. In both cases, I interjected and explained that two of the main reasons for delays were the separate discoveries of buried historic rail lines and underground vaults. Both times I shared that information, the conversation quickly switched to how awesome it was that construction crews had discovered these artifacts of the city’s past. While there was still impatience over the Cultural Trail’s completion date being moved, these conversations were now centered around the infrastructure of the neighborhood’s past being linked to its future.

It’s clear to me now that these conversations hold a lesson for our city’s top brass: The truth will set you free.

As our community moves forward with infrastructure improvements that hold long-term benefits but cause short-term traffic headaches, communication is key. Even in today’s ultra-cynical, government-can’t-do-anything-right environment, citizens are going to be much less frustrated if they understand how a project is advancing or what it’s ultimate purpose is. I work close to Lafayette Road on the northwest side, and many of my coworkers have expressed confusion about why the street is being torn up. Once I tell them that a bike lane is being installed, most of them think highly of the project (although they still hate waiting for their turn to travel the currently one-lane road).

So what should the city do? To be fair, information regarding infrastructure projects is much easier to find on the web than just a few years ago. However, while plans and maps are posted, updates about progress are much more elusive. The solution could (and probably should) take multiple forms utilizing libraries, the web, and social media. The goal isn’t to reach everybody, but rather to put project updates out there so much that anyone searching for that information would trip over an abundance of facts.

The modern citizen wants to feel informed. The modern citizen wants to feel like they are their government’s client – government is working for them. To provide the client with updates on a project is an obvious priority in the business world, and it should be in the realm of public works as well.

Comments 6

  • Amen. DMD is very good at sharing information about pending zoning cases, plans, and staff reports. DPW should take a lesson.

  • The excuses I constantly hear about why construction takes forever in Indiana are IMO just lame. In Illinois, huge intergalactic projects get done in less time than some of these Cultural Trail segments. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone past Indiana construction sites and seen literally no workers. Super-70 from a couple years ago shows that you actually can plan and execute large scale, expensive, complex construction in a rapid fashion, even in Indiana. The contractors here ought to be issuing mea culpas, not excuses. The fact that Hoosiers are willing to put up with construction schedules like this is just another example of the generally very low expectations Indiana residents have around public services.

  • Good point Aaron. We (Urban Indy) sure haven’t been okay with this. Ive had meetings and basically talked people’s ears off with DPW & The Cultural Trail regarding the goings on. We are demanding better, we just aren’t getting better.

  • Well said. the Mayor shouldn’t ever hide the truth our great city deserves the truth and the best.

  • I’ve wondered how proactive the city was with Fountain Square in sharing any lessons learned about how the lengthy construction period on Mass Ave affected the businesses there, ones generally more established.

    And I wholeheartedly concur we should get more information. When all of the downtown repaving was going on in July, you could generally find info online. Now that significant number of streets have only one layer of asphalt and temporary striping, you’re just left to wonder if and when the next stage will be done.

  • Another thing that i think the citizens of Indy don’t notice as much unless your a victim of this. Unemployment: Currently Indy’s unemployment rate is 8% that needs to change. For example a few weeks ago CME Financial group based in Chicago expressed interest to move to another state to avoid the Illinois income tax increase on both personal and corporations. A major company like that moving to the Indianapolis area would cause an explosion in our economic recovery. First of all if they moved all their operations they would need to build a new skyscraper to hold the trading in our city. The Indianapolis Exchange building. 2nd a company like that employs thousands and also investors that visit CME group every day for business would bring more money to Indy’s economy. I am surprised Mitch Daniels or Greg Ballard haven’t done everything possible to get them to come here.

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