Dear Indiana lawmakers,
I hope that you are enjoying a brief respite from the short session and taking in what our fine capital city has to offer. The Super Bowl is here this week and our city is displaying the fruits of 40 years of effort to revitalize the city’s core, and indeed primary economic engine of our entire state. Thousands of people from the region and in fact the entire country, have descended on our city to work, play and spend money. It represents a coming of age for a town that was pretty sleepy when most of you were growing through your impressionable years.
I suppose that makes a lot of sense now when I look back at the last month of legislation and how it was handled. By that, I mean that highways in Indiana will keep their funding status quo and transit, will again be pushed off until later. Meanwhile, legislation for right to work was crammed through so fast, it had people’s heads spinning. Additionally, creationism was approved in the Senate as a viable subject of research in our schools further blurring the line between church and state.
One of the potentially biggest regional game changers was allowed to die on the vine; without much of a logical reason why. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are to blame for this. Namely, Jeff Espich, the Republican who offered HB1073 (Public Mass Transit) admittedly as a watch dog. Mr. Espich, I feel you never intended for this to pass and merely want your record to show you voted in favor of transit so you can tell people like me to stuff it.
Equally to blame is Democrat Bill Crawford who piped up in the last minutes when HB1073 was still alive and said he supported transit but not the RTW language. Guess what, there were plenty of us who thought it was bunk too, but apparently you didn’t get the message about keeping the bus moving forward. Your testimony effectively killed decades of momentum built to pass this legislation.
My offer from a couple weeks ago is still open. If you two would like to come over to my home and have dinner, Â my wife is an excellent cook. I can help mend fences and show you how city dwellers view transit and it’s need here in the capital city.
As it stands, locals are now waiting to see what happens. Some of us are holding out hope that there is still a chance to amend a bill this session authorizing a transit referendum. We haven’t given up and frankly, my advise is that you folks don’t either. As we argue over a local issue that has been planned locally, supported locally and would be funded locally, you stand back while billions are spent on road expansion. Highways that offer little to the low density populations they run through are being built. I speak of the I-69 extension, the Heartland Connector and the US31 expansion. What are they doing for the general Indiana taxpayer? Offering little to locals and their regions for a huge investment of money. That makes little financial sense to me and it should to you too.
Over the last few years I have spent a lot of time and money travelling to cities like Portland, Washington DC, Chicago and Charlotte attempting to educate myself on the issues. I have drug my family along and we have all grown richer in knowledge as we visit these places. The last census report showed that Portland, Seattle and Denver, cities have have embarked on massive rail investments, have enjoyed robust population growth. That means MONEY, JOBS, REGIONAL VITALITY, and INCREASED QUALITY OF LIFE for everyone. While we can agree transit wasn’t the primary motivator, it plays a large role; for those of us who understand quality mass transit, the link is clear.
In closing, I would ask that you all look in the mirror. For a group who has made their primary objective this session a piece of legislation that gives citizens a choice about their job, it sure seems pretty hypocritical to say that we do not get a choice about our mode of transportation. And don’t tell us to talk about it. That’s all we do here is talk about transit. It’s time to do something about it. The plan is sound, its economically feasible and people support it. Give us the opportunity to show you we can do it right here in the capital city without you holding our hands. Allow us to continue improving the capital city.