Not Just Wishful Thinking? A Quick Look at Plan 2020’s Bicentennial Plan

Do you ever look around your city and think, “I wish that we had…”? If I wrote down a list of all the things I wanted to change or add to my city, it would fill up a couple of pages easily. Now imagine if you compiled the wish list of more than 100 leaders representing different interests and lifestyles from around a city. What would that look like? How long would that list be?

As it turns out, Plan 2020 did just that for Indianapolis, and the result is their 20-page Bicentennial Agenda (among a slew of other, more technical documents). If you’re feeling Leslie Knope-ish, the agenda makes for interesting reading. If not, you’re in luck because not only did I read the whole plan and drop in on their briefing tonight, I also summed up the highlights for you below in well under a single page:

“Everything in the Bicentennial Plan will have a partner who’s agreed to implement it.”

Brooke Thomas of the Plan 2020 Leadership team, speaking at the Agenda briefing tonight, stressed that the Bicentennial Agenda isn’t a mere wish list, but that it will soon enter a stage where the visions laid out in the text will be assigned to already existing community organizations and entities that will see the goals through to completion.

Of course, it remains to be seen if there is an existing group up to each one of the tasks in the plan; or if the future partners will see their tasks through to completion. Reading the Agenda, I kept thinking, “These are great ideas, but how? Who? Will it really happen?” But with the extensive lineup of groups that invested their time and energy into creating the plan (from the United Way of Central Indiana to the Mayor’s Office to WISH-TV to countless nonprofits and businesses) it seems like the kind of promise you can put your faith in.

Not a reinvention of the wheel

Another point that they went back to time and again tonight was that nothing in their Bicentennial Agenda is starting from scratch. The ideas in the plan build on city history reaching back to the early 1900s and the height of our transportation system. They also take into account more recent ideas like Unigov, and why we can’t just repeat that strategy. With an eye to the future, Plan 2020 doesn’t disregard the past–or the work that’s already being done by existing groups in the city. Speaking with Brooke Thomas after the program, she explained further that the Agenda aims to align different efforts everywhere in the city to a common vision and direction.

They actually want to know what you think.

Plan 2020’s Bicentennial Agenda lays out a big picture plan for Indianapolis in the next five years. Since they’re still in the planning stage, they are actively seeking the public’s input in a variety of ways.

If you live in Indianapolis, take a few minutes to visit Plan 2020 on Twitter or Facebook and add your dream to the wish list. For those of you who live elsewhere, what’s on your wish list for your city? What kinds of plans is your city making for the coming years?

This post was originally written on Emily’s blog.

Comments 4

  • I guess I’m still confused why Unigov is routinely touted as a panacea, much less something we should even consider repeating. All it did was create an unbalancing between the city and the rural parts of Marion County.

    You get the rural parts pining for “pipes and paving” while the urban sections get to pay for those high per capita costs. You get the urban parts stuck with less progressive agendas thanks to the conservative rural areas (hello four lane one ways for the commuters).

    Not to mention we are about 40 years in to the experiment which is like trying predict the height of a toddler.

    • Yes, to clarify, the Agenda wasn’t promoting the idea that UniGov should or could be repeated. They were referencing what Puptown describes, and go on to explain that due to changing housing and living preferences “Our challenge is now reversed, with a compact downtown area increasingly needed to carry an
      expansive part of the city.”

      • Ah, ok. And I didn’t mean to imply you (or they) were touting Unigov as a panacea, but in general, the tone of most of the Indy leadership, past and present, tend to gush over Unigov.

        Specifically, there was a panel with the mayors of Columbus and Nashville as well as former Mayor Hudnut, and Hudnut kept referring to Unigov in a sacred cow sort of way. Of course it was a different time back then and maybe drastic measures needed to be taken to keep things solvent, but at some point, it needs to be pointed out that it was a temporary fix.

  • Unigov mortgaged the townships to save downtown by grabbing an expanding tax base. American public finance only works by borrowing revenue from new development that costs nothing to serve to pay for old development that needs everything replaced, because taxes are rarely high enough for development to cover its costs. That was the hidden genius of Unigov. The price we pay is what you describe.

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