Announcing new area meetup called Strong Indianapolis


I am very excited to officially announce a new area meetup called Strong Indianapolis that seeks to empower a local community of like-minded individuals who care about Indianapolis and want to see it flourish. We seek to continually make sure that Indianapolis is a livable, sustainable and desirable city for all people who live or just visit. What exactly does that mean? Let me give you some history about it and myself that might help explain things.

I’ve lived in Indianapolis for over ten years, first having moved here from Milwaukee to attend college at Butler University. Due to my career and various friends I’ve made along the way, I decided to make Indy my home instead of choosing another city. I’ve always liked Indy even from the very first moment I saw it when touring Butler. It has had and continues to have a lot going for it with many opportunities to become even better. I’m a software/hardware engineer by degree and through my career choice I’ve honed my eye for noticing details and wanting to help fix/improve upon things all around me. I can’t help but notice so many different ways in which I’d love to see Indy be improved upon.

Fast-forward to about three years ago when I first discovered a non-profit organization called Strong Towns. Almost immediately I knew that I’d found something that deeply resonated with what I consciously and even more subconsciously thought and felt towards Indy as well as the many questions I had about it. They are questions such as why does Indy struggle to have adequate funding to do even some of the basics like sidewalks in all the places they make sense, or more effective public transit, or even why we struggle with basic storm water drainage and street potholes? Why does it have these financial struggles even though nearly 900,000 people directly living within the Indianapolis borders? Shouldn’t there be enough sustaining tax revenue to pay for these things, and if not, why not? Strongs Towns has given me a framework of words and ways of thinking to identify the issues in Indy as well as what Indy does really well such as having a compact downtown that’s highly walkable and bikeable while being quite affordable.


No longer will I sit on the sideline complaining or only asking questions. I want to do something to help Indy incrementally improve to become more human-centric and less car-centric, further evolve a strong sense of local culture and place that will be a national draw for people to both live and visit Indy, and further create a culture of sustainability in every sense of the word (quality urban infill and less sprawl, affordability in the midst of economic growth, environmental consciousness, public and private financial stewardship and wisdom, etc).

This meetup seeks to explore these ideas and create a strong local community that is passionate about figuring out ways to instill and implement these core principles all across our great city. It will also be a place to come and hang out for a social night at a local pub and geek out over all things urban. I hope it will be and remain a very open and inviting community of people from a diverse set of backgrounds.

The inaugural meetup will be Thursday, May 12th at Tomlinson Tap Room. Join us there and grab a beer and come with your own ideas for what you’d like to see this group become. I look forward to meeting everyone.

You may find more details as well as the page to sign up here:

Comments 34

  • I will give you one possible reason why Indianapolis fails to have the revenue to invest and make our city better. It has to do with property tax assessments, which by law are to be based on “fair market” valuations. There is no more accurate or justifiable way to determine those values than by looking at what ready, willing, and able homebuyers have actually have paid for their homes. Yet, the tax assessor’s valuations are typically less (often substantially so) than the paid price. It makes no sense, and no one seems to notice or care.

    • Or more in other cases. Hurts the poor helps the wealthy. My house cost 5k, but the tax is a little high considering. Other more impoverished neighborhoods have far higher taxes. Some in the 900 block of rural or brightwood martindale have extremely high taxes and the city probably wonders why those areas haven’t rebound yet. The curry is also extremely inefficient in how it deals wuth the thousands of abandoned properties it manages. Costing taxpayers more and making nothing for the city. But all that is off topic. Other posiblemente with indy are the people that live here…probably the biggest obstacle.

      • tyler — Out of curiosity, what part of Martindale-Brightwood has extremely high taxes? I just randomly surveyed the area with MapIndy and found assessments are pretty consistently around $20-40k. Current real estate listings for the area closely mirror those assessments.

        In fact, the vacant lot problem in the area may be caused by the exact opposite problem: taxes too low. I noticed that land is assessed at practically zero — most lots appeared to be around $2,600-3,900.

        Not that there aren’t other dis-incentives to investment in the area, but it doesn’t help when investors can bank land with essentially zero pain.

    • Another reason for lack of investment is the apparent disconnect between the assessor’s office and the Department of Code Enforcement. Since Indy Rezone was launched, DCE staff have been pushing a new public identity for themselves, saying they really aren’t about enforcement but about compliance. However, efforts toward compliance begin with enforcement of the code, and the code requires permits for any improvements deemed to be permanent. Many homeowners try to get by without those improvement location permits (ILPs), and DCE looks the other way because they (like all of us) want to encourage people to improve their properties. But property improvements increase tax revenue only if those improvements are known to the assessor. When homeowners make improvements without permits, there’s no record of them for tax assessment purposes. Even when homeowners do obtain permits, there seems to be no timely mechanism for getting that data to the assessor’s office so that assessed values can be adjusted as the improvements are completed. Tracking improvements and sharing them with the assessor is the obvious, easy way to keep accurately assessed values up to date, and thereby drive revenue for public infrastructure, safety, etc. But DCE must commit to code enforcement in order to make that work.

  • That’s an interesting observation and it is probably a result of the low taxes mentality that most Hoosiers (regardless of whether they live in Indianapolis or not) possess. I work in municipal government, not directly with assessing values, but I deal with property taxes on a daily basis. I often hear the opposite complaint, that the assessed values are far too high. People in Indiana are very sensitive about taxes and user fees. The property tax revolt under Peterson and the recent outrage over the increase is storm water rates are such examples.

    • I agree with that, but I think that’s because the area hasn’t had much to truly be passionate about. Why pay a lot of taxes for a less than stellar product such as the crumbling infrastructure around the city? If we weren’t so spread out, maybe then we could instead pay for quality instead of quantity and people would be willing to keep paying for that quality. It’s like anything, you feel an affinity towards anything that adds to your well being and that which you have an emotional connection to. If people do not feel that connection, then why would they want to spend their hard-earned money on it in public or private means? I don’t think they will want to do so. Indy is reinventing itself and is trying to establish a new culture that people will love. We need to all get on board and help with this effort. Just my $0.02

  • This is great! I’ll be out of town on May 12, but I definitely support the group and will make the next meet-up.

  • Sounds great. Given the myriad of other groups that are like-minded how do you envision collaborating or building alliances with them so that we don’t further splinter what often is already a pretty fractured community?

    • What other groups are you referring to exactly? I’m not aware of any other groups that have a similar mission in Indy.

      • “to empower a local community of like-minded individuals who care about Indianapolis and want to see it flourish.”

        This is a mission shared literally or in spirit by just about every neighborhood association, the Chamber of Commerce and CICF, placemaking groups like BigCar, and many other (types of) organizations.

        Love the idea of a new group, but we are a city that often fragments itself unnecessarily, splitting attention and fiscal resources. I just hope where it makes sense to do so, collaboration and outreach occurs with great intention.

        • Absolutely, I welcome collaboration and I know many other people will agree with me on that as well. However, you need to look more closely at the mission of this group. It’s the same mission as Strong Towns which literally is “WE ADVOCATE FOR A MODEL OF DEVELOPMENT THAT ALLOWS AMERICA’S CITIES, TOWNS AND NEIGHBORHOODS TO GROW FINANCIALLY STRONG AND RESILIENT.” (apologies for the all caps, that’s how it is from the Strong Towns site). This is also what separates Strong Towns from most other urban organizations and movements and it’s the main thing that is different for Strong Indianapolis. But to repeat, yes there is overlap and yes we’ll try and collaborate whenever possible because I agree with you that Indy will be stronger with successful collaboration instead of fragmentation.

  • Yes: DENSITY (or lack of in Indy’s case) is the main reason.

  • I don’t think I can make the first meet up, but you know I’ll be there in the future.

    Speaking directly about downtown, I’ll be at the meetup talking about nothing but converting one ways to two ways. It pains me everyday to see four 12 ft traffic lanes doing 50mph 6 ft from the front door of a business. Businesses along those streets only see traffic half the day.

    • Look forward to having you join us ahow628. As far as one ways – I feel the same pain as you. Every single one way street through downtown is always heavily underutilized. Many of these roads are wide enough to be interstate highways. I would argue that they were never needed but they certainly are not needed today. We can no longer design our streets to help ease peak congestion times for only one mode of transit anymore which is what these massive one ways are.

  • Priorities! Number one when you (The city continues to give MONEY to the COLTS and PACERS) we’ll always be in the hole!

    • While I agree that this is an issue (sports team welfare), I would say the primary issue is that Marion county is FAR too large of a land area with far too few people to pay for the expansive infrastructure that the city has installed since WWII. Like other cities in the U.S., this was done under the premise that growth would always cover the costs of maintenance of this infrastructure. Turns out they were VERY wrong [1].


  • Wish I could make it to the first one, but can’t on the 17th. Would love to join up later on.

  • I live in Westfield but am always keeping up on the latest developments in downtown. As an architectural designer, I believe I could bring something to the table, (Plus my gf works at one of the development firms downtown). Would love to make it to a meet one day!

    • Absolutely, hope you can make it as well! Maybe we can talk you into moving into the city! 🙂

      • For sure! I was looking at land down there to put a house on! 🙂

        • Awesome, there’s a lot of available lots to build a house on that has prime walkability still.

          • I’ve only been using zillow, any suggestions of another site that would be better? Thanks!

          • Honestly the best would be to park your car somewhere close to some destinations that you’d like to be and then start walking around. That’s the best way to find walkable places is to walk around. There’s many lots that have for sale signs on them on the near north and east sides of downtown, especially along College Ave and some along 10th St.

          • I will have to do that then, its always nice walking around down there! Thanks for the suggestion.

            (The thread ran out so I replied here)

  • Ballard studied this issue in 2014 – why do revenues not support the basic needs of the city? A breakdown is here:

    And from that foundational data – this strategic plan was developed.

    I’d highly encourage you to review before you meet. Lots of easily digestible data for folks who aren’t intimately familiar with the structure of municipal finance.

  • I’m not sure how “strong” Indianapolis is going to be by having third-rate narrow streets that slow car travel.

    North of 96th has become what everyone means when they say “Indianapolis.” There’s plenty of room to grow outside Marion County. It doesn’t look like Indianapolis proper is going to share in the metro growth.

    Indianapolis needs to get its road situation fixed.

  • Part of the issue with Marion Co./Indianapolis not having enough money is that the government is just bloated and wasteful. Decades ago there were township constables all over the state. The state wanted to streamline government and things like township courts and constable offices were consolidated on the county level. The place that got an exception: Indianapolis/Marion County. So now you have this bloated layer of local government that likely isn’t need. Haven’t some township governments come under fire for having very large holdings of cash and property in some cases?

    Next you have to look at the various consolidations of IPD/MCSD and IFD. The problem is that say when IFD took over a township fire department, were all the higher paid upper admin staff cut, or were they just given a similar paying position in the new department? MCSD lost all their merit patrol deputies to the new IMPD, but the staffing of MCSD barely took a hit, and it is said the department actively is trying to get deputies ILEA certification. Why? With consolidation shouldn’t the Marion Co. sheriff’s department focus on just running the jail and court security?

    Then we have issues of the TIF districts and questionable contract deals (parking meter, Broad Ripple parking garage, etc.)

    Indy is just too bloated. If the city/county government was much more streamlined as it should be, things might be better. As things get better, better people might actually choose to live in the city. As more good people move to the city, questionable township schools and IPS get a boost in ratings, which can help continue to bring in more families and such.

    Rents downtown aren’t helping either. A co-worker was paying $1,000 month in a newer building near Fountain Square. She was just notified rent for her one bedroom will increase to $1,200/month. Canal Square, a property that is at least twenty years old, states on their website a one-bedroom will run $1,000. All the newer places are now around $1,200/month. At last check, Lockefield Apartments had rates advertised at $700+ for a one-bedroom.

  • I’m glad someone finally mentioned TIF. That, along with continued tax breaks for developers, make it impossible to keep up.

  • when is The next Meeting anyone know?

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