"The posts in this blog are not the opinion of the MKNA Board, any given member of the MKNA Board, any employee of MKNA, or any volunteer from MKNA."

The City Beat


Posted 1:09 PM by

In a previous installment, I talked about crime, and police, but also a little about money.  If you remember,or can scroll back a little, Indianapolis, is looking at pretty flat tax collections, both for property and income taxes, for the foreseeable future.  Since inflation is a given, that likely means a higher and higher percentage of revenue is going to be spent on public safety, and correspondingly, less and less on everything else.  It’s also driving the instinct to privatize services, particularly for large up-front payments that can be used for non-public safety purposes.


The past couple of administrations have had similar thoughts on this problem, which is mostly that we need to boost government income in Marion County.  That, however, is a problem, since our highest income earners have tended to leave Indianapolis for the surrounding counties, leaving us with more people who require services, and less who pay for them.  The solution, for Indianapolis, and for almost every urban area in the country is the millennials, the 20 to 34 year olds who are assumed be the job creators of the future.  Indianapolis wants them to come here, see here, and settle here, and it’s building a city primarily to attract them.


Millennials don’t particularly like, or want, cars.  They’d prefer to walk, bike, or use public transportation.  They want smaller living spaces  (but nicer ones).  They prefer urban over suburban.  They expect their shopping, and their entertainment, to be close by.  They want jobs that are collaborative.  They prefer neighborhood businesses to the big box.


So, Indianapolis is perfectly happy to turn downtown into millennial  park.  It uses events  (sporting events, conventions, festivals, etc.) to get them to come see the City.  (Why do we fund the Pacers, Colts, race track, Natatorium, etc?  It gets people from elsewhere here, and it gets our image of Indianapolis on television.)  It uses tax dollars to fund apartments.   It’s going to, somehow, fund a public transportation system for them.  And, it’s all done to create the flypaper that will make some of them stick here, create jobs here, and pay taxes here.


OK, hooray for downtown, but what does that have to do with Midtown?  Well, millennials also like neighborhoods  -  walkable, bike-able neighborhoods with nearby shopping and entertainment and served by public transportation.    Simply, they like the Midtown that, thank goodness, was once serviced by the interurban and created a grid of small business nodes, almost all of which are within walking distance of our homes.   They mostly like our homes, because they were built on smaller lots. They’d prefer to have a lot more apartments, which are plentiful south of here, but those are areas that currently don’t have the other things millennials want.  Try finding a restaurant, or a grocery, or a hardware store between Maple Road and 16th St.


The City currently assists developers to do what they want done through TIF Districts.  Originally downtown was funded through tax credits, a mechanism wherein the Federal Government allowed the states to sell what amounted to tax payments to folks who owed taxes  (if they’d build low income housing) and the states doled out the proceeds to the cities.  Most of Mass. Ave was built that way.  That means of financing somewhat dried up as other mechanisms for tax avoidance appeared, so cities turned to TIF Districts, wherein the property taxes developers pay go to fund the next development, sometimes in part, sometimes in whole.  After some period of time, mostly 25 years from when the first bond in the district is issued, the property taxes come back to the City’s general fund, though downtown had been allowed to operate differently.


Whether that’s good, or bad, depends a lot on whether you believe things would get built the way the City wants them built anyway.    In other words, if you think everything that’s been built downtown would be there without the assistance of TIF money, than the City just wasted about 25 years of tax proceeds from what was built.  I’ll leave that to the reader, but would also note that the City was doing it under both Ballard and Peterson, and will be doing it under future administrations until a new development tool is invented.  Both administrations, and probably the next one, see it as a way to grow property taxes over time, since, in 25 years, the revenue from taxes that was going to pay off the bonds that helped build downtown will start flowing back to the City.


It’s possible to believe that only “friends”  (read “contributors’) to a given administration receive TIF funding for their projects, but it’s also pretty hard to find a developer who didn’t contribute something to both campaigns in a given municipal election, so “friendship” ends up as a fairly broad term.


Our job, as neighborhood associations, is to convince whatever administration that’s in place, that what we want for our area overlaps with what the City as a whole needs in that it will make people who will pay taxes want to live here, and people who are paying taxes want to stay here.  That, in turn, means paying attention to what current residents desire, but with an eye towards what the next generation of residents are going to want.  Demographics show that we’re headed in the right direction, since we’re already a young neighborhood, and getting still younger.  We have room for future development along College Ave,, along Maple Road, and along the Monon Trail, and all three areas are places that our heroes' the Millennial’s, are already finding attractive.


Neighborhood Associations, particularly collective groups of neighborhood associations, are uniquely suited to deal with local government, especially in our area, where government officials tend to live already.  It’s a perfect reason for you, especially our younger residents to get involved with MKNA.


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