Fresh off of skewering Dan Burton, Julia Carson, and the communications director of the Democratic Party, the Star's Matthew Tully turns his sharp pen to Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson and his recent "State of the City" address.
Indianapolis is not supposed to be ungovernable. It should not look like pre-Giuliani New York City, a cesspool of crime and bad government. How did this happen?
The Mayor Welcomes You to Fantasyland
I want to live in Bart Peterson's Indianapolis.
It sounds like a wonderful place -- a world where things such as crime are "challenges" and perhaps even "opportunities."
I want to live in Peterson's Indianapolis because, judging by his State of the City address Tuesday, it's a fantasyland where the mayor can say, "It's kind of fun to look back at 2006."
You have to hope Peterson didn't write that line. You have to hope some starry-eyed aide slipped that one in. Because any mayor who finds joy in a year of massive crime and desperate for-sale signs seems to be whistling a happy tune during a mournful wake.
Of course, Peterson was giving a State of the City speech. So it's no surprise that he would paint a rosy picture of the city.
He talked of saving the planet in part by trying to "minimize waste," even though the city's recycling program barely exists. He talked of "building a modern public transportation system," without giving a clue of how the city could undertake such a task. Even when he talked about increased crime rates or problems in the schools, he called them national trends, as if that would make us feel better.
The speech was probably no worse than the usual State of the City address. The rule for such speeches is to highlight the good and downplay the bad. And when you talk about the bad, call it a "challenge" or, as Peterson did, an "opportunity."
I should have skipped Peterson's speech. There was probably no way he could have impressed me. I arrived in a really bad mood after reading all morning about the city's latest horrific crime.
Still, I expected more from the mayor on the day after a woman was abducted in broad daylight from a Downtown parking garage and raped.
Maybe I was hoping Peterson would crumple up his speech and turn into Rudy Giuliani, pushing aside his Boy Scout shtick to show he's as mad as the rest of us about everything from homicides to graffiti.
Instead, Peterson offered another carefully stage-managed, rah-rah event at which his staff, city workers and political friends applauded politely and frequently as he talked about the arts and the Colts.
This was Bart Peterson's Indianapolis, a place where a Super Bowl victory erases all of our other problems.
The crux of the mayor's speech came when he pledged to spend $5 million a year on crime-prevention programs. That's not a bad idea, but you have to worry about a mayor whose vision has been reduced to, "Let's spend more."
And it's hard to take Peterson's latest plan to fix the city too seriously, given his empty promise back in 2003 to address property taxes that had skyrocketed. Or his underwhelming plan to attack abandoned houses. Or the "war" on crime.
Halfway through his speech, Peterson talked about "the Indianapolis Way." That's when people "come together."
It sounded great.
But lately, the Indianapolis way seems to be for people to move out of the county.
I understand those who have done so. They wouldn't have had to if Indianapolis felt anything like the city Bart Peterson spoke about Tuesday.
I can remember, when younger, walking with my family from Union Station to Monument Circle to eat dinner. It was dark when we walked back, but the city was clean and the streets were safe.
Clearly, you couldn't do this sort of thing today in Bart Peterson's Indianapolis. People seem to get mugged all the time, even state senators.
A lady was attacked and raped in a downtown parking garage. When I was in high school (over a decade ago, admittedly), I attended a state convention held at the Hyatt downtown for a high school club. We parked in the garage under the building, and it was safe. Such places don't seem to be safe anymore.
Things seem to have spiraled downhill a lot since those days. Again, I ask, what happened? Who is to blame? What can be done?
Maybe Bart Peterson needs to read Rudy Giuliani's book, and perhaps the book that was Giuliani's blueprint in cleaning up New York City.
That might be some real material for a State of the City address, and the basis for a plan to set things right again.
Then again, Peterson might have to start out by cracking down on things like graffiti and pea shakes. It might be too much to ask the Mayor to tackle such huge challenges as those.