“The [Indianapolis] Department of Metropolitan Development (DMD) envisions Indianapolis as a growing, vibrant, and beautiful city where people are [sic] businesses thrive in an inclusive, world-class community.”

That’s about all one can learn about DMD from its obtuse website. I doubt Bob Kennedy would have written such empty words. He certainly would laugh at the Freudian slip where DMD says “people are businesses.”

Bob is a former Director of DMD, an active, questioning voice on the Development Commission, and, during his long career, the architect for the city/county public library. His style is direct and material. Fluff and bluff have no place in his approach to urban development.

If I have read Bob correctly, each project is an entity unto itself. Simultaneously, each project is a component of a community, the aggregation of projects over time. “Vision” and “identity” are important place markers, but inherently transitory concepts. Places evolve; respect for the past guides, but does not inhibit, the present.

As Bob Kennedy turns 90, he continues to enjoy the values of urban life, the convenience of the city, and the diversity of experience and people available daily. No one I know has taken his place within the city’s power structure advocating for improving Indianapolis.

There are still good people attempting to constrain the eternal Hoosier forces of self-interest. Preservation scholar James Glass provides support for those who aspire to protect our built past. On the battle lines opposing contemplated debasement of our natural resources are Clarke Kahlo, a freelance Indianapolis citizen and Jeff Stant, leader the statewide Indiana Forest Alliance.

Clarke reminds bureaucrats that “… there are often issues which have community-wide implications which warrant wider public scrutiny than by just the immediate residents and sometimes even by the paid city planners who are supposed to also consider the broad public interest.”

Once employed at DMD, today Clarke seeks to inform and help people in Central Indiana participate in the plans hatched by local officials and private investors to encroach on sensitive natural areas. Clarke knows how frequently public and private organizations are blind to the present and future value of protecting both large and small environmental assets.

Finally, speaking of present and future assets, let’s recognize the immense value of children and those who invest in them.

Once a woman has freely made her own decision to give birth to or adopt a child, she begins the long-term, difficult journey of motherhood. She faces far more significant challenges than any encountered by Wall Street “risk-takers.”.

Her challenges involve our future. Her successes and disappointments begin early in the process, and impact our lives in unforeseeable ways. She deserves our support and appreciation. She, as much as any veteran, deserves to hear, “Thanks for your service.”
Morton J. Marcus is an economist formerly with the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. His column appears in Indiana newspapers, and his views can be followed his podcast.

© 2022 Morton J. Marcus

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