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Intent on Listening
















Today with our current political divide at the National level, it has never been more important to discuss ideas with our neighbors. Ideally, I wish to come together as Elected Officials and Citizens in Marion County and make the City more exceptional for everyone.


Meeting John


An opportunity for a meeting presented itself because of a Twitter / Facebook Post I had made about catch and release of criminals. John disagreed with me and responded with ideas to enhance the resolutions we can provide to curve the crime in Indianapolis. Instead of having a "Facebook Debate" with John, I asked him if he would meet with me to discuss his ideas. We set up a meeting for a conversation. I want to emphasize how painless it was to have a conversation with John, knowing that we both did not necessarily agree on the topic at hand. Neither of us we angry with each other, we both want to help. Honestly, I spent most of the time listening to John, asking him about his experiences and what he is seeing and hearing around the City.


John is a longtime Indianapolis Native, he has spent most of his time on the south side of Indianapolis. He is a college-educated man, owned businesses, and spent time in prison. After his "season" in prison, John decided to spend his life helping those who are in more need than he is. He is familiar with the political climate in Indianapolis, having learned much from Leaders dating back to Richard Lugar. John runs a homeless shelter, he hands out food daily to Indianapolis Hoosiers in need. He spends most of his time close to communities affected by rising levels of crime in Indianapolis. He is listening to them, it is my responsibility to listen to John.


My role as City Councilor is usually summarized into three bullets:

  • Make Appointments

  • Approve Budgets

  • Levy Taxes


The most important one not listed on paper, my most significant responsibility is to be a servant of the people. I was elected to listen, learn, and represent from and to the people of Indianapolis.


What does that mean?


It means It is healthy to disagree, it is unhealthy to make assumptions. Ideas can evolve with every new conversation you have, news article, academic study, or book you read. The experiences we have will shape our imagination to be visionaries and evolve Indianapolis into a model city. In fact, it may be fair to say it is unhealthy for ideas to remain stagnant. Time changes every second, why cant our ideas?


John and I talked a lot about crime and Homelessness. We have to be better at looking at solutions involving all stakeholders. We cannot keep inviting the same people to the table and expect different results. John made a valid point, we would be much more productive in our efforts to curb crime if we go to the individuals who are impacted by crime. John expressed we are still not learning from the past by failing to include everyone in the decision-making process.


Are we failing to reduce violent crime in Indianapolis because we are trying to fix the wrong thing?


Our conversation initiated because of a disagreement on how to handle criminals. Specifically, over the "catch and release" or "revolving door" methodology which refers to repeat offenders entering and exiting jail who eventually commit another crime and end right back up in jail. A suggested method would make it harder for this type of Criminal to get out of jail. Is that the best method? Is that a long term or short term solution to the problem? It sounds effective in the short term but does nothing to address the next set of individuals from committing violent crimes.


How can we address that crowd?


This next section is where I begin to have a lot of questions. John starts to express a lack of opportunity in employment, education, homeownership, access to affordable treatment for mental illness, alcoholism, and drug abuse. I don't disagree with John because I don't know what Indianapolis is doing or can do to help the community. John told me a story about the children he speaks to that love playing video games, they want to learn to make video games. They have a hard time making that a reality because of a lack of resources. He said to me, "we can cultivate businesses growth, why can't we help children grow?"


The follow up I have for this is to be the middle man I was elected to be. I intend to ask the Administration at the City-County; what is Indianapolis doing to address these things brought to my attention? Next, I plan on researching what other cities are doing that is working? What isn't working, What should we stop doing, What should we do more of?


Interactive chart of the Indianapolis, Indiana violent crime rate and statistics by year from 1999 to 2018. In the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, violent crime statistics are composed of four offenses: murder/homicide and nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Violent crimes are defined in the UCR Program as those offenses which involve force or threat of force. https://www.macrotrends.net/cities/us/in/indianapolis/crime-rate-statistics


Is there something we used to do that is effective?


These facts show Indianapolis had much less violent crimes in the early 2000s. What was different? Maybe its population growth? If you take a look at this link: http://worldpopulationreview.com/us-cities/indianapolis-population/ Population is increasing but at a much slower rate than crime.


What am I going to do?


Listen and ask questions.


Like I mentioned earlier, I am going to follow up with the Indianapolis Administration with the following questions:


What is Indianapolis doing to address: employment, education, homeownership, access to affordable treatment for mental illness, alcoholism, and drug abuse for the citizens of Indianapolis?


After I learn the answers to these questions, I will follow up with:


What is working, What should we start doing, What should we do more of, what should we stop doing? And Why. Also, I plan on following up on what other cities are doing that is working.


Most importantly, I am going to listen to the people most affected by the crime, the minority communities who are disproportionately affected. I will be their voice when I write proposals, when I confront the Administration of what is and is not working, and will do what I am elected to do: represent.

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Michael-Paul Hart

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