Cities’ local assets are key to more widespread future

By Morton Marcus

“Week after week. Don’t you get depressed or bored telling us about Indiana’s problems and shortcomings?”

That was Faye of the Forest, a sprite sitting on the rail of the deck overlooking our trees and creek. Her newly blue and blonde hair was down to her shoulders in ringlets.

“Why the change in hair color?” I asked.

“To celebrate Indiana,” she answered. “And I want to impress the governor when I see him with the fierce idealism of the Hoosier forest people.”

“Yes, you’ve had some success recently saving forested land in Indianapolis,” I said.

“Don’t forget the comprehensive urban forest maintenance program we’ve initiated in Highland,” she boasted. “It’s going to remove and replace rotted trees, keep older neighborhoods beautiful and sustain property values.”

“Yeah,” I snarled, “but how many jobs does it create?”

“There’s more to life than jobs,” she said. “There’s living and living well.”

“Without jobs that pay well, living is an ordeal,” I said.

“No,” she countered, “living is a challenge. But you neglect what can be done, and is being done, by Hoosiers with energy and imagination. Go look at New Castle.”

“What’s there beside a big gym and a memorial to Hoosier basketball?” I asked.

“They have a small but sustained group called HOPE focused on local solutions to national problems. They’ve addressed the disgrace of every established community with run-down, abandoned houses. Tore them down.

“They are working to get pre-K education for every child in Henry County despite having the overhead of five school corporations.

“They’ve identified local people to fight the opioid problem at its roots, in the homes, streets and institutions of the community.

“This is not some bombastic bureaucratic organization, but a small, shifting alliance of determined people, focused on serious problems with limited, achievable and observable goals.”

“OK,” I agreed, “Sounds good.”

“Don’t dismiss the good because it’s small,” she chastised me. “Great and lasting mosaics are made of tiny tiles.”

“Easy, easy,” I said. “Don’t get defensive about your size.”

“It’s not about me,” she insisted. “It’s about the Hobarts of Indiana.”

“There’s more than one?” I asked.

“There’s just one,” she said. “And their local government is working with people and funding from local, state and federal sources to improve the choices of the people who live or visit Hobart.

“You should see their plans, realized and prospective, for Lake George downtown and that river of commerce we call U.S. 30. It respects the past while anticipating the future.

“Again, it’s building upon existing local assets rather than speculating and conniving to bring a miracle down from the clouds.”

“OK,” I yielded.

“Right, she said, flapping her hummingbird-like wings and lifting off. “It’s all about the efforts of Hoosiers laying the foundations for a better future that won’t show up in your precious data until a decade from now.”

Morton Marcus is an economist, writer and speaker who may be reached at mortonjmarcus@yahoo.com.