I waited until now to publicly thank Mayor Mark Kruzan for his May 13 vote against Interstate 69 because a private note I sent him came back saying he would be out of e-mail range until month's end. I know the mayor read my piece calling him out on the issue last November. We communicated about it. So, in the interest of journalistic proportionality, equal play for his courage is required.
Besides, the fallout from the mayor's stand against the corruption, abuse of power and anti-democratic forces behind the sociopathic, $4 billion taxpayer mugging is falling hardest around him and the Bloomington/Monroe County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) now. For example, with a lack of self-awareness worthy of The Office's Michael Scott, newspaper editors in Evansville called local MPO members "clowns" in a May 22 editorial. (More on that below.)
"I hope the mayor will consider the sources -- both detractors and supporters -- as he contemplates his future strategies on I-69."I have no idea what prompted Kruzan to change his vote a second time, this one to exclude I-69 from the MPO's long-range transportation plan. Last November he voted to include it. In March 2009 he voted for exclusion.
The sound arguments presented in a letter from attorneys Rudy Savich and Mick Harrison gave the mayor some cover. But given his attitude toward such strategies in the past, I doubt they alone account for the mayor's sudden profile in courage.
What I hope happened is that, following the May 2 primary, Kruzan finally understood that 60 percent of Bloomington citizens will vote for him, no matter what he does, so he can stand on principle, when the stakes demand it.
As I have said in the Alternative, on WFHB Community Radio and in any other platform I've had access to through the years, Mark Kruzan is politically invincible. He has enough political capital to show true leadership on I-69 without fear of electoral retribution.
And, as the mayor has said many times, when it comes to I-69, the stakes couldn't be higher for the Bloomington community.
I also hope the mayor has realized he can't have it both ways. There's no room for waffling on I-69. You're for it, or you're against it. You can't concede Bloomington to I-69, like Kruzan did last November, after saying this in an unedited guest column in the Alternative on March 22, 2009. Regarding his first vote to exclude I-69 from the MPO, he wrote:
"The detractors -- largely the Chambers of Commerce and sycophantic newspaper editorial boards in Bloomington and Evansville -- have as much credibility today as the Japanese nuclear industry."
"On a personal note, the MPO vote was cathartic. I’ve only been in a position to take 'official' action against I-69 on two occasions. First, I voted against a House Resolution supporting the project when I served in the state legislature. Second, as mayor, I signed the City Council Resolution opposing the proposed interstate. The MPO vote had more substance and impact.
"I still do not believe that having I-69 bisect the community will bring the economic benefits promised by proponents. One needs only look to Northwest Indiana’s I-65, I-94, and I-80/94 or southern Indiana’s I-64, which reveal that interstates are not panaceas from economic erosion.
"In fact, our comparative economic advantage in Bloomington is the unique quality of life, which makes this an attractive place to live, work, visit, study and invest. I-69 would undermine our existing strengths at great public expense during a time of scarce public resources."
In fact, Kruzan has expressed those sentiments repeatedly through the years. Such contradictory political behavior undermines his integrity and makes him look weak.
As for the future, the issue is far from dead, and I hope the mayor will consider the sources -- both detractors and supporters -- as he contemplates his future strategies on I-69.
The detractors -- largely the Chambers of Commerce and sycophantic newspaper editorial boards in Bloomington and Evansville -- have as much credibility today as the Japanese nuclear industry. Their views are unworthy of the public's trust.
When I read the H-T's May 18 editorial that called the MPO's effort to stop I-69 a "fantasy," I was reminded of a respected former Republican official who tells me every time I see him that it has been 15 years since anyone at the H-T had a clue about politics.
"Those of us supporting Kruzan's courage include his constituents, nearly every elected public official in Monroe County and the editorial board at the Indianapolis Star."
After accusing the I-69 opposition of delusional histrionics, here's what the H-T editors said about the I-69 funding issues: "As for identifying funding, state officials continue to maintain the highway can be built with expected revenue from gasoline taxes."
Talk about a fantasy. Such a statement can have its roots in only two intellectual predispositions: willful disregard for the facts or utter ignorance of political reality.
As for the Courier & Press editorial, these people live in a toxic hellhole. As I noted in an award-winning story in NUVO in 2009, they knowingly and intentionally dump mercury on their own kids' heads for the almighty buck. And it's not just their kids they poison. It's ours too -- just in smaller doses.
Being called clowns by these people is a badge of honor.
Those of us supporting Kruzan's courage include overwhelming numbers of his constituents, nearly every elected public official in Monroe County and the editorial board at the Indianapolis Star, which, contrary to public opinion, is a pretty good newspaper.
As the mayor shifts from vacation to work mode, I recommend the Star's May 24 editorial on the subject. Here are some relevant passages.
"Funding has not been secured for the conversion of Ind. 37 from Bloomington to Indianapolis into the superhighway, and the formidable forces of opposition include not only tree-huggers and individual property owners but also state legislators and the Indianapolis Perry Township establishment. Tens of millions of dollars in property tax value would fall from the rolls with an I-69 link to the Southside area, whereas I-70 already supplies that hookup.
"The recent timeout called in Bloomington is unlikely to derail the state's plans, but it is an occasion for rethinking what might well become the costliest infrastructure enterprise in Indiana history. The economic case for new terrain over U.S. 41/I-70 never has been convincingly made; and freeway construction in general has lost favor over the decades the I-69 extension has been hashed over.
"The Daniels administration needs to hear from the leadership in counties north of Monroe, as well as from the grass roots, that much more than $400 million can be saved. With I-69 suspended, the governor can explain why his famous frugality is not."
If Kruzan means what he says about I-69's impact on our community and region, he should utilize his immense political skills to carry the Star's message to leaders not only in Morgan, Johnson and Marion counties but around the state, as well. After all, he did serve 16 years in the Indiana General Assembly.
The case is clear and simple. And no one is better positioned to make it than Mark Kruzan.
It's good to have the mayor back on the right side of this issue.
Steven Higgs can be reached at editor@BloomingtonAlternative.com.