Gregory Travis

August 10, 2003

People get down on their luck for any number of reasons. Perhaps the car breaks down and there isn't enough money to fix it, initiating a spiral of unemployment and unpaid bills. Maybe a job is lost and there aren't enough savings to carry over to the next one. Sometimes it's just as simple as paying a million bucks you don't have for a worthless building you can't use. Whatever the reason for distress, it's nice to know that when you're down-and-out our modern welfare state is there to catch you in its ample and compassionate safety net.

Over the past week or so two stories emerged which beautifully illustrate the way our government welfare system works (and, sometimes, doesn't). The first story involves the fact that property owners in Monroe County can look forward to a significant jump in their property taxes next year. That jump is the result of a surge in welfare claims from needy families and troubled youths - the inevitable result of anomie spawned from an ever-sprawling metropolitan area colliding with the realities of declining local, state, and national economies.

July 27, 2003

The asphalt has barely set on the taxpayer's College Mall Road "improvement" and already the wheels of induced traffic have begun turning to ensure that this capacity improvement, like all road capacity improvements, will result not in better traffic flow but just more government-funded-and-executed congestion. Last week, ahead of even CIVITAS' wildest expectations, the first congestion shoe dropped in the form of Wininger/Stolberg's purchase of, and plans for, the Ramsey farm property.

The Ramsey property is an undeveloped 80-acre tract immediately southwest of the College Mall Road. While current zoning would allow 280 single-family homes it is unlikely that Wininger/Stolberg will pursue a "by-right" level of development in the area; instead expect the corporation to (successfully) petition for a rezone, enabling a high-density monument to tope-colored vinyl as well as the inclusion of a parcel or two of Wininger/Stolberg's trademark Potemkin-Mall style (you know, with the funny little garret-y façades up-front hiding the drek behind).

July 20, 2003

Recently an organization calling itself the "South-Central Indiana Human Resources Association" (HRA) released, with the concordance of the Bloomington Chamber of Commerce, its position on Bloomington's proposed living wage ordinance - namely against.

CIVITAS recognizes that reasonable people may disagree on an issue as complex and emotional as a living-wage ordinance and even our inner capitalist chafes reflexively at wage controls. But, frankly, the HRA's (and Chamber's) arguments against the wage are so poorly reasoned and sloppily supported that they actually serve to champion that to which they object.

July 13, 2003

We never know, from week to week, whether it's going to be feast or famine at CIVITAS. Because we write almost exclusively on events relating to local civic life, we're constantly at risk of having nothing of consequence on which to comment in a particular week. We're happy to report that this week wasn't one of those weeks.

This week, the Bloomington Chamber of Commerce's list of candidate non-sequiturs, the embarrassingly ill-argued Herald-Times guest editorial denouncing a "living wage," and today's HT gem "Have I-69 foes gone too far?"all conspired to create an environment so target-rich that we almost didn't know which to choose. In the end, we decided to take on yesterday's delightfully-titled editorial.

July 6, 2003

This week, the local Chamber of Commerce issued its first-ever, non-partisan, list of questions for local office candidates. Because we at CIVITAS know that all of the candidates have already too much to do, we decided to help out by providing pre-fabricated responses to the Chamber's pre-fabricated questions.

June 29, 2003

In the last installment we spoke of some of the broader issues surrounding society's approach to road building and, in particular, the tragic tendency for each generation to not learn from its mistakes until too late. In this installment, we'll talk about those mistakes.

By far our greatest failure is the tendency to view roads, and road building, in a reactive manner and without considering the consequences of that reaction. For example, we react to studies indicating road congestion in a location by blindly adding to the road capacity in that area without considering the broader effect of the additional road capacity.

June 22, 2003

A generation. That's how long it takes to understand what's wrong with our approach to road building. It's also the length of an individual's career -- which explains our tragic inability to escape from making the same mistakes over and over again. By the time the people who are in a position to do something about it learn what they're doing wrong, it's time for them to retire and let the cycle of error repeat.

June 15, 2003

Republican City Council candidate Doug Bruce recently revealed, during a radio interview, that nearly half of Bloomington's downtown area is reserved for nothing. That's right, forty-seven percent of the land in Bloomington's downtown goes to no higher purpose than providing over-provisioned space for the storage of itinerant automobiles. What curious set of circumstances brought about a situation where we're gobbling land outward at a furious pace while leaving half of the most expensive and valuable downtown land to go to waste?

June 8, 2003

What with the opening of Gray Brother's new cafeteria and the announcement of Baxter Pharmaceutical's expansion plans, Monroe County was abuzz last week with economic news. But the real stars were not the companies bringing the jobs, the real stars were found in the self-congratulatory orgy of info-tainment produced by our local political and media establishments.

May 25, 2003

Reading about the upcoming College Mall Road widening "celebration" (we hear the theme is: "Double lanes = double congestion = double value!") got CIVITAS thinking. Something about planning our celebration picnic (to take place on some parking berm between the Burger King, Wendys, Kroger, Target, and Texaco) triggered our inner existentialist and we began to wonder…

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