Gov.-elect Mitch Daniels' first "creative solution" for funding I-69 has demonstrated that his running mate, Lt. Gov.-elect Becky Skillman, has a solid grasp on how state government works. Since he's new to the game, Daniels will, hopefully, be listening to what she has to say.
What Skillman, a Republican State Senator from Bedford, said at a legislators' forum in Bloomington last Jan. 25 was that legislators and taxpayers in the far-flung corners of Indiana will not pay for the $3 billion I-69 Boondoggle. "That's just the reality," she said matter-of-factly before a TV audience on WTIU. Agreeing with her that night were Democratic State Rep. Matt Pierce from Bloomington and Republican Eric Koch from Bedford.
The insight Skillman showed in Bloomington that evening was echoed last week by Northern Indiana legislators and newspaper editors from Gary to Fort Wayne after Daniels suggested the state could raise some Boondoggle money by selling the 157-mile Indiana Toll Way, a/k/a Interstate 80/90, that spans the northern edge of the state from Ohio to Illinois.
In the following Q&A on Interstate 69, District 61 State Representative Matt Pierce responds to questions from Bloomington Alternative editor Steven Higgs. Pierce's responses are published verbatim.
Alternative: In the Jan. 5, 2003, issue of The Bloomington Alternative, I quoted Mark Kruzan as follows:
- "More pavement is not synonymous with progress, especially when it's through farmland and forest."
- "A new highway may well help the economies of some communities along its path, but the extent of the benefits is not a certainty. What is certain is the permanent devastation that would result from a new-terrain path."
- "Given the dramatic under-funding of Indiana's existing roads and bridges, it's difficult to understand the state's highway priorities."
CD and release party benefit CARR, anti-I-69 effort
The only thing that slows Michelle Henderson's cadence when she talks about last weekend's I-69 CD Release Party is the thank-you list. She doesn't miss a beat when discussing the CD — Save it — Don't Pave It! — or the party.
The disc features 19 bands, a local author and an I-69 activist — all of whom donated their art and their time. The party nearly filled the lower level of the historic Buskirk-Chumley Theatre in downtown Bloomington. Both raised money and offered moral support for the legions of Indiana citizens committed to stopping new terrain I-69. Specifically, all proceeds from the party and the CD went to Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads.
"The hardest thing," says Henderson, who along with musicians Mitch Rice and Bruce Kell formed the committee that oversaw the two-year project, "is trying to thank everyone."
The following are the lyrics to a song written by Bloomington City Councilman and performed by the Dew Daddies on the CD Save it — Don't pave it!
As I was flippin' through the local paper yesterday
I saw another story on this I-69 highway
It said the State was havin' this big meetin' in our town
To tell folks 'bout their study and some things that they had found
And to listen, so they said, to what the people had to say
The newspaper said we have to have this road without delay
(same guy writin' the editorials been writin' all the news reports too...can't hardly tell the difference)
Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads
On Saturday, November 13 at 7:00 pm, a group of diverse Indiana musicians will gather at the Buskirk-Chumley Theatre to celebrate the release of a CD entitled "Save It, Don't Pave It: Music to Save our Communities." The CD has been created in an effort to raise awareness of the negative financial and environmental consequences for all communities throughout the state if a new-terrain I-69 highway is built through southern Indiana.
At the CD release benefit, a selection of talented musicians will play their songs from the CD, and all funds raised through ticket and CD sales will go toward informing Indiana taxpayers about the true cost of the highway.
The superlatives were as abundant as the sunshine at Friday morning's "I-69: It's not over!" rally at the Indiana Statehouse. "A great day" is how Tom Tokarski put it on the bus ride home to Bloomington, an uncharacteristic grin plastered across his face. Incredible, others said. Amazing. Unbelievable. A watershed. A turning point. A new day.
It was all of those, for sure. And much more. It was a day of entertainment (and creative radicalism), delightfully provided by Robin Tala and the Bloomington Circus Collective. It was a day when the "I-69 is not a done deal" message reached Hoosiers all across Indiana, as no fewer than seven major media outlets covered the late-morning rally.
It was a day when Republican suits stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Jeff Stant, high on the Capitol's east-side steps overlooking Monument Circle, and generated raucous applause from youthful, face-painted artists and musicians with dreds. Ditto the Libertarian candidate for governor, Kenn Gividen.
What follows is the full text of the statement that the I-69 citizens coalition delivered to Gov. Joe Kernan on Friday.
October 22, 2004
To: Honorable Governor Joseph Kernan
Distinguished Members of the Indiana General Assembly
From: Citizens of Indiana opposed to the new terrain I-69
We write to voice our strenuous opposition to the new terrain I-69 highway and growing resolve to compel you, our state's political leaders, to stop this outrageous assault on the peace of mind and future of so many hardworking Hoosiers. Our numbers are growing daily. More voting taxpayers are becoming aware of the $2.5 billion price tag of this highway — its limited benefits, and the destruction it will bring to these Hoosiers' homes, farms, businesses, and rural communities, as well as the natural heritage of all Hoosiers — and its direct relation to special interests.
The new terrain I-69 will cost $2.5 billion. Building it will bring most, if not all, other road construction in Indiana to a halt without a major increase in gas taxes. We are at a complete loss to understand why the state insists on consigning virtually its entire budget for new roads to one road that its own facts clearly do not justify.
The diverse, bipartisan citizens coalition that has forced new-terrain I-69 to the top of the governor's race agenda this year is upping the political ante. Organizers are holding a mass rally at the Statehouse this Friday to tell Indiana that "I-69 is not a done deal," and they've invited all three governor candidates to address the crowd.
A memo sent last Friday to Democrat Joe Kernan, Republican Mitch Daniels, and Libertarian Kenn Gividen told all three that they could be added to the speakers list. "We are inviting all three gubernatorial candidates, as well as elected public officials from both parties, to speak," the memo said. "We ask that you keep your comments brief, and related to the I-69 issue."
Rally organizer Steve Bonney, a West Lafayette resident who owns a Greene County organic farm, summarized the grass roots group's goal for the rally: "The Governor and his INDOT Commissioner have failed to recognize the magnitude of opposition to a new terrain I-69. We are rallying at the Statehouse to demonstrate the strength of our ranks."
The rally begins at 11 a.m. on the east-side steps of the State Capitol in downtown Indianapolis. Organizers hope 500 to 1,000 people attend. Confirmed speakers include City Councilman Andy Ruff, a Bloomington Democrat, and Perry Township Trustee Jack Sandlin, an Indianapolis Republican. An invitation to speak has also been extended to State Senate Finance Chair Lawrence Borst, who has indicated he will at least attend the rally.
INDOT Commissioner Brian Nicol and Governor Joe Kernan are scrambling to overcome the recent surge in the longstanding opposition to their chosen route for I-69. Not even they can deny that their proposed route is the most controversial highway project ever undertaken in Indiana. But, miffed by the opposition's refusal to go away when told to, they are trying to discount it.
During the EIS hearings for I-69, INDOT pronounced the supreme importance of public input. But when that input proved to be overwhelming against their preferred route, the public was dismissed as unreliable. When the public didn't give INDOT the answer it wanted, the public was wrong.
To counter citizen opposition, they came up with the odd notion that an elected official speaks for all of his/her constituents when it comes to their position on I-69, but only when the official supports the chosen route. For example, in a recent interview in the South Bend Tribune Commissioner Nicol stated: "What one has to understand is, there are large numbers of people who commented favorably who represent hundreds of thousands of people. The mayor of Evansville, who represents 150,000 people, is in support of this. All the senators and representatives that weighed in, they represent tens of thousands of people."
An open letter to Mark Kruzan
As I am sure you know, I called on you at last week's City Council meeting to hand deliver the Council's resolution opposing I-69 to Gov. Kernan and make the case on your constituents' behalf. I am reiterating that request here. I am asking you to show leadership.
I also asked that you please stop saying that there is nothing local communities can do to stop I-69. When you say that, I hear: "Citizens don't count." If you believe that, you are more cynical about the state of our democracy than I am. You should consider getting out of politics and joining us on the streets.
History shows that citizens, banded together through enlightened self-interest, can change the world. I may be totally naïve, but I believe that individuals can change the world, too. Specifically, Mark, I believe that you, personally, can stop I-69, if you mean what you say and show courage and leadership. I don't say it often, but I'm saying it again. Please.