Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Columnist Crafts Puff Piece Praising Indianapolis' Sports Strategy, Public Private Partnerships

Indianapolis Star columnist (I had to actually check to confirm that since I didn't remember any of his columns) David Masciotra crafts a puff piece for the Atlantic about how Indianapolis went from a backwater city to the success it is today.  The lengthy piece Indianapolis concludes by praising Indianapolis' sports strategy and its emphasis on public-private partnerships (read corporate welfare):
The obvious question, then, especially in the face of unmitigated fiscal devastation in Detroit, Cleveland, and many other smaller Midwest cities, is how did [Indianapolis] do it?

The Indianapolis plan for resurrection required much more than prayer. Beginning in the 1970s, under a visionary, Republican Mayor – William Hudnut – and Otis Bowen, a cooperative and moderate Republican Governor, Indianapolis sought to become the sports capital of the Midwest, a flytrap for business investment, and a tourist destination.

Hudnut and Bowen were both unconventional men who took uncharted courses into politics. Neither was an attorney with connections. Hudnut was a Presbyterian minister, and Bowen, a doctor. Their practical experience in crises of real intensity necessitating compromise – there are no ideological solutions to budget trouble or health problems – gave them the vantage point necessary to look into the long term, and problem solve accordingly, rather than merely consider what is best in the immediate future for voting base constituencies.

Indianapolis civic leaders first decided to take what already attracted people to their city – sports entertainment – and enlarge and expand it go beyond merely one annual event.

Fred Glass said that the city’s strategy is comparable to the memorable and mysterious advice from Field of Dreams – "If you build it, they will come."

The city oversaw the construction of a new basketball arena for its NBA Franchise, a downtown baseball stadium for its Triple A minor league baseball team, and in the 1970s, Mayor Hudnut was able to convince the Baltimore Colts to move to Indianapolis. The latter effort led to the culmination of the downtown revitalization when in 2006, the city hosted the Super Bowl.

"Top down" economic development schemes have often failed in other cities. Sports stadiums and convention centers rarely deliver on their utopic promises of business stimulation and tourism renewal, but in Indianapolis, the plan was not merely governmental investment. It was cross-sector partnership. The Indianapolis city government and the Indiana state government formed an alliance with Eli Lilly, and other large corporations in the state, to co-fund large scale projects.

The public-private partnership proved successful not only in sports, but also in attracting nightlife activity and encouraging entrepreneurship. The city’s Circle Centre, for example, took money from both the government and business to beautify the cross section of downtown with a large monument and water fountain. Shops, restaurants, and bars now surround the aesthetic triumph. Indianapolis has the second largest collection of urban monuments in the country. The city looks good, but it also feels good for visitors and residents.


Mayor Greg Ballard helped balance the budget in Indianapolis by forming partnerships with private businesses and firms in the reorganization in public services. Solid waste pickup is one area where the city has saved hundreds of millions of dollars by streamlining services, but not reducing them. Complaints to the solid waste pickup service have dropped by twenty percent since Ballard authorized the deal in 2009. The city, and more importantly, the citizens benefit.

The revitalization of Indianapolis did not enable the bruised city to pick itself up off the mat for many years, and even now, at over forty years into it, the city is still not out of the ring.

Indianapolis, unlike Detroit, tells a story of hope and terror. There is hope if American leaders and voters can overcome the terror of waiting patiently for results, compromising ideology for principle, and cooperating with the "enemy" for a purpose more meaningful and a goal more laudable than the advancement of one’s own career.

One of the best things about on-line articles is readers' comments.  In the comment sections, knowledgeable readers shred Masciotra's article for factual errors as well as leap in logic especially when it comes to his conclusions about the impact of professional sports on Indianapolis' local economy.


stevelaudig@gmail.com said...

there are other reasons to dislike pro sports.

Maple Syrup Maven said...

Who is this clown?

Certainly he can't live in Indy if he doesn't know the difference between Circle Centre and Monument Circle, or that the Town of Speedway is not part of the city of Indianapolis....

Indy Rob said...

Checking google shows that David Masciotra has a web page where he goes overboard on praising himself. The guy teaches at University of St Francis and according to anywho lives in Dyer, Indiana. His web page seems to be more about promoting himself and/or just flat out bragging.

Too bad his actual writing skills, as demonstrated by the lack of accurate facts in the Atlantic article leaves a lot to be desired. He quotes Fred Glass as an authority on downtown Indianapolis in the 60's (Glass was born in 1959, fails to mention that the city built both Market Square and the Fieldhouse for the Pacers, statses that in the 60's there were only two restaurants downtown (Sharpiros, St. Elmos, and the Slippery Noodle come to mind immediately, I'm sure there are many more). David says that Children's Museum was funded by the Indiana Government which is not true in the least.

What a pompous punk!

Very poor article from Atlantic. Every Atlantic subscriber should be demanding money back because of this story.

Pete Boggs said...

Retrospectively, Indy billed as the "amateur sports capitol of the world" has an ominous, crony-capped & socialist ring to it...

Ellen said...

David Masciotra, 28, teaches at a small Roman Catholic college in Fort Wayne.

What the heck is he doing as a columnist for The Star or attempting to write about Indy's sports strategy?

He has no idea about the city, its key players or its history.

Oh, never mind. Neither do most of the people who work these days at The Star (Dan Carpenter excepted).

The Atlantic should be ashamed for not having his article fact-checked!

Flogger said...

The purpose of these articles is not to provide facts, but to continue the Corporatist Line that Crony-Capitalism, Privatization and Corporate Welfare are good for cities.

Downtown does look nice, but it should after having billions spent there with Direct and Indirect Tax Subsidies. The rest of the City is not so lucky.

Detroit will now be the Poster Child for failed cities. Detroit has Four Major League Teams. If the Sports Strategy really worked Detroit would be twice as as prosperous as Indianapolis.

Indianapolis as some commentators pointed out on the article has basically annexed all of Marion County, something Detroit could not do.

Marycatherine Barton said...

Taxes is what ruined Detroit, (which is also harming Indpls.) and the bankers should bail it out. Has anyone read the latest column by Phil Giraldi, posted yesterday at antiwar.com:

"Homeland Security Made in Israel"!