Anderson and Madison County passed through another decade of change in the 2010s. Mostly, it was a long, slow climb out of the Great Recession.
The community emerged stronger with a more diverse economy, better infrastructure and other improvements.
But there’s still a lot of work to do, a lot of problems to tackle. Among them: rampant child abuse and neglect, drug abuse, underemployment, unhealthy lifestyles, low educational attainment and political divisions.
Solutions to those problems begin with government officials, those sworn to create and sustain sound public policy that abets both stability and progress and promotes a good quality of life.
As the new year – and decade – dawns, here are 10 resolutions for all who govern in Madison County:
• Commit to transparency: In many cases, it’s easier to govern from behind closed doors with no one asking the tough questions or petitioning for different action. But officials must conduct public meetings and post public notices as required by law.
In fact, they should go beyond the letter of the law and comply with its spirit, keeping the public up to date on issues and impending actions and responding quickly to citizens who ask for more information or want to make their voices heard.
• Work together. When the “D” or the “R” become more important than doing what’s right for local residents, businesses and institutions, we’re all in trouble. It happens way too much in our community.
• Be professional. The Anderson Police Department and other government units had a rough 2019. Misbehavior and poor responsiveness by some officials eroded public confidence. APD has a new chief, Jake Brown, now and a chance for a fresh start.
• Capitalize on momentum. A host of investments by local, national and foreign companies has the local economy finally headed in the right direction. Sometimes it’s natural to relax when you’re having some success. But in a competitive environment, economic development officials must continue to work hard and think creatively.
• Fulfill westside promises. Housing, shopping, employment and grocery options are insufficient on the west side of Anderson. None of the last several mayoral administrations has been able to solve the problem. Plans have been laid but never realized. Let’s make it happen in 2020.
• Improve education. The challenges of public education, particularly for urban districts like Anderson, are both numerous and stubborn. Anderson University, Ivy Tech and local government are positioned to collaborate more with ACS and other local districts to rise to those challenges.
• Confront drug abuse and child neglect. We must not become numb to these persistent problems. Many in the community are working hard to find solutions. It will take a combination of better health care, education, law enforcement and jobs, along with more safety nets, to make it happen.
• Bring them downtown. In an era when many want to move out of the suburbs and back into town, we need more entertainment, dining, cultural and residential options. Anderson and other local communities could also use more signature events to draw visitors.
• Plan comprehensively. The foundation for a strong future lies in long-range planning across the county to capture opportunities and anticipate obstacles in the 2020s and beyond. The Madison County Council of Governments has been working hard at this objective, gathering public input as it drafts a comprehensive plan to guide the community through 2045.
• Pursue both quantity and quality. As the I-69 corridor on the north side of Indianapolis expands, Anderson can expect to benefit from rising property values, new residents and more commercial growth in the 2020s. To take full advantage, the community must focus on quality-of-life initiatives running the gamut from the arts to parks to healthy living.
Where will the 2020s take us? It’s difficult to say. But with a forward-looking commitment to good government, local officials can set the stage for prosperity and progress.