Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard delivered his seventh State of the City address Thursday night at the University of Indianapolis.
He laid out an agenda that called for the city to be more aggressive in expanding early childhood education opportunities, improving public safety, and making Indianapolis more attractive for young people to live.
Ballard also wants greater investment for improving roads and sidewalks. He wants to get Rebuild Indy Two going, especially after the harsh winter.
"The state has given us this money for this expressed purpose. We simply need to act to ensure it gets done," he said. "Now is the time to say yes to more sidewalks, yes to better streets, and yes to making Indy a better place to live."
The effort would invest $350 million of transportation money from the state over three years into improving streets, sidewalks, bridges, parks, and trails.
City Council Vice President Republican Michael McQuillen likes Ballard’s ideas.
"It was definitely an ambitious agenda, but it's certainly a doable agenda," he said. "There are funds in place. There is the willingness of our partners around the city - business and civic groups - to make these things happen. So, I think everything he announced today can be done and will be done in the near future."
Council President Democrat Maggie Lewis says she was encouraged by the Mayor’s vision on crime and education, but needs to hear more about his Rebuild Indy plan.
"I know that it's important that we focus on infrastructure in our community, but I am not interested in just taking out a massive loan that we are going to be paying for the next 30 years when we know the sidewalks are going to last for eight to 10 years."
Between 2010 and 2013 the city invested about $500 million on similar projects using Rebuild Indy funds.
Also during his annual speech, Ballard recognized 80 officers of the new Indianapolis Metropolitan Police recruit class who were greeted by those in attendance at the University of Indianapolis with a standing ovation.
Ballard says the city can add 100 more members of the force over the next three years by eliminating the local homestead tax credit.
"After three years of study, this is the time to eliminate the local homestead credit subsidy. For those homeowners not already at the one percent tax cap, it will cost, on average, less than $2 a month to hire more police officers. This is long past due," said Ballard.
The City County Council rejected eliminating the credit last year and Democratic Councilor Vop Osili doesn’t see any reason members would vote differently now.
"It's difficult to proceed without potentially impacting households who can ill afford it because there are some households that will be more than $2 a month and may be challenged to make that," said Osili. "And, where we are right now nationally, locally we need to do all that we can to make sure that our households are stable and secure and that folks can keep a roof over their head."
Ballard says besides hiring more police the city is committed to improving analysis of crime data and building better re-entry programs as ways to strengthen public safety.