An Indianapolis think tank wants to highlight what it calls successes and concerns across a wide range of areas in Indiana’s 11 largest cities – Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, Muncie, Gary, Hammond, Carmel, Fishers, Evansville, South Bend, Lafayette and Bloomington.
The Sagamore Institute is working with governments, businesses, and nonprofits to develop solutions from the data it gathered in its Public Good Index.
The Sagamore Institute’s 15-year look at Indiana’s largest cities celebrated successes, but also highlighted problems across Indiana – specifically in mental health, poverty, education and income.
Institute Vice President Troy Riggs says he was surprised by some of its findings, especially in income growth. He says buying power for Indianapolis residents, for instance, has dropped significantly since 2010.
“So, if you’re a citizen in Indianapolis in 2010, and you have a dollar, your dollar now, 2015, was worth 70 cents,” Riggs says.
Riggs says Indianapolis’s poverty growth was really surprising.
“We knew it was going to be high, we did not realize that when you compared the growth of poverty to the growth of population that it would almost surpass the growth in population,” Riggs says.
By no means is the information all bad, even for places like Muncie that had lower scores than the other 11 cities.
“The good thing about Muncie is that, when we looked at civic involvement, it’s the second highest in Indiana. That tells me, long term, Muncie is going to be OK,” Riggs says. “Because people are willing to give to charitable causes, they’re willing to roll up their sleeves and get involved.”
Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness met with the Sagamore Institute prior to the release of its data. He says cities – like his – have to use that data instead of anecdotal information when addressing challenges.
“There’s a finite amount of resources, and these issues are complex,” Fadness says. “So we need to put more effort into understanding the issue prior to pushing a solution.”
Fadness and the city of Fishers are tackling one of the issues the report highlights: mood disorders like anxiety and depression. Except Indianapolis, all of the cities have mood disorders as their leading health condition – and Indianapolis has it second.
Riggs says each city’s problems are different, but they aren’t unique.
“If Muncie, Indiana, does better as a city, Gary does better, Hammond does better – Indiana is going to benefit from that,” Riggs says.