The Outstater

September 23, 2021

‘Infrastructure’ Is an Open Spigot

DR. MARYANN O. KEATING, author of the cover article for the current issue of The Indiana Policy Review, is an expert on the economics of infrastructure. Even she was surprised, though, to learn that some Indiana cities don’t prioritize or even coherently define infrastructure in their spending. 

A real-time example crossed our desk this week — too late, unfortunately, to accompany the Keating article but one that illustrates her points.

In lopsided votes, both Fort Wayne and Allen County approved a combined $4 million gift — and that is the correct word — to a smallish national business (400 employees). The money was needed, the company president said, to relocate six miles across town to new office space.

Those dollars came from budget categories that could have been used for traditional infrastructure projects, sidewalk repairs and such. And as one of only three dissenting councilmen put it, “If we help each and every business move into a new office there won’t be much left for roads.”

There’s more . . .

In sum, our local politicians, instead of doing the mundane work of municipal government, chose to elevate themselves to full partners in what they viewed as a glamorous commercial venture. And in doing so, they threw out the cautions and warnings of Dr. Keating and so many others. 

We are left to repeat one of our favorite public policy observations. It comes not from an expert or even an academic, although it strongly supports their research. It is from a regular businessmen, one of the fellows leaned upon to finance this economic-development circus: 

“If our politicians are going to pretend to be developers, we’re going to have to elect smarter politicians.” — tcl


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