Beneath the rhetoric: Hogsett’s budget funds most violent and harmful groups at people’s expense

PSL Indianapolis Statement


Mayor Joe Hogsett, currently running for his third consecutive term in office, proposed his 2024 budget to the City-County Council on August 14. The $1.56 billion plan is the largest in the city’s history and nearly seven percent higher than last year’s. That money would be used to build up the very systems that keep our people down.

For most of us, budgets in the billions are beyond comprehension. To make sense of exactly how much of our tax dollars Hogsett wants to spend next year, think about it like this:

If someone lived for 100 years, they would have to spend $42,739 every single day or $29.68 every single minute to spend almost $1.56 billion.

The Council will vote on the budget in October, and before then it will pass through various committees. While it is true that public input is possible at some committee meetings, the Council and its committees can remove public comments from the agenda at their will.

The Council used this power as recently as June when they did not allow time for public comment at their regular public meeting to prevent organizers from delivering a petition for a vote of no confidence in four members of the library board. In response, someone started reading the petition aloud. Council President Vop Osili told the cops to forcibly remove them. One after another, people continued reading as the cops threatened and used force to remove community members, including one who was holding a baby. We didn’t let them stop us then, and we won’t now.

Without formal mechanisms for democratic input, we will create our own

There is no city-wide debate or meaningful discussion about how a handful of politicians will use the taxes they collect from the poor and working-class people of Indianapolis and Marion County. The reason there are no formal mechanisms for substantive democratic input is that the budget isn’t for us; it’s for the politicians, the cops, and the banks, developers, and corporations they serve to protect.

Social change, however, rarely occurs through the formalized mechanisms of the state. In other words, we have between now and October to critically analyze the budget, counter the anti-worker and anti-oppressed talking points of both political parties, and organize people to intervene in various ways. We will have our say, and if we explain the budget in accessible and succinct ways, we can easily win the people over to our side.

The reality behind the rhetoric

Hogsett frames the budget’s priorities in terms of “the public” he is supposed to represent. Local news media repeat these talking points through headlines like “Mayor Hogsett proposes 2024 budget with focus on public safety” and articles that start off highlighting how it “puts an emphasis on public safety.”

We must understand what they mean by public safety, the “causes of crime,” and other euphemisms like “violence reduction.” No one wants to live with or face violence. Everyone wants to be safe. However, the proposed budget will do exactly the opposite: it will increase violence, deepen the root causes of “crime,” and decrease public safety.

Politicians talk about “crime” and “violent crime” as if it is a natural and timeless thing that only the police and state can address through their heavily-armed police force. Yet “crime” is, in the most literal sense, socially constructed, and the overwhelming majority of people locked up are imprisoned for “crimes” that didn’t harm anyone.

Hogsett’s proposed budget does include almost $30 million to fund the inadequate mental health response team. That figure is dwarfed by the $323 million set aside for IMPD, the most well-funded, well-armed, and violent gang in the city. This is the same force that recently murdered Gary Harrell and Herman Whitfield III. The same force that brutalized Jermaine Vaughn for speaking loudly in public and shot Anthony Maclin while he was sleeping in a car parked in his grandmother’s driveway. The same force that murdered three community members in eight hours.

In recent years, massive uprisings against racist police murders and what Wildstyle Paschall accurately refers to as the “IMPD’s reign of terror on the Black community” have called for the city to defund the IMPD. The day after Hogsett proposed his budget, community members protested outside the Criminal “Justice” campus during the trial of Sgt. Eric Huxley, one of the cops who brutalized Vaughn.

Hogsett’s budget does exactly the opposite. The police are getting more money than ever before. The cops are getting a prescribed cost-of-living raise that no one else in the city gets. Combined with funding for the Marion County Sheriff’s Department, around 30% of the $1.56 billion is going to the cops.

Hogsett’s budget decreases public safety and increases crime, harm, racism, and discrimination

In his budget’s introduction, Hogsett claims it “builds on programs to address the immediate and root causes of violent crime, including an additional $1.35 million in crime fighting technology.”

The “root causes” of violent crime do not include insufficient state surveillance cameras like the “ShotSpotter Gun Detection Systems.” On the contrary, ShotSpotter and surveillance systems make our communities less safe as they increase routine police harassment in oppressed communities, especially Black neighborhoods (not to mention they are completely ineffective as “crime-solving” tools). The same goes for the 150 license plate readers, 50 public surveillance cameras, and 750 dash cameras the IMPD plans to add to the arsenal they deploy against us. This is not crime prevention nor is it public safety.

As working and oppressed Hoosiers know, the IMPD does not prevent crime. They can barely solve crimes.

Public safety doesn’t resemble anything like Hogsett, his cops, and the ruling class say it does. Public safety looks like the right to housing, education, health care, community centers, daycare, healthy and easily accessible food, expansive and free public transportation systems, public spaces, and parks. In other words, the things people actually want, need, and deserve.

The budget barely touches on these issues. After touting his plan to give $135 million to the cops, Hogsett writes his budget “allocates $250,000 in continued funding for the Tenant Legal Assistance Project and the Eviction Avoidance Project with Indiana Legal Services.” Even after Indiana had one of the highest eviction rates in the country during the pandemic, their minuscule resources did essentially nothing to alleviate, let alone correct, the problem of homelessness.

According to Indiana University’s Public Policy Institute, approximately 1,800 homeless people were living in Indianapolis and Marion County in 2022. The study, conducted by the Institute’s Center for Research on Social Inclusion and Policy, combined street outreach surveys, available information from the Homeless Management Information System, as well as data acquired from shelters that don’t report to that system.

Their data and analysis found that Black people are disproportionately homeless, and it’s only getting worse. The percentage of our homeless neighbors who are Black increased by two percent over the prior year. This inequality also manifests in the category of “chronic homelessness,” individuals who are homeless for at least a year while also experiencing a substance use disorder, mental illness, or physical disability. Out of all families with young children who are homeless, 82 percent are Black. Among other disturbing but unsurprising trends is the ongoing rise of homeless young people, a trend that could potentially intensify further due to the recent anti-LGBTQ legislation sweeping the country.

Hogsett’s budget at least tells the truth: Politicians serve the rich and neglect our people

Hogsett’s budget proves he cares more about ensuring the local elite–like business owners, “philanthropists,” and corporations like Eli Lilly and Hilton–maintain a steady revenue stream. He and the Council recently approved a $625 million bond giveaway for the Hilton Signia hotel, after the private firm Kite Realty Group failed to find funding.

On Hogsett’s budget, Republican mayoral candidate opponent Jefferson Shreve’s only complaint was that he doesn’t “feel like” people in Marion county feel safe. It’s a struggle over who can give more to the cops.

Though Hogsett and his fellow Democrats portray themselves as our allies, in practice they’re just Republicans wearing a polite facade. Just last year, leading Democrats on the City-County Council introduced Proposal 256 that plagiarized the previous Republican-sponsored Proposal 291 to restrict mutual aid organizations like Hope Packages from building solidarity across the city while providing much-needed food and other items.

Recent history shows we can fight back and win: That continues tonight!

Neither Proposal 291 nor 256 went into effect. Because the people got organized and mobilized, because we stood together in resistance, we collectively defeated Prop. 291 and prevented Prop. 256 from ever coming up for a vote.

This not only highlights the similarity between the two ruling-class parties in Indianapolis, but more importantly, shows that if we people organize and mobilize, we can fight back and win!

Whether it’s how the public library is run or what the priorities in our city budget should be, city leaders do not care what we think until it comes time for reelection, and even then they only make us empty promises. Our local political class has proven over and over that their loyalties lie not with the people of our city, but with the capitalist banks and corporations that exploit us. We deserve a city government that prioritizes people’s needs first and foremost.

Let’s make sure Hogsett and the City-County Council hear us loud and clear. Show up to the City County Council building tonight at 5:30 and let them know we mean business!

Defund the IMPD now and fund people’s needs!