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Page last updated on March 7, 2019 at 10:31 am

So glad to be here. Thanks for opportunity today. Glad to be in your company today, with so many fine community leaders. Particularly glad to be in the company of Bloomington’s First Lady today, my wife Dawn Johnsen.

And congratulations on the continued strong work and impact of BEDC in our city and region. I don’t have a lot of time today, so permit me to jump right into some comments.

Indiana University had 207 foreign students in Bloomington in 1953.  Today IU has 4,000. About a 20x increase.

Bloomington is a city, not an island. We interact daily with our county, our region, our state. Our people work elsewhere. And people from elsewhere work in Bloomington. Our economy is regional. We just became part of an exciting major regional grant.  

How many people think we’re going to change less in the next 50 years than we did in the past 50? What is it going to mean?

Change is coming. It doesn’t stop. We need to be ready for it, and we need to invest for it.

One of government’s key roles is to invest in the infrastructure that supports all our activities, to make the public investments that bring opportunity and quality of life.

Economist and former Harvard President and former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers notes that the United States is currently investing the lowest percentage of its output since World War II on roads, ports, airports, bridges, air traffic control towers, and schools.

“At this time…the share of public investment in GDP, adjusting for depreciation, so that’s net share, is zero. Zero. We’re not net investing at all.” 

In other words, total federal, state, and local government investment is enough to cover only the amount of wear and tear on bridges, roads, airports, rails, and pipes. No new net investment at all.

Non-defense investment spending, which was nearly 1% of GDP in the mid-1960s–and hasn’t come close to that since–was about $9.8 billion in 2013, or a paltry 0.06% of GDP. Mr. Summers wasn’t exaggerating. 

To be ready we need information, and courage to invest for the future. There are some things we know, and some things we don’t know.

Let’s start with something practical we know: public transit – our bus ridership has been climbing terrifically. In part because of better coordination with IU – the IU students make up the majority of riders on our bus system. We have most bus riders per capita of any city in Indiana.

We edged out West Lafayette. And that’s just BT alone. If we include the IU bus system we’re double that per capita number – that’s very impressive. (Only two MSAs in the country have per capita public transit usage over 100)

Let’s talk about our economy. Our Metropolitan Statistical Area includes Monroe and Owen counties. I know that during the national and state recession of 2008-09 we actually did not have a recession in our MSA, as you can see on the graph, with the green line on top.  But for FOUR YEARS, we’ve been in one, with a shrinking real gross domestic product for our MSA, shown in the green bar on the right.

And our crime rate. We enjoy a relatively safe city. But statistics tell us that our violent crime rate, in blue there, has risen significantly over the last decade. And this is counter to the long national trend downward, in red.

We know where our 370 miles of city streets are located. But we don’t have good data on their condition – we don’t have system wide data on pavement conditions – so how do we allocate resources rationally?  Our Overall Condition Index is underway, not done, but will be completed.

I know that during the past five years, Disinfectant Byproduct levels in our drinking water were rising but we didn’t take significant action, until this year, despite twice paying for rate studies to justify needed investments.

And I know that our digital infrastructure needs work. Although we were a leader in the 1990s, building miles of optical fiber and connecting schools and government buildings, we haven’t invested lately, and we’re falling behind.

To plan for it, invest in it,

Imagine it, talk about it together.

We need to invest:

I have to highlight a ‘String of Pearls’ – 4 development opportunities that line up along the magnificent B-Line Trail. From north to south, we have the Trades District (aka Certified Tech Park), the Convention Center with its great potential to enhance services and reach, the current Hospital Grounds which will create new opportunity, and Switchyard Park anchoring what can be fantastic new neighborhoods and energy south.  Look at the 4 areas in red. We have an incredible opportunity to do some good things, over the next several years, to do things that 50 years from now, people will enjoy and appreciate. We’ll be working together on this string of pearls in the months and years ahead.

And note that green area – the new IU Health investment coming to the east side of town.  Hundreds of millions of dollars committed to a state-of-the-art health campus -- hospital, medical center, education center, with clean, good-paying jobs and top-quality training, assuring Bloomington is a regional health center for generations to come.

Water infrastructure. I held two press conferences about our water quality in my first 100 days. Fundamental area for government services. And we haven’t been paying close enough attention, in my view. It’s why I directed our Utility Department to increase monitoring of Disinfectant ByProducts (DBPs) from quarterly as required by state and federal law, to monthly, so we all can understand what is happening and address any and all challenges.

Affordable Housing, to work with city council and partners to make sure Bloomington is a city where people from all walks of life can live and succeed.

Public Safety. I directed the police department to join the White House Police Data Initiative, that will join more than 50 cities around the country, sharing data to help improve police / citizen interactions and public safety and quality of life and justice.  We’ll soon be providing at least ten data sets that were not previously provided, including: Employee Demographics, Hate Crimes, Nuisance Crime Data, Calls for Service, Citizen Complaints, and all Use of Force incidents. And reviewing 59 recommendations of 21st Century Policing Report.

Digital infrastructure with RFI on the street. Bloomington’s digital infrastructure will play a central role in our community’s economic prosperity development and our residents’ quality of life. Connectivity is essential for modern businesses, the creative arts, education, healthcare and home life.  And world class connectivity is essential for our community to continue to thrive.  I believe this digital connectivity is the 21st century equivalent of electricity and water infrastructure in the 20th century.

We do not have the digital network we need right now, and we certainly don’t have the network we will need in 10 years. Bloomington simply must not lag behind while state and national peers secure gigabit class connectivity for their residents.

We have a great future ahead of us, but we must invest in appropriate ways to travel that bright road with patience and fortitude to do the right things.