Acceptance is good for business

Indiana’s loss is Ohio’s gain. While the recent trend has been sort of contrary to that, with fast-growing Indy frequently siphoning jobs off of its older, more developed neighbor – that state’s conservative politics, with its attractive low-tax environment and “pro-business” rhetoric, may become its own downfall. We all know what happened with the gay community in Indiana, which is a shame. The fallout did two things: Ended Mike Pence’s 2016 aspirations, and cost Indy a lot of business.

The incident led Indy-born Angie’s List canceling a planned 1,000-job expansion of its HQ. Not only does Angie’s List not support state-level discrimination, but it views the fallout as a threat to its own ability to recruit and retain top-level talent, and wants no part in even supporting Pence’s regime. The truth about Indiana though is that the Pence regime is a middle-right coalition in a further right-wing state, in which the discrimination law was passed overwhelmingly, and enjoys a broad support base across the state. It’s no fluke, that really is Indiana being Indiana – kind of like a little spite house wedged between big blue blue states like Illinois and Ohio.


Senator Brown backed by city executives from Toledo, Dayton, Canton, Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati

Now, Ohio (a liberal state with a surprisingly conservative leader) is even benefiting from some counter-flow out of Indiana. While Ohio as a state has done a bad job of taking any actual stance on really any social issue, its cities are all-in on LGBT policy. Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincy routinely earn 100% marks from the Human Rights Campaign – as one of the first adopters of civil partnership registries, which is a nifty policy tool that enables same-sex couples to qualify for partner benefits at the federal or employer level. Columbus’ long-time (now ex-oficio) mayor Michael Coleman is an unabashed supporter of the surprisingly large (Ohio State-oriented) gay community in that city. Ohio State is one of the few pro-LGBT major athletic programs. Ohio’s congressional delegation also does a lot, led by the Good Senator from Cleveland Sherrod Brown. Even the Bad Senator from Cincinnati Rob Portman became the first pro-gay Republican in Congress.

So yes, despite state inaction (and a weird brand of Yankee conservatism aka Kasich), Ohio has a strong record on LGBT rights. Immediately following the Indiana ordeal, Ohio leaders staged a big policy event at the Statehouse, geared specifically toward recruiting businesses at the expense of Indiana. Brilliant move, but we all doubted it would do anything.

Well it did. I was surprised to read that Pokemon is still a thing, but apparently it is, and it had a national conference “Trapathon?” in Indianapolis. Well not anymore. The event, which routinely drew 1,000 people annually to Indy to “Catch ’em all,” has found a new home in Columbus. Apparently last year’s Trapathon actually coincided with Indiana’s PR-disaster, which left a very impression with all of the “Pokemon trainers.” Sure, I’d rather have those 1,000 Angie’s List jobs, than their Pokemon conference – but if economic bits and pieces of Indiana are apparently up for grabs, an annual conference that draws 1,000 isn’t too shabby.


Below is the perfect-score cities in bad states from HRC’s Municipal Equality Index, which the HRC calls its “all-stars” (not bad press):

Did your city earn the title of MEI All star?

  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Austin, Texas
  • Bloomington, Indiana
  • Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Dallas, Texas
  • Detroit, Michigan
  • East Lansing, Michigan
  • Louisville, Kentucky
  • Missoula, Montana
  • Orlando, Florida
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Phoenix, Arizona
  • St. Louis, Missouri
  • St. Petersburg, Florida
  • Tempe, Arizona
  • Tucson, Arizona
  • Wilton Manors, Florida
  • Kansas City, Missouri
  • Fort Worth, Texas
  • Dayton, Ohio
  • Ferndale, Michigan
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Tampa, Florida
  • Indianapolis,  Indiana
  • New Orleans, Louisiana
  • San Antonio, Texas
  • Alexandria, Virginia
  • Tallahassee, Florida
  • Arlington County, Virginia
  • Oakland Park, Florida

The state is purportedly going to lose billions of dollars over this, in many cases to the cities above. Other Indy companies that are either leaving, no longer having their events in Indy, or similarly throwing their weight around: Eskenazi Health (Central Indy’s leading healthcare provider), Cummings (world’s largest diesel engine maker), Eli Lilly & Company (which employs 12,000 in Indy), Yelp, Apple, Salesforce (which employs 3,000 in Indy), and even the Disciples of Christ church will move its annual conference in the future.

Don’t be Indiana. It’s not worth it.


Indy innovates BRT?

For all I know, my reputation for questioning most BRT projects probably precedes me. Not unlike most grant-funded initiatives that get off message in order to focus instead on a grantor/funder’s interests – the message that BRT is economic development is all wrong. BRT is one of many transit modes that a city may explore through the Alternatives Analysis phase of a fixed-guideway transit study. Other modes such as streetcar, light rail, or commuter rail will undoubtedly perform better on economic development.

BRT is a negotiated compromise between the ideal and the real; between what is aspirational and what is feasible. With lower up-front construction costs, yet higher long-term O+M costs, BRT is an easier proposition in a public finance system with no money for infrastructure. That BRT can also stimulate economic development is a good thing, but shouldn’t be confused as a unique advantage.

At the end of the day, it is still a bus. A bus is a bus is a bus. It’s still jerky, operates in traffic, like traffic – and for some reason, BRT signal prioritization hasn’t worked out as well as streetcar signal prioritization. A bus is a bus is a bus.

Or is it?


Indianapolis, with its new Indy Connect BRT project, is pioneering the U.S.’ first all-electric rolling stock. These “buses,” if you can even call them that, feature rubber tires, an electric power source (allowing for smooth acceleration and deceleration), and feature a bullet-shaped nose and longer articulation. I’m just going throw out a qualitative observation that Indy Connect is the first of these BRT’s that actually fulfills its promise to be light rail-like. Though, I still cringe to read “light rail on tires.”

I’ll be interested to see what happens in this space, now that the project is funded, and seems to be on the fast track to implementation.