INDIANAPOLIS, Ind – City and Faith leaders gathered to celebrate the 157th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation on New Year’s Day.
The celebration at Olivet Missionary Baptist Church also included an update on the state of racial equality in Indianapolis.
Shortly before being sworn in for his second term, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett told churchgoers that 2019 brought positive progress toward better equality. Hogsett celebrated the formation of the city’s first civilian police merit board. The seven-member board is responsible for the hiring, promoting, recruiting and disciplining of members of IMPD.
“And for the first time in our city’s history, that seven-person board is made up of a majority African-American residents,” Hogsett said.
Church members also applauded Hogsett’s appointment of longtime investigator, Randy Taylor, as the new chief of IMPD.
Hogsett also mentioned that the 2019 criminal homicide total of 171 should not be seen as a declaration of victory, but a step in the right direction.
“For the first time in 10 years in our city, today we start a new year at the close of the old year with the number of criminal homicides going down in Indianapolis,” Hogsett said.
Indianapolis Democrat State Representative Greg Porter also addressed the church and laid out his priorities for the upcoming legislative session. Although lawmakers won’t be writing a state budget in the upcoming session, Porter said budget priorities will be part of ongoing discussions.
“It’s about the money,” Porter said. “Follow the money, understand where the money is going and what it does for us.”
Porter pointed out the most recent revenue forecast that shows Indiana has a budgetary surplus of $2.4 billion. He argued some of that money should be used to increase pay for public school teachers.
“2.4 billion dollar surplus, and we can’t give teachers a raise of mere five percent,” Porter said. “You’re going to hear a lot about how we can’t give teachers a raise, it’s not sustainable. Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, the dollars are there. It can be sustainable.”
Porter indicated that Democrats intend to push for more public health care funding and more dollars for school safety and mental health services. He also wants lawmakers to address the issue of high prescription and insulin prices.
Finally, Porter told the church that lawmakers could revisit one of the hottest debates from last year’s legislative session.
“We will continue to work on hate crime legislation,” Porter said. “Because it doesn’t do what it says it’s going to do, we’re not off the list as they say we are.”
Lawmakers will reconvene for the 2020 legislative session on January 6. The session is expected to last about two months.