Civil Discourse Now

Where the far left and far right overlap for fun and enlightenment

WHY City-Council candidates need to ride the bus.

   Tojo was Prime Minister of Japan during World War II. The Tojo I met in Chicago in 1983 was a chihuahua whose owner brought him into a bar in Berwyn, a suburb on Chicago’s near-southwest side. Tojo would take his place on the bar and lap up beer (not good for dogs, I know; but it was 1983 and people were ignorant of such things in Berwyn).

   The dog’s owner was in his 60s. I asked him if he served in World War II. He said he was a plumber. I smiled and commented he probably did not see much action. He corrected me.

   "I was a master plumber in the construction of submarines."

   Think about it. Submarines submerge and surface through the boat’s plumbing. Pipes and pumps take in and expel water to go up and down. If the boat goes down but does not come up, that is a real bummer for the crew. He said when he and his crew finished their first boat, the skipper asked if she (the sub) was ready. The master plumber, my new friend (along with Tojo) said sure. The skipper said, "Fine. You’re going with us on the trial run. If there’s anything wrong with the plumbing, we want you there to tell us how to fix it."

   It was the guy’s turn to smile. He said, "I went. The boat worked fine. I’d been serious about the work we did on that first boat. I was much more careful about all the boats after that."

   Members of the City-County Council need to ride the bus. They need to do so not only because it is a proper civic thing to do. We have bally-hooed the 2012 Super Bowl. Thousands of people will come here to stay in hotels, eat at restaurants, and imbibe cocktails at bars. Downtown parking is expensive. Purchase, insurance, upkeep, and gasoline for a car—even a beater—are expensive. The housekeeping staff and bellmen of the hotels, the cooks and servers and bus people at the restaurants, and the bartenders and servers at the fashionable watering holes generally cannot afford automobiles, much less the price to park downtown. Without those people to work the jobs—menial in the eyes of some; necessary in the eyes of those knowledgeable in the food and service industry—Super Bowl fans will have to wait for lousy service. Indy’s reputation as world-class sports venue will be impaired.

   Members of the City-County Council determine the budgets and policies of mass transit in our city. Buses run by the hour. Routes and schedules require regular riders to juggle to make it to work on time. Gaps exist for many. The bus at the corner might pick up at 6:43and arrive downtown at 7:30. Work might not start until 8. If overtime is required, the trip home might be quite late. If that worker has a family, she or he has to juggle kids’ school and the cooking of meals. Those are basics. When is the time to help on homework. Where is the time to enjoy being with family? And what of the after-school time, when kids have a tendency to yield to the temptation of trouble? Where are mom or dad then?

   When the skipper insisted that Tojo’s master be a passenger on that shakedown run on that first sub, Tojo’s master realized that faulty plumbing could result in his own death. If a valve stuck or some other part malfunctioned, the boat might not resurface. If members of the City-County Council ride the bus a few times, and not as novelty, but to make it to and from work, those members might realize the importance of improvement of the system of mass transit in Indianapolis.

   That is why, on "Civil Discourse Now," I asked the candidates if they have ridden the bus. If they have not, how can they understand the problems of IndyGo and the needs of our poorer citizens to be able to perform tasks for our wealthier citizens?          

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