May 16, 2023 - Politics

A pitch for more state control over Indianapolis

A white Indiana State Police Car is parked on Monument Circle.

The Indiana State Police would have a larger presence in downtown Indianapolis under a proposal from Republican gubernatorial candidate Eric Doden. Photo: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

The state would take over policing and street work in downtown Indianapolis under a sweeping new proposal from a candidate running for governor.

Driving the news: Republican Eric Doden on Monday laid out a plan that he says would make downtown more presentable.

Details: Doden's "capital zone" proposal would give the state responsibility to pay for and control infrastructure projects in the Mile Square.

  • Indiana State Police would take on more policing duties alongside the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.
  • A new "prosecutor review board" would add oversight to ensure a "rogue prosecutor" could not ignore laws.

Why it matters: Doden's proposal, which lacks details on how it would work, plays on the notion of downtown as a lawless hellscape, a narrative that also has loomed over the mayor's race.

What he's saying: Doden told Axios his plan is a conversation starter that eventually would incorporate feedback from the Indiana General Assembly — where debates over local control play out every year — and the city, including the police and public works departments.

  • "By putting this policy out there, we fully expect there to be a lot of robust discussion," Doden said.

Meanwhile, as Doden introduced his plan, Mayor Joe Hogsett touted new spending on outreach to homeless individuals, part of his $3.5 million plan to improve downtown, during a press conference.

The other side: City officials and people close to Hogsett found Doden's plan baffling because, they say, state police have limited staffing and downtown is already receiving massive infrastructure investment while other areas get neglected because of the state's road funding formula.

  • "Mayor Joe's job is to work to move Indianapolis forward in substantive ways, and Eric Doden's job is to win a Republican primary in 2024 where less than 8% of the vote will come from Marion County. Both of them were doing their jobs on Monday," Thomas Cook, a former Hogsett official who managed the mayor's 2015 campaign, told Axios.

Between the lines: Doden, a wealthy businessman and former Indiana Economic Development Corp. president, is fighting for attention against better-known opponents in a crowded gubernatorial field.

  • U.S. Sen. Mike Braun and Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch are the other Republicans running in next year's primary.
  • Jennifer McCormick is the only Democrat running so far.
  • Libertarian Donald Rainwater is also running.

The bottom line: Doden's plan needs to be fleshed out, but it tells a story — depicting Indianapolis as a distressed economic engine in need of intervention — that many Republican primary voters affirm.


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