King-Eichholz, Deborah

Ordinarily, I would begin by thanking you, the duly elected members of the Muncie, Indiana City Council, for the great privilege of standing before you, but not tonight. On this night, two days after most Americans celebrated their freedoms and blessings, I find this meeting ironic and more than a little hypocritical. Tonight, a great many of the people you were elected to represent will find their American dreams a great deal more uncertain and insecure and their faith in the so-called Voice Of The People at a low point. Why should I thank you ? You collect paychecks, paid for by the very people your are about to hurt in so many ways. Your actions tonight may well tonight ruin countless lives. I owe you nothing, but contempt and scorn. With a few exceptions. There are some who respect the people they represent.
      Muncie, Indiana is Americas’ Hometown. Well, that’s the media has said over many decades. In many ways, that is very true, especially now. Like many cities and towns across the state and the rest of the country, the people of the United States are suffering and, until someone pulls a bunny from his or her hat, it may well get worse. The devil is in the details and there are alot of details – fuzzy, but not at all warm. When did The Big Slide really begin ? That’s a matter for economists to debate for years to come – economists and historians. It’s all intermingled, convoluted and growing more and more confusing as time passes. In retrospect, our national slide began a long time ago, when trust and faith in our elected leadership was dwindling even as our elected officials were running amok. Now, however, it’s under a very fine microscope and we’ve began asking questions and demanding answers. Specifically, however, Muncie is an island to itself, but very much with the eyes of the nation trained on us, as has been ever since the Lynds’ selected this city as The Typical American Town. In that respect, we were and we are, with few exceptions – a town also known as Little Chicago. If you are looking for a city whose reputation for corrupt politics and those who grease the wheels still at the helm, you have come to the right place.
      Perhaps 40 years ago, when Muncie could have, and should have, paid more attention to the changes happening in the world and, even more important, in the manufacturing sector, which kept us afloat, somewhat affluent and thriving, we closed our eyes and refused to believe anyone but Detroit could ever build a better mousetrap. What we forgot, what we chose to forget, was that we sent our best minds to post – war Japan and Germany. They taught Total Quality Management and our former enemies kicked our butts. Just as in the pre-war days, we had arrogance and ignorance working for us. They did it, but we didn’t want to see it – as long as we still had contracts and bustling factories. Never mind the writing was on the wall in the early 1970’s. Detroit and the good unions would save the day. Detroit got caught up in ego, greed and ignorance and the unions – well…they lost their way and the pension funds of many loyal workers.
     The huge gas guzzlers, arrogance and ignorance would prevail. NAFTA, while flawed, is hardly our only downfall, as one can easily note when locating former Muncie manufacturing concerns. They simply left this state. Why ? They crossed the river – not the Rio Grande, but the Ohio River. Why ?
     We avoided the technology advancements and failed to court them to the area. Why ? We have a terrific university and Ivy Tech, which has been cranking out tech engineers and designers for decades. They slipped through our fingers and I have to wonder why ? Hell, in 1957, My Weekly Reader was writing about the advent of the computer age. We did have time to absorb it and prepare, but we didn’t. Now, we cannot fail and we have to look forward and leave the past where it belongs.       The fact that we had already seen gas lines forming meant nothing, but a mere and temporary blip on our mental landscape. It was denial. Now, we have enormous debt to nations who would see us crumble in the dirt. We have local politicians who care only about what they can take from us, rather than work for us. We didn’t see the future, because the future would be a threat to the status quo. We have lost our security and sense of community.

      Now, there are empty lots where factories once stood and huge brick shells of memories and better days. Houses abandoned and businesses failing. Can we be strong enough to withstand these problems and the political back alley ambushes ?
      People have lost their homes to taxes and to eminent domain – a public law, in its widest sense, the right or power to take private property for public use. More precisely, it is the right of the nation, or those to whom the power has been lawfully delegated, such as railroads and public utility companies, to appropriate, by due process of law, the ownership and possession of private property, and to pay the owner of the property a just compensation. A declining tax base and the loss of property taxes as tax exempt entities gobble up our city, our hopes and dreams and everything we worked a lifetime to acquire. In short – our security. Our future, our hopes and dreams for our families. Progress might have meant prosperity and promise for this city, but it could also have spelled the end of Bad Politics and Bad Business.
      Now, horror of horrors – a local citizen based and staffed community advocacy group had blossomed and has shown no sign, much to the annoyance of those who preferred to keep the average citizen ” down and dumb, ” of going away anytime soon. There is too much to do here. The gut reaction was to hurt the sitting Mayor, regardless of the fact that it might hurt and destroy the people who choose to live here, via lies, rumors and a campaign of fear. Then, to attack the citizen activists ( not to be confused with Those Who Call Themselves Activists, But Are Merely Out For Themselves ), individually and as a group. These are the same people who would swear their concerns are, first and foremost, the people of this city. That is a lie, as far as I am concerned, but lying is not a sin to these people. It is, quite frankly, a means to an end, if not a religion or, at the very least, an education. We are their weapons and we are expendable, or so they seem to believe. I choose to believe this is not the case.
     People have had enough.
      We know there are no easy answers to the problems facing Muncie. You could say this about almost any other city and town in America today. True, some towns are doing well, but they have had visionary leadership and follow-thru. They also stood up to dynastic politics which have hurt many communities and shown them the door. We can, however, make a stand, speak out against those still in power and who are bringing along a new group of acolytes – better educated, more attractive and certainly more articulate. They are still the same people, just spruced up and more palatable to the public, which makes them even more dangerous, more self-serving and we have been warned…” they are coming ! ” Not that they ever left. Not while there was any sort of profit and power to be grasped and pockets to be picked.
      This is OUR city, too…not your private ATM. You owe us – the citizens – an explanation. Many explanations, come to think of it. With a financial tsunami coming our way, you were warned two years ago – but saw fit to have one – ONE – Finance Committee meeting in 18 months ? That’s YOU…looking out for US ? You hold secret closed door ( to the public ) meetings, but include those who have vested interest in keeping us down dumb and broke. You are presented a solid plan which could have helped Muncie, but it was never seen – perhaps, at best, by one or two, a brief synopsis. So…we are to trust you – again ? With what’s left of our money ?
      They will have you believe lies and untruths to be Gospel.
      They will have you believe they care for this city.                                                                                                   
      They will have you believe everythingthey say and do is the truth.
      Deborah King – Eichholz


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