During the last three years, I have been working with others to try to bring some new regulations to historic neighborhoods to protect their unique character. Why then, after working so long and so thoughtfully, are historic neighborhoods in Indianapolis worse off than they were before?
The people who were elected or appointed to a position of power, who are able to affect change (develop historic preservation guidelines), don’t do it. Maybe they fear losing their power. Or maybe they want to make a difference, to make a stand, and to represent the wellbeing of their community. But after a while, they become weary from chasing that goal while stuck on a hamster wheel. Maybe they have no real power after all, so they play politics. They simultaneously do something and nothing at all.
No one wants to stop smoking, or eat healthy or exercise daily, but they’ll surely want health care when they’re dying. It’s their right. “Y’all pay for my medical care, while I play video games and eat potato chips.” Fast food is easy, convenient, and so tasty. It’s too painful to wake up early to exercise or to forgo that pack of cigarettes. But then — wham! — when the heart attack strikes and their lives flash before their eyes, and they beg the doctor to save them — only then might they consider lifestyle changes. Why do people wait until their neighborhoods are threatened to take action? Prevention is too burdensome.
I have been standing up, waving my arms and shouting at the top of my lungs: “Look, that person has torn down or gutted 20 houses this year! He built homes that don’t fit contextually in their place.” The next year, when the same person tore down twice as many homes, and built suburban-style houses in their place, I screamed: “We can’t let this continue. Come, join me in saying, ‘This is not good for historic neighborhoods.'” But no one came. No one joined the fight or devised a solution. As the third year comes to a close, my knuckles are bloody from knocking on doors, my feet are blistered from walking up and down my neighborhood streets, and my voice is hoarse. Still, historic homes are torn down nearly every day, and they are replaced with something new, cold, bland. No one cares. They are apathetic.
People are so fiercely independent that they don’t want anyone to tell them what they can or cannot do. They say: “It’s my house, and I can tear it down if I want to. I own it. Who are you to tell me what to do with it?” Or: “I don’t need regulations. I have good taste. Make those people with bad taste have protective guidelines. Not me.” These people hold themselves — their personal rights — above community.
And the number one reason more homes are being demolished every day and Brazen Buildings are erected in their place is:
Home destruction and Brazen Buildings are capitalism at it’s best. Why shouldn’t someone make a buck? Money is more powerful than anything. Money has more strength than personal character. Money has more meaning than personal responsibility. Money has more worth than common decency. If you have enough money, it doesn’t matter what you do. Just ask Brad Litz, who hired Alex White, a sitting Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commissioner to design some of his homes. Brad Litz/John Eaton Homes are one of the most flagrant Brazen Builders, and have demolished home after home and built incongruent houses in their place. Yet, it appears that this strategic partnership with an IHPC Commissioner, who supposedly supports historic preservation, is advantageous for them both. Could it be money? Or just a vote in a Mr. Litz’s back pocket? Or perhaps an improved public perception?