Thursday, October 1, 2009

Political Correctness - Noblesville Style

We often hear complaints about political correctness on the national level. But in Noblesville’s resurrected Daily Times, in its weekly (though downsized) insert in the Star, and in its new Noblesville Current free newspaper, we have our own version of political correctness.

It manifests itself in a troubling uniformity. Our local news feels carefully sanitized.

It seems near exclusively aimed at community cheerleading. If there’s something negative going on, well it better be petty conflict or something juicy like an abducted child, a bank robbery, or a house fire if it’s to find its way into print. If there’s news with critical meaning that reflects splits in the community or questionable behavior on the part of our leaders, you better not blink, or you won’t know it happened.

There’s nothing wrong with community cheerleading. In general, I think Hoosiers are so self-deprecating; they tend not to cheerlead their communities and state enough. But what happens when we cheerlead to the point where we speak no evil, see no evil, and hear no evil?

Consider the puzzling story of a tax increase currently being promoted by Mayor John Ditslear and councilmen like Roy Johnson and Dale Snelling. They have a budget deficit. But instead of making serious, far-reaching budget cuts, they want to impose a “fee” for trash collection. They’ve argued that Westfield and Zionsville residents pay a trash fee, so it’s time Noblesville residents paid for their trash pick-up too. Problem is, we’ve already been paying for trash pickup through our property taxes. They’re not giving us a rebate on that, but adding the trash tax in addition. And think how easy it will be in the future to fund extra spending by raising the trash tax a dollar or two next year, and maybe again the year after that, and perhaps again the year after that.

You’d think the local media would want to tell residents that city leaders want to impose a $120 or $140 annual tax increase. But even with three local print news outlets, you’d have to look pretty hard to find it in print.

Back in August the Noblesville Star did one story about the trash tax, but used the City’s “fee” term, and never questioned the flimsy rationale behind the arguments City leaders presented.

How about the Noblesville Times? I’ve scoured its pages since August and can find not one story referring to the tax increase. They’ve run several columns from Mayor Ditslear and endless city press releases. But none mention the tax. The only mention I’ve found in their pages came in a couple letters to the editor. If the Times is the only local paper you read, you’d probably have no idea Ditslear, Johnson and Snelling are trying to raise your taxes.

Which raises a glaring question: Why?

There’s a neighborhood group on the north side of Old Town going door to door across the community organizing opposition to the trash tax. No story has been done about them.


The Star, The Times, and The Current all ran glowing stories about the Mayor’s State of The City Address. The Current said the address was “filled with good news.” There was not a single mention from the Mayor or the papers that a budget deficit was leading the Mayor to push for a tax increase on Noblesville residents.

Kinda hard to believe they all forgot to mention that little detail.

And that local style of political correctness can pervade the community. When a resident in the Wellingtons tried to get his homeowners association to alert association members about the proposed tax increase, they refused.

A community is like a family. Imagine a family where the members never complain because of an aversion to appearing impolite, who never have a heart to heart about a problem for fear of being negative, who never question authority for fear of being in disfavor with the leader?

Many of us have known a family like this. These families are usually led by a dictatorial head of household who only offers affection in return for obedience and does not tolerate dissention. And imagine that this family lives in a lovely house, drives shiny new cars, dresses in the latest fashions and belongs to all the right organizations. On the surface this dysfunctional family looks perfect. But that perception is of course superficial.

And the strangest thing about such families is that the members who allow problems to go unmentioned are tolerated. But members who dare points out the problem are not. In that world, it’s a greater wrong to point out sin, than to commit it. As my father-in-law puts it, “They wouldn’t say ‘shit’ if they had a mouthful.”

A community can be a little like that if you’re not careful.

I recall my college political science professor, Dr. Minez; a bald, rotund, grandfatherly Portuguese immigrant with a thick accent and a passion for American democracy. When a student complained about partisan arguing in Washington, Dr. Minez shot back, “That arguing is oil on the machinery of democracy. Never worry when a contentious debate is taking place. Worry when everyone seems to agree. Because in a democracy the silence of agreement is usually imposed by a powerful central force that has no meaningful opposition. And that’s when a democracy is in the greatest danger.”

Now all of that is pretty dramatic talk when referring to a little trash tax increase of $10 or $12 a month. But the trash tax and the way talk of it is being glaringly avoided by our local media is just the latest minor manifestation of the way our community – our community family, deals with unpleasant realities. We pretend they’re not happening and marginalize those who point out that they are.

That’s political correctness – Noblesville style.

And in case you don’t read it in the papers, Mayor Ditslear’s trash tax is tentatively scheduled to be considered at the Common Council meeting on Tuesday the 13th of October at Noblesville City Hall. To find out more about the citizen opposition to the trash tax and how you can get involved, contact Dwight Dickerson at

No comments:

Post a Comment