Friday, February 22, 2008

forget it, greg. it's chinatown.

AM points to today's tully column, where we see that mayor ballard might be having trouble coming up with ways to cut the budget like he promised, but he's got some killer ideas for how to spend more:

[...] I was intrigued and a bit amused the other day when Mayor Greg Ballard mentioned something about a Chinatown to a local business leader, after a news conference on the city's 2012 Super Bowl bid.

A colleague and I quickly asked the new mayor about the Chinatown talk. Ballard smiled and told us -- perhaps to the horror of his press secretary -- about his desire to create a Chinatown somewhere on the Near Southside.


"You go around the world -- San Francisco or London -- and Chinatowns are some of the best places," he said. "It's just fun and cultural, and it would make the Chinese community feel welcome in the city."

this is possibly the second-dumbest thing a hoosier has ever said about chinatown. (the record, of course, is still held by jacob perry a.k.a. "the scribe".)

for one thing, as tully notes, you don't just build a chinatown—though that might be a cool feature for the next sim city game. chinese immigrants build chinatowns by immigrating to a city and taking over a neighborhood en masse. this isn't field of dreams; you can't just build a chinatown and expect a bunch of chinese people to suddenly show up and turn it into a thriving cultural hotspot.

i live on the northwest side. these days there are a lot of mexican restaurants in my neighborhood. the closest one, which closes down and comes back with a new name every three months, didn't even have english on the menu in its last incarnation. and if you go a few miles south of here, you'll find yourself in a burgeoning little mexico. virago & i think that's great, because we love real mexican food, and if they don't serve menudo (and maybe pozole) on weekends then it's not real mexican food.

that's how you build an ethnic community: with a steady stream of new immigrants over the course of a decade or two. but a lot of hoosiers don't feel the way i do. in fact, just yesterday, house republicans stormed out, enraged that they wouldn't be allowed to "strengthen" the immigration to sufficiently punish undocumented immigrants (much to the horror of the bill's sponsor, who had been insisting his bill wasn't racist). maybe i'm just cynical, but i can't see them being much happier about a similar wave of chinese immigrants, which would be a requirement for creating a viable chinatown.

and for another thing, though it's fun to daydream about indy having a chinatown or a world-class cricket tournament (another of ballard's grand ideas; he doesn't know how the game is played, but knows it's popular), mayor ballard was supposed to be the financial guy who turned slashed the budget (despite the looming recession) and simultaneously cut crime rates, without any tax hikes, major service cuts, or public safety cuts. but when challenged to identify actual ways to cut the budget, he stammered and hemmed and hawed. the man doesn't know how he's going to run the budget he has, and instead of finding the answer—or hiring a staff to do it for him—he's dreaming about big new projects. what next: a rollercoaster?

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