Kokomo

Do you wonder about all of the new apartment buildings and condominiums near downtown with more to come on South Main, near north Washington Street and near the KHS gym? Let’s look at some facts.

Howard County population shows an increase of 55 people in the past year. That is estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau. The county total now is about 82,366. A Tribune article stated this is a drop of 386 people from the 2010 census. The U.S. Census data show Howard County had 84,964 people in 2000 or a loss of 2,598 people when compared to the present. A gradual loss trend is expected into the future regardless of the minute gain last year.

What are we to make of these numbers? Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight has said, “We can choose growth or we can choose decline. It all hinges on the decisions our leaders make.” Goodnight seems to believe community health depends at least in part upon an ever increasing population.

Maybe we need to be focusing on other factors. A recent newspaper article said that Howard County is ranked 80th out of Indiana’s 92 counties in health outcomes which measure how long people live and how healthy they feel. It finished 81st in health factors based on behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment. Who wants to come into this kind of environment?

There was another article that indicated our area had a serious increase in violent crime. Local law enforcement disputed this claim explaining a change in reporting methods in 2015 resulted in distorted data. The article had indicated a 122.8 percent increase from 2012 to 2017 in violent crime in the Kokomo Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). This from the FBI Uniform Crime Report. Even if there was no increase in violent crime, the national reporting of “fake news” does not help the perception of life in Kokomo and Howard County.

Now the big one: housing. We see home construction continuing throughout the county. We see vacant homes in Kokomo. We see massive completed and ongoing construction of apartment complexes primarily close to downtown Kokomo. One has to wonder just who is going to inhabit all of these apartment units. Is Kokomo really expecting a huge influx of apartment dwellers? If so, from where and where are they expected to work?

I doubt commuters, which public officials estimate to be around 9,000 daily, to local employers are largely apartment dwellers. Most occupy homes in nearby communities, not apartments. A significant portion come from Noblesville and nearer Indianapolis. Do you really believe these folks are going to move into apartments in Kokomo, particularly near downtown. I don’t. So, what is the expectation?

There is a nasty rumor going around that the expectation is an influx of people from the Chicago area. If so, this is not good for our community. More people do not necessarily mean a better, safer, and healthier community.

We need to focus on quality of life, not numbers of people. We need to do something about health outcomes. We need to stay on top of crime which means being sure law enforcement is tops in both numbers and training. We need to address our general infrastructure, not just “look nice” or high profile while neglecting roads and alleys.

We do not need more apartments, particularly low income ones, but more we will get! They are already or soon will be under construction.

A new mayor will soon be in charge of Kokomo. Responsible leadership means doing what is best for our community. This may mean a change in direction in some very key ways. Think about this when casting your vote. Our future is at stake.

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