This is a real shocker. Fox 59 News is reporting that Indianapolis' well-known radio talk show host Amos Brown has died. Brown's voice has been heard on local radio for more than 40 years. He hosted "Afternoons With Amos" on WTLC-AM, the most-widely listened to black radio talk show. He's been at the forefront of covering local politics and was inducted into the Indiana Broadcasters Hall of Fame. It's unclear what caused the sudden death of Brown, who seemed quite well the last time I spoke to him just a few weeks ago. WTLC-AM said Brown died at his family's home in Chicago after collapsing late yesterday. His presence will definitely be missed in Indianapolis. His passing leaves the City without a counter view so lacking in our local news media. Brown had some strong words of advice for Mayor-elect Joe Hogsett and sharp criticism of outgoing Mayor Greg Ballard, one of the few local politicians and only Indianapolis mayor who refused to be interviewed by Brown, in his final column in the Indianapolis Recorder, words neither of which wanted to hear:
My advice, from an elder community servant/leader, was contained in some of the issues I brought up to you last Friday during that final mayor’s debate on our “Afternoons with Amos” program.
You danced around the issues I raised, but they aren’t going away, because they strike at the heart of the major problems facing Indianapolis — problems my friends at Indy’s mainstream media continue to ignore. But they and you do so at their and our city/county’s peril. It’s amazing in a campaign that talked about lots of issues, the problem of affordable housing was ignored. As I mentioned to you during the debate, Indianapolis ranks eighth of America’s 20 largest cities in the percentage of renters who’re spending over 30 percent of their annual income on rent and utilities.
The 2014 Census American Community Survey (ACS) reported 57.1 percent of Indianapolis renters spend 30 percent or more of their income on utilities and rent. That’s higher than cities like Houston, Chicago, Phoenix and Dallas.
Median rent in this city is $788. Add in the growing utility bills from IPL and Citizens Energy, and that percentage is only going to increase. Mayor Greg Ballard had no strategy for (and really didn’t give a damn about) increasing the amount of affordable housing. We don’t know if those increasing costs are one of the contributors to rising crime in our neighborhoods, but I can’t help but think it could be. Mayor-elect, you sort of ignored the fact that last year the amount of city business that went to minority-owned businesses was just 6 percent. The city’s goal is 15 percent.
That’s a 60 percent drop, a stunning reversal of something Mayor Ballard and his Boyz had bragged about — how well they were treating minority business.
You ignored another of Ballard’s greatest sins: Destroying the whole concept of minority-owned business by allowing a white-owned business to be classified as an Asian-owned business. The city ignored federal guidelines and the practices of major corporations and other major cities and allowed a white man born in Turkey to be classified as Asian.
Then to make the sin worse, the Ballard administration refused to break down their minority-owned spending by race and ethnicity.
I know in the debate you promised to change that, but you didn’t call out the hypocrisy of the Ballard administration deliberately misclassifying a majority to become a minority-owned business.
Then there’s what I continue to call that bogus, undocumented theory peddled by the Indy Chamber and Ballard’s Boyz that says Indy can solve its tax revenue woes by reversing white flight through luring thousands of young whites with high incomes.
They’ve peddled that malarkey for the past couple of years without offering one shred of documentation that their theory holds water; no data on how many young whites with high incomes would have to move here to solve Indy’s municipal budget woes.
Meanwhile, a Brookings Institution report this September, by the respected demographer William Frey, reported Indianapolis was among many large cities that’s had virtually no white population growth since 2010. The Census ACS says white population has had a net gain in Indianapolis/Marion County of 1,359 since 2010. Compare that to gains of 16,000 Blacks, 7,300 Hispanics and 5,400 Asians.
I maintain you grow city/county revenue by improving the wages and economic conditions of all who already live here, instead of basing revenue growth on an untested pipe dream.
The question, Mr. Mayor-elect, is whether you buy the snake oil your predecessor and the Chamber’s been selling or you follow common sense. (Oh, and if the Chamber has documentation to prove their bizarre theory, produce it! Like, this week.) Sir, you also danced around the question I asked about convening a broad-based summit of Indy leaders to take hard looks at the revitalization of IPS — not just inside the schools, but in the neighborhoods outside — to reverse IPS’ continued decline.
According to preliminary enrollment data I got from IPS last week, the district’s preliminary 2015–16 enrollment is 28,527. That’s down 1,570, or 5.2 percent, from last year’s figure of 30,097.
White enrollment in IPS, which has steadily declined for decades, reached new lows of 5,790, down 7.1 percent. Black enrollment also fell to a new low of 13,885, down 8.3 percent.
Black enrollment declines are partly due to the proliferation of charters, but also to Blacks moving to Indy’s townships. If there’s scores of whites moving downtown, they’re not bringing kids with them. Mayor-elect Hogsett, you might have skirted those issues during the debate, but when you take office in eight weeks, these and many more issues you’ll have to deal with.
We’ve had eight years of no leadership in the mayor’s office. This city can’t take another four years of drift and division. During this campaign many times you said if you became mayor you would lead. Well, sir, the 277,168 African-American residents of this city/county and the remaining 657,075 residents are waiting for you to be true to your word.
We want to follow you.
It’s time you lead!
While our politics often differed, Amos Brown never let that stand in the way of friendship and I will miss him very much.— Governor Mike Pence (@GovPenceIN) November 7, 2015
With the passing of Amos Brown, Indiana broadcasting lost a legend and Indianapolis lost a champion https://t.co/vQdtsGP4yF— Governor Mike Pence (@GovPenceIN) November 7, 2015
Mayor-Elect Joe Hogsett: "There will only ever be one Amos Brown." pic.twitter.com/WqIE7rp5z0— Joe Hogsett for Indy (@HogsettForIndy) November 7, 2015
Rest in peace my dear friend, mentor, community advocate and scholar @Amoswtlcindy. I will miss you.— André Carson (@RepAndreCarson) November 7, 2015