After criticism for not getting involved and engaged in the battle to reduce crime in Indianapolis, the business community has come to the table. Eli Lilly and Company President Dr. John Lechleiter has said his company, along with some of Indianapolis’ major businesses and foundations are pledging to help raise the matching funds necessary to implement Mayor Greg Ballard’s proposal to expand quality pre-school and pre-kindergarten schools and opportunity in Indianapolis. But questions have been raised why the business community is moving to raise funds to help steer four year olds to a positive future, while not helping raise funds for to expand and augment programs to help keep teens and young adults on a positive path; away from trouble and crime.
Two key Lilly Company leaders, Rob Smith, Senior Vice-President Corporate Responsibility at Lilly and head of the Lilly Foundation and Mike O’Connor Lilly’s Director, State Government Affairs and a former Deputy Mayor under Bart Peterson appeared on Afternoons with Amos to explain the business community’s commitment. A commitment that includes challenging the Democratic and Republican political leadership in Indianapolis to find a compromise on funding the Mayor’s pre-school plans. In the interview, Smith and O’Connor acknowledged that the Mayor’s plan is a temporary solution. That a permanent funding source, preferably from state government is needed to expand quality preschool in Indianapolis and Indiana. The two cited the example of Oklahoma which has state funded quality preschool. But both Smith and O’Connor were evasive when pressed by Amos and listeners about why the business community won’t step up to increase funding to proven programs that help teens and young adults; including employment programs. When asked about the $5 million Community Crime Prevention Grants created by Mayor Peterson, O’Connor, who was with Peterson when the fund grant program was developed, refused to support the idea of bring that funding back to the $5 million level. It’s been cut by the Ballard Administration to $2 million year for the past three years. Smith and O’Connor said there’ll be a meeting September 12th with all segments of the business community, including minority businesses, to talk about business can help the preschool effort. Click the Media Player To Hear About the Business Community’s Commitment to Quality Preschool and Reluctance to Fund Programs for Teens and Young Adults. Runs 40 Minutes ©2014 WTLC/Radio One.