When I decided to move to Indiana from Illinois, I simply picked the best city in the state. I suspect I chose Carmel for the reasons many do – top schools, great public safety, low taxes and high quality of life. I spent a lifetime as a businessman, town alderman and mayor of Rolling Meadows, Ill., a northwest suburb of Chicago. As a mayor, the challenge was always about growing a jobs and tax base, pushing for quality of life and dealing with aging infrastructure. It is through this lens, after living in Carmel for some time, that I truly understand how special the city is and what Mayor Jim Brainard has accomplished in 23 years.
Cities live and die by their ability to build infrastructure during the growth phase and their ability to attract investment years later when the next suburb has greener pastures. What Brainard has done in Carmel has been nothing short of amazing. He has used investment from corporations and developers to replace aging county roads with beautiful boulevards, develop one of the best transportation networks I’ve ever seen and set up a low-urban-density development pattern downtown that is creating a powerful tax base for the next century.
While Carmel has taken on debt, it’s at historically-low interest rates and is being repaid in large part by corporations instead of residents. Infrastructure needs and costs are ever-present for all cities, but they can either be on-the-books and beautiful like Carmel or unfunded and pothole-riddled, as is the case across the country.
I’ve heard some say that as a wealthy suburb with good schools, all this would have happened anyway. Carmel would have been nice, but I believe Mayor Brainard’s vision and dedication has made it exceptional. Most important of all, Brainard has put Carmel on a trajectory where investment won’t flow somewhere else in 30 years when the city is built out. Carmel has become a nationally-unique destination with an economic engine poised for an even brighter future. I’m honored to call it home.
Tim Veenbaas, Carmel