INDIANAPOLIS – Despite many challenges Indiana communities have faced in recent years, a new survey finds that 85% of local elected officials are optimistic about their communities’ future. Yet they report there are many concerns left to address, including drug abuse, internet access, economic inequality, and affordable housing, among many others.
Those findings come from the 2020 Indiana Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations Survey conducted by the Indiana University Public Policy Institute. The survey helps the IACIR commission and the Indiana General Assembly better understand the wide array of challenges local governments face.
Two-thirds of officials identified overall economic conditions as a major or moderate problem, and nearly one-third said conditions had worsened during the past year. Two-thirds also reported that economic inequality was a major or moderate issue. A lack of affordable housing was also a critical challenge in 2020, with 74% of respondents listing it as a major or moderate issue. In fact, local leaders selected affordable housing most often as their top priority to address during the next two years.
Internet connectivity also remains a real barrier for many Hoosiers, one that has worsened since the last survey in 2017. More than two-thirds of local leaders said both having high-speed internet/broadband service and having reliable, affordable service were problems in their communities. Addressing internet access was listed among the top five priority issues for communities to address in the next two years.
Drug abuse remains a significant problem. In fact, 94% of local officials listed it as a major or moderate problem in their community. Drug abuse was listed more than any other condition as having worsened in the past year. The issue ranked fifth among the top 10 issues leaders said were most important to work on during the next two years.
Lastly, 32% of officials said the condition of their local roads and streets had improved in the past year. However, 63% still said road conditions are a major or moderate problem, and many officials chose the issue as one that is important to work on during the next two years.
The 2020 questionnaire was sent to 2,040 elected county, city, town, township, and school board officials between February and August of 2020. Approximately 31% of recipients responded.