IndyCAN Kick-Off a Success

Posted by Dan Mundell on Thu, Mar 8, 2012 at 1:11 PM | NUVO | Link to Article

MARK LEE,  Over 1700 people attended the kick-off convention. 

Over 1700 people attended the kick-off convention.

After nearly two years of preparation, Indianapolis Congregation Action Network (IndyCAN) celebrated its kick-off convention Tuesday at Light of the World Christian Church. More than 1,700 people packed the main hall, leaving only standing room for the late arrivals struggling to find parking.

A procession of clergy from more than 28 participating congregations opened the convention, followed by an opening prayer, interfaith reflection, and personal narratives of social and economic hardship that IndyCAN wants to address.

Introductions and financial pledges from participating congregations followed and were met by emphatic cheers from supporters in the audience. IndyCAN is adamant in being nonpartisan, but that didn't stop an energetic crowd from reworking President Obama's campaign slogan into the organizations own "yes we IndyCAN" chant.

As each speaker arrived at the podium, IndyCAN's agenda became clear: collaborate with policy-makers to remove barriers to employment, emphasize family sustaining wages, and dramatically reduce violence. The organization is not overwhelmed by its broad vision. Instead, it views its mission as an excellent opportunity for the city to capitalize on the success of recent public-private partnerships.

Mark Miles, president and CEO of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, spoke briefly on public transportation, unemployment, and the importance of targeted career training.

“Some say the Super Bowl was historic,” said Mark Miles, who also served as chairman of the Super Bowl Host Committee. “Well I’m here to tell you that IndyCAN is historic.”

In maybe the most emphatic speech of the night, Carolyn Higginbotham of Central Christian Church aroused several standing ovations from the ethnically diverse crowd. Ms. Higginbotham touched on a number of hot-button issues, including the DREAM Act, inner city violence, and employment laws for Hoosiers with criminal records.

A lull in the excitement arrived following news that the event's honored speaker, Mayor Ballard, was not in attendance.

“Mayor Ballard’s hallmark is building collaborations,” his representative declared. The irony was not lost on the crowd amidst unenthusiastic applause, hushed whispers and scattered boos. IndyCAN leaders will meet privately with Mayor Ballard on March 20.

Following this, City-County Council President Maggie Lewis took the stage.

“I am excited to learn that the City-County Council's priorities — crime, education, transportation, and jobs, jobs, jobs — are in line with those of IndyCAN,” she said to a roar of approval.

Paul Ciesielski, Chief of IMPD, attended in support of creating a safer Indianapolis. Operation Ceasefire, a key part of IndyCAN’s effort to reduce violence, is operational in cities across the country and has proven to reduce violence by as much as 60 percent. The program has strong approval from Public Safety Director Frank Straub.

In the coming months, IndyCAN plans to talk to an additional 10,000 people connected to its congregations. What its members learn from these conversations will be directly relayed to public officials through eight public forums, as well as individual meetings with Mayor Ballard and Director Straub. In doing so, IndyCAN will begin looking for concrete methods to increase civic engagement and bring about long-term measurable change for struggling Indianapolis families and citizens.