What is Next Muncie?

By: Todd Smekens

Muncie, Indiana Blog– In case you’ve not discovered the connections between all things Muncie, we have a trust fund managed by Jud Fisher, a descendant of the Ball Family who became incredibly wealthy off access to cheap natural gas and low land and labor costs. They amassed a fortune even though their commitment to Muncie evaporated, the Trust Fund remains to help Muncie. Or, is it more about control?

Oh wait, Todd, we have a democracy in this country. Right, that’s what the pamphlets read, but we are far from a democratic nation. Dating back to our origins, those who owned the land and resources chose our government. Women and African Americans were excluded from voting until centuries later. For those who haven’t read my local study, the Ball family was hard on non-whites living in Muncie.

The world is changing rapidly from the pro-capitalist days of the TV watching Boomer generation to the Smartphone using Millennial generation. It’s interesting to be situated in a community controlled by old money when we have a university bringing in college students from places with new ideas on how the world should function. We’ve witnessed enough from the Board of Trustees to know they are corporatists, or as high tenured professors have called, the Politburo.

Meanwhile, as recent as the 2016 primary election, Hoosier millennials supported a self-declared Democratic Socialist over an entrenched career politician who appealed to the TV watching Boomer generation. Very little attention was paid to this by our statewide media conglomerate owned by Gannett, Inc. It’s not surprising when you consider how things function in the USA. As the MIT linguist would say, “The role of our government and the media is to manufacture consent.”

We see that played out in Muncie with primetime coverage from our newspaper and radio stations which both cheerlead for our anchor institutions. The Muncie Journal and The StarPress are nothing but propaganda. The StarPress couldn’t even hold our state lawmakers and Ball State accountable when they stole away our school district. They manufactured consent instead and then praised our philanthropists for donating money to the school district only after Ball State took valuable assets and was given full control by the state.

So, when “our” community takes on an initiative to tackle what’s next for Muncie, you’d expect the Boomers to take a back seat, sit down, and shut up. Their failures are everywhere. Not in the land of Ball. They’ve formed a new nonprofit calling itself, “Next Muncie.” Of course, the seed money came from the Ball family led by Jud Fisher who handpicked his captains from our other non-profit worlds of education and healthcare – our anchor nonprofit institutions founded by the Ball family. “He who has the gold makes the rules.”

Before we continue let me ask, “What two areas of our economy are crushing the working class we created after WW2?”

Yes, that would be healthcare and education. Is it a coincidence that anchor institutions from those two industries are playing a part in devising plans for the City of Muncie?

Unless you’re an executive or work in the professional class, wages have been stagnant since the 1990’s while both education and health care expenses have grown by double digits or higher. Student loans for the Millenial class have exceeded $1 trillion which is choking Millennials. And healthcare costs have caused more personal bankruptcies than any other significant expense in the USA. By a vast majority, the Millenials support universal healthcare which will lower medical costs across the board. It would be a negative impact for salaried professionals at IU/BMH which is why they lobby (contribute to a union) against single-payer insurance like every other industrialized economy. The American Medical Association is one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the United States.

Yes, even though health care costs are killing Americans, the American Medical Association continues to be one of the most massive, most influential lobbying arms in America right along with Big Pharma and Big Insurance.

And yes, by all international measurements, we pay more and get less than any other industrialized country. Why do Americans tolerate this travesty?

Because they have unions and we don’t. They also have a media which cheerleads for the medical community. Any idea how much those full-page pharma ads cost in your local newspaper or 1-minute ads on TV?

Hopefully, by now you’ve made the connection between money and our media. It’s a far cry from the free press our Founders envisioned to hold the powerful accountable.

Another worthy consideration, if one of our major anchor institutions is a hospital, you’d think our community would rank high in Wellness studies. Ranking high would show that our “health care institutions” place people over profits.


We aren’t even close. As a county among 92 counties in Indiana, we consistently rank 83-87th in overall wellness.


Simplifying a complex situation, let’s say it has to do with an overarching goal and motive of placing profits over people. If the NYSE is doing well or GDP is growing, then our corporate owned media and industry leaders talk about how great our economy is doing. However, if we look at alternative indices/measurements like the Social Progress or Happiness Index, guess what?

We get an entirely different picture. People are generally unhappy. Depression and anxiety rule our Prozac Nation. Opioid addiction is out of hand. Hopeless people turn to unhealthy outlets to escape this existence. Suicide rates in rural America have grown astronomical over the past several years.

Scholars and philosophers point out it’s due to our systemic failures. Wealth and income inequality are evidence of a wide-ranging systemic failure and exacerbate our moral crisis.

Recent community meetings have shown our two anchor institutions: Ball State University and IU/Ball Memorial Hospital have a large percentage of their employees living outside our county and commute to Muncie. Mike Hicks says we have over four thousand jobs met by workers residing outside our community (how many doctors and profs drive up from Hamilton County).


Government corruption, poor housing stock, unkept community amenities like parks, streets, and sidewalks. The government is failing to meet essential government services. Ask our government, and they’ll tell you we don’t have enough tax dollars. Standard & Poor’s bond rating agencies say that Muncie is plagued by an overwhelming majority of property owned by non-profits. Our two anchor institutions are both non-profits and hold substantial real estate property. Churches, Meridian Services, and the YMCA also fall into the category of freeloaders who pay nothing toward government services.

Despite our government’s failures, our elected leaders hand out money to developers and business people who steal from Muncie taxpayers under the facade of “economic development.”

Now, what the heck does any of this do with the new community entity called Next Muncie?

Based on a review of their website, the co-chairmen for this endeavor were hand picked by Jud Fisher because he put up the money. Those who have the money make the rules have been Muncie’s Achilles heel for generations. Instead of taking a step back and asking the community of young people what they’d like to see in Next Muncie, we’ve assembled the same old people who’ve had zero impact in Muncie for generations.

As you can see from the website, Geoffrey Mearns and Jeff Bird will be co-chairmen. Another handpicked member is Jay Julian from the Muncie/DC Chamber. For the record, neither the county or city government use the economic development arm of the Chamber because of its poor history. Muncie’s self-appointed leaders seek the Chamber’s input on what’s next for Muncie, Indiana.

Muncie could have been ground zero for many of the ‘Next Economy‘ experiments. We’ve not even come close, and we have a major academic university within our city limits. From a recent edition of ‘Nonprofit Quarterly‘:

A couple of quick observations:

  • We know we are in a time of flux and that old systems and assumptions are unlikely to hold.
  • In terms of the economy, this means we need to take emergent democratic forms of business ownership—such as employee ownership, land trusts, and community finance—seriously.

Oddly enough, a useful reminder comes from Herbert Stein, head of the White House Council of Economic Advisors under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, who quipped, “things that can’t go on forever, don’t.” Stein’s observation frequently goes under the moniker of “Stein’s Law.”

Despite Stein’s Law, Muncie keeps employing the same strategy because the Ruling Class decides who shall make the rules. The voting public means nothing. The direction of Next Muncie will be lead by those who lead last Muncie into a bottom dweller within the state. I believe it was Einstein who said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.”

I’ve had one student after another try to implement a local purchasing program for localvores and farmers only to find both BSU and IU/BMH quashed their ideas. And let’s not forget, Ball Memorial Hospital was sold to IU/Clarian for pennies on the dollar. And while other universities quickly severed their relationship with the racist head of Papa John’s Pizza, Ball State remains in “careful deliberation.”

And I didn’t even mention that Mayor Dennis Tyler sits on this committee. His best friend’s kid (our former building commissioner) plead guilty to stealing over $300 thousand from Muncie taxpayers. The New Jersey developer who Todd Donati and Dennis Tyler chose for their $75 million canal development was ready to hoodwink local taxpayers as well.

I know the sycophants in Muncie always point out that Muncie would be destitute if we didn’t have access to the Ball family trusts. Maybe. We might have rebounded from the 1990’s industrial crash much quicker had we tried a few progressive ideas versus the same right-wing ideas which have driven Muncie into the bottom dweller it has occupied for decades. However, these groups just cheerleaded and organized the theft of Muncie Community Schools. I’m pretty sure they’ll employ a similar strategy for Next Muncie.

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Todd Smekens

Journalist, consultant, publisher, and servant-leader with a passion for truth-seeking. Enjoy motorcycling, meditation, and spending quality time with my daughter and rescue hound. Spiritually-centered first and foremost. Lived in multiple states within the USA and frequent traveler to the mountains.
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