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Tim Pape: the Exit Interview

The former 5th district councilman talks to FWR and the Around Fort Wayne blog about advocacy, the role of government, and the tone of Fort Wayneís City Council

By Michael Summers


Fort Wayne Reader


Early last year, Tim Pape announced he would not seek a fourth term representing the 5th district on Fort Wayneís City Council. Pape has seen a lot of changes on Council and in Fort Wayne since he was elected in 2000, and has earned a reputation as a staunch advocate of how government can play an active role in economic development. With just a week or so to go in his final term on City Council, Pape took the opportunity to reflect on his tenure on City Council with the Fort Wayne Reader and the Around Fort Wayne Blog.

Fort Wayne Reader: A big issue/controversy when you began on City Council back in 2000 was whether or not we should move the Coliseum downtown, or change the current facility. Of course, in the end the Coliseum remained where it was, but that discussion set the stage for a lot of the downtown revitalization initiatives weíve seen over the last decade. Where did you fall in that discussion, and as a proponent of downtown revitalization, how did that discussion spur/shape your thinking on the issue?

Tim Pape: I do think that was a jump start to the downtown initiative. It was the right moment with Mayor Richard as our leader, a lot of Councilpersons ó Sam Talarico Jr. myself, others ó interested in seeing downtown redeveloped, finding the value in that as a community. What was valuable about failing to get a downtown arena is that it really brought the business community and business leaders together to engage in that issue to think about that issue, to look at the value of what so many other communities had found with that kind of large attraction in their downtown, and I think that formed the foundation to be able to be successful with Harrison Square.

FWR: How did that discussion shape your thinking on the issue?

Pape: I donít think it shaped my thinking. Frankly, on that particular proposal, I thought it was dead in the water from the beginning, simply because the Commissioners had spent too much time fighting to get the food and beverage tax extended down at the state house, fighting in court, they had the plans drawn up, you had a very assertive leadership at the coliseum, and I thought it was way too far along for them to back off at that point in time.

But I learned a lesson in that thereís value in promoting ideas even if youíre going to lose. So, I was always a big downtown advocate, and the depth and breadth of my understanding of why thatís important has grown immensely year after year. I think that that initiative really awakened the community, particularly the business leadership, as to the value of a revitalized downtown. I think we could have been successful without it, but historically, that was a significant part of being able to be successful, as weíve been successful with so many different projects, including Harrison Square.

FWR: There are some who have described you as the Henry administrationís ďmouthpieceĒ on Council, Maybe mouthpiece is maybe the wrong word. Weíll use the word ďadvocate.Ē I wonder if youíd like to comment on that. Is it a role you think youíve played, and to what extent?

Pape: Sure, thatís not an unfair characterization from someone observing from the outside. Iíve had my differences of opinion with the Richard administration, with the Henry administration, but I tend to try to be cooperative and work as much as possibleÖ you know, to be successful as a district City Councilman and get things done in your district, itís critical to have as good a relationship as possible with the administration, including whoever the Mayor is, the Deputy Mayor, the division heads, all down the line. Youíre not going be effective as you could be in representing your district, in getting the things your district needs, if you are vocally and publicly always opposing the administration. So I think you wouldnít have seen very much dissention from me if they had been Mayors whose agendas I didnít support. I donít think I would have gone about it that way like a lot of other Councilpersons do; for me it was about trying to be as effective as possible.

Also, I did have a large degree of agreement with the initiatives of Mayor Richard and Mayor Henry. We believe, I think I can say they believe, we can use government as a tool ó where appropriate and necessary and in a limited fashion, but still use it to make our community better, to be a partner with private business, to help attract private investment to grow, maintain attract jobs. I think a lot of that advocacy was extremely easy and extremely natural. It was a byproduct of having a similar vision, having similar desires for our community.

FWR: How has the tenor or tone of Council changed since your first term?

Pape: Itís unprofessional, where it had been professional during my first two terms. Itís petty, where it had been serious. Itís been a dramatic change. Itís been a wearisome last four years, this final term. It taught me two significant lessons ó if you have some characters who are willing to dirty the sandbox, itís hard to keep it clean. And youíre going to get dirty and itís going to effect you. Itís been a very unpleasant experience, very wearisome.

FWR: Was that a factor in deciding not to run again?

Pape: UmmÖ I donít want to overstate that, but the position became much less enjoyable. More substantively, I really got comfortable with the idea that I could be effective in ways that are important to me ó be able to participate and even perhaps influence the community outside of being an elected official. And what I found is true. So much of the job became absorbed by stuff that was unhelpful, unproductive, and unnecessary. So, was it a direct decision because of that? No. But I think indirectly it influenced my assessment that if I want to do the things I think are critically important, I probably had a better opportunity to do it outside that position.

FWR: Do you want to tell us what those things might be?

Pape: Iím still exploring that. There are a number of organizations I think have a lot of promise. They have good people involved in them and I think theyíre serious and committed. I donít know if they want me, so Iím exploring those things. Very broadly and generally, Iím very interested in community development ó a subset of that is economic development, finding out how we can do better in building our quality of life attract business that pay living wages. Downtown is part of that. One of the greatest things we can do to be effective in retaining and gaining living-wage jobs is to have a really vibrant city center, a very vibrant regional center. Itís a very serious economic development initiative itís not just about ďIíd like to have a cool place to go.Ē That wouldnít be worth the level of attention, frankly. Itís a critical component of economic development. So, broadly speaking, those areas are where Iím hoping to invest my time and hopefully have something to add.

FWR: You mentioned economic development. What does that mean to you?

Pape: Growing and attracting living-wage jobs. That is the measure, that is the standard. There are a lot of things that contribute to being able to do that. I look at what you can tangibly do. When an individual councilperson might say ďinvesting in trees is economic development.Ē You could logically extend it to that. I would not. Now, trees are a part of quality of life, and you have to have a high quality of life in order to attract grow, retain living wage jobs, but that should be the measure, that should be the guidepost when we talk about investing in economic development.

The initiative of Vision 20/20 is one of the most exciting things thatís gone on in my 12 years. I think theyíve really done a nice job where theyíve got their five pillars of focus. I donít know if I can reel them off here,Ö Business climate is one of them. Quality of life is another; downtown is a key aspect of that. Entrepreneurship is another. Infrastructure is anotherÖ So thatís a really good way of think of what you have to do to do what I think of as economic development.

FWR: Earlier we talked about City Council and the tone and tenor of City Council. It strikes me that in the last four years it has become more partisan. Assuming thatís a correct impression, is there a place for partisanship on City Council?

Pape: I wouldnít want a democracy without partisanship. But I take a very different view of that concept. Political parties are good, to the degree that they represent values, principles, ideas. We should always seek to have principled dialogue, principled differences of opinion. I like what President Clinton said at the dedication of his library: Letís talk about who is right and wrong ó who has the right idea, who doesnít have the right idea ó versus who is good and bad.

And I really think that rather than partisanship these last four years, what youíve seen is personality, and that is very unfortunate. The Council hasÖ and this might be a little too strong, but itís been about really who the president of Council has been and how theyíve handled things in a lot of ways, who they have put in charge of certain committees at certain times. But certainly this last year, itís been the most dysfunctional organization Iíve been involved with in my professional career. Very poor decisions were made about leadership, and thatís had disastrous consequences. I donít think thatís because of differences the individuals have on a party basis.

You know, this is local government. Weíre not talking about the flashpoint issues of party that typically drive government at the state or national level. Weíre talkingÖ you know, 70% of our budget is public safety. Weíre talking 10% is the parks. Weíre talking seven or eight percent is infrastructure. The rest is administration. There isnít a lot of room in there for the differences between an elephant and a donkey. So a lot of this really comes down to personality and character.

FWR: What are you most proud of during your time on Council?

Pape: I feel like these last 12 years have really had an intense focus on rebuilding the core of the city. Downtown being a critical part of that, but also the Southside I represent, and I think that has been fundamental and critical to do . The decade before was really about looking outward through an aggressive policy of annexation; it wasnít the right time to start saying ďweíve got to tend this old, proud city.Ē Iím proud of being a part of that.

Thereís a lot thatís gone behind that ó Mayor Richard, Mayor Henry have been tireless advocates; Councilman Hines and others ó but I feel good about the voice Iíve added to say ďlook here, letís focus our attention.Ē Thatís our most powerful resource is our attention. Letís focus some resources here, letís do some problem solving. And I think from that focus, that recognition, weíve had a lot of successes, very large ones. The defunct hundred acres at Southtown generated $100 million of public/private investment, and itís a thriving commerce center now. Downtown ó Mayor Richard set a goal at one point ó I canít remember the time frame. Four years? Four years to get a billion dollars invested in the core of the city. A billion! No one is talking like that. Certainly Harrison Square is the greatest example of the fruits of our labor downtown, but I think that those are pervasive in a lot of small ways.

The other thing Iím proud of is the smoking ordinance and being able to participate and support that. We did a tremendous thing for the health of the citizens of this city and the citizens of the county at large and any visitors who might go into our worksplaces. It was a progressive idea. Indianapolis is playing catch up to Fort Wayne, the rest of the state is playing catch up to Fort Wayne. Itís very interesting whatís going on right now in Indy; theyíre probably going to expand the restriction on smoking down there, simply because the world, in the form of the Superbowl, is coming to Indianapolis and theyíre very far behind with the times.

Iím proud of being a voice in favor of working cooperatively with county government, finding ways to merge and combine services. The #1 public safety issue we could do something about is to merge 911 to reduce our call times, to get emergency response dispatch quicker, and that agreement has been signed and weíre implementing that.

And Iíd say finallyÖ I think itís self-defeating to be anti-government. I think itís actually irrational. But thereís a lot of that thatís seized and played upon, particularly by elected officials, because a fair amount of the electorate is responsive to that. And I really think that is a recipe for failure, itís a recipe for being a second-rate community, itís not whatís going on in successful communities throughout the world. So a lot of the advocacy you heard from me that is interpreted as being advocacy for Mayor Henry or Mayor Richard ó while certainly a lot of that was for their initiatives ó was really advocacy against the concept that government is not or canít be an important or necessary player in our having a better future. I deeply believe it can, and I think itís self-defeating to be any other way.

FWR: We asked earlier what was next for you. You said you were exploring options. No plans for any politics in the near future?

Pape: I would never say never. Thatís an old tired line butÖ I can truly say I intend to be active in the community in a lot of ways with my time and energy, just as I have in the last 12 years, just not as a public official. I am not looking ó a year from now, two years, four years, five years, 10 years ó to run for any office. Iím not in any sense contemplating a run for Mayor or the state house or congress. My focus is on Fort Wayne first of all (and) Northeast Indiana. Iím not seeking to get involved beyond there. Iím managing partner in a law firm, Iíve been managing partner for three years, weĎre growing and having great success and Iím really motivated and interested. Itís been a great passion to figure out how to do better as a private organization with the law firm. Iím going to stay focused on community and economic development.

FWR: Going back a little to when you first began on City Council. Was there any councilperson you learned a lot from?

Pape: Oh yeah. I meanÖ you know, all of them. Councilman Hines isÖ I call him my father, my brother, my mentor, my protectorÖ Thereís this phrase ďgot your back,Ē and Councilman Hines has been amazing for me in that regard. Iíve had a wonderful experience, and continue to have so, with Sam Talarico Jr. Came on the same age as me ó lawyer, young family. Weíve had our battles, actually and learned a lot from Sam through that. John Crawford I consider a dear friend of mine. I admire John greatly as an individual and as an elected official. Iím thrilled to see him re-elected to City Council. Johnís a walking example of profiles in courage. Everybody runs for office and has to get votes and has to pay attention to what the electorate says ó Iím dismissive of anyone who says they donít. But in terms of understanding that thereís a limited degree of that and that you should stand up for what you believeÖ Johnís a great example of that. Tom Hayhurst was a wonderful mentor and friend to meÖ You know, Iíve learned from Don Schmidt. Don and I probably donít agree on what time of day it is, but Don was extremely knowledgeable and skilledÖ

Anytime you get an opportunity to serve with successful people, people who have been there and been able to do it for a long period of time, you ought to learn from them, you ought to take the opportunity to learn from them. I worked for two just really wonderful mayors that for whatever reason gave me a lot of opportunity and a lot of support and lot of ability to have insight and work closely with them.

FWR: Do you have any advice for Mayor Henry on how to handle the next council

Pape: UmmmÖ look, he knows this, heís great at it: relationship matters. Iíd just try to form the best, closest relationship possible with each and every member of council.

FWR: Anything else you want to add?

Pape: Iíve had an amazing experience. If I had done something else over the last 12 years, Iím sure I would have gotten a lot of reward from it, but I canít imagine that I would have a better reward than the ability to help an individual constituent be successful, and the ability to work with people that help you grow, that stretch you, challenge you, give you opportunity.

The comment I made earlier about how wearisome itís been the last four years does not at all diminish my enthusiasm for the experience that one can have ó that Iíve had ó as an elected official. A lot of the ďwearisomeĒ of the last four years has been so unnecessary. You know, if youíre in politics, you ought to have intense, passionate differences of opinion. Itís not that you donít have those, itís how you have them. And I think one of the things people canít fully appreciate, and I donít think the media figures out how to capture, is that most of the time, with most of the individuals involved, thatís what it is: deeply passionately held beliefs, a difference of opinion. But we still respect one another, and we still like one another. I think the public would be very surprised to see the depth and breadth of personal relationships, personal fondness and warmth of feeling, that most of us who work in an elected capacity have in spite of the sharp difference of opinion that come out sometimes. We should all work to always be professional, we should all work to keep our passions in check, but we're human, and we're going to fail, and it's important when we do fail that we recognize that. And I think in my 12 years most of the folks have done a really nice job of that.

Folks should spend some time getting involved and participate in politics and governance. Itís extremely rewarding, itís fun to do something important and serious and purposeful to try to make your community better. We need to continue to try to attract great minds, great spirits, great values, great character of people to get involved. Hopefully they can hear a little of this and say itís not an awful experience. In fact itís a deeply rewarding and enriching experience.

To hear the rest of our interview with former 5th district City Council representative Tim Pape ó including more on the role government can play in economic development and ďunfinished businessĒ ó go to the Around Fort Wayne Blog at aroundfortwayne.com/blog.

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