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A few random thoughts…

By Jim Sack

Fort Wayne Reader

2013-04-18


The Fiscal Policy Committee

I know a young woman who works for the city. Over the past two years her income has sunk by some $3,000 as cuts and new charges were added to her paycheck. Now, Mayor Henry and his Republican allies on City Council and their buddies at the Chamber of Commerce/Alliance plan to take another bite out of her income. There was a representative of the Chamber of Commerce on the Fiscal Policy Committee, but no one representing working folk. According to the mayor’s press secretary, the mayor “wanted…a business perspective on the Group. (To) evaluate our benefits structure…to revise the benefits package that employees receive to better align with benefits offered in the private sector.” That is double-talk for sticking it to city workers, the same people the Mayor has praised for innovative ideas and providing cost saving ideas, who he said were doing “more with less,” and whose slim 1% pay raise his controller strongly defended in budgets past. If you were a wage earner wouldn’t you want your job status aligned with other workers in a right-to-work, at-will state? (No.) If you were a manager wouldn’t you want as much power over your employees as possible. (Of course.) There was no one on the committee, appointed by a supposedly Democratic administration, to represent average people. In fact, in the discussions of the mix of taxes that will soon be levied on you, the interests of the Chamber were fully represented, but you were not, unless you are a member of the growing economic development fraternity who plays the lucrative abatement game. The economic development sub-culture was represented in full force, but you were not. They are an incestuous mix of old-boy back slappers who were there to carve up your paycheck and undermine the tax base, but protect the incentives they dole out to business under the heading of “working for your jobs.” One can make a case that they are working primarily for their own jobs. There has to be ROI, return-on-investment, to their contributors.

Time to Step Up

So far, the Mayor, his top staff, city, council members and the city clerk have not offered to cut their pay levels and benefits to stand in support with the workers they manage and of who they are demanding another round of sacrifice. So far, only one elected official, Councilman Geoff Paddock, has show willingness to share the suffering. Last year when council voted to give themselves a pay raise, he announced he would give his raise to the United Way of Allen County. There was no rush of other members to his side — in fact Paddock’s gesture was labeled “grandstanding” by one member and mute silence by the others. One would think that every council member would want to show leadership by giving up a portion of their pay, say all but $1, not enrolling on city insurance, and passing up other perks of office, After all, they often praise the 311 team, people they expect to take a hit, for saving them uncounted hours answering and responding to constituent complaints. One would think they would make at least that one so obvious connection…one would think. And, given the mayor’s handsome pay, one has to ask if what is good for the goose shouldn’t also be good for these strutting ganders?

Why not bonds?

“They have no appetite for bonds,” is how one administration leader put it. Bonds are essentially loans and the City has used bonding in the past to pay for huge projects much in the way you would take a loan to buy a house. Right now rates for the city would start at around one half of one percent. That is almost free money. So, if you were a small business owner, now would be the time to borrow, borrow, borrow, as long as you can pay it back. The City can, easily. Currently, our debt service is around 14% of revenues, which is quite conservative. So, why not borrow a billion and get the roads in shape, replace all the ash trees, repair curbs, solve drainage problems, repair park buildings, build out the river front and everything else on the honey-do list, not to mention refinancing existing bonds at much lower interest rates? At less than 1% it would be just as logical to use the proceeds from the higher earning Legacy Fund to pay down the debt. And, given the state economy is producing surprisingly higher tax revenues, it might be considered a bridge loan to carry us past this 2013-2014 revenue drought. Why not? Well a leading administration number-cruncher and three Republicans on City Council agreed with the above logic, but lamented, “they have no appetite for bonds.” They?

David Long sides with Abusers.

State Senate President Pro Tem David Long, a nice boy from Fort Wayne, has curiously aligned himself with animal abusers. A bill he supports, SB 373, would outlaw publicly disclosing animal abuse at factory farms and other businesses. It is aimed to stop groups like PETA from taking clandestine videos and then releasing them on the web. In fact, the bill makes it a crime to record a crime, if the intent is to damage the company that is abusing animals. Curious. Is the crime abusing animals or reporting the abuse? Senator Long has lined up with animal abusers and against whistle blowers, good Samaritans and those who care about the welfare of animals, which includes the local Humane Society, among others, and probably you, too. I am curious to hear lawyer Long’s rationale.

Mayor Henry and his “Contributors”

Speaking of questionable behavior, a romp through Mayor Henry’s updated campaign contributor list is enlightening — it seems the Mayor has a national following. Many, many of the Mayor’s contributors list addresses in far-flung corners of the country, with an accent on the construction and engineering industries. One has to ask why an engineering outfit in, say, Wisconsin or Virginia or Georgia or Colorado, would want to involve themselves in the political life of distant Fort Wayne. We wonder whether the owner of the company might have grown up here, or have a fascination with Shelly Long? Perhaps grandma begged her children on her deathbed to remember (with a check to the Henry for Mayor Committee) her beloved, native Fort Wayne. Or, perhaps that design firm in Grand Rapids simply is playing the age-old game of influence and wants to buy a place at the head of the line for some lucrative engineering contracts let by the Henry Administration. But, I’m betting that instead of a kickback to the Mayor’s campaign the engineering firm is just saying “thanks” for the free Archway cookies at the airport…don’t you?

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