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A short round up

By Jim Sack

Fort Wayne Reader

2014-02-11


Auf Wiedersehen

Sandy Kennedy is Fort Wayne’s mom. She certainly is that to most current and past members of city council. For some thirty years she has taken care of the members of council in her role as city clerk; she teaches them the ropes, she advises them on political matters, she supervises their meetings and she all but brings them cookies and milk. Now, she has decided to step down and it will leave a mighty hole in the local political fabric: A consummate Democrat, she will be missed by her party; a veteran clerk, she will be missed by all who turn to that office for records and agendas.

But, as much as anything it is her ever-smiling face that we will all miss, Sandy has graciously helped everyone she came in contact with, has served the community with honor and epitomizes the type of public face you want for your community. In the history of Fort Wayne going back to the first elected officials you will not find anyone who has loved this city more.

And, farewell also to Rick Orr and Bruce Johnson. Orr ran the Right-of-Way Department for decades and Johnson was a senior planner in Community Development. Like Sandy Kennedy they served the community with dignity and great capability.

Our Neanderthal Legislature

We can’t say as much about the Legislature. Indiana’s lawmakers had three bills before them that should speak volumes about the retrograde nature of our elected officials and about us. The first among them is the bill to outlaw gay marriage. As state after state around the country recognizes the march of history, Indiana would like to turn back to a pioneer mentality. Marriage is a civil matter that brings two people together into economic union. For many, but not for all, that civil contract is additionally solemnized by religious institutions. (One might here note that more than a few gays also solemnize their union before their god.) Eventually, Indiana’s ban on gay marriage will work its way to the Supreme Court where it will be struck down. In the end history will march forward and Indiana taxpayers will foot an expensive and needless bill.

The second benighted piece of legislation was what is properly known as Ag-Gag legislation: in short it would have criminalized photographing and disseminating images of animal abuse. In short, it was protection for animal abusers and punishment of good Samaritans. The measure has been stripped of its most onerous language, according to the Indiana SPCA. The authors promised to bring it back next time around.

And, there is the canned hunting law that encourages the concept of shooting fish in a barrel. Fat, dysfunctional men set comfortably on padded stools (will Barcaloungers be far behind) protected by camouflage, smelling of mildewed laundry, painted to look like mercenaries, sporting fashionable orange hats and employing scoped rifles to offset their fading eyesight in the hopes some unsuspecting deer or muskrat will wander into their sights. It is not hunting. It is simple murder. Bambi dies with grass in her mouth to the enraptured cheers of these otherwise impotent “sportsmen.” The more adventurous among them actually meander about the “preserve” hoping to literally corner an animal against the fence in order to blow its brains out. As the “preserves” are small and high-fenced it is easy to do just that. The law passed out of committee over the objections of those who noted the deer have no chance of escape. Those who voted for this sort of sadism called it an important Indiana industry.

Needs First, Wants Second

A fair number of inveterate gripers are angry over the way and the rate at which the Legacy Fund is being spent. In general, they argue needs should trump wants. In general, that is wise counsel. But the needs of community infrastructure are generally ongoing and should be provided for by a similarly ongoing funding stream, otherwise known as taxes, and not by the equivalent of grandma’s inheritance. Logically, once the cash is spent the systemic problem remains, but no ongoing solution is in place. The Legacy is grandma’s inheritance, if you could envision cranky Ivan Lebamoff in a Betty Crocker apron. No, the Legacy has wisely been designed to serve as a catalyst for change and improvement in Fort Wayne, the sort of local version of the Great Leap Forward.

For anyone who has lived here more than a decade the ubiquitous parking lots, the empty store fronts and the receding lifelessness of downtown, not to mention the under utilization of our signature rivers, cried for change. For anyone who had traveled outside the city our inaction was even more deeply frustrating. Thanks to Democrat Mayors Lebamoff, Graham Richard and Tom Henry, as well as the many Republicans who have served on city council, the fund is to be used to do exciting things, but carefully only after the vote of a super majority. Infrastructure repairs will and should be funded with regular tax dollars. As for the pace of Legacy expenditures it is about right, perhaps a little slow. The fund will not soon or easily be drained and may well still be granting to projects 30 or more years from now as long as wise investing prevails. The Legacy is meant to be a catalytically invested in our future, not buried in the back yard. If our leaders are correct we need to balance “Fort Wayne is a great place to raise a family” with “Fort Wayne is a great place to live.”

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