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The Dark Side of Brightpoint, etc.
By Jim Sack
Fort Wayne Reader
Councilman John Shoaff offers this tidbit of political wisdom to all who want to cast their vote the best candidate for mayor: read their financial reports, he observes, or specifically, read the names of donors, business affiliations and addresses to see who backs Mayor Henry and who backs challenger and Councilman Mitch Harper. If you wonder why donors come from far-flung places you might call campaign HQ and ask the question. Of course, this is but one of many considerations in deciding who is the best of the two candidates, but candidates ascend to office largely on the dime of big contributors who expect a return on their investment.
It Glows Green At Night
Rifkinland is still a big, unanswered question in matters concerning the development of the city’s waterfront. Omnisource once had a massive junk yard on the site west of Clinton, east of Harrison and north from the river. It is prime land in the scheme of river front development and it is filthy with pollutants. Who might pay, you ask, to clean that prime ground upon which the Rifkins dumped so many poisons and from which they made their fortunes? Any guesses?
The Dark Side of Brightpoint
Mayor Henry recently endorsed a development along Rudisill Boulevard without the courtesy of contacting any of the adjacent neighborhood associations for their thoughts. On first glance Brightpoint’s plan to restore two historic buildings, build a new facility and create an entrepreneurs’ village, seems admirable, but as always the devil is in the details, including concentrated low-income housing in a residential neighborhood, and a suspicious rezoning that Brightpoint demands now before they even have a deed, or the bulk of the funding for the project. Some neighbors are up in arms, a coalition has hired an attorney. Additionally, Brightpoint’s project is a tapestry of interlocking business interests that alarm the neighbors. Further, there is doubt whether Brightpoint can keep their promises of renovation and restoration within budget, reminding one of I&M’s big dreams for downtown twin towers, a hotel and skating rink as their commitment to the city in the 1974 City Light deal. Promises are cheap, and easily forgotten. Brightpoint also wants you, through tax “incentives,” to fund over 90% of the costs of the project. The concern is Brightpoint will become Blightpoint and ruin the area. As for Mayor Henry, he has done himself no favors with his hasty endorsement. You coulda-shoulda called, Tom, that’s only being polite, and politique.
Timing is Everything
There is a four-year cycle in city government that culminates during the October of the local election year. Newly minted mayors begin planning in a four-year cycle, a sort of Bolero, that culminates in a construction blitz that will make everything look like a million bucks, just in time for the November elections. You can’t have missed the flurry of new projects around town, but enjoy it now for the cycle starts anew after the election and the city won’t look quite so good for another four years.
Auld Lang Syne
Expect to hear voices choked with emotion and see welling eyes from here to New Years Day. On a downtown stage at noon on that day a pack of newbies will be sworn in to council and to the clerk’s chair, and a few grizzled veterans will slowly limp off the stage, into the wings and drive quietly into political retirement. Mitch Harper will be gone (from council, at least), Marty Bender, Tom Smith and John Shoaff will be on to other pastures. And, the venerable Sandy Kennedy will no longer, after three sterling decades, be seated in the clerk’s chair. They have served the public on boards, commissions, in uniform, at conventions, and assemblies and at the table weekly surrounded by watchful citizens. Bets are Mssrs. Paddock, Didier, Crawford and Jehl will be back, and Glynn Hines will no longer have to remind folks that he is senior councilman, for surrounding him will be at least three, perhaps four political toddlers. In the clerk’s chair will be a new face, perhaps clerk’s office veteran Angie Davis, or perhaps another neophyte. This will truly be a watershed year, out with the old, in with new, and probably ample opportunity for face-palming will follow well into the Summer as they struggle with rules and nomenclature. Expect the first session in January to be the Keystone Cops version of Robert’s Rules of Order. It will be televised commercial free. And somewhere on Sand Point Road Smith, Shoaff, Sandy and Marty might get together with a case of Blatz and share a good laugh.
Eleanor Roosevelt once wrote that great minds speak of ideas, small minds talk about people. So, as we approach the debate season where Tom and Mitch will stand behind podia and list their respective accomplishments and wax about their love of the little people of Fort Wayne, and stammer how they are uniquely qualified to lead us from temptation and deliver us from evil let us hope that they eschew gotcha politics and pay their respects to America’s greatest First Lady by focusing on the issues. Years ago on Saturday afternoon TV Allard Lowenstein and William F. Buckley would regularly argue the issues of the day without resorting to personal attack. It would be nice if each candidate, and their itinerate campaign managers would promise to take the high road both in the debates and on the airwaves. I know they can do it. Tom Henry loves Fort Wayne as much as Mitch.