Home > Political Animal > River development, floods, and the latest abatement scam
River development, floods, and the latest abatement scam
By Jim Sack
Fort Wayne Reader
Forty Days and Forty Nights
It really seems to have rained that long. Unlike the catastrophically rapid flooding of 1982, this dampness has been gradual and prolonged. In March of 82, Win and friends fought the rivers for two weeks…and won. Since, we have worked to protect our city from the ravages of roofs and parking lots that drain ever so fast into the rivers pushing waters in neighborhoods, blocking roads, and flooding parks.
First, kudos to city Public Works Chairman Bobby Kennedy who has worked tirelessly, as have his union crews, over the last month to direct the flood fight. Give our city workers a pat on the back and the respect they deserve.
One would hope the mayor and council will not let a good crisis go unused in order to toughen our zoning laws and stop encroachment on the flood plane. But, this is not just a Fort Wayne problem: development in the entire watershed needs to be managed to make sure a new strip mall in Decatur doesn’t exacerbate the flooding in Bella Vista.
Step by step the city is moving forward with river front development. Recently, city council, without dissent and without much discussion, passed an ordinance to establish a river front development account, as required by state law. Councilmen will tell you, to a man, this project is the singly most important and most publicly supported project before them in years. Given the recent flooding, the effort takes on even greater significance.
A scad of “sorry, we screwed ups” came to council recently. Companies that had gotten tax breaks, abatements, were at the table to tell failures to fulfill their half of the bargain. “Oh, shucks, the business environment changed” (oh, these stalwarts of the free market), or “we just plum forgot a report was due” (file that under, once we’ve got the money screw the taxpayer) or we didn’t hire more workers, we fired workers. Only Geoff Paddock voted against an appeal and only Mitch Harper called into question why a company that got equipment on a grant wanted a tax abatement, too. All the companies got their waivers, but the system tightened just a bit. In the end, the abatement game is fraught with corruption and loose standards, but that’s the same all across the country where companies blackmail communities (we taxpayers) with closing factories if the taxpayer doesn’t subsidize corporate profits. Thanks, Geoff, thanks Mitch for standing for the taxpayer against the extortionists.
Lame duck with a bite
President Obama has had a very good few weeks of late.
There were the Supreme Court decisions on Gay Marriage and Obamacare, and both Republican branches of the legislature gave him fast track authorization to conclude a “free” trade deal with most of Asia. Not bad for a lame duck. In fact, for someone who was just recently battered from all sides he now looks like he will have plenty of material to file under “legacy” in his Chicago library.
What most of us are overlooking is his application of a new political/warfare doctrine called “soft power.” It is the doctrine of applying all of the powers of a coalition, short of fire-power, short of battalions of young Americans, to a war. Yes, we are at war, and it is with Russia.
Putin’s Russia has attacked its neighbors, made energy a weapon of international intimidation, has poison, shot or “disappeared” its internal critics, and operates an army of internet propaganda “trolls” to blame the US for Russia’s aggression. The Kremlin is in the business of massive money laundering, it subsidizes the separatists in a variety of European countries, and is in full cyberwar with the US and our allies. The stated goal of Putin’s kleptocracy is to drive the US from Europe, to restore the CCCP, and to establish Russian supremacy on what his theoreticians call Eurasia, in other words, Manifest Destiny from sea to shining sea, from Vladivostok to Cadiz.
Recently, Eurosceptic parties, including Britain’s UKIP, and the Front National in France, won seats in European legislatures. Like Die Linke in Germany, Jobbik in Hungary and parties from Estonia to Athens, they are supported by Moscow. Each party is anti-American and anti-European Union. Moscow is playing Divide and Conquer in Europe.
President Obama has built a firm alliance with the most important leader of this generation in Europe, Angela Merkel, to subdue Putin. Sanctions, a significant soft power tool, deny Russia access to international capital and embargo shipments of precision German replacement valves desperately needed in Siberian oil fields.
A slow ratcheting of sanctions combined with diplomatic pressure from Europe’s two great economies, Germany and France, is working, albeit, very slowly.
Consequently, Europe and America are tighter now than anytime since the Fall of the Wall in 1989. Putin, rather than destroying NATO, has reinvigorated the alliance. Rather than subsuming Ukraine into his kleptocracy he has driving Kiev into a closer alliances with the west, promoted Ukrainian patriotism, and sparked a drive to end the rampant corruption abetted by and beneficial to Moscow.
Putin is losing this hybrid war, and so far, not one American soldier has died defending Europe. Obama’s application of soft power, which we have in abundance, has strengthened our partnership with Europe.