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Of Dollars and Euros
By Jim Sack
Fort Wayne Reader
100 Million Dollars
That’s what the new arena might cost, based upon an article of couple of weeks ago in the News-Sentinel. Initially, the price tag was estimated at around $64 million, before a perceived need for more parking revised the estimate upward to over $80 million, and this is before we factor in the inevitable cost overruns!
In short, that is a lot of money.
While Fort Wayne is currently in a comparably enviable financial position, our resources have to be carefully invested. The $85 to $100 million price tag for the arena could pay for a lot of essentials in the city or for the development of the less essential — but highly popular — Riverfront.
The steep cost increase for the arena was based upon the perceived paucity of downtown parking. If history is our guide, parking woes will resolve themselves. When Headwaters Park was still but a dream Germanfest moved down to what was then a parking lot for squatters’ rights. Critics worried that fest-goers would not be able to find parking close enough, and that walking from the two-block distant city parking garage would be just too far. Ad hoc parking developed and the walk was not a barrier.
There is currently plenty of parking downtown; include a sky bridge from the arena to the Grand Wayne and many more weather protected spaces would be linked. You might note, the Coliseum flourishes without sky bridges.
Parking is but one topic addressed in the Hunden Stratgetic Partner’s Report of 2015 that is found on the city website and which lists how the arena would contribute to the betterment of the city. However, whether to build or not should be based on a cost-benefit analysis and prioritization.
Would the arena be a sufficient catalyst for more restaurants, another hotel, chic shops, in short to add value to the community far in excess of its costs? That was the question with the ballpark and seems to have been answered in the affirmative, Parkview Field has been a catalyst, and transformative. Whether the resultant debt service payments would leave other essential projects without funding is an equally important question.
So, read the Hunden Strategic Partners report, then read the Surack Committee’s recommendation to build the arena, but also read the “confidential” Sycamore Report, commissioned by Greater Fort Wayne, which lists a range of ways to pay for the arena and other projects. They see $300 million in higher taxes, new taxes and hefty borrowing. Since you are expected to ante up it is best to be aware of costs and benefits. The hundreds of millions in new spending could yield an even more remarkable city and be a testament of our foresight to generations to come, or it could be $100 million wasted in a rush creating a lingering debt burden.
Just a Thought
As has been oft reported, Fort Wayne wages have fallen behind the national average. We were 20 points above average in the early 80s, now we are some 20 points below the national average, a whopping 40 point swing. Sounds dire until you note the cost of living here. According to Sperling’s Best Places Rated, utilities cost about 17% less than the national average, groceries are 8% less, healthcare a tad cheaper, but housing is 42% cheaper! Overall, according to Sperling’s we are 16 points below the national cost-of-living average. Additionally, the city PR department recently circulated a report that listed FW as the 8th best US city to save money. A lesson is many factors contribute to a community’s quality of life, but 40-points, no matter how you couch it, is dire.
Bernie and Trump
Local campaign offices are open for candidates Clinton, Trump and Sanders. We should expect Hoosiers for Kasich or Cruz to join the others with TV ads, leafleting, bus boards, billboards, rallies at the Coliseum, and 24/7 smear campaigns. Indiana is in play, as they say. Every delegate is critical to the nomination, and we Hoosier voters will be whipped into a many a frenzy. Just try to be nice to each other along the way. Once the mudslingers have taken their caravans on to the next state we will still have to live with each other, so try to be polite. If you must, vent on the reporter who calls us Indianians, not Hoosiers. By now there are very few undecided voters indeed, so for the most part partisans will be either preaching to the choir or on deaf ears. Be nice. Smile. You never know who might be seated next to you at the coming potluck. If, despite all the din you are still undecided go to www.isidewith.com/election/2016-presidential-quiz and take the extensive quiz. You might be surprised, but remember, be nice.
The Wright House, the Wrong Man
Richard Herber joins city councilman Paul Ensley in the Adolescents-Impersonating-Adults Club, Fort Wayne Chapter. He was the guy who sought delisting of his Frank Lloyd Wright home from the historic register and managed to offend nearly everyone he contacted during the process. During a recent council meeting it was strongly suggested he lied to city staff, lied to councilmen and lied to the community concerning the house. He said the motive for delisting was to remove restrictions that he felt would prohibit him from selling at a fair price, but when a potential buyer called, Herber demanded one million euros paid to his Swiss bank account, a demand no one saw as a sincere response. In an unusual scolding members of council gave him both barrels and voted 6 to 3 to deny his petition. Among those voting to support Herber was Councilman Ensley who, famous for his supercilious confrontations with police, had apparently found a kindred spirit.