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Bayh’s return, our new police chief, and more
By Jim Sack
Fort Wayne Reader
A savvy politician with an eye for the ironic noted, “It was easier to raise money against Liz Brown than Tom Schroeder.” Let that sink in. First, he was talking about the two campaigns, primary and general, to elect Jim Banks to our congressional seat. The irony refers first to primary opponent Liz Brown whose scorched-earth policy on City Council rallied her enemies like the Turks at the gates of Vienna, and secondly to general election opponent, Tommy Schroeder, the champion of neo-Vagabondism, who has only the very, very narrowest of chances to win. Consequently, the smart money is going elsewhere to other more needy candidates, say Todd Young, who until recently, had a easily winnable race for senate on his hands. Young should change his name to Hood because now he is facing the Bismarck.
In this topsy-turvy political year, savvy pol, Mr. Young and the entire Indiana Republican Party now face Evan Bayh. Despite being out of politics for several years, Mr. Bayh enjoys very high and quite positive name recognition, and wears the longest coattails of any Hoosier Democrat. That aforementioned smart money would have gone to Mr. Young, so pols will now be watching to see whether Mr. Young’s finance chair and Mr. Banks’ are crying in their beers together.
New Police Chief
Our new police chief looks like a shorter version of Arnold Schwarzenegger with muscle threatening to rip apart the sleeves of his shirt and straining the buttons down his chest. Chief Steve Reed will have his massive hands full in the coming months instituting whatever new style of policing he conjures up. Our problems, especially the climbing murder rate, reflect the frustration and anger in the poor and Black communities that manifests itself in a dozen ways, but too often with a gun. Not that we are Ferguson, far from it, but we have serious problems that need to be addressed throughout our community. That was much of the thinking behind the promotion of Gary Hamilton to chief but two years ago. Beside being a respected cop, Assistant Chief Hamilton, among other attributes, came from the Black community. The mayor now argues the same rationale is behind former Chief Hamilton’s self-demoting to assistant chief in order to lead community outreach. So what happened? Was Hamilton promoted above his capabilities, or was he hamstrung by his bosses? The answer is more likely a stew than a soup. Happily, Assistant Chief Hamilton’s new task is to address the social grievances and injustices throughout the community, but mostly among Black youth where frustration, a sense of hopelessness, and raging hormones collide. Street cred will come in handy, but let’s hope the new chief, the director of public safety, and the mayor will all listen to AC Hamilton and institute broad improvement so we never, ever do become a Ferguson.
City Scapes and Gateways
That said, Fort Wayne is generally a pretty nice town. Over the years, I have visited hundreds of places in forty countries, and I have been able to make comparisons. First, our neighborhoods most in need of TLC are in comparably good condition. We have no dangerously blighted areas, except those so certified for purposes of handing out economic development subsidies. Our city is filled with lots of pretty neighborhoods, with spreading shade trees and splendid parks. We suffer few of the eyesores of most other cities. Fort Wayne is tidy and clean. Politically, you can chat with your mayor. You can address city council individually and collectively, informally and formally with few barriers to access. We have a strong neighborhood system that gives all of us a chance to chime in on policy, and here you can fight city hall and win. For those who have traveled extensively or lived in other communities Fort Wayne is a gem.
We do, however, have much room to improve. Compare two streetscapes, Illinois Road and Maplecrest. Planners and land use regulations formed each, the garish eye-sore of Illinois Road, and the charming stretch of Maplecrest from Lake to State. They make for good comparison. The old carpenter’s adage is to measure twice, cut once, meaning get it right the first time and you don’t have to go back. A couple years back the mayor begged money from council to redo our gateways, the first images visitors have of our city. When receiving guests we should want every street in Fort Wayne to be as gracious and charming as Forest Park Boulevard or Old Mill Road, even the commercial districts, including Illinois and Coldwater Roads. Every street should be a treat for the eyes, not just for visitors, but for all of us. That is not the case now, or the mayor would not have asked for funds to beautify our garish gateways. Sadly, council turned him down. Happily, friends in city government tell me that city engineering has finally gotten the word that concrete should be balanced with beautification. It is a step forward that will not write many headlines, but will make living here even more enjoyable, and mush less stressful.
Years ago Colonel Foster and the internationally famed urban designer George Kessler proposed to beautify Fort Wayne through the concept of creating a city encompassed by parks and parkways. Council, as usual, was short-sighted and pinch-penny. That plan of the early 1900s included a Park and Boulevard System (Rudisill, Anthony, State), parkways (St. Joe River Boulevard, Thieme Drive, Camp Allen Drive) and a headwaters park, not to mention river front development. Council measured a few dozen times, but never quite got around to making the cut. It would be nice if the mayor, council and engineering would embrace Kessler’s concept. It would link many of the development ideas currently on the table, be welcoming to our guests, and, as music calms the savage beast, so greenery, parks and nature reduce the stress and would make the new police chief’s job easier. Think harmony in design and harmony from design.