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Self promoting and self insured
By Jim Sack
Fort Wayne Reader
Le Roi c’est Moi
We should all want Eric Doden to be a success. He runs Greater Fort Wayne and has pushed very hard for a number of projects that will greatly improve the city. With that in mind we went to one of GFW’s public presentations to learn more about those goals. 50 to 75 citizens showed up and were led through a series of PowerPoint slides by Mr. Doden in what was little more than a platform for the Eric Doden Show. In short, we learned about Mr. Doden’s family dynamics, his insatiable drive for excellence, his epiphanies, his business axioms, his disdain for criticism, and were treated to a few of his favorite punch lines. There was hardly any new information on about the major community projects GFW is pushing, such a STEAM Park. The central question of funding sources was skimmed over. The 90-minute session was more an ego excursion than informative. Recently, we have been reminded that Mr. Doden threatened Republican members of city council with political annihilation, has demanded personal control over major community projects, and now his face, 10 feet tall, is seen on a billboards smacking more of self-promotion than community service. We should all want Eric’s efforts to yield success for the betterment of the community, but over and over his peers criticize his methods and motives as self-centered and egotistical. Had he only broken out into song the presentation would have been complete. We want him to succeed, and GFW to play a role, for the benefit of the community, but bullying isn’t the way, teamwork is.
World Trade for Fort Wayne
Senators Dan Coats local office, in cooperation with a cadre of top local leaders, is soon to conduct an international forum designed to link business, education and civic leaders with counterparts around the world. Some of the goals include breaking down barriers to foreign trade, winning federal contracts, and sprouting direct connections to key foreign trading partners. The event is a program of the Department of State and seldom ventures to communities under one million, thus a coup for Fort Wayne. In the short run it will be a lot of handshaking, PowerPoints, card passing and chats over glasses of Pinot, but in the long run a few relationships will bud into valuable projects. Congratulations to Senator Coats, district director Paul Lagemann and their team for bringing this prized session to Fort Wayne.
Best Run, Lowest Cost
Fort Wayne has won two accolades recently that should make all of us proud. First, we were named among the best run cities in America, and then listed as the city with the lowest cost of living in the entire country. These are benchmarks that those who promote Fort Wayne to the world can take to the bank and will.
City Council president Russ Jehl, however, would like the city to be run just a tad more efficiently. He is frustrated that the administration has yet to provide council with a up-to-date and detailed accounting of the Legacy Fund. Apparently, his first request went to the mayor’s spam box, then someone responsible went on vacation, then the cappuccino machine broke, then, then, then. Mr. Jehl is justified in requesting the report. We should all want to see whether the account is nearly drained, as Mr. Jehl suspects, or it contains enough cash to fund everybody’s dream list. The administration now promises the report will be ready in two weeks, or roughly two months after it was first requested.
Years ago, when now parks director Al Moll was city controller, I had the chance to address a problem with him. I had just been reappointed to the Cable Board after a few years away. As president I decided to review the finances of the group with an eye toward whether the city was transferring the proper amount from the cable franchise fee to the cable fund. I found a $50,000 shortfall. I asked for a meeting with Mr. Moll, a couple of us from the board presented our findings to him, and without hesitation he acknowledged the discrepancy and promised to make sure the money was redirect to its rightful place. Those of us from the cable board were stunned. We had come prepared for a fight, prepared to argue the logic of our position and to hear Mr. Moll table our request and disappear into the bowels of government never to return a call again. Not so. He promised to solve the matter and quickly did. Over the past decade, I have never heard anything to tarnish his reputation; more often accolades from staff and community partners. That he is now in charge of moving the Riverfront project forward is a smart step by Mayor Henry, and should give us all comfort.
Every year a man with a pronounced Brooklyn accent — top insurance advisor Jim Stergiou — comes before council to review our self-insurance program. “You have saved around $15 million since the program was enacted,” he chirped recently through a beaming smile. He then explained how Fort Wayne’s insurance costs compared to other cities around the country. Again, he gushed that Fort Wayne is among the very upper elite, the fabled few bright stars of risk management and self-insurance. That keeps our taxes lower and our credit rating shiny. The last big hit was a few years ago when a police shooting eventually cost the city a significant settlement. We are again facing another costly case. The most recent shooting was of a kid, in the back, by an officer who felt the kid had a gun, which he didn’t. Members of the department called the kid a known perp, added that a pistol was found nearby, and that the kid was involved in recent shootings. The story will play out in court and within the confines of our risk management department. Quick resolution of claims, according to Stergiou, is one of the reasons for our insurance savings – simply put, our risk managers and attorneys don’t drag matters out, don’t let the legal fees balloon. Regardless, when there is a shooting in Fort Wayne it costs all of us lots of money, so it is better and cheaper to resolve underlying issues before they fester. An ounce of loss prevention is worth a million or so of insurance cure.