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The Ides of September
By Jim Sack
Fort Wayne Reader
Polls in this presidential election year have been notably inaccurate. In most part it is due to cellphones and landlines, the demise of the latter and the ascendance of the former. Pollsters have not yet quite figured out how to reach us in the digital age. An exception has been Nate Silver who predicted Barack Obama’s success in 2008 when other pollsters predicted a different result. His method at FiveThirtyEight is to aggregate polls, weigh each for a number of factors and then issue his chances of one candidate or another winning the election. His predictions now show an 80+ percent chance Secretary Clinton will win, but there is much that can happen between now and November.
Senator Coat’s office pulled off quite a coup recently by getting the State Department to move an event typically held in Chicago or NYC to the Grand Wayne. Some 500 business and community leaders met with government officials to cut deals or just start relationships. In one breakout session the procurer for the Army could barely conceal his smile when a local businesswoman explained her company, its products and capabilities. Selling to a faceless bureaucrat in Washington is daunting for any company, so making face-to-face, hand-to-hand contact saves vaults much time and money. Hundreds of such connections were made at the Indiana Forum, thanks to the work of the Senator’s office, the city and county.
Tom Henry’s Thick Skin
Tom Henry, in case you hadn’t noticed, is always gracious to the general public, always a smile, usually a relevant kind word and a handshake, even to those who have had critical words in the past for him. It is part and parcel of a successful politician to avoid taking criticism personally and to always, always see the enemy as just a possible ally in days or months to come. I mentioned this to Tom’s elder brother, Jerry, at a recent event and he looked at me with a bit of incredulity: “that’s the way we were all raised,” he said. As one politician said, friends are better than enemies.
Kudos to the mayor for choosing the longtime community leader to manage the Riverfront project. Mark is among the nicest and most capable guys you will ever meet. Mayor Moses found the diamond in the rough decades ago and brought him in to run city economic development. He has since served at Deputy Mayor and head of Greater Fort Wayne, among other top posts. That Mayor Henry tasked the Parks Department director Al Moll to guide riverfront development was a most pleasant surprise, and adding Mark to the mix is superb. He will work closely with current Deputy Mayor Karl Bandemer who has championed the Riverfront concept for years. Certainly, council and those most interested should continue their efforts at stewardship of the project, but with Mark and Al the attitude should be more along the lines of “what if” than “what the hell.” Additionally, Mark has the sage council of his wife, Cheri Becker, who has been most instrumental over the past three decades in pushing the community to think bigger and more creatively. The appointment should itself be catalytic and transformational.
All in Due Time in the Land of Rising Hopes
The advent of the Legacy Fund has brought out the best and not so best in all of us. Certainly, the community conjured over 1,000 ideas on how to spend the fund, and the mayor set up a process that has protected the fund for the most part: the citizen committee vets proposals and a super-majority vote on council is required to fund projects. But, like children eyeing gifts around the Christmas tree, some among us have become a bit greedy. Consequently, Council President Russ Jehl’s oversight should be welcomed by the Henry Administration even when their tallies of expenditures and reserves don’t match with his. Citizens gave Tom Henry a mandate to lead our community, and we have given Mr. Jehl and council the mantel of wise elders to offer mature counsel and serve as stewards of public resources. As we have mentioned before, politics is a team sport and improving our community takes the talents of everyone, including you, but we voted for the mayor to lead and he should, it is his mandate.
The consensus is in: Headwaters Junction, the $14 to $18 million project to showcase our iron horse, steam engine 765, is everybody’s darling. From the Journal to the News, in public gatherings and online posts, the mighty engine excites most everyone. The local train society wants to house the engine and run excursions from a proposed roundhouse/museum/expo center adjacent to the Riverfront on the ground where William Scheele and Sons made their fortune bottling Pepsi. Certainly, 765 can become the diamond at the top of the Riverfront tiara. Headwaters Junction, if built, will set Fort Wayne apart. It will draw from around the world, rather than our usual 50-mile radius, and will stimulate its own microcosm of events, festivals, and offshoot businesses. As we have been told, Riverfronts are mostly for locals, an amenity to hold our kids in town or attract the creative class to work in our businesses. 765 is a step up, a “destination,” and should be the centerpiece of the Riverfront Plan. The project deserves some Legacy monies pledged up front to show community commitment, but is contingent upon the Headwaters Junction board finding the majority of their money through their own fund raising.