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Speaking of the Legacy…
By Jim Sack
Fort Wayne Reader
With all of the arguing back and forth about who controls the Legacy — and even how much money is in the fund — our council seems to have forgotten the Arena, the $80 to $100 million dollar edifice that is to be built near the library, steps away from the Grand Wayne, a skip to the Embassy, and right across the street from the ballpark. According to friends in the administration, the project is currently on the drawing board… It is truly catalytic and transformational, even synergistic. But, with the Riverfront, the Landing, Engine 765, and a few other projects on the table, we are staring at a cornucopia of possibilities that could easily and quickly drain the fund without providing sufficient leverage to complete those projects.
$100 million is a lot of money. Certainly, the mayor will expect the Legacy to fund some of the costs, if only running water to the site and all the other things that are known as “site preparation.” $5 to 10 million? Given their statements in the recent past, the Indiana Pacers covet the arena for their soon-to-be-upgraded Mad Ants. What’s that worth to Mr. Byrd and company? Certainly there must be a dozen community leaders, should push come to shove, who will step up to raise money for the arena because their businesses depend on assembled crowds. We guess there might be $20 million that could be funded through a public and a private communion. That leaves a gap of $60 to $80 million. Will the state see fit to toss $10 to $20 million our way? Will a private developer buy rights to the building for $10 million? Would you toss in $50 to buy a brick, adopt a hand rail, have a stall named in your honor? Where oh where will the rest of the money come from? Perhaps a bond? 3.5% interest. A bond is on the table because it’s going to be a struggle to pay for this building through other means. At such a low interest rate, with so much promise associated with the building, a bond will be considered long and hard by city council that prefers the “pay-as-you-go” mantra. What is the price of flexibility, or of inflexibility?
As for the Legacy Fund, perhaps three or four wise souls, representing the principle stakeholders, should consider over a fine Burgundy how they might morph the Legacy committee from solely screening applicants to raising funds, as well.
Whether it was a conspiracy or bad planning there was effective voter suppression in Allen County during the fall election. Anyone, Republican or Democrat, who stood in line for an hour or more for early voting, or in the very long lines at numerous precincts on election day, will tell you that. The idea is to give everyone a chance to vote without that sort of unnecessary and expensive delay. After all, some people have to work, so doing their civic duty shouldn’t threaten their jobs. The director of elections, the Election Board, voter registration, and the county commissioners get a C- for this election. They can certainly do a much better job. More machines and longer hours would be a start.
Plans are also in the works to revamp the airport with more space and more amenities. The smallish museum will move, as will some of the gates. For those who travel this is good news. The airport terminal is hardly more than a processing center and a holding area. Plans additionally call for local art work to be displayed and a place for families to watch planes take off and land. Airports around the world, especially hubs like O’Hare, Frankfurt and Heathrow, are destinations themselves with scores of high end shops, a range of restaurants and plush lounges. To become a destination — which increases income and value to the community — Baer Field has to attract those who have an affinity for aviation or find joy in shopping at the airport’s nice little Vera Bradley shop.
TRAA and the FWFD
Some local politicians breathed a sigh of relief when the Fort Wayne Fire Department and TRAA came to a deal to cooperate more closely on emergency runs. The agreement, it is hoped, will speed arrival times and save lives. What some councilmen feared was added insurance liability on the shoulders of the taxpayer. Our city government, you see, is self-insured and prides itself on suffering few claims and settling those very fast. Shifting EMS liability to the city could have greatly increased our exposure. So, there will be greater coverage and faster arrival times with less taxpayer exposure. The downside is the very, very, very expensive rides in an ambulance will not go down due to the deal, but may well go up. Let’s see if the penny-pinchers on council weigh in on the ever-increasing cost to operate the ambulance service…they should.
Communications and Collegiality
We frequently hear that The Big Three — the administration, Greater Fort Wayne and council — are not the best at communicating. An example was the mayor springing the annexation on lots of stakeholders without a courtesy call. Another example is council’s increasing penchant to introduce ordinances without so much as a polite note. And then there is GFW that surprises everyone with their list of major projects, as if they are in competition with the administration and council. Neighborhood leaders, additionally, too often feel blindsided by all three competing organs. It would, it seems, greatly benefit the community if the mayor, the council president, GFW, and the neighborhood quadrant leaders were to break bread together and discuss things before launching surprise attacks. After all, everyone wants our city to be even more enjoyable, and better communication among leaders would go a long way to accomplishing that goal.