Home > Political Animal > Politicizing Electric Works, remembering Kenny, and more

Politicizing Electric Works, remembering Kenny, and more

By Jim Sack

Fort Wayne Reader


Recently, at a news conference ostensibly in support of Electric Works, city councilman, mayoral candidate and doctor John Crawford used the event to attack the mayor for “lack of leadership” on the project. He pointed out the “failed” this and the “failed” that of the mayor’s 12-year tenure, and decried the mayor for asking council to approve legal funds concerning the project. The mayor, of course, snapped back that council does just that all the time, and demands to do just that each and every time they meet.

Until Dr. Crawford’s news conference, the discussion of Electric Works had been a non-partisan debate over the dollars and sense of the project, whether we could afford to commit a hundred millions of public money to the developers, whether the project offered the best use of Legacy dollars, and, whether payback for invested community dollars was properly assured in a timely manner. Cost, terms, payback, all are elements typically negotiated in a real estate transaction.

As it stood, Republican Dr. Crawford together with Democrat Councilman Geoff Paddock, had led a thoughtful, non-partisan effort on behalf of the EW. Sadly, now it seems Dr. Crawford’s comments at the news conference were more about his interests than those of the community.

Meanwhile, the final push is on from the GE-EW developers. Their calendars are packed with meetings, including with the mayor, councilmen, investors, and opinion leaders, to finalize details. Crucially, they have submitted their Legacy funding request which will be voted on in late May, and will come to council in early June. It has, at the moment, the votes to pass council, and to override a mayoral veto.

And, speaking of the Legacy Committee…

Ostensibly, Ron Turpin was replaced on the Legacy board because the mayor wanted complete control of that body going into discussions on how much to Legacy money to allocate to the GE project. Ron is not employee of the city, the rest of the board are the mayor’s minions, so the perfect motive to replace him. After all, control is fundamental in politics.

There was, however, a second and equally important reason for making Ron walk the plank – Mr. Turpin is treasurer for Tim Smith, that other Republican candidate hoping to unseat Mayor Henry next November. Ron acknowledged as much.

Not that long ago a local mayoral candidate and his treasurer ended up before a
grand jury as their campaign imploded over campaign finance violations. Ron will have his hands full as Tim Smith’s treasurer, not to mention his business, family, civic duties, and the rest. Smith and Turpin should send the mayor a box of DeBrand’s for the clumsy way in which Mr. Turpin’s dismissal was handled – no golden watch, no thank-you-for-your-service-party, just a splash in the water. After all, Ron had managed the Legacy almost from its birth and fully deserved a mayoral pat on the back. Instead, the trap door dropped and Ron fell to the sharks.
Perhaps the mayor, after all these terms in office, is just getting a bit cranky, and wearies of the baby-kissing side of governance, the bring-us-together duties of team-building. If you remember it wasn’t that long ago that he all but had the city clerk’s vehicle towed for her parking spot over his failure — not her’s — to take care of his car’s registration. A mea culpa with his charming “everyman smile” should have been in order, not retaliation. The normally avuncular Tom might return to smiling at his adversaries as loving thy enemy as your friend is a disarming pillar of good government. Lately, he has been found too often leaning on the pillar marked Machiavelli.


We might all take a lesson from our dearly departed friend, Kenny Scheibenberger. He lived a life of gusto, filled with love of family, of his community, and genuine compassion for the weak among us. Judge Scheibenberger was among the
very best our community has produced in generations, and the outpouring of love and grief at his passing underscored our loss. His funeral at the soaring St. Paul’s Lutheran was packed with friends and admirers where tears flowed and hugs were long and tight. Everyone had a story to tell about Kenny. On the mile long automobile caravan to Concordia Cemetery officers stationed at each major intersection to protect the motorcade saluted as his hearse rolled quietly by. He made us laugh, he brought compassion to his court, he set up a process to helping those susceptible to drugs, and he
was a pillar of his church, and as a lawyer in partnership with Ivan Lebamoff a successful champion of the First Amendment before the U.S. Supreme Court.

But his great joy came in the celebration of his heritage when he would
lifted a good Köstritzer beer high, as he did for decades at every German Heritage Society meeting, or in breathing deeply of German culture as we did on our many trips to sister city Gera, in his decades of service culminating in leadership of Germanfest. On his desk was a picture of his grandfather dressed in the Kaiser’s Feldgrau peering resolutely from under a Picklehaube, a front soldier of the Great War. Kenny was bigger than life, a leader and a friend. Ruhet in Gott, Kenny. Wir sehen uns wieder.


Sad we should lose two champions of the average person in one week. Lenny Goldstein was, in many ways the brother of Judge Scheibenberger. He was the face of the American Civil Liberties Union in Fort Wayne and ever the champion of the individual or the threatened group, a brilliant mind who defended the rest of us from the more power among us. While we should all mourn his departure we can celebrate his life by ever asking questions of government and the powerfully rich.

Arts for the Masses

Somewhat overlooked in the fighting over the GE project was approval by council of a Henry Administration proposal to spread art around the community. The collaborative of the art community and government sailed through council with hardly a dissenting voice. It is long overdue and will add to the attractiveness of what U.S. News and World Report
calculated is the most livable city in Indiana, and the 40th best in the country. Over the past few decades we have been in the process of rebuilding our city with some notable success, so we have now turned to add inspiration to infrastructure. The idea is to spruce up the community while prompting creativity by spreading art all over town. For some it makes the community more livable, a bit of distraction on that morning walk, while for others public art is an economic development tool to entice business, encourage start-ups, lure international talent, and encourage the best and brightest of our children to further improve our city.

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