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Repower. Rethink.

By Jim Sack

Fort Wayne Reader


A group of local citizens streamed to the rostrum two weeks ago at city council to beg councilmen to endorse their petition drive to encourage I&M toward renewables and away from coal fired plants. Their simple and logical request fell on deaf ears. Not only did the councilmen rebuke the citizens for even bothering to petition them, but so has the mayor.

It is a simple petition, nothing close to inflammatory, more supplication, a way to add impetus to I&M slow move to renewables.

What you may not know is Indiana regularly ranks among the very worst states in the country for air pollution. By one tally only Kentuckians, Ohioans and Texans are subjected to worse air which is usually linked to coal fired power plants.

Much of Indiana’s poison comes from the Rockport power plant that supplies by Indiana Michigan Power.

So, backed by the Sierra Club and carried by Repower Indiana foot soldiers, a petition has been circulating around the state to quicken the pace of conversion to cleaner energy. Officials around the state have signed on, but in Fort Wayne only one councilman, Democrat Glynn Hines, has added his name to the bottom line. Geoff Paddock, the other Democrat on council (and this is a traditional Democrat issue), is afraid of rocking the boat. Another councilman told the audience he had called a longtime friend and lobbyist for I&M to ask directions. Another councilman sought to protect coal miner jobs of which there are none in Fort Wayne, but plenty of solar installers, and even more sets of lungs.

Meanwhile, Mayor Henry has also failed to sign on. His spokesman, John Perlich, says the purported Democrat doesn’t sign petitions, even for clean air. Perhaps this is a smogscreen for fear of losing campaign contributions and votes. But, his presumptive opponent in fall 2019, Dr. John Crawford, the author of the popular local anti-smoking legislation, may offer his own petition in the form of a resolution at council.

Regardless, I&M is killing Hoosiers with the pollution they spew from Rockport on the Ohio, and only one of ten city officials has added their name to the drive for cleaner air…just one. One would think all of our representatives could get behind this, but they look over their shoulders and see that big I&M sign on One Summit Square and cower.

Bomber Ensley

Another citizen addressed council at the same meeting asking for restrictions on the duration of firework detonation and their tonnage. Anyone who was in Fort Wayne during the 12 nights of the 4th knows that bombs began bursting in air a full week before the holiday and were still rattling window panes a week after Francis Scott Key was no longer on everybody’s lips. And, should anyone have had a seismic meter at hand it would have been clear that the power of explosives had increased to the point where it would have been understandable had someone to confuse our normally bucolic burg for Damascus.

After that concerned citizen spoke Councilman Ensley rushed to deflect the issue noting the law surrounding the matter is the prevue of the state legislature. It was just a bit disingenuous. Paul, it is reported, was selling bombs in the run up to the 4th, for his boss and mentor, Bob Morris, a state representative to whom he referred the concerned citizen and who, himself, has a stake in stands that provide the munitions for stupid young men to torment their neighbors and every dog in town, not to mention providing emergency rooms with oodles of business.

Remember Electric Works…anyone?

It has been a while since the EW developers’ campaign reached its zenith of public presentations, yard signs, news conferences, and letters-to-the-editor. We are told by the mayor’s office that negotiations are quietly making progress as who will pay for what. Questions of accountability and benefits are discussed one line at a time.

Speaking of the wisest application of taxpayer money, there are a couple more voices among city council contemplating reform of our tax abatement policies and practices. The weekly march of abatements of corporate personal property taxes have drained well over half a billion from the local tax rolls that would have gone to schools and airport, library and government with questionable benefit to workers or the community, but certain benefit to owners and shareholders. In a recent series of abatement hearings one company after another noted that they had failed to meet their half of the bargain, the creation of jobs in exchange for hundreds of thousands in tax breaks, mostly because they couldn’t find the skilled workers they needed. Full employment, alone, calls into question the need for our generous abatement program.

Note also the contradiction that newer, more efficient equipment implies fewer workers, the underlying goal of the program.

Reforming the abatement game centers on reducing the length of tax abatement periods, scoring the applications with bias for higher wages, and narrowing eligibility only to businesses that bring new money into the city, such as manufacturers.

Meanwhile, Councilman Arp’s proposal to end the tax on business personal property altogether, the basis for abatements, will soon be voted down, again, by council. Ironically, will make Greater Fort Wayne, the pro-business successor to the Chamber of Commerce, happy because abating the tax as one of their lures to bring business to Fort Wayne. It also will make the mayor, sundry leaders of local institutions and most councilmen happy. Councilmen like to fill their campaign brochures with pictures of ribbon cuttings and ground breakings, but also rue the lack of funds to pay for infrastructure repairs; remember, too, they voted recently to raise your taxes to pay for those abatements.

When the mayor was asked at recent a news conference why he opposed ending the tax, but on the other hand regularly sent abatements down for council’s approval, he stammered to find an answer. The abatement game is a political exercise where Greater Fort Wayne gets something, council gets to wave their pro-business fingers in the air, the mayor touts his economic development chops, and the taxpayer foots the bill.

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©2024 Fort Wayne Reader. All rights Reserved.