Councilwoman Karen Goldner has graciously agreed to share the text of her State of the 2nd District speech with the AFW Blog.
State of the 2nd District delivered by City Councilwoman Karen Goldner
February 18, 2009
Good evening and thank you for joining us for what I believe is the first State of the 2nd District speech. Councilman Glynn Hines has had annual State of the 6th District addresses for many years and it seemed like a good idea to copy.
Our district, stretching from the confluence of our rivers in the south, to Union Chapel Road on the north, includes very diverse neighborhoods. In writing this speech I started to describe the variety and ended up with a very, very long paragraph which I have deleted in the name of brevity. Let me just say we have very old neighborhoods, middle-aged neighborhoods, and veryÂ young neighborhoods. We have older, established commercial areas and newer areas that continue to develop.
But we have far more in common than we have differences. All of our neighborhoods have infrastructure needs. All of us are concerned about crime. And all of us are concerned about the economy. I’d like to talk about these issues tonight. My first goal is to share with you why I am so optimistic about our city’s future. My second goal is to follow the advice of President Franklin Roosevelt: Be sincere, be brief, and be seated.
Northern Indiana’s weather wreaks havoc on our streets every year. This is especially a problem in the 2nd District, where so many of our neighborhood streets are concrete. Concrete lasts longer than asphalt, but it doesn’t last forever, and when it needs to be fixed it is quite expensive. Many of the neighborhoods in St. Joe Township as well as Pine Valley were built in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and their streets need attention. Even newer neighborhoods are feeling the effects of repeated freeze-thaw cycles.
On top of that we are living with the legacy of bad development standards that didn’t used to require sidewalks, so many parts of the district – especially in commercial areas – are simply not safe to access without a car.
And lastly, both because a federal judge demands it and because it is the right thing to do, we will be overhauling our sewer system so that we dramatically reduce the amount of raw sewage into our rivers.
Streets, sidewalks, and sewers: that is an expensive combination.
The good news is that we have a Board of Works that is very efficient. Our Street Department fills potholes within hours of their being reported. Our engineers are always looking for new but proven technology to help stretch your tax dollars. And hopefully the State of Indiana will give us some of the federal stimulus dollars that they have received for roads and sewer projects.
Also good news is that we have some very engaged neighborhood leaders in the 2nd District who are working with City government to make sure that we do the right things the right way. It is always always dangerous to start naming names as I will inevitably leave someone out, but that is a risk I will take because it is so important to recognize these hardworking people. Let’s just call them representative of many other volunteers in our community.
Dan Wire of the Northside Neighborhood is a sewer expert. He was integral to a subgroup of the Sewer Task Force that looked at how to approach some challenging sewer separation projects, with the result being that City Utilities will be taking a more neighborhood-friendly approach to sewer separation. Judy Ramsey of Pine Valley has been an advocate and organizer to improveÂ traffic safety along Coldwater north of Dupont Road. Jim Miklos works hard to make sure we don’t forget about Tanbark. Linda Galloway has mastered the art of gentle reminders about needs in Mardego Hills, a skill shared with Linda Henrie who does the same thing for Eagle Lake and Michael Allison in Woodland Lake and Helene Evans in Frances Slocum. Sarah Johnson organized her neighbors to decide what sort of street lights they wanted when the old ones on California Avenue had to be replaced. Roger Goodland is not only an advocate for bike and pedestrian trails, but he is involved with their planning and implementation as a volunteer on the Greenway Consortium as the Greenway expands to connect Johnny Appleseed and Shoaff Parks. The list goes on and on.
And just because we cannot do everything, there are things that we CAN do. Already in 2009 we have started sewer construction in the Kirkwood Park neighborhood. Nearby the North Anthony corridor will be improved thanks to the leadership of Mo Palmer and the owners of the Firefly, Cindy & Paul Demaree. We will be able to improve a few concrete streets throughout the district: Ransom Drive in Pine Valley, Renfrew Drive in Bryn Mawr, and Dewberry in Ranchwood Neighborhood. We will also be able to put in a sidewalk along Parnell, just down the street between Vance and the St. Joe River bridge, to correct a very difficult and dangerous situation where pedestrians are forced into the street on a busy and curved road. These projectsÂ are all good news. Not only will we see needed capital improvements but they put people to work right here in Fort Wayne. The federal stimulus package and the city’s Infrastructure Bond will result in resources we can use for streets, sidewalks and sewers, and you can be sure that I will be working closely with the administration to address our high priority needs.
And here is some great news: the extremely patient folks along St. Joe Center Road will see construction there finish at the end of this year!
Now to crime. Unfortunately, as in most other cities, 2008 saw an increase in crime in Fort Wayne. The 2nd District was not immune to this trend. The men and women of the Fort Wayne Police Department work hard to protect our community. I would like us to have more police officers, but our budget constraints do not allow for that. So the police use techniques such asÂ focusing investigative resources and continuing the take-home car program to increase police presence in our neighborhoods in the constant effort to keep our city safe.
And fortunately, the police are not alone in their fight against crime. Concerned Citizen Crime Watch provides a way for neighbors to keep an eye on their neighborhoods. Northside neighbor Ellen Fox is President of CCW and Reg Converse is a long-time CCW volunteer and leader. Rebecca Langin, manager of Woodview Manor Apartments, has worked closely with the PoliceÂ Department to improve the safety and quality of life in her apartment community.
The newspaper was very thorough in recently reporting that some businesses along East State have been victimized by crime. Because of that, I was especially pleased to see that Parkview Hospital is stepping up and working with the police department to locate our Northeast substation on its property in that area. Again, it takes all of us working together to solve problems.
Because of its focus on crime statistics, the Fort Wayne Police Department can shift resources to address hot spots. This means that we as neighbors need to make sure to report minor crimes like someone opening your unlocked car and grabbing the 75 cents you had in the dashboard. No, this isn’t a major crime, but it shows that there is someone breaking into cars in your neighborhood and when combined with other incidents that are reported, it allows the police to see and respond to patterns. If it’s not reported, the police do not know about it.
And each of us can take small steps to prevent crime, like locking cars in our driveways and keeping your garage door secured when you are doing yard work on the other side of the house. Our economy certainly is suffering but I believe that we can see these challenges as opportunities. For instance, the federal stimulus bill which exists only because of the country’s economic problems will most likely allow us to repair more sewers and streets than we would otherwise be able to do on our own. Nearly all of the money spent on these projects will go for engineering or construction, and these projects generally employ local workers who will spend their money at our local businesses and that helps everyone. I have been pushing the administration to make sure that our local engineering companies as well as construction contractors have every possible chance to get this work.
In the 2nd District we are home to IPFW and Ivy Tech, and the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center which is a home for growing high tech businesses at Stellhorn and St. Joe Roads. They have just completed an expansion because the businesses located there have been growing, adding more employees, and in need of more space. One very interesting business at the Innovation Center is ZOOM Information Systems, owned by Mike Fritsch and Darwin Dahlgren. Mike and Darwin have created an information technology company whose customers include a number of state governments. If you drive across the State of Iowa, you’ll be able to get a wide variety of traveler information at their rest stops thanks to ZOOM. These gentlemen started with an idea and now have a growing business employing skilled workers at good wages. Another Innovation Center company is Schwartz Biomedical, owned by engineer Herb Schwartz. Herb and his team are developing a number of very innovative ways of treating orthopedic problems such as torn cartilage. These entrepreneurs and others are finding success by applying technology to solve problems. And they employ highly skilled workers, making good wages.
Another economic item related to IPFW is the growth in student housing. These are definitely not like the dorms that I remember where the only amenity was a lounge without furniture for 50 girls and a TV with terrible reception; today’s student housing units are very nice apartments. In addition to IPFW building its own housing on Crescent Avenue and Hobson Road, the private sector has seen the opportunity in our market. Last year one new privately-funded project began construction on St. Joe Road and another one is planned for 2009. These apartments both fuel and are fueled by IPFW’s significant growth. What used to be called “Bypass High” has turned into an important economic engine, right in the middle of the 2nd District. Successful communities in the 21st Century will have institutions of research and higher education as their partners. IPFW is developing into just such an institution.
Having a skilled workforce is critical to a city’s economic health. Businesses need to know that a community can provide workers who have the skills to grow into the new kinds of jobs that a knowledge-based economy is constantly creating. Ivy Tech’s growth provides the education to help such workers develop their skills, whether in health care, manufacturing, or business. What a great resource for our city and, again, it’s right here in the 2nd District.
Last year I was proud to be part of the effort to improve our city’s tax abatement system. This system allows businesses to phase in the increased taxes that they will pay from making a significant investment such as a new building or new manufacturing equipment. Businesses continue to pay their old taxes but at a time when they need more cash to pay the new employees they hire, we do not hit them with the full amount of increased taxes right away.
Our old tax abatement policy had unclear criteria and was not aligned with our city’s comprehensive plan. Now businesses can get more value for paying higher wages or for building in our central core. The new policy provides more certainty which is something that businesses always want from government. It positions us well for encouraging private investment in our city.
2008 saw a number of significant events affecting the 2nd District, including the acquisition of Aqua Indiana’s north service area by City Utilities. Residents in the neighborhoods near Dupont Road now enjoy water that tastes better and at a more reasonable cost.
Parkview Hospital broke ground on its Regional Medical Center by Interstate 69, just north of the 2nd District, which is a huge investment in our community. At the same time, Parkview is working with neighbors of its Randallia campus to ensure that vital services remain on State Street and that any unneeded space on that campus is well planned for. Parkview continues toÂ invest in the Randallia hospital will continue to provide a wide range of both inpatient and outpatient services there.
2008 went out with a bang in the way of a terrible ice storm. Many homes in the 2nd District and throughout Fort Wayne lost power, some for extended periods. But as bad as it was, such a crisis can bring out the best in people as well. People like Joseph Aurich, a Boy Scout who lives in Glenwood Park, and who looked after his neighbors when they lost power to make sure theyÂ were all right. Of course, Joseph learned to be a good citizen not only from Boy Scouts but also from his parents, Tracey and Mark, who opened their home – complete with a generator – to neighbors, and he has the example of nearby neighbors, Joan Jehl and her son, Dan, who provided their home to an elderly gentleman who needed electricity for medical equipment.
These are the kind of stories that tell us what a great community we have.
An issue that is on the minds of many people right now is gambling. Should the Indiana legislature allow some sort of casino in Fort Wayne? Mayor Henry has commissioned a study of this controversial issue and I look forward to seeing its conclusions. The research that I have seen in the past has generally been, in my opinion, tainted in that the people opposed to gambling find evidence to show it’s awful, and the people supporting gambling find evidence to show it’s wonderful. My own observation of communities where casinos have opened is that the truth of the matter is somewhere in between, and I do hope that we are able to obtain some research that is more impartial before decisions are made on something this significant. In the meantime,Â people are sharing their opinions with me which is very helpful even though there is no proposal before the City Council right now.
One action that the City Council will be taking soon is called the “Commercial Code” which will adopt a set of minimum standards that owners of commercial property must meet, similar to the standards that owners of residential property must already follow. In parts of our community, one or two neglected commercial buildings bring down the value of everyone else’s property. LettingÂ such blighted buildings hurt a neighborhood has long been a real hindrance to our ability to make our community an attractive place, and I am very pleased to support this ordinance which we should be voting on next week.
As a community, we will be facing many challenges over the coming year. Some of these challenges will be economic and budgetary. Some may be like the recent ice storm. But the most important challenge that we face is whether we choose to rise to the occasion, whether we seize this moment to build a better Fort Wayne. Do we crawl into a hole or do we roll up our sleeves and get to work? Our district and our city is filled with smart, creative and hard working people. We have come together in the past to solve problems, and I know that we can and will do so in the future.
So let us seize this moment. Let us use our city’s budget challenges as a way to make government smarter. Let us make investments in infrastructure that not only put people to work but also improve our city’s economic base and our quality of life. Let us celebrate the exciting businesses that are growing right here in our community and support the investments that we
need to make to help other such businesses thrive. Let us build on the solid foundation that we have inherited from the hard work of previous generations to improve our community for generations to come.
Working together, we can make Fort Wayne an even better city, and now is the time to begin.