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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana.
One of my greatest frustrations with public projects is how long they take to happen.
I live near the GE Campus, and I attended a meeting about it where developers mentioned ideas for the space, like a public market where farmers and vendors could sell their goods.
I visited a similar space at the West Side Market in Cleveland last year, and I thought something like that would be amazing in downtown Fort Wayne. Hearing people talk about it at GE, I realized it could finally happen here. Awesome.
Then someone raised their hand asked that fateful question: When can we expect to see this project finished by?
The developers looked at each other for a moment before offering a tentative timeline of five years for the completion of Phase 1. “Considering everything goes according to plan, of course.”
Five years. In developer-time, that’s incredible. That’s breakneck speed. I get it.
But in Kara-time, five years is still a long way away, and that’s what frustrates me.
I know things take time. I know I have to be patient. I know there are processes and systems to work with. But at the end of the day, every year feels like a long time in your 20s, and every day that something isn’t happening here, the sparks of excitement grow a little dimmer.
I’m constantly wishing there was a way I could speed things up. I want to enjoy more of this city while I’m still young—while I’m still living here and still have time to enjoy it. But even though a grand scale renovation of something like GE might just have to wait, there are other local projects that we can make happen faster.
In mid-March, city councilmen Dr. John Crawford proposed an income tax increase that would expedite Riverfront Development and make our city more walkable with improved sidewalks and alleys. When taxes were capped in the past, Fort Wayne Community Schools lost part of its transportation budget, so some of the money is going to fix sidewalks for kids who can’t ride the bus anymore.
Now, I know what you’re probably thinking: Who wants higher taxes? And the answer is probably nobody. But if you want to see things happen with Riverfront Development in time for us to enjoy them (or if you simply want our local economy to succeed), then this tax increase is something that you should seriously consider contacting your city councilmen about, and here’s why.
Crawford’s plan calls for a 15 percent increase of our current income tax, taking it from 1.35% in Allen County to 1.5% (which is still below the Indiana average of 1.59%).
Overall, this change would cost taxpayers earning an average household income of $49,000 a year about $6 per month, or $73 per year. (Lower incomes would pay less, and higher incomes would pay more, yada yada.) If the increase goes into effect—charging everyone an equal rate of 15 percent—it will raise up to $79-million for Riverfront Development and up to $40-million for neighborhood sidewalk projects.
That said, the reason I’m urging you to consider this tax increase is more complicated.
It’s not just about beautifying the rivers or starting Riverfront Development. Actually, Phase 1 of Riverfront Development is already fully funded, and it’s happening no matter what. It’s set to start later this year with a promenade and treetop walk along both sides of the St. Marys River downtown.
But the kicker is, unless this tax gets passed, a nice river walk is all that’s it’s going to be for a long time, and it’s not likely to turn a big profit.
Crawford’s tax increase would go toward making spaces for offices, housing, retail and cafes along the river where our local economy could start earning its money back. And what’s exciting about that to me is that it means our city isn’t going doing things halfway. We’re going all-in. And when the Riverfront is fully complete, that’s when it’s going to start generating buzz, attracting the nation’s top employees, and making this region attractive to people who want more than “a nice place to raise a family.”
As a conservative councilman, Crawford is interested in boosting local business and private investments in our region, so he proposed this tax increase because Riverfront Development is estimated to reap about $1 billion in investments. That’s an insane return rate.
But the reason I’m writing to you about this tax in such direct terms is that it’s going to take a ton of public support to get it passed, and the critics have already made their case loud and clear.
Three city council members opposed Crawford's proposal, and even state representatives and a national advocacy organization called the AFP have butted in and spoken out against the tax, simply because it's a tax.
But as The Journal Gazette editorial board noted, "decisions about the future needs of our community need to be made by the people of Fort Wayne and the council and mayor they've elected."
As someone who lives here and has a stake in this region's future, I urge you to consider the long-term benefits of going all-in on Riverfront Development now.
If you want to see public projects like this happen while we’re young, if you believe this place is full of potential, you should email or call your local councilmen sometime before the (likely) July 11th vote and give this tax your support.
I know it’s a tax, and I know that sucks. But to me, it’s worth it because, honestly, it’s a race against the clock, and time is what’s at stake. When I consider staying here, I wonder whether I should keep hoping for things to happen, keep shouting into the wind, or if I should go somewhere else where people are already investing and things are already happening—while I’m still young and free and the world is full of opportunities.
The opportunities are so…alluring.
What are you waiting for?
Contact Your Councilmen
The Fort Wayne Common Council is nine elected members (one from each of the city's six council districts and three at-large representing everyone).
Michael A. Barranda
Written communications may also be directed to the City Council as a group or to individual Council members and mailed to the office of the City Clerk, Citizens Square, 200 E Berry St., Suite 110, Fort Wayne, Indiana, 46802.
Attending a Meeting
Public hearings on the income tax increase will be scheduled soon. Watch the city website for announcements.
You can also voice your opinions at City Council Meetings on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of each month at 5:30 p.m. in Room 35, Garden Level of Citizens Square Building. This is the time when citizens may address City Council as a group regarding any topic that is within the Council's authority.
HereSay, in partnership with YLNI, is a bi-weekly blog about our say on what’s happening here. It is written by YLNI member Kara Hackett, and the opinions are her own. Photo by Matt Thomas. HereSay@ylni.org
Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana (YLNI) is proud to announce that two popular summer events will once again take place in downtown Fort Wayne.
The Living Fort Wayne Concert Series is back on May 31, June 21 and August 2 at Headwaters Park West along the St. Mary’s River. In its fourth season, the concert series celebrates local musicians, local food trucks, and our downtown rivers. The concert series will include the kick-off to Friends of the River’s new canal boat on May 31 and is part of Make Music Day Fort Wayne on June 21. All ages are welcome and admission is free.
The YLNI Farmers Market returns for the season each Saturday from May 20 to September 9 at 302 East Berry Street. The market offers fresh local produce, plants, meats, baked goods, and unique homemade crafts. Every vendor is local, coming from Allen or surrounding counties. Live music and children’s activities will provide entertainment throughout the summer. More than 1,000 people visited the market each Saturday in 2016.
“YLNI is excited to host two summer events that will attract thousands of residents and visitors to downtown Fort Wayne,” said YLNI President Stephanie Veit. “The concert series continues to grow each year and offers a unique, live music experience along our rivers. Our farmer’s market has become a Saturday morning destination for many people. It was recently named a top 10 farmers market in the state of Indiana, and we’re incredibly proud of that.”
For more information on the Living Fort Wayne Concert Series and YLNI Farmers Market, contact VP of Communications John Felts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Barnes & Thornburg presents Emerge: The 2017 General Membership Event, YLNI’s premiere annual event where current members, potential members and established community leaders are invited to come together and celebrate the growth of our community and the accomplishments of our organization in the past year.
This year’s event has been reinvented and renamed to encompass our mission to "attract, develop and retain emerging leaders through community, professional and social engagement" in just one powerful word, EMERGE.
We are thrilled to have Stacey Holifield, owner of Levitate and boundary pusher, as this year’s Keynote Speaker. She will share her story about why she chose to come back to Fort Wayne and start her strategic communications business.
Mark your calendars for Thursday, June 29th and join us at the beautiful new Ash Building Green Space in Downtown Fort Wayne from 5:30PM – 9:00PM. This event will be the perfect opportunity for you to connect with our various committees as well as enjoy food from Salsa Grille, beverages, yard games and live music from Will Certain.
5:30 - 6:00 | Networking
6:00 - 7:00 | GME Program & Keynote Speaker
7:00 - 7:30 | YLNI Committee Tables
7:00 - 9:00 | Music & Yard Games
RSVP on Facebook
A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about community connections.
I lived in New York for awhile during college, and I mentioned how using public transportation there was one of the main ways I felt connected to the city.
Every morning, I’d wake up, walk to the subway, and push my way onto a train so full of people that I could hardly move. The community was literally squishing me.
But in all seriousness, using public transportation and being around other people really does make you feel like you’re “a part of something,” and when my article came out, I got a call from Betsy Kachmar at Fort Wayne Citilink buses.
Betsy wanted me to ride the bus for a day and see if it was something I was interested in doing more often.
I’ve always been curious about Fort Wayne’s bus system. I rode the bus a lot in New York. But everyone does that, so it’s not unusual. In Fort Wayne, everyone drives their own cars. You a see a few random passengers waiting by the bus stop from time to time, but that’s it. Honestly, none of them ever really looked like me, so I figured I wouldn’t blend in very well.
Riding the bus here was something that fascinated me, but it also made me uncomfortable.
When the day came, I met Betsy at the Meijer on Illinois Road where we parked in the lot by the Garden Center. She said that lot usually stays empty, so if people want to park there and hop the bus downtown, they can do it easily. Tickets are only $3 for a day pass, and kids younger than 18 or seniors ride half price. You can either buy a daily or monthly pass online ahead of time, or pay per ride in cash on the spot.
I thought that if I ever wanted a ride downtown on busy day of the Three Rivers Festival or something, maybe I really would ride the bus, so I didn’t have to park.
Betsy explained that the buses have bike racks on front, too, so if I ever got adventurous and biked too far away from home, I could ride the bus back.
That’s an idea, I thought.
A few minutes later, the bus pulled up, and we got on. It wasn’t as busy as buses in New York, but it was still mostly full. The people seemed nice enough, and they mostly kept to themselves just like in the big city—reading newspapers, listening to music on headphones, staring out windows.
We sat next to a guy probably in his late 40s named James. James was a regular rider. Betsy introduced me, and told him I was the girl who was going to write the article that convinced millennials they should ride the bus, too.
I smiled about that, but inside, a realization started eating at me. Chances are, unless bus service times get a big boost, or all of my friends suddenly decide to start riding the bus, I’m not going to be the type of person who does this on a regular basis.
The fact is, Fort Wayne is still very much a car city, and I have a car, and at the end of the day, it’s simply more convenient for me. People are creatures of convenience, after all. And even though riding the bus would do wonders for our environment and our community, most of us aren’t going to do it until it’s truly our best option.
As I sat there, staring out the window, worrying about what I was going to write, James reminded me why buses are still important in Fort Wayne.
“I ride the bus because I have to,” he said. “It’s the only way I can get to my doctors appointments.”
I guess I always figured that the people who rode the bus here were the people who needed it, but it’s different when they’re sitting next to you, telling you about it to your face.
As I listened to James, I stopped thinking about myself and other “young professionals” for a moment, and my mother’s voice came to mind: Maybe it’s not about you.
Maybe as much as I wanted to find a reason why I, a healthy, young, middle class person in Fort Wayne might ride the bus on occasion, the fact is, the bus system in our city isn’t really meant for that yet. It’s meant for people like James—people who literally need it—and that’s why all of us need it, too.
As much as I would love to do a good deed, and pick up people like James every morning to take them where they need to go, that’s not practical or efficient in my compact VW Jetta. So cities pay bus services like Citilink to provide public transportation for them, and it helps them remain active, contributing members of society.
Betsy said the buses have fixed routes and flex routes, and while the fixed routes follow the courses you see marked on the Citilink website, the flex routes change every day according to the need. They’re primarily for physically or mentally disabled riders, as part of a service that all city bus programs have to provide in exchange for public funding.
When people in need of transportation have no better way of getting to work or their doctors’ appointments, the bus is there for them.
Maybe it’s not about you.
As Betsy and I kept talking, she explained how buses used to be privately owned, and everyone used to ride them, even in cities like Fort Wayne. But as most working class citizens grew wealthy enough to afford their own autos, privately owned bus lines starting struggling, and companies like Citilink took over, seeking government funding to keep the buses running.
Betsy and I talked about how public transportation is the way of the future because people are moving back downtown, and like it or not, our environment simply can’t bear the burden of privately owned vehicles forever. Eventually, we’ll all have to find more environmentally friendly ways to get around.
But which comes first the chicken or the egg?
Do you make the buses nicer and more convenient to entice new customers now, or do you wait until the customers reach a critical mass, and then grow as needed?
Citilink seems to be choosing the latter (more practical) option. But the problem is, funding for the bus system we have now—the bus system people like James need—isn’t getting any better. Actually, it’s remained stagnant the last few years even though operation costs have increased. And with the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts, it’s likely to get worse.
Indy’s bus lines could see major cuts, and Indiana's Amtrak is slated for cuts as well.
Betsy is leery about what these changes might mean for Fort Wayne.
“That’s so frustrating,” I said, staring out the window again.
But as I said it, another realization came to mind.
Perhaps the reason public transportation is getting cut is because the people making those cuts are thinking like me. Maybe they're looking at the budget full of things the government is funding, and thinking: Public transportation? In cities like Fort Wayne? Who needs it? Everyone has cars.
But the fact is, the people you don’t see every day, the people waiting at the bus stop, the people who don’t look like you or act like you or dress like you, the people you might be afraid to approach, do need public transportation. And realizing that is not necessarily a solution, but it might be a new way to start thinking about the problem. And if you think about it, maybe it's also part of the reason our community feels segregated.
For those of us who don’t need buses, it’s easy to forget that they even exist.
Ride the Bus
If you’re interested in experiencing a bus ride for yourself, you can see the map of stops on the Citilink website. You can also purchase a bus pass there.
Ride for Free
If you are downtown or near the University of Saint Francis, you can take advantage of Citilink’s Cougar Express bus for free. It’s a complimentary service Citilink created for students that is open to all members of our community, as well. Just flag the bus down, and hop on.
By: Lauren Brune
Have you heard about YLNI’s Candidate Boot Camp? Are you thinking about signing up? Here are 5 reasons why you should commit!
Are you ready to ride this summer? The Fort Wayne Bike Share program has relaunched for the 2017 season!
Enjoy navigating around downtown Fort Wayne with access to six stations and 30 bikes. In 2017, riders can purchase an annual membership for just $30! You can purchase a membership here.
Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana (YLNI) invites emerging leaders in Northeast Indiana to learn what it takes to be an effective public official with the Candidate Boot Camp program.
YLNI Candidate Boot Camp is designed to encourage emerging leaders to think critically about civic duties such as volunteering in a leadership role, running a political campaign, or becoming a candidate for public office. Participants will learn about these opportunities from experienced community leaders and elected officials.
The program will take place at Barnes and Thornburg, and is divided into four, three-hour sessions on May 10, May 17, May 24 and June 7. The cost to participate is $50 for YLNI members and $75 for non-members.
For information, contact YLNI at email@example.com.
The last several years, IPFW has been making headlines. There have been protests to save programs like women’s studies; there was the big news about the university’s leadership split, and now the school is getting a new name.
The list goes on and on.
But chances are—unless you’ve been following the stories closely, or talking to someone at IPFW—you might be confused about what’s actually happening and whether it’s good or bad for our region.
So after doing a little digging, interviewing, and piecing together the local news myself, I wanted to give you a framework to think about the changes: what is happening, why some people are upset, and why there is reason for hope (in my opinion).
Of course, how you interpret what I say is up to you. But, theoretically, you can use this to better understand the issues, and make an educated judgment for yourself.
Let’s start with what’s happening.
With all of the news coverage about IPFW, you might assume that things are really going downhill. But that’s not exactly so.
Actually, according to IPFW Director of Public Relations, Kim Wagner, the headlines you see are part of two separate changes: one internal and one external.
The internal change is the result of the USAP, or the University’s Strategic Alignment Process, to eliminate or merge programs that aren’t graduating enough students.
Programs like women’s studies have been moved under different departments (now under political science), and other programs like geosciences have been eliminated completely to help the university save money.
However, these changes are not part of the external change that is now happening with IPFW’s leadership.
“That’s one of the things I try to make really clear to start with,” Wagner said. “There are two separate processes, and it has been causing confusion for people.”
The second, external change that has been in the news recently is IPFW’s split in leadership and its renaming.
This external change is the result the Legislative Services Agency (LSA) study and report mandated by the Indiana General Assembly in 2015.
The Assembly basically ruled that a group of IPFW stakeholders needed to study the university’s governance models, and make recommendations for its future to curb declining enrollment.
The stakeholders group consisted of IU and Purdue trustees, community members and faculty members who met from 2015 to early 2016. Then in January 2016, they presented their recommendations to the university, and they recommended that the university split.
IU decided to take control of the university’s health sciences programs, and Purdue basically took everything else.
“Because IPFW has been a Purdue fiscally managed campus for over 50 years, it was just easier for IU to say we want to focus solely on the health sciences, and let Purdue take over the majority of programming, including humanities,” Wagner said.
So starting July 1, 2018, IPFW will no longer exist. IU will operate a small health sciences satellite in Fort Wayne, and the main IPFW campus will become a Purdue University satellite—one of three Purdue satellites in Indiana.
Wagner said the Fort Wayne university’s name will be decided when the Purdue Board of Trustees votes on April 21st. However, the running favorite in a community survey was Purdue University Fort Wayne. The mascot will still be the Mastodons, and Wagner said the faculty and staff will remain the same; they just might transfer from IU to Purdue and visa versa.
The school is also ensuring current students that they will graduate under the university that they intended to graduate with when they enrolled.
Although there are still a lot of questions, both universities have put together a joint steering committee that is working though the split, piece by piece.
How people feel
When IPFW’s split was first announced, there were many reasonable concerns among students, graduates and the general public.
Purdue isn’t known for its humanities like IU is, so there were questions about why IU didn’t get those programs instead. On top of that, the school is losing 50 years of history by changing its name and leadership, IU donors might not want to fund a school that is now run by Purdue, and the once-hopeful plans for an independent Fort Wayne University are now down the drain.
“Now it’s just another Purdue satellite campus,” was how one IPFW grad put it to me.
But if you step back and consider the potential for Purdue’s Fort Wayne satellite, you might find that the move gives Northeast Indiana some of the distinction that we crave.
A case for hope
If you ask me, hope for IPFW lies in its music department.
Right now, Purdue University is the only Big Ten school that doesn’t have a music degree program, so when IPFW becomes a full-fledged Purdue satellite, students who want music degrees will come to Fort Wayne, potentially funneling young, creative talent into our region.
“It excites me for a lot of reasons,” said Dr. Gregory Jones, IPFW’s department of music chair who will head up the new program. “We will be the only program granting a Purdue music degree for the first time in history, and that’s cool.”
On top of that, Jones sees newfound potential to upgrade IPFW’s Department of Music to a School of Music with its own reputation, no longer in the shadow of IU’s Jacob School of Music.
“IU is a very well respected brand in music, but we aren’t the Jacobs School; we are our own unity, and I’d like to have our own reputation,” Jones said. “IU definitely didn’t want us getting any bigger or start offering a graduate program because it didn’t want internal competition. Now that we’re part of Purdue, we’re not competing against ourselves anymore, and I consider that to mean that there are more opportunities.”
John O’Connell, Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, said three things need to happen for the future Purdue Department of Music to become a School of Music. It needs more tenured faculty, expanded facilities and a graduate program. The first goal is a graduate program.
To get there, Jones sees opportunities for community funding as well as leveraging the department’s current connections with regional assets like Sweetwater Sound and the Fort Wayne Philharmonic.
If Purdue University Fort Wayne can make a name for itself in the world of music (and not just ride on IU’s reputation), then it might be a good thing that IPFW split up after all. And since the split is a done deal at this point, I say: Let’s accept it, and make it the best we can.
If you truly believe IPFW is a vital regional asset, then consider supporting its music program.
The YLNI Power Lunches offer four groups of five YLNI members the unique opportunity to meet with a community leader for lunch on four separate occasions. This intimate, personal interaction grants YLNI members access to some of Fort Wayne's brightest, most respected business leaders, whom are willing share their experiences and insights in an informal, relaxed setting.
YLNI participants are encouraged to ask questions about issues and challenges these leaders have faced as well as successes and failures they've been a part of. By meeting with the same group for four months, each participant has an opportunity to build relationships with their respective community leaders.
Registration is limited to the first 20 qualified applicants. Lunches will begin in mid-May and run through August. The cost is $70, which is payable upon notification of selection. You can register here.
2017 Participating Community Leaders:
More information on the YLNI Power Lunches can be found at ylni.org/power-lunches.
Join us for a special Hot Spot on Thursday, April 20 where we will recognize and congratulate all the graduates from the 2017 Leadership Institute Class! The Hot Spot will take place at Parkview Field from 5:30 to 7:00 PM.
Whether you’re new to Northeast Indiana or have lived in our area for years, Hot Spots are always filled with individuals who are ready to help you make great connections with organizations and community leaders. All are welcome to attend. RSVP on Facebook