The Role of City Government
It has been asserted that the idea of limited City Government might no longer be possible or acceptable to the citizens of Fort Wayne, because, "everything has gotten more complicated". If true, it begs the question, Why? If indeed Government has gotten more complicated it's because we let it get that way. It's said that people get the government they deserve; I say we get the government we vote for. As citizens we have a responsibility to be informed, check government through our elected officials, let them know what we think, and vote. Without the people driving the issues, politicians will create activity to feign accomplishment, and yes, things get complicated.
"As mayor, I'll get government back to basics, and strip the mask of accomplishment off simple activity." As I have written in previously published articles in the Fort Wayne media, Mayoral leadership is about charting a course, assembling the necessary resources, and then leading the way. Every dollar spent by government must be spent in accord with the just mission of the city's charter. Money spent outside of public safety and essential infrastructure should be very deliberately allocated. The private sector respects strong government that operates within its bounds, government that does not reach into their lives, their operations, or their pocketbooks. Outside the more formal aspects of City operations, the Mayor's leadership is essential in coordinating non-public community assets, focusing public attention, fashioning productive partnerships, and projecting a vision for the future.
Experience vs. Leadership and Vision
The conventional thinking says that only people already in office or with strong political backgrounds will be drawn to serve as mayor, vice a businessman today. I disagree. Though it may not be a part time job anymore, mayor has certainly been treated like one for the last term. Experience alone is over-rated, leadership & vision will always trump experience. How valuable is 20 years of experience in government if all it's really been is the same experience done 20 times? It's not enough to know where all the levers are to try and keep the train on the tracks if you're headed in the wrong direction. I think the mayor should be someone who's conceived an idea, created and sold a concept, developed the plan, taken a risk, and executed and managed a project to completion - this while also paying suppliers and employees, keeping the lights on, and simultaneously working on 11 other projects.
I bring new ideas and accomplishment to the job of mayor, along with common sense and an incredible work ethic. The evidence of my experience dots Fort Wayne today where I've already begun to transform the city, one building at a time. Think what we could do together. Running any organization the size of Fort Wayne's government requires many people of varied professional backgrounds. Effective leadership establishes a forward-looking culture and chemistry, defines strategic and tactical objectives, and then allows qualified people to get the job done. Whether one administrates 8 or 800, the leadership principle remains the same. I have organized massive rallies (Rally for America, 3/03 and Mitch Daniels, 11/04) and I have initiated, organized, and executed large complex operations (Eleventh Commission, 11/00, Operation Recreation, 4/04). Good people get the job done.
Leadership and Vision
A bold leader with a strong vision can inspire. I agree. The difference between a bold and reckless leader is judgment and humility. No one of us is smarter than the two of us together, and as long we don't care who gets the credit, and don't forget why we are doing what we are doing, and for whom (you), there is simply nothing we cannot overcome or do if we put our minds to it.
As mayor, I'll decisively lead, and seek counsel not consensus. A wise and successful businessman came to my office in the Lincoln Tower in late 2004, greatly disappointed by the failure of the city to act with decisiveness. He exclaimed, "Where consensus is required, leadership dies!" Consensus is great when trying to determine what movie to go see. It is wonderful to have consensus on a board regarding a new administrative hire. But when it comes to charting the fundamental course for the City of Fort Wayne, I will not rely on trial balloons or opinion polls. I will not seek some elusive state of consensus. For many years this artificial form of leadership has hamstrung Fort Wayne. Great leadership seeks wise counsel. It listens carefully. It asks for help. And then, without pause, it projects the vision of the new course and it moves decisively forward. If the course requires correction, so be it. If success is achieved, leadership says, "We did it!" If mistakes are made, leadership says, "I made a mistake. Here is what we have to do now." Ronald Reagan once said, "A leader, once convinced a particular course of action is the right one, must have the determination to stick with it and be undaunted when the going gets rough."
In the end, leadership is about courage. And, simply put, courage inspires.
Transforming the City, Creating a New Legacy
I believe people want to be inspired; they yearn for decisive leadership, and will work to be part of, and achieve, a vision. They want to be part of a winning team. A good mayor will have all these qualities, the ability to marshal the resources, and lead the people to transform the vision into reality, decisively and transparently. Government should facilitate that transformation, not govern or inhibit it.
As mayor I intend to insure government plays its appropriate role, decreasing regulation, and government cost-allowing the private sector to surge ahead. This is the new legacy of innovation, invention, and prosperity.
It is time for fresh leadership that gives rise to a new legacy, a legacy of innovation, yes, and of creativity and hard work, but also of vision and of boldness. If our grandmothers and grandfathers found ways to grow strong in the middle of the Great Depression, how much more important, then, is it for us today to stand-up and build a new Fort Wayne? Ours can be a city where garage inventors, impassioned citizens, and aspiring writers beget a new generation of high-tech invention and industry, social justice, and artistic enterprise. I embrace the new group of creators, hope-filled with spirit and vision. Together we will drive forward this new legacy of purpose, productivity and prosperity. For this is the vision of the new legacy: to recognize in each person the dignity and the greatness that is not government defined, but rather, God-given; to restrict government from places where it is not just; and to afford by proxy the right of each to provide for their family.
The vision of the new legacy pulls into it every man and women in Fort Wayne, the wage earners, the sole proprietors, and the corporate investors; it includes single parents, families waiting on the return of a loved one from overseas, and the great aunt who lives alone. As this campaign yields to the forming of a new administration, Fort Wayne's new legacy shall call each of us to sharpen our commitment to our families, to our neighborhoods, and to our churches. This vision is about you: about your passions and your hopes; about a culture that provides for the dignity and the potential of every citizen; and about the power of a free market roaring into a bright future.
Issues, Perceived and Real
There are perceived issues of the delineation of public/private partnerships, City-County Consolidation, local control of taxing policies, and competing regionally, I have positions on all these issues. However, in my discussions with citizens, officials, and business people over the last 6 months since I formed an exploratory committee, these issues are not in the top 5 of the most important issues facing Fort Wayne, nor the top 5 of the next most important issues facing the city. The folks I've met with and talked to at coffees, neighborhood meetings and polling around town over the last 2-months, see these issues for what they are, politician's issues, because at their core they come down to money (taxes) and power (authority). My observation is; the voters have a pretty good bead on the real issues.
As Mayor I plan to address the real issues facing the City such as economic development, jobs growth, improving the infrastructure, reducing crime, and dialing back the reach and cost of Government.
With regard to the issues surrounding the relationship between public and private sectors, this is very clear to me. If the downtown really needed and could support another hotel, don't you think Marriott, Hilton, or Starwood would be rushing there to build one because it was a good business decision to do so? If it's not a good business decision for them, what makes it so great for us?
As mayor I'll leverage government to facilitate private sector economic development, and use market forces to partner as appropriate with industry to deliver the best services at a fair price to the citizens of Fort Wayne. Let's face it: the government does have a role to play in most economic development initiatives. Frequently, it means ensuring traditional infrastructure (water, sewer, roads, etc.). Today this infrastructure can also include data and communication technology trunks. Beyond infrastructure, government can consider prudent property tax abatements. But oftentimes, the biggest obstacle to economic growth is the challenge of unfair or spurious development standards and a complex process for gaining project approval. In other words, sometimes the best thing government can do is nothing! Stay out of the way! Let the private sector do what it does best: generate wealth!
Economic Development, Unify Our Efforts
Right now there are a number of public, private, and quasi-governmental organizations established with some charter for economic development for the City; each with their own interest and approach. I think we need unity of effort and economy of force. I believe we need to break the religion of economic development and consolidate City & County economic development organizations and efforts for better efficiency (lower costs) and more effectiveness (production). We have to develop a more effective relationship between the Northeast Indiana Economic Development Corporation, the Fort Wayne-Allen County Economic Alliance, the Chamber of Commerce, the Northeast Indiana Corporate Council and other similar organizations. There has to be unity of command, a comprehensive plan, roles & responsibilities, and metrics to measure progress. Today's booming economy and low unemployment is fertile soil for growth. Now is not the time for incrementalism, but bold and decisive moves forward to create a new legacy for the city.
The mayor is in a unique position, "Rocket 1", the top marketer (not just cheerleader) for the city. I will kick the door open on opportunities, have may staff work the details, then close the deal, getting new businesses to locate to Fort Wayne, and helping existing businesses to expand. That's my job. A measure of my success as mayor to strike a balance between public and private sectors to foster economic development, will be an article on the front page of the Wall Street Journal in 2010 or 2011 with the headline, "Fort Wayne, Indiana, the Best Place in America to Own a Business".
City-County Consolidation: Consolidate Operations, Not Power
On consolidation, we have to ask ourselves two things, 1) why?, and 2) who benefits? In my view, we consolidate for more efficient operations (reduce costs), improved services (citizens benefit), and scalability. Everyone should be proud that absent any State mandate, Fort Wayne and Allen County have been consolidating to this end ever since the City and County Health Departments were brought together in the late 60's, followed by the Building Departments in the 70's and recently the Homeland Security Departments. Through a series of inter-local agreements, the City and County continue to pool resources and leverage economies to get the best value, whether fuel or police cruisers. Where it gets sticky is when officials start thinking about consolidating power and authority vice consolidating for lower costs, better services and scaling for future growth. We are not Indianapolis and Marion County. One size does not fit all.
As mayor I am committed to accelerating the work of consolidating for more efficient operations, improved services and scaling up, while also continuing to respect the integrity of existing municipalities. There's a Fort Wayne solution to consolidation that makes sense for the City, County and the region. It's been studied it to death, so let's put an action plan together then execute it. The discussion of HEA 1362 distracts each of us from those activities appropriate for government and healthy for growth. Meanwhile, I believe that inhibiting the right of New Haven or Huntertown or Leo-Cedarville to control their own destiny is a selfish and immoral act. Let us continue to find opportunities to work together where it makes sense, and allow the Region of NE Indiana to move forward as a community.
Tax Policy, Deliver Value for the Money
With regard to the issue of the prospect of more local control over taxing policies, I think the city has already demonstrated enough control of tax policy with the recent 30% and 32% increase in property taxes in Aboite and Wayne Townships1 respectively. In my view, the city has to deliver some value to the over 25,000 new Fort Wayne residents for that kind of money. I'm not sure that garbage collection, and 2 new fire stations within a 3-iron shot of the existing very capable volunteer fire station is enough. It appears that the only person who made out on the annexation of Aboite in addition to the city, was the owner of the properties at Scott Road and Covington, and Liberty Mills and Homestead Road where the new fire stations were built. I think we can do better than that. We might not be able to put the toothpaste back in the tube with regard to annexation, so we ought to deliver value for the money, or lower property taxes.
As mayor I am committed to re-examining tax policy, particularly in the newly annexed areas of the City, to deliver more value for taxes-paid, or reduce property taxes, or both. We should allow the dynamic of this new city area to drive a more just and productive government for the city as a whole.
Improving the Infrastructure
Appropriate value-driven application of tax policy to stimulate economic and jobs growth in Fort Wayne is essential for the city to lead the Northeast Indiana region into a new economic renaissance. But this alone is not enough to attract existing businesses to expand and new businesses to locate in Fort Wayne. We must have the infrastructure, the on-ramps if you will, for business folks to get here. The airport is critical to any significant growth strategy for the future. Over the last 8-years we've seen airlines terminate service, and those that remain cut back the number of flights in and out of the airport. When people fly into and out of Indianapolis and drive 2+ hours to and from Fort Wayne to save $200 a ticket, that is not an adequate on-ramp if we want to grow. Further, Congressman Mark Souder fought the FAA for the new control tower at the airport, and won. But the FAA is equipping the tower with antiquated equipment and standing in the way of 24-hour operations so they can regionalize air traffic control and manage it out of Indianapolis. This means that in addition to Fort Wayne, the South Bend airport will also come under the auspice of the Indianapolis ATC if FAA regionalized control is achieved.
As mayor, I'll work with the airport authority and directly with the airlines to develop a plan to make the airport more attractive for business and leisure travel to and from the city. In addition, I'll work with the Governor's office and the Indiana Congressional delegation to reconcile the issues around modern 24-hour tower operations in Fort Wayne, and fight Indianapolis control of the Fort Wayne airspace. The airport is just one of the on-ramps necessary to build a better, stronger Fort Wayne. Finding ways to accelerate High-speed Rail development and improve intra-city transportation are keys to economic development. Finally, and importantly, eliminating the regulatory morass of municipal government may prove to be the most high value application of Mayoral Leadership. Existing businesses that wish to expand should not have to overcome specious guidelines and a cumbersome process to grow their business.
Our Role as Taxpayers
Finally, in response the question where do taxpayers fit in all these issues and what should their relationship be to elected officials, I'll repeat what I stated at the beginning of this article, "As citizens we have a responsibility to be informed, check government through our elected officials, let them know what we think, and vote." Voting is the ultimate term limit, and if elected officials know you're going to vote, they are often very responsive to your thoughts and comments, again, let them know what we think, and vote.
Government doesn't have to be that complicated, we just can't accept the premise that the Government is what it is and we can't do anything about it. We can do something about it, and if elected, I will. Perhaps it's true that, "City Hall has gone beyond the idea that the best thing for government to do is to provide infrastructure, cut the red tape and then move out of the way". With your support, as mayor, we can get City Hall back to its rightful role.