Tonight’s lead editorial is about last night’s City Council discussion on whether or not Fort Wayne and Allen County should make use of a Capital Improvement Board. That’s really the wrong question to ask. (See video of some of the discussion.) We already have such a board. We’ve just chosen not to use it in the way Indianapolis and Marion County use theirs.
Such a board does not really initiate anything. It is merely the mechanism by which elected officials get things done. In Indianapolis, those officials have made a conscious decision to focus all their attention, and a great deal of money, on a square-mile area of downtown. If the project is in that area, it gets done; if it isn’t, it doesn’t. Once a project is decided on, the existence and operating principles of the board make financing much easier.
That intense focus is partly because of UniGov, the consoldiated government that makes it easier for the officials in Indy to work together. But is also a reflection of a strong commitment to downtown development among a broad segment of the community. And, finally, the Capital Improvement Board there can help prioritize projects for downtown because Indianapolis has a large number of revenue streams feeding into the board that can then be dispersed.
Here, we don’t have the revenue streams, for one thing; two sources of funding for such a board, the innkeeper’s tax and the food and beverage tax, have already been dedicated to the Grand Wayne and coliseum. We don’t have the consolidated government; we have to figure out how to work with each other on a project-by-project basis. We don’t have the focus; a lot of people have a lot of ideas (see earlier post), but opinion hasn’t coalesced around anything in particular. We aren’t anywhere close to doing something as specific as putting all our time and effort into a geographically limited area.
Not having a Capital Improvement Board as a mechanism to get things done is the least of our downtown worries. Smith said last night that in Fort Wayne we sometimes suffer from "Indy envy" as we look at all the things that community seems to get accomplished. That’s been too true. We have to find our own solutions. We can borrow ideas from other communities, but ultimately we have to make them work in our environment, not wish we were more like someplace else.
(Pictured from left in photo above: Joe Kimmell, corporate counsel for the city of Fort Wayne; John Stafford, director of the Community Research Institute at IPFW; and County Attorney Bill Fishering)