Courtesy Riverfront Fort Wayne Lights on the shore, and surface, of the St. Marys River glow during last weekend's opening festivities for the new Promenade Park downtown.
Tuesday, August 13, 2019 1:00 am
Remember elected officials who stood up for city in supporting Promenade Park
Awesome. Beautiful. Beyond expectations. Stunning.
There were plenty of words to describe Promenade Park on its debut weekend. But don't forget courageous.
Some elected officials showed true courage in voting to support both the Legacy Fund appropriation for Promenade Park and the local income tax increase that will support the next two phases of riverfront development.
Councilman John Crawford, R-at large, says his enthusiastic support for riverfront development probably cost him in May, when he lost the Republican nomination for mayor to a first-time candidate, Tim Smith.
“I would do it again,” Crawford said of his votes. “Just being there Friday night and Saturday made you smile at Fort Wayne. It was worth the money we spent and the debate we did about the tax for Phases 2 and 3. We will more than get the money back.”
If you were among the 35,000 visitors who wandered through the park and marveled at its features this past weekend, you probably agree. But the connection between tough political stands and a flourishing city are sometimes forgotten on Election Day.
Crawford, who also lost a council reelection bid in 2007, said his support for Parkview Field and the adjacent Harrison Square development was a tougher vote, but one he supported because he had become convinced that quality-of-place improvements are important.
When Mayor Tom Henry's administration proposed in December 2016 using $10 million in Legacy Funds from the City Light and Power lease agreement with Indiana Michigan Power for riverfront development, council voted 7-2 to support the measure.
In addition to Crawford, supporters were at-large Republican council members Tom Freistroffer and Michael Barranda and Russ Jehl, R-2nd; Tom Didier, R-3rd; Geoff Paddock, D-5th; and Glynn Hines, D-6th. Councilmen Paul Ensley, R-1st, and Jason Arp, R-4th, voted no.
It took even greater courage to raise the local income tax two years ago, beginning with a special session of the Allen County Income Tax Council, where nearly 200 residents attended to hear the case for raising the income tax rate.
After Crawford proposed the increase, Americans for Tax Prosperity, a national anti-tax group, drew sights on the council supporters. A compromise decision to use some of the tax revenue for city sidewalks and alleys and a reduction in the rate from 0.15% to 0.13% was supported by Crawford, Freistroffer, Barranda, Didier, Paddock and Hines.
It is revenue from the income tax rate hike that is now supporting design of the next phases of riverfront development. The strength a bipartisan majority of council members and the Democratic mayor showed in backing the increase made it possible.
Election Day is months away, but the legions of new Promenade Park fans should remember the courage of those public officials in November.