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Shoaff’s agenda open for all to appreciate

John Shoaff has been a city councilman going on 12 years, and he has been known for strong positions on issues he’s committed to. They are unrelated to political party and are sometimes opposed by substantial economic or private interests.

Some opponents who are unable to change his independent thinking (not an uncommon experience) have concluded he must be motivated by a “deep, dark” personal agenda. In truth, the only things dark about John’s agenda are the ruminations of those who have exhausted their arguments and just hang their oblique conspiracy theories out the window so others, smarter than they, can figure out what they’re trying to say.

John’s motivations are neither opaque nor secret and can be found prominently on the pages of both newspapers and in the evening news. His causes most commonly have to do with preserving the quality of our neighborhoods and the environment that has – with great community effort – preserved Fort Wayne as an exceptional place to live.

He began with a fight to limit expansion of Ardmore Avenue into surrounding neighborhoods, leading to a modification of the original plan. As a long-standing director of the parks board, he championed Headwaters Park and tirelessly supported its financial drives. He also sought the services of Eric Kuhne, who designed one of the most remarkable parks in the country.

He and his wife, Julie Donnell, first conceived and then established the foundation known as the “Friends of the Park,” which now supplies both ongoing financial support and a voice for park lovers everywhere. When 15 acres of asphalt was proposed to replace the “central green” of Franke Park and the previously unrevealed “done deal” was made public just days before construction, he filed the lawsuit in his own name to stop it and funded the fight. After two grueling years, with no visible support from the city administration, the parking lot advocates abandoned the whole concept. The other facilities using the park survived without a scintilla of injury. They already had 1,500 parking spaces in the park and seldom if ever have filled them.

Recently John’s visibility has been associated with the fight over the widening of State Boulevard, part of a long-term design to put a four-lane thoroughfare through multiple historic neighborhoods. The public “improvement” will connect the state highways on the west side with the state highways to the east. John’s opposition is portrayed as “obstructionism” by those who believe any new construction is “progress” regardless of its collateral damage, which incidentally, will remain forever.

These are brief illustrations of John’s causes and they are about as open as anyone could make them. In fact, his normal approach is to enlist the members of the community who agree with his positions in a common effort to protect what they believe to be in the long-term interests of Fort Wayne.

There are many subjects on which we disagree, as anybody who knows us will gladly attest. But when it comes to John’s commitment to Fort Wayne, we have little disagreement. I think Fort Wayne is better off by far for his public actions, and I hope he continues with his “agenda,” “secret” or otherwise.

To anyone wanting to preserve the remnants of an illusory conspiracy, my advice is that you simply ask John why he’s taking the position he’s taking on any public issue. It is unlikely you will walk away from the experience without understanding fully his reasons or that you will think for one second that these do not reflect his true opinions.

Tom Shoaff is an attorney and the brother of City Councilman John Shoaff, D-at large. He wrote this for The Journal Gazette.

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