Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Mayor Tom Henry delivers his annual speech Monday to the city’s Rotary Club at Parkview Field.
Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Rotary Club members listen Monday as Mayor Tom Henry speaks about the city during club’s annual luncheon at Parkview Field.
January 26, 2016 1:03 AM
Henry: Up city workers' pay
Calls for 'livable wage' in Rotary Club speech
Dave Gong | The Journal Gazette
Mayor Tom Henry on Monday said he plans to examine the wages of Fort Wayne city employees to ensure every public worker is earning a livable wage.
Henry’s comments came during his annual address to the Fort Wayne Rotary Club at Parkview Field, where he discussed the city’s accomplishments in public safety, redevelopment, economic and downtown development, streets and roads infrastructure, utilities and parks. The mayor also touched on the city’s financial condition and the state of the Legacy Fund.
The annual address, given during a luncheon with the Rotary Club, has traditionally served as a preview for Henry’s State of the City address, which is scheduled for Feb. 10.
“My friends, I submit to you that $7.75 – the minimum wage, the federal minimum wage – is not enough for an individual or family to subsist in our community,” Henry said. “So my goal right now is not only to help educate those individuals so they can go up to make more money, but I’m going to submit to you right now that I’m going to take a look at the city of Fort Wayne’s wages to make sure that everybody that works for me is making a livable wage.”
Despite the city’s unemployment rate hovering about 4 percent, Henry said the city must ensure that jobs coming into Fort Wayne offer good pay and benefits for residents.
Living wage and economic development are issues of particular importance to Rotarians, Rotary Club President Jason Daenens said following Henry’s address.
“As far as from the economic standpoint, I think that the mayor’s comments regarding minimum wage and living wage are really important, especially as we look at the population of downtown Fort Wayne and some of the areas around here that consist of people that have to face that issue every day,” Daenens said. “I think that’s important as well as the development of our downtown because I think it helps those people who are in need, as well.”
Overall, Daenens said the Rotary Club always looks forward to the mayor’s annual speech to learn about what’s happening downtown and in the city at large. Daenens noted that the club was involved in a lot of major downtown projects and is now planning what its major initiatives will be moving forward.
“The club itself is part of the fabric of downtown, so it’s important to us that all the right initiatives are taking place,” Daenens said. “Everything he spoke about today, the areas that are important to (Henry) are obviously important to us, and we appreciate the partnership we have with the city.”
Henry also touted the city’s accomplishments in 2015, noting the police and fire departments are moving forward with plans to hire more officers and firefighters. He also highlighted various downtown improvement projects including Cityscape Flats, the Ash Skyline Plaza project and ongoing riverfront development efforts.
He also touched on various City Utilities projects including the transition of southwest Fort Wayne residents to city water from Aqua Indiana and the pending construction of the deep rock tunnel to aid with combined sewer overflows during high-water events. Henry also praised the work that crews from Fort Wayne Public Works have been doing to improve city streets and roads, and he also recognized the city’s park system.
The Legacy Fund, however, was the focal point of the mayor’s discussion on the city’s financial condition. The Legacy Fund, which is money from the sale of the city’s old power utility, was expected to have $30,004,839 cash on hand by Dec. 31. Henry said while he believes the city should save some money and pass it on to future generations, capital projects shouldn’t be ignored.
“I’m not of the school of thought that we should just sit on it forever and pass it on to the next generation and say, ‘Here it is, that’s our legacy to you.’ I don’t buy that school of thought,” Henry said. “There’s a lot of talk today about various investment opportunities in our city, and I do think that some of them should be looked at very seriously.
“But I don’t think we should confine ourselves just to a savings account passed on to the next generation. I think we can do better than that.”