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The Journal Gazette

  • Hays

Friday, October 04, 2019 1:00 am

Hold Fort Wayne, and its leaders, to Great City standard

Patti Hays

Patti Hays is CEO of AWS Foundation and a candidate for Fort Wayne City Council,4th District.

Have you ever visited a city that captured your heart and made you long to return? How about one you dreaded the thought of ever returning to? What was it about each that elicited those feelings?

We read about “best cities” and see the complex matrices that determine whether Denver is better than San Diego. Each city and its leaders are competing with the others to be better than the year before.

City leaders strive for urban areas that are bigger, thriving economically and respectful of the environment.

Fort Wayne is making significant progress in the race to be a Great City. That competitive nature will drive industries to select us for their new sites, help us retain college graduates and recruit a skilled workforce.

A great city is different from a nice place to live. Cities with a nearby beach, exciting nightlife, parks and trails, and a low cost of living are desirable, but are they great?

I have seen Fort Wayne evolve during my 29 years here. Groups regularly visit other cities to capture a little of their magic and bring it back to Indiana. I have lived in other cities and traveled to still more. I see overarching issues that I'd include on a list of what it takes to be a great city.

A great city is one where all may enjoy prosperity: We won't all have the same, but there is a path for all in a great city. A path for affordable housing; jobs and careers with potential for growth and a living wage; and access to a healthy diet.

Prosperity will happen only when we are safe. For many of us, our most valuable asset is our home. It is our refuge and provides security. That path to prosperity includes safe residences, safe neighborhoods, safe schools and safe communities.

A great city is one that nurtures civility: People in a great city know they have a path that provides opportunity and personal expression. Of course, we all need to live within the laws and respect one another's needs, beliefs and differences. We don't all need to be best friends, but we should be civil to one another, especially to those with the greatest differences.

A great city knows the value of public and private partnership: Anyone can build a city when there are unlimited financial resources. But a great city aligns public and private financial resources for smart growth. A city that uses resources in a smart fashion sees growth at a lower cost and better infrastructure like roads and utilities.

A great city is open to change while having a framework to nurture that development: Change can be hard. Glenbrook Square isn't what it once was. Wolf & Dessauer is gone (though Santa remains).

Great cities are open to transformation. They are open to technology to solve or, better yet, prevent problems like crime, polluted water, and transportation on increasingly congested streets. An attitude of embracing technology is what may lead to the next new industry.

That change needs to happen within a framework to avoid us chasing any bright penny in our path.

Along that path there will be other changes. As the city grows, so will housing demands. As demand increases, so will housing values and property revenues. That is good. However, the streets will need to accommodate increased traffic. That will mean the dreaded spring arrival of orange cones and narrowed lanes.

A great city is a process. It is only with a vision of what we can be that can lay the path for how to get there.

I look at the work that has been done by the City Council in the past few years. Some council members have demonstrated actions supportive of the vision of a great city, while others recoil from its potential.

Opportunities and ideas that are met with a resounding “no” will result in our failing to achieve that vision. A “no” vote to sidewalks, parks, Promenade Park, the Riverfront, libraries, airports and budgets is a “no” to our future.

I believe Fort Wayne will be the city that others visit to learn about transformation. We can be the city where visitors want to return. We can be the magnet city for industry and jobs.

When you vote this fall, be certain to vote for the City Council candidate who will say “yes” to the future vision of a Great City.