Sunday, December 25, 2011

It's Simple: No Vision, No Progress

This time next week, we will have a new mayor. Thankfully, Mayor-Elect Lloyd Winnecke promises to bring a wave of change to Evansville. He also promises to bring back the days when Evansville was on the right track by appointing people such as former mayor Russ Lloyd Jr. as Comptroller in his administration.

Earlier I talked about why government transparency is important to me...

Now, I will show you why it is. With the last few days of Mayor Weinzapfel's administration coming to an end, the Evansville Courier & Press decided to ask him why he chose to become mayor and why he made the decisions he made...

The title of the article is the following: "Opportunity, not agenda, charted course for Weinzapfel."

For those who don't speak the language of politics, let me translate that for you: He came with no vision. As I talked about on my Save Roberts Stadium blog...

Our local Vanderburgh County Democratic Central Committee just loves to prey upon those who enter politics with weakened morals, ethics, and visions. Looking back on these past 8 years, you see what the byproduct of no vision will get you in a town like Evansville where political corruption runs rampant.

In 2007, I was chosen by an organization based in Arlington, VA/Washington, DC named the Leadership Institute to serve them as a Field Rep. For those who don't know, the Leadership Institute is responsible for training notable politicians and activists like Grover Norquist, Karl Rove, Senator Mitch McConnell, Congressman Mike Pence, and seven new members of the 112th Congress. Although I disagree with all of these people on most topics, I definitely strive to be like them in terms of political will power.

If you ever get time, do a little research on Grover Norquist, Karl Rove, and Mitch McConnell. What you will find is 3 political leaders who refuse to have their vision altered, refuse to be influenced by those who seek to destroy their vision, and refuse to be jaded by adversity. I am proud to not only have been one of 70 people in the country chosen to represent them, but also for the accomplishment of finishing in the top half of my class at L.I.

Indeed, the Leadership Institute has shaped me into this type of political activist as well. As soon as I got off the airplane in Washington, DC for training and arrived at the LI headquarters, this organization made sure they molded me into a leader of tomorrow which was their one and only goal. The following are things that LI trained me on...

1. Before you get into politics, establish a vision
2. Never let political adversity affect your dedication to your vision
3. If you change your vision make sure it is only your decision and not someone else's decision

And most important...


After learning about various political tactics, strategies, and philosophies, the Leadership Institute flew me back to Evansville and then sent me by car all the way out to Seattle where I would be establishing political groups on college campuses such as the University of Washington (U Dub!).

As I drove across America, it quickly became obvious what I was fighting for. From Evansville to Seattle, this land, this country, is simply amazing. There's nothing like taking a road trip across the Pacific Northwest...

For three months, I set up political groups on campuses in and around Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington...

I even participated in a protest in Downtown Seattle...

Although most of my beliefs were Conservative at the time (they were Liberal before), my goals, beliefs, values, and vision are all now moderate and fall right in the middle of the Liberal, Conservative, Authoritarian, Libertarian graph. What are my values?

1. Respect for the environment: The United States (and Canada as well) are an amazing gift to us. There is no reason to degrade or eliminate this

2. Respect for life: In Seattle, I camped outside of a Planned Parenthood with a Pro-Life group. This wasn't the most popular thing to do in Seattle but it was the right thing to do.

3. Respect for animals and wildlife: This is a branch of my respect for life value. Too many times people think that if they can take advantage of another form of life such as an animal or a native habitat to make a dollar they should do it. I find this to be despicable and a disgrace to see such selfishness.

4. A commitment to improve the quality of life around me: Going from Evansville, to Lexington, KY, to Arlington, VA and Washington, DC, and then onto Seattle, WA taught me one important thing- there are answers out there to all of our problems. Since my journey to Seattle, I have now become a strong advocate for high speed rail and other forms of rail transportation, an advocate for environmental and historical preservation, and an advocate for innovative programs such as Earn and Learn in Louisville and MAPS in Oklahoma City. Innovation is the key to improving your city.

So with all of that being said, it is extremely important that once you set your goals, values, and vision you stick to it. Obviously, if you decide that you want to run for the mayors office in Evansville and you don't have any ideas, goals, or vision, you are in big trouble.

For this reason, Evansville is now becoming a dying town. Since the 1960s, Evansville has watched town after town steal its residents. These residents leave to go to other cities because they have lost all faith, will, and trust in Evansville's political leaders. After all, why live in a city whose only goal is to produce political careers and fortunes and not improve the lives of the local residents? There is no doubt that we need a change in political mindset and attitude here.

To me, that change starts by electing candidates who refuse to be a puppet to the Republican or Democrat Party. Currently, the Vanderburgh County Democrat Party has the mayor's office and an 8-1 advantage on the Evansville City Council. Although they have the power to make a tremendous difference here in Evansville, they have sacrificed this power for the comfort of group think.

If you watch and listen to our local candidates, you will notice the following...

1. Most of them don't stand for ideas. Instead they fight for whatever their political party wants them to fight for.

2. Most of them don't form their own opinion on issues. Rather, they follow their party leaders in order to advance their own political career.

3. Most of them don't even care about the issues , how to solve Evansville's problems, or any projects that can improve Evansville. The only reason they run for office is to advance their own political career ( which they call an "opportunity").

I don't know about you, but I refuse to fall victim to these fallacies. I refuse to throw my own beliefs, values, goals, and visions under the bus for a little comfort from the group think community. Sooner or later, we are all going to die. When that time comes, do you want your city to know that you stood up for what you believed in or what your party told you to believe in?

For those who want to advance their political careers, if you can't stand up for what you believe in here in Evansville, what makes anyone think you would stand up for yourself in Indianapolis or Washington, D.C?

My goals and vision for Evansville is the following...

1. Finally get the 2001 master plan complete

2. Support high speed rail and oppose I-69

3. Save Roberts Stadium

4. Completely overhaul Garvin Park & restore it to the days of Baseball's Golden Age

5. Fight for the strongest smoking ban possible.

6. Advance Evansville & the ideas that I have on my 3 blogs as well as set up a message board (which I'm doing right now) for Tri-State Tomorrow.

Here in Evansville, there is no doubt that I have ticked off just about everyone in town with one of these 6 goals. But the truth is, like Karl Rove, Mitch McConnell, and Grover Norquist, I don't care. I refuse to cave or compromise my vision to a bunch of bureaucrats or misinformed citizens who simply have no vision or no belief to fight for.

I also believe the day that all of our political leaders adopt this mindset is the day you will see the pall finally lifted from Evansville. The truth is, if we don't have any political leaders who are committed to getting any projects completed here in Evansville, how are we ever going to develop the will power to get anything done here?

If we want to see progress here in Evansville, we better start electing politicians who have a vision. It's that simple!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

How Do We Beat Vectren? With A Unified National Smart Grid

Lately, our city residents have been in an uproar over the proposed electric rate hikes from Vectren. A few weeks ago, I attended the regulatory hearing at the Centre to hear testimony from local residents.

At the hearing, almost all of the complaints centered around the basic same problems..

1. Vectren doesn't have competition.
2. The EPA is finally gettting ahold on polluting coal plants which will drive up electrical costs.
3. Not only does Vectren have a regulated monopoly, we are also only able to obtain energy sources in the Tri-State.

For those who fear that they will be dealing with Vectren forever, I'm here to tell you that it will get better because help is on the way. What is this help and how will it beat Vectren.

The solution to our electrical woes is something called a "Unified National Smart Grid." To be exact, this grid is two concepts in one. Let's examine both of them and then put the entire grid together.

First, it is important for us to understand what a "smart grid" is. From Wikipedia...

"A smart grid is a digitally enabled electrical grid that gathers, distributes, and acts on information about the behavior of all participants (suppliers and consumers) in order to improve the efficiency,importance, reliability, economics, and sustainability of electricity services."

Translation: A smart grid is better than our current grid because it allows us, the customers of the power company, to communicate back to them with a smart meter. This allows for better efficiency, security, and communication. The main component of the smart grid is the smart meter which allows for the two way dialogue. The following video tells us about the smart grid...

Converting all of America's electrical lines to smart grids would be a huge accomplishment for our country. However, it would still keep us dependent on Vectren. Therefore, we cannot stop there. The next step we must then take would be to set up a "Unified National" smart grid.

What is a smart grid that is unified and national? Just like its name, the grid is able to connect all of the grids in the U.S together. Why is this important? Because connecting all of our grids opens the door for competition from all parts of the U.S. From Wikipedia once more...

"High capacity transmission such as current technology 800KV high voltage direct current lines would span the country providing linkages to local electric utilities and distantly located bulk power generation facilities. The national backbone would be intelligent in a similar way that local smart grid clusters are. As local electricity networks are upgraded to smart grids, interactions with the national backbone can become more coordinated. Examples given of the kinds of coordination are that hydropower from the northwest can be dispatched if wind is expected to temporarily subside in the Dakotas. Discretionary air conditioning in California can be turned on if there are strong winds blowing in Delaware."

Here is yet another great video from our Federal Government...

Here are the benefits identified by our government...

  • More efficient transmission of electricity

  • Quicker restoration of electricity after power disturbances

  • Reduced operations and management costs for utilities, and ultimately lower power costs for consumers

  • Reduced peak demand, which will also help lower electricity rates

  • Increased integration of large-scale renewable energy systems

  • Better integration of customer-owner power generation systems, including renewable energy systems

  • Improved security

  • If completed, the Unified National Smart Grid would be one of America's greatest accomplishments. Imagine a grid that can bring wind energy from the plains to huge manufacturing states like Ohio. Imagine a grid that can identify its own problems and correct them quickly. Also, imagine a grid that allows you to tell Vectren to hit the road while you tap into America's wind, solar, and tide energy from various parts of the country.

    According to political leaders such as Al Gore and T. Boone Pickens, it is estimated that the grid would cost $400 billion to construct but would quickly pay for itself with tariffs on transmission.

    So while you may think that dealing with Vectren is a problem that will never go away, relax, the Unified National Smart Grid is on its way!

    Sunday, November 6, 2011

    Why is Government Transparency Important To Me?


    Since the beginning of the mayoral election that is set to come to a climatic ending this Tuesday, government transparency has been one of the main topics due to the Homestead Tax Exemption being discussed behind closed doors.

    Luckily, Mr. Rick Davis, who is running for mayor, has promised to make government transparency a corner stone of his administration. This is good news for those of us who strive to get to the bottom of what the government is doing, how they plan on going about it, and what we can do to help.

    For most, government transparency strikes them as just one of those "political speak" terms that doesn't really mean anything specifically. Indeed, Evansville has fallen victim to "political speak" many times as political candidates would rather tell you what you want to hear and not what they actually plan on doing once elected. But government transparency, although quite vague, can be the difference between success and failure for activists like me.

    Since I began this blog almost 2 years ago, I have long sought to get Evansville's most difficult and controversial projects either completed or changed so that they make sense. This has proven to be quite the challenge in a town known as "little Chicago." I will tell you firsthand, the last thing city hall wants you to do is interfere with their power.

    One of the main projects that I have sought to see completed is the slack water port project in the Howell Rail Yards. Why is this project vital to my goals as well as the success of Evansville? For many reasons including the following...

    1. Once constructed, the slack water port will allow us to move IMI Concrete, Tekoppel Block, Mulzer Stone, and many more industrial companies that don't belong next to Casino Aztar. In turn, this will free up the land we need to complete the 2001 Downtown Master Plan.

    2. The slack water port is extremely vital to our railroad industry. Contrary to what city hall wants you to believe, it is the railroad industry that makes or breaks Evansville. More companies such as GBT choose US 41 or the proposed I-69 corridor because it has access to CSX, a Class I railroad.

    3. The slack water port will be one of the biggest job creators in Evansville. Not only will it re-establish Evansville as a "River City" it will also bring the shipping and port industries to Evansville. Also, if we can ever get high speed rail here, we will be able to manufacture the train sets right here in Evansville which will create jobs by the thousands (a test facility creates 1,500 jobs alone).

    With all of that being said, I decided to seek out the slack water port project to see where the city currently is with it. I was told time and time again that I needed to contact David Jones who is the City Attorney. Why a lawyer is in charge of this project I will never know.

    Nonetheless, I emailed Mr. Jones asking him to see the renderings, the plans, and the timeline for the project. I NEVER heard back from him. The one person with most of the data on the project has decided not to take time to involve the public in it. I find this to be quite ironic given that he has plenty of time to discuss it occasionally with the Courier & Press...

    And he also has time to play politics...

    Basically, if you want to know anything about the slack water port, you have to sit on the sidelines, wait for the occasional story in the newspaper about it, and then listen to the rumor mill on what the latest progress of the slack water port is. This process is nothing short of pathetic!

    If we are ever going to complete a project here in Evansville on time and without dividing our city, we must have open discussions, community approved goals, and opportunities for all citizens of Evansville to participate, not just the political insiders. Thankfully, if Rick Davis gets in, we will probably get a new attorney.

    Not only has the slack water port been handled poorly, several other projects have as well. As most people know, I have been working on saving Roberts Stadium. Each month, I'm finding out more and more information about the way this project has been handled before I got involved, and it is more than clear that it was identical to the slack water port project.

    Just like city hall did with David Jones and the slack water port, David Dunn and the Evansville Convention & Visitors Bureau were put in charge of the project even though they never had to seek election. And like the slack water port, we were only allowed to view a few articles here and there about its status and weren't invited to participate.

    This process proved to be a failure once more as Dunn and company decided themselves that Roberts Stadium wasn't worth keeping and sought to build 8 dull and boring ball fields on the lot. Dunn never listened to the public who wanted to keep Roberts Stadium, he never listened to the public on what location they wanted for the ball fields ( The lot I have proposed- Kleymeyer Park, is much more popular than Wesselman Park), and he only hosted a small workshop for the public to offer their design ideas even though most of the project had been decided upon.

    Due to the lack of government transparency, the slack water port isn't even close to becoming a reality and the ball fields are as dead as dead gets at Wesselman Park. Is this really what we want for Evansville? Is this really the best plan for Evansville? I think we can do better.

    For those who don't know, I am a fierce advocate for an Oklahoma City program called MAPS (Metro Area ProjectS). This program, which is on its third time around, gathers ideas from the citizens, lets them vote on the ideas, and then lets the citizens decide if they want to construct them. As a result, MAPS has passed all 3 times. And as a result of the MAPS program, Oklahoma City has been named "The most recession proof town" by Forbes Magazine.

    So while some may think government transparency is just a cliche that means nothing, in reality, it means everything. It means the difference between having the opportunity to improve your town versus being complete shutdown by political insiders who are power greedy.

    I don't know about you, but I don't plan on sitting idle as our city continues to die. I also don't plan on sitting idle when I believe that I can help improve government projects. Although I volunteer my time and efforts as an activist, I find it to be most rewarding when I have the opportunity to leave my mark on projects that will still be in Evansville 40-50 years from now. There is no reason why activists such as myself can't be a part of the process just as much as a hotel owner or a city attorney.

    We always hear from political candidates that they want opportunities for their citizens. Well, you can only achieve that if you commit yourself to government transparency. So far, only Rick Davis has committed himself to this principle. Hopefully others will follow as we cannot afford another failed project.

    When you go to the polls Tuesday, think about government transparency and what it means to each and every one of us. Make sure you reward those such as Rick Davis who will fight for your government transparency.


    Sunday, October 9, 2011

    Casino Aztar Invests In Us, What Are We Doing For Them?

    (photo credit:

    2 months from this week, Casino Aztar will be celebrating their 16th anniversary in the River City. For some, it seems like just yesterday when they were waiting for the boat to come around the bend from Jeffersonville/New Albany, Indiana. For others, it seems like an eternity ago.

    However you feel about the duration of the past 16 years, one thing is for sure, our local government is failing Casino Aztar. There's no question that the arrival of Aztar has done many good things for our town, especially our failing downtown. As soon as the boat arrived, Evansville began asking Aztar, "What can you do for us?"

    Despite city government failing to build around Aztar, we have seen many great things come from the casino...

    "...Aztar has pumped almost $200 million into its host city's budget in taxes and lease payments and brought millions more in tourism dollars during its 15-year run. It has also given more than $60 million to the county and more than $320 million to the state in tax revenue, according to a 15-year impact study Aztar released earlier this week.

    According to an annual study commissioned by the Evansville Convention & Visitors Bureau, visitors spent more than $356 million in 2009 while in the city. Without Aztar's presence, the study concluded that figure would drop more than $120 million."

    According to the article, some of those funds have gone to various projects such as...

    -Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden
    -some funds for the new Downtown arena
    -more police cars and other public safety initiatives
    -$1.8 million for the LST 325 dock
    -$2 million for the Koch Family Children's Museum of Evansville
    -$1 million for the Evansville African American Museum.

    Right off the bat, we've got several problems with our use of Aztar Funds.

    1. Evansville only gets around 11% of Aztar's tax dollars. The rest is wasted on Vanderburgh County and the State of Indiana.

    2. Although some of the projects have been needed such as police safety and zoo compliance upgrades, none of these projects are anything to write home about. Tourists still go to Indianapolis for a children's museum, and they still go to Greensboro, NC, Montgomery & Selma, AL, and Memphis, TN for African American history. In other words, we picked projects we do not have a competitive advantage in.

    3. None of those projects are located next to the Aztar complex. The article above tells us that Casino Aztar is our number one tourist draw. Shouldn't that be the location of our investments?

    Last week, Ward Shaw, who is general manager of Casino Aztar, appeared on Newsmakers and gave us these quotes...

    Shaw: Aztar is very unique compared to most local riverboat sort of gaming jurisdictions that you see throughout the Midwest and in the South and that most of these riverboat casinos are placed in locations to help with economic development. That is the main attraction for governments to allow them to come into their communities. A lot of these are in areas that are very industrial or there is a lot of economic blight.

    Having Casino Aztar in downtown Evansville is a blessing we must take advantage of. It should no longer be acceptable to have Casino Aztar and Mulzer Stone as neighbors (I will talk about the solution in a minute). No one wants to visit a city that is a one-trick pony. If we want to recruit new visitors as well as retain the same visitors, we must upgrade our entertainment district. That is required to compete in a capitalist economy.

    Compared to some of our other locations within our company or some of our competitors, we sit here in a really attractive, very visually-pleasing, easy-to-access location for our customers, guests and team members. We are in a beautiful little bend in the river right next to Downtown. It is a very scenic riverfront park walkway, and there a things to do within walking distance of Downtown. It makes our entertainment destination a little more well rounded than just a stand alone casino that is maybe five miles out in the middle of a very industrial area.

    Mr. Shaw is correct about the location, but incorrect on the district around the casino. Casino Aztar and its restaurants are surrounded by a stone plant, an adult entertainment store, and a few high rise corporate offices. We can do better than that!

    Kentucky is much more close to home for us. It is yet to be seen what the impact of the instant racing machines that look like will go in across the river here and later on this year will have on us. The concern there though is, what is the next step after that? Is that just a precursor to a more expanding gaming opportunity in Kentucky? With the proximity of Ellis Park, that would be a huge concern for our business.

    Further proof that we need to make plans for the surrounding district and we need to do it NOW. We cannot afford to have our casino lose business to Kentucky and Ellis Park. Time after time, Evansville has felt sorry for itself and refused to improve itself. If we let this happen again, we will be sacrificing our one point of light. Do we really want to do that?

    With all of that being said, what is the solution to fixing this problem? To me, that answer is one of the easiest answers to any of our problems here in Evansville. We must bring back the 2001 master plan. Why bring it back?

    1. A ballpark will bring in over a million visitors to the Aztar district. It will also account for 1,000 to 1,300 hotel room nights each season. The ballpark district around the ballpark will enhance and compliment the already existing Aztar district.

    2. A canal that will go parallel to John Street from Pigeon Creek to First Avenue will connect the Aztar district to the arena and convention center district.

    3. A marina will bring in tourists who want to take on the mighty Ohio River while enjoying the Aztar night life at the same time.

    4. Placing the LST at the Port of Evansville will bring in tourists to the area who will stay at Aztar's hotels. It will also pull the historic ship away from Ellis Park which will be a future competitor.

    5. Moving Ohio Street so that it connects with 1st street instead of 2nd street will bring motorists closer to the Aztar district while allowing us to fill in the area between the ballpark, the LST, and the canal with a ballpark village.

    The problem we have is that we are being selfish instead of working to build Evansville together. Our local government is only concerned about what they can get out of Aztar not what we can do to help Aztar and our city grow as one.

    If we are going to be successful, we need to ask what we can do for Casino Aztar and our downtown Evansville, not what they can do for us!

    Imagine a canal to the north of Aztar, a marina, LST, and ballpark to the west of Aztar, and a ballpark village in between. Can you name a city Evansville's size that could compete with that? I sure can't.

    Some of you may be saying, " Well that's great but our city is broke." Although our city is broke, this problem needs to be solved by spending our money wisely. When you take into account expanding Green River Road, Millersburg Road, Oak Hill Road, the Lloyd Expressway at Fulton, and a few other roads, the bill goes OVER $100 million.

    We need to spend our Aztar money to build around Aztar by doing the following...

    -$30 million ballpark
    -$35 million canal
    - $5 million Port of Evansville & LST

    The rest of the funds should be used to construct the marina and slack water port. By building the slack water port, which would have to come first, we will be able to clear Mulzer Stone, IMI Concrete, and Tekoppel Block off the land without losing their business. It will be a win-win for both sides.

    So instead of wasting money expanding roads that will just cause urban sprawl and increase government spending on city services, why don't we do the right thing and invest in our Casino Aztar district who has done so much for us these past 16 years?

    Do the right thing, INVEST AROUND CASINO AZTAR!

    Wednesday, September 21, 2011

    Why A Windmill Tower Would Separate Evansville From The Rest

    As most Evansville residents know by now, Global Blade Technology, GBT, has announced that they will begin setting up shop at the old Whirlpool plant where they will be producing state-of-the-art windmills.

    The good thing about this latest piece of news is that just about everyone wins. I, myself, am excited about the opportunity from a historical preservation standpoint (saving the WWII big blue building), an environmental standpoint (windmills will replace coal and oil), an econonic standpoint (this will be great news for any future slack water port built), and from the standpoint as an advocate for rail technology...

    Even better news came when GBT announced that they will be building a second plant by 2013. Hopefully, GBT will be successful in their qwest to add a total of 400 + jobs to the area. Not only will GBT be bringing in a significant amount of jobs, they will also be sustainable and good paying.

    Not only will these sustainable jobs have the opportunity to resurrect Evansville's economy, they will also have the opportunity to resurrect Evansville's image if we are successful in changing the thought process around city hall. I say this because last year we were dealt a setback in our efforts to convert Evansville to a green city when Mr. Frank Peterlin saw his petition to construct 3 windmills outside his business denied...

    Obviously, we missed a golden opportunity when our city decided to play politics. Mr. Peterlin's petition was denied for two reasons...

    1. City hall hasn't updated some of their zoning laws since the Stone Age. Because of these outdated laws, Mr. Peterlin's windmills were placed in the same category as several thousand feet cell phone towers. Therefore, it was nearly impossible to get a variance from the highly regulated category Frank's windmills were placed in.

    2. The businessman next door did not like the idea of windmills at all (it was pretty obvious that jealousy was the main reason) and decided to fight it to the end. Unfortunately, he won as he took advantage of just about every law that he could apply to the windmills. The Board of Zoning Appeals proved to be no match for this businessman and gave in rather quickly.

    If we are ever going to move up the rankings and become one of America's greatest cities, we absolutely have to eliminate needless road blocks like the above 2. Mr. Peterlin offered Evansville a chance to begin entering the 21st century and become a green city moving forward. Yet our government threw him out in the cold. For that Mr. Peterlin, I would like to say I'm very sorry and am embarrassed as an Evansville resident that this happened to you.

    Although Evansville lost when Mr. Peterlin's petition was denied, we now have an opportunity to change all of this when GBT comes to town. Like Toyota, GBT will be a force in our town as one of our premier employers. They will bring a lot of benefits to the Evansville community and we owe it to both them and our community at large to promote their windmill initiatives.

    What can we do that will separate us from other cities in the windmill industry? If you recall, I wrote on this blog last year about a need to construct a "Windmill Monument"...

    I even wrote into the Courier & Press with the idea...

    Why do I believe that a windmill monument would be a game changer for Evansville? After all, wouldn't it be just as easy and probably cheaper to build an ordinary building? Isn't this a want versus a need for our windmill industry?

    Sadly, many people here in Evansville feel that way. They say buildings lack an IQ, a soul, or a special purpose. They claim that a building will never be able to make a city any better, rather, it is the talent inside that makes the city. They don't believe any building or facility should be any different than the one next door. In their eyes, a perfect city would be one that is built with basic features and only necessary attributes. No flare, uniqueness, or perks would exist on any building. We would be living in a modern day "Whoville."

    But what these naysayers don't understand is that a cities building inventory tells the whole world just how competitive their city is. The vast majority of tourists, business investors, residents, and anyone else walking on the Earth are competitive. They want to go to a city that is better than any other city. This is where a windmill monument drastically improves Evansville's marketability, and I will show you why.

    Let's say that you are a tourist. You like traveling to cities where there are plenty of things to do, but most importantly you are interested in buildings that offer great views over a city. You are given 2 choices but can only pick one. You're two choices are "Building A" and "Building B." Let's take a look at each facilities basic description.

    Building A

    Height: 630 feet
    Built: 1965
    Overlooks: 58th largest city

    Building B

    Height: Top floor: 688 feet Antenna Top: 830 feet
    Built: 1990
    Over looks: 12th largest city (just moved up to 11th this year)

    Holding other things constant, which building do you think a tourist would choose? From what we are given, you would have to think that Building B would be choosen as it offers a view that is farther up in the air, over a much bigger city, and is newer. Those who don't believe in building architecturally inspiring buildings would tell you that Building B would get the job done. They are wrong.

    Take a look at what the two structures are...

    Building A

    St. Louis Arch

    Building B

    Chase Tower- Indianapolis

    The St. Louis Arch hosts over 4 million tourists each year who take the trip to the Arch's observation deck, while Chase Tower in Indianapolis offers no observation deck, only a law office...

    Chase Tower is so ineffective at drawing visitors and tourists that most skip the building completely and visit the shorter Soliders & Sailors Monument. Indianapolis missed a golden opportunity with their tall highrise that is the 138th largest building in the U.S.

    If we are going to maximize our efforts to convert Evansville to a green city, we have to follow the correct marketing steps with our buildings. There are tons of green companies we can recruit to come to our town not just windmills. SIREN is one of them...

    A windmill monument would recruit tourists, investors, and visitors from all over the country. Many cities understand the benefits of building a monument...


    Niagara Falls

    San Antonio




    New York



    So where would a windmill monument go? In my opinion, there is one prime lot for it.

    If you look through the 2001 master plan, you will notice that Mulzer Stone, Tekoppel Block, and IMI Concrete were suppose to be relocated with their land redeveloped. If we can ever get our political leaders motivated, we can move these companies to a slack water port in the Howell Rail Yards. The 2001 master plan then called for these parcels of land to be redeveloped for urban living and recreational purposes.

    If we redevelop the area correctly, we will have the LST at the Port of Evansville (which is west of the the Joan Marchand Bridge), and we will have a ballpark and possibly a canal on the Mulzer Stone lots east of Pigeon Creek. This leaves one open lot that is north of Ohio Street, south of the Lloyd Expressway, east of the railroad tracks, and west of Pigeon Creek...

    There are many advantages to this site...

    1. A windmill monument would spur development all the way to Franklin Street which was the goal of the 2001 master plan.

    2. The site is close enough to the Ohio River to get a strong gust of wind.

    3. The site can be complimented by a river walk running parallel to Pigeon Creek.

    4. The site has an excellent view of both the Ohio River and downtown Evansville.

    5. The site has an excellent connection to railroad transportation for any products that would be produced next to the windmill monument.

    Make no mistake, I am not proposing building a windmill monument that is large enough to compete with structures like the Space Needle in Seattle or the CN Tower in Toronto. If you look at the photo of the Space Needle in Gatlingburg, you will see that it is much more practical yet effective at the same time. That is what we need here in Evansville.

    What should we surround the windmill monument with?

    1. There should be an observation deck on the top with a small gift shop.

    2. There should be a "wind plaza" at the bottom of the monument where Evansville's green companies such as GBT can market to visitors.

    3. Restaurants and retail should connect the monument to pigeon creek by running parallel to the creek.

    4. The land south of Franklin/ north of the Lloyd Expressway should be cleared and rebuilt with condos, recreational activities and room for green and tech manufacturing plants such as GBT.

    With the arrival of GBT, we have two choices. We can make the best of it by marketing our green image to the nation, or we can just let GBT be an ordinary quiet business on the outskirts of town. Let's take advantage of this golden opportunity. Let's build a windmill tower!

    Friday, September 16, 2011

    Why Penny Pinchers Are Driving Us Into Debt


    You won't have to walk more than a few blocks in Evansville to find them. They are loud, they are abundant, and most importantly, they are powerful. They will fight you tooth and nail until they have defeated you on every project.

    Yes, I'm talking about Evansville's most infamous residents: the penny pinchers. Some will tell you that if you raise taxes, you are for big government. Some will tell you that Evansville is too small to take on any capital improvement projects. Others will simply oppose projects just because they can. One thing we do know about the classic penny pincher is that they all are hypocrites.

    While their ideas may seem great and they may mean well with their intentions, their beliefs and practices are both hypocritical and counter intuitive, and I will tell you why.

    Obviously, the penny pinchers, who like to associate best with Evansville's naysayers, have never been consistent. They claim they are against entitlements, yet they support the EVSC taking on a $149 million bond to build a school in one of the last places you would find a needy student.

    They claim they are against rebuilding downtown with a ballpark and an arena because we don't have any money, yet they say nothing when roads like Green River, Oak Hill, and Millersburg are expanded for no reason at identical costs.

    They claim they are for Evansville fixing its sewer problems, yet refuse to consider city-county consolidation which would prevent urban sprawl that requires more sewers.

    But worst of all, Evansville's penny pinchers are fighting against their own cause with their tax policy. When they point the finger at someone, they have 3 fingers coming back at them...


    Here in Evansville, the average penny pincher will tell you that they want no new taxes and would prefer that government work with the funding it has already been given. Commissioner Winnecke appears to believe in this notion as well...

    On the surface, this seems to be both practical and reasonable. I, myself, can agree with the overall goal of this statement. I feel like our city and state governments have wasted way too much money on frivolous, inefficient, and pointless projects such as the EVSC bond, I-69, the downtown street reversal project, and moving the LST to a location that is believed to be in Kentucky.

    All of these projects have a counter project that can/could do more for our city while costing less. In this sense, government does need to work with their funds in a better way. The last thing we need to do is raise taxes to finance any of the above 4 projects that will just make matters worse. In that regard, I agree with the penny pinchers. I also don't believe that now is a good time to raise property taxes on homeowners when we are watching the very sad events of home foreclosures. Nothing is worse than losing your home, therefore, it is extremely unwise for government to increase foreclosures.

    But with that being said, there is one tax that our local penny pinchers need to embrace. I don't like taxes anymore than anyone else, but it is important to understand that there is actually a tax out there that has the power to lower taxes. Basically, we need to fight fire with fire.

    So what tax has the magical power to fight other taxes? I believe that tax to be none other than our local sales tax. I know this makes no sense right now but keep following me through this description.

    In a previous post, I talked about Oklahoma City and their MAPS program...

    Basically it worked like this...

    1. The citizens come up with their own ideas and plans. They then can go around town lobbying for other citizens to support their ideas.

    2. The citizens then go to their local government's website and submit the ideas.

    3. The ideas with the most votes get implemented (OKC took as many ideas as they could afford).

    4. The final ideas are lumped into a program (MAPS).

    5. The program is put on the ballot where voters vote to temporarily increase the local sales tax by 1% for 7 years. After 7 years, the tax expires and can only be extended with another referendum.

    6. If approved, the 7 year 1% sales tax goes into effect and a committee to oversee the projects is assembled.

    7. After 7 years, if there is enough revenue collected, the projects can begin breaking ground. If there is not enough revenue, a temporary 2 year 1% sales tax increase can be voted on, some projects can be scaled down, or some projects can be eliminated completely.

    8. Repeat cycle

    Oklahoma City did what I am proposing, they temporarily raised the sales tax rate by 1% for 7 years. Yes, raising the sales tax isn't fun either, but it worked big time for Oklahoma City. In 2009, OKC ranked...

    #3 on BusinessWeek's Forty Strongest U.S. Metro Economies
    #1 on Fortune Magazine's list of best places to start a business
    Top 20% of all metro's in GDP growth, U.S. Dept of Commerce28 of the nation's 500 fastest-growing companies
    Top Ten in BusinessWeek's Strongest Housing Markets in the U.S.
    #1 on fastest-growing per capita income for a large MSA, U.S. Dept of Commerce
    #2 for volunteer hours, #7 for overall volunteerism among major U.S. metros.
    #4 Best Undervalued Place to Live, U.S. News & World Report
    #8 for Indeed's Best Cities to Look for a Job
    #2 on the Brooking's Institution's list of best-performing cities during the recession
    #4 in ArtBistro's Top 25 Cities for Artists and Designers
    #4 for's Best Cities for Your Career
    #1 on FDI's (Foreign Direct Investment) on list of most cost-effective large cities
    #1 on BusinessWeek's most affordable major metros
    Top Ten, Mat Hoffman Action Sports Park on National Geographic's Ten Best Things for Families
    #37 on The Sporting News' Best Sports Cities (Toronto is #36, Austin is #38)
    #28 on the Today Show's Best Places to Raise a Family
    #7 on Forbes' Top Ten Cleanest Cities
    #4 on Forbes' Best Cities for Commuters
    #1 on Forbes' Most Recession-Proof Cities
    #4 on BizJournal's 10 Least Stressful Metros

    (stats courtesy of

    Now, there are many cities who have begun replicating what OKC did. One of those cities is Jacksonville, Florida...

    As you can see from the above link, both OKC and Jacksonville have grown by double-digits since 2000. Jacksonville proved that these types of programs don't have to be entertainment venues only, rather, they can include infrastructure improvements as well. That is key to what we need to do here in Evansville.

    Although the main point of MAPS is that it works, it also shows us why our local penny pinchers are fighting against their own cause by opposing a temporary sales tax increase...

    "The tax expired on July 1, 1999. During the 66 months it was in effect, over $309 million was collected. In addition, the deposited tax revenue earned about $54 million in interest. That was used for MAPS construction, too."

    This is the most important part of MAPS. While Evansville will be paying millions in debt service for our new arena that needed a 30 year bond, OKC got $54 million in interest money from their temporary sales tax. Basically, they got a AAA size ballpark and a one mile canal FOR FREE.

    Yet here in Evansville, we cannot afford projects unless we space them out over a 30 + year bond. Our arena, our school project, our sewers, and many, many other projects have cost Evansville more because of the interest on our bonds we took out. Wouldn't it make more sense to make our taxes draw interest not cost us interest revenue?

    Of course, the most popular criticisms of this approach are...

    1. We aren't as big as OKC or Jacksonville
    2. We have more basic problems than OKC or Jacksonville that need to be addressed first.

    Once again, these beliefs are the byproduct of our local penny pinchers and naysayers. These two beliefs fail for the following reasons...

    1. Of course we are smaller than OKC and Jacksonville but that is no reason not to implement a MAPS strategy. Yes we will take in less sales tax revenue than OKC but that just means that we build our projects to scale. While OKC built a 586,000 square foot Ford Center, we built a 278,000 square foot Ford Center. With or without MAPS, Evansville still needs to build infrastructure and quality of life structures that are built to Evansville's scale. MAPS is just a different formula for financing these projects.

    2. Yes we do have more problems with our basic infrastructure than OKC and Jacksonville. Sewers, water port jobs, US 41, our parks, and passenger rail all come to mind. These problems are reasons why we need MAPS, not reasons why we don't. All of our basic problems (especially sewers) must be addressed first in a MAPS program although it is our local citizens who will be making that decision. If you look at Jacksonville's BETTER JACKSONVILLE PLAN, you will see that they spent some of their funds on basic infrastructure as well.

    What kind of MAPS plan would I envision for Evansville? Well, I would personally vote for the following...

    MAPS I

    50% Sewers
    20% Slack Water Port
    10% Tech Park/ Revitalization of old US 41
    10% Greenway
    10% Parks Revitalization


    20% Recruit a large employer to team up with UE, USI, and Ivy Tech to implement an Earn & Learn program
    20% Ballpark on Mulzer lot (who would be in the slack water port)
    20% Redig the Wabash & Erie Canal from First Avenue, down 5th street, and then wrap around to the Convention Centre.
    20% High Speed Rail and Light Rail
    10% Ball fields at Kleymeyer Park
    10% Lloyd Expressway Upgrades

    Under the plan above, which is just a rough idea of the direction that I would like to see Evansville go in, it would take approximately 14-15 years to complete but would turn our city around 180 degrees for the following reasons...

    1. It would not disturb other government revenues like Casino Aztar which would continue to be used to run our already existing city services.

    2. In 15 years, Evansville would be building all of these projects while taking on ZERO extra debt and having earned interest revenue invested in our city.

    3. Evansville would now be ready to move into the upper echelon of mid-sized cities.

    4. Evansville would not need to raise any additional taxes to fix any of the above problems or fund any of the above capital improvement projects.

    5. These funds would draw federal and state matching funds which would mean more investment in Evansville.

    6. More jobs would be created by the 1,000s, the quality of life would be improved, tax revenue would be increased (resulting in lower taxes abroad), and Evansville would be on the same page.

    The truth is, our city needs to grow while fixing major problems at the same time. We cannot afford to wait another day to solve these problems. We need a solution NOW! We can build and fix our city in one of two ways...

    1. Raise a temporary 1% sales tax that would be monitored and improved by local residents. This temporary tax would draw interest revenue for the city.

    2. Don't raise the sales tax and instead take out 30 year bonds on our sewers, slack water port, and whatever else we need to do to create jobs and fix our infrastructure. Over time, this plan will cost Evansville millions from interest rates on the bonds.

    I'll agree that a temporary sales tax is no fun. I don't want the extra one percent either. But if you look at our two choices, you will see that it is clearly the direction we need to go in. One tax now will save us an abundance of tax increases down the road, and it will bring more funds into our city instead of a bank's bottom line.

    While taxes are very unpopular in Evansville, our local penny pinchers need to realize that we can fight our tax problem, our infrastructure problem, and our quality of life problem with just one tax. We need to invest in Evansville today, WE NEED MAPS!


    Tuesday, September 13, 2011

    Commissioner Winnecke's Tech Park: Good Idea, Bad Location


    Although I am 110% behind Rick Davis for mayor (and I hope you are too), I must give credit where credit is due.

    At last week's mayoral debate, there were a lot of things I disagreed with Commissioner Lloyd Winnecke on such as Roberts Stadium, Omaha making a bad decision, building roads in the county, etc, etc ( I will be talking about these in a week or so). However, there is one project I have often wanted to see come to Evansville that Commissioner Winnecke appears to be interested in.

    At the debate, Commissioner Winnecke brought up the idea of a tech park. This part here is where I would like to see Commissioner Winnecke stick with whether he will be mayor or commissioner next year. But, like the ball fields project we just witnessed, I would like to see Commissioner Winnecke tweak his proposal and change the location.

    Commissioner Winnecke believes that the tech park should be built next to I-164 which is expected to be the future I-69. As those who read this blog know, I have talked about the I-69 boondoggle time and time again. So, I will not waste anymore time of that aspect of this debate other than to say that I-69 isn't going to be completed for some time and isn't worth building along.

    With that being said, there is one area that I feel fits the idea of a tech park perfectly. That area, is Old US 41 and New US 41 that surrounds the Lloyd Expressway to the north and south...

    Before I give the many reasons why I believe the tech park should be located along US 41 and the Lloyd Expressway, I would like to first introduce you to another tech park in the works here in Indiana.

    16 Tech- Indianapolis, Indiana

    Deemed, " 16 Tech," Indianapolis has made it a priority to fix the dilapidated district around 16th street which takes you from downtown Indianapolis to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

    If you scrolled through the website above, you will see that Indianapolis is doing great things with their 16 Tech project. The renderings are great, but the planning is even better. One of my favorite things about the 16 Tech project is that it will convert historic Bush Stadium into an apartment complex without demolishing it...

    The reason why Indianapolis will be successful with 16 Tech is because they are planning for the 21st century by implementing the following aspects into their tech park...

    1. Building the tech park within walking distance of downtown Indianapolis.

    2. Cleaning up, rebuilding, and enhancing a historic neighborhood that has been rundown for many years (urban renewal).

    3. Building their tech park within walking distance of arts and cultural districts.

    4. Committing to redevelopment instead of urban sprawl.

    Indianapolis is also incorporating these 4 basic beliefs into their plan to redevelop a downtown GM Stamping Plant...

    Given these 4 basic planning principles, why does the land along US 41, Old US 41, the Lloyd Expressway, and the Front Door Pride district make sense?

    1. The old Hercules Motor Corporation plant, which is on the northwest corner of US 41 and the Lloyd Expressway, is both historic and dilapidated. This is our chance to fix that.

    2. Since I-69 has been selected as the preferred route to Indianapolis, US 41 has fallen into an unacceptable state of disrepair. US 41, from the Lloyd Expressway to Veterans Memorial Parkway cannot remain in its current form. It simple isn't sustainable or affordable ($30 million just to take two stop lights off the Lloyd/41 interchange). This project starts the debate on what to do with US 41. Here are just a few links that talk about the future of freeways...

    3. Old US 41 is historic. In fact, it is even older than Route 66. Oklahoma has redeveloped their old Route 66 (I talk about this below), while Evansville has let old US 41 fall into disrepair along Fares Avenue and Kentucky Avenue. This project can fix that

    4. This project would be within walking distance of Haynie's Corner.

    5. This project would be within walking distance of Deaconess Hospital which could be a potential partner for medical research at the tech park.

    6. This project is within walking distance of the University of Evansville which would form a tremendous opportunity for both the university and tech park to gain significant grants and funds for various research initiatives.

    7. Unlike the I-69 corridor, this project would have a strong connection to rail transportation which runs between the Lloyd Expressway and Franklin Street.

    8. This project would compliment the announcement made today that our old Whirpool plant will soon be making windmill turbines.

    9. This project would connect downtown Evansville to the east side.

    10. This project helps solve our urban renewal problems where over 8,000 houses are either rundown or abandoned.

    11. This project takes advantage of the newly repaved Oak Hill Road.

    12. This project has access to US 41 northbound (and southbound if kept as is) as well as the Lloyd Expressway which connect to any and all interstates that surround Evansville.

    Like I said earlier, Oklahoma has embraced their old Route 66 road, why won't Evansville do the same with old US 41?....

    Many residents probably don't realize this, but old US 41, which started out as an "auto trail," is actually older than Route 66...

    Factoring in all of this data, what are some design elements I would like to see incorporated into "41 Tech?"

    1. As southbound motorists travel US 41 past the entrance to old US 41, they are greeted with a state-of-the-art entrance and sign.

    2. The tech park is placed along the current US 41, old US 41, the Lloyd Expressway, and the Front Door Pride district.

    3. A pedestrian bridge is built over the Lloyd Expressway to connect old US 41 as well as both sides of 41 Tech. This bridge could have a restaurant with a nice view of Evansville like Winnipeg has...

    4. The old Wabash & Erie Canal is redug in a very small portion in the northwest corner of 41 and the Lloyd. In time, this small canal will eventually connect Wesselman Park to downtown Evansville.

    5. Old US 41 is redeveloped in a fashion that is similar to Route 66 in Oklahoma.

    6. The current US 41 is scaled down to a large boulevard so that students at Bosse High School are safer, and neighborhood residents can take their neighborhood back ( I will be talking about this as well in a post later this week or next, email me about details if you really want to know).

    If we don't consider placing a tech park in this corridor, we will be making a huge mistake. This is why I believe that if both mayoral candidates live up to their promises we would be best served with Mr. Rick Davis as mayor and Mr. Lloyd Winnecke as commissioner or higher position. What do I think this fusion of talent could lead too?

    1. The ball fields are placed at Kleymeyer & Garvin Park.

    2. The tech park is placed along the current US 41, old US 41, the Lloyd Expressway, and the Front Door Pride district.

    3. Front Door Pride is reformed so that it benefits Haynie's Corner and the "41 Tech" district.

    4. Roberts Stadium is saved, renovated, and enhanced by future projects at Wesselman Park such as a rewatered canal, a completely new Hartke Pool complex, and a botanical garden.

    5. Our downtown arena serves as a catalyst for downtown development.

    If you look at these 5 concepts on a map, you will see that if implemented, they would turn around Evansville around 180 degrees and they would all feed off of each other.

    1. The downtown arena would connect to the ball fields.

    2. The ball fields would connect to 41 Tech.

    3. 41 Tech would connect to Roberts Stadium and Wesselman Park as well as the FDP and Haynie's Corner Districts.

    4. FDP and Haynie's Corner would connect to the downtown arena.

    That is how you do urban renewal, and the time to undergo urban renewal is now. Instead of spending money on roads and projects on the far east side, why don't we take care of the neighborhoods that already exist? Why don't we reconnect our downtown with its surrounding neighborhoods?

    We have the funds to build projects like this tech park, we just have to be willing to commit our funds to urban renewal instead of urban sprawl. Commissioner Winnecke, I urge you to reconsider your proposed location for your proposed tech park. Instead of more urban sprawl along I-164, why don't we rebuild our US 41 corridor and connect our downtown to our east side?


    Monday, August 15, 2011

    If The Next Mayor Wants To Create Jobs, He Will Replicate Oklahoma City


    Tonight, our two candidates for mayor of Evansville met with our local groups Tri-State Jobs With Justice and the NAACP. You can read about it here....

    Since the beginning of this mayoral race, both candidates have made it clear that jobs are their number one priority. In their eyes, nothing is more important than creating jobs. It is no secret that Evansville has a brain drain and most good jobs are finding their way to another city. In my opinion, this is the byproduct of one thing: Evansville's failure to build.

    Last year, Courier & Press writer John Lucas wrote about a "pall" over Evansville...

    I agree 110% that there is indeed a pall over Evansville. I also believe this pall has existed for well over 50 years. Why and how has it lasted for so long?

    If you get a chance, go downtown and make sure you visit each city block. As you visit each city block, count the number of buildings that have been built in your lifetime and then count the amount of buildings that are older than you and count the number of empty parking lots. You will find that not much, if anything, has happened in Evansville in quite a while.

    Although there is a pall now, it didn't use to be like this. Back in the day, Evansville thrived with a vibrant downtown, a booming Franklin Street, and a view that everything made in Evansville should be known around the nation. Simply put, Evansville built things and these things prospered.

    So how do I know that building large capital improvement projects is the solution to Evansville's jobs problem? Two words: Oklahoma City.

    For those who have not been to this blog before, it is important to understand the main program going on in Oklahoma City right now that I am fan numero uno of. This program is called MAPS...

    Like I said in the link above, MAPS is very simple because it works like this...

    1. The citizens come up with their own ideas and plans. They then can go around town lobbying for other citizens to support their ideas.

    2. The citizens then go to their local government's website and submit the ideas.

    3. The ideas with the most votes get implemented (OKC took as many ideas as they could afford).

    4. The final ideas are lumped into a program (MAPS).

    5. The program is put on the ballot where voters vote to temporarily increase the local sales tax by 1% for 7 years. After 7 years, the tax expires and can only be extended with another referendum.

    6. If approved, the 7 year 1% sales tax goes into effect and a committee to oversee the projects is assembled.

    7. After 7 years, if there is enough revenue collected, the projects can begin breaking ground. If there is not enough revenue, a temporary 2 year 1% sales tax increase can be voted on, some projects can be scaled down, or some projects can be eliminated completely.

    8. Repeat cycle

    Why do I believe that MAPS is the key to creating jobs in Evansville? Because MAPS proved in Oklahoma City that large capital improvement projects, when done correctly, will always cause your town to grow and will always keep unemployment levels down. MAPS has worked perfectly in Oklahoma City. In 2008, Forbes magazine named Oklahoma City the most "recession proof city in America".

    During the 1980s, Oklahoma City had one of the worst job and housing markets due to the bankruptcy of Penn Square Bank in 1982 and then the post-1985 crash in oil prices. After MAPS, the city has had a falling unemployment rate, one of the strongest housing markets in the country, and solid growth in energy, agriculture and manufacturing. Take a look at all of the great things going on in Oklahoma City...

    Wouldn't that be nice to live in a city where your town is growing because large capital improvement projects are underway everywhere you go? Wouldn't it be nice if the citizens of Evansville got to pick these projects? And wouldn't it be nice if unemployment was at an all-time low because Evansville residents were busy building Evansville back to the level it should be?

    That's what MAPS does, and I'm calling on both mayoral candidates to give this program more than just a serious look. I want both of these candidates to call and/or go to Oklahoma City, talk to the citizens and city leaders, and investigate the facts about MAPS. Both candidates will see that Oklahoma City isn't called "boom town" for no reason. Both candidates will also see a city with a positive attitude, not a dark pall over the entire city.

    With that being said, some residents are STILL buying into the belief that MAPS cannot happen here because, " That's Oklahoma City. They have over a million people there. We don't have enough people to pull off MAPS." These people couldn't be any further from the truth and I will tell you why.

    If you look closely, we are already replicating MAPS here, we just aren't doing it correctly. Let's break it down...

    Oklahoma City: Passed MAPS I (a 7 year 1% sales tax) in 1993. MAPS I involved...

    -renovations to the Civic Center Music Hall, The Myriad (Now Cox Convention Center) and Oklahoma State Fairgrounds;
    -construction of the AT&T Bricktown Ballpark
    -construction of the Ford Center, an indoor multipurpose sports arena.
    -construction of the "Bricktown Canal"
    -construction of a riverfront and recreational dams for the North Canadian River
    -the Ronald J. Norick Downtown Library, a four-story main library to replace a facility that had been built in 1951
    -a new Library/Learning Center
    -development of the Oklahoma Spirit Trolleys, a trolley-replica bus network

    Evansville: Passed a 1% Food & Beverage Tax in 1985. This tax involved...

    - Constructing the current Evansville Airport
    - Renovating Mesker Park Zoo in 2003
    - Constructing the new arena
    - Many other capital improvement projects

    Oklahoma City: Passed MAPS II or MAPS For Kids on November 13, 2001. This plan included...

    -70 new and renovated schools
    -$52 million for technology projects
    -$9 million for bus fleet replacement

    Evansville: Passed a referendum on November 4, 2008 to issue $149 million bond for the EVSC. This included...

    - A new North High School
    - A new middle school to go with the new North High School
    -Various other EVSC capital improvement projects

    Oklahoma City: Passed MAPS III on December 8, 2009. This included...

    -$280 million new 200,000 sq ft (19,000 m2) Convention Center
    -$130 million 70-acre (280,000 m2) downtown park similar to Houston's Discovery Green to be located south of current I-40
    -$130 million for mass transit including a downtown 5-6 mile modern streetcar system
    -$50 million for health and wellness aquatic centers to be located throughout the city
    -$60 million for improvements at the Oklahoma State Fair
    -$60 million for improvements to the Oklahoma River
    -$40 million to extend trails throughout the city
    -$10 million to build sidewalks around the city

    Evansville: ?

    That is where we currently stand. Oklahoma City has begun to take their third step to improve their city. What is our next step?

    It is important to remember that Mayor Russ Lloyd Jr. gave us one hell of a master plan in 2001. This master plan included a ballpark, a redug Wabash & Erie Canal, a marina, a new civic center connecting Main Street, two downtown "Central Parks", a rejuvenated Main Street, and a cleaned up Pigeon Creek. Keep in mind, these ideas were put on the master plan because they were ideas from our local citizens just like MAPS.

    Of all the ideas on the master plan, only the opening of Main Street and the new arena were ever built (and the arena is in a different location). It is vitally important that Evansville's next mayor gets back to our 2001 master plan. I believe that we need to make sure that the core ideas such as the ballpark, canal, marina, and parks are kept while updating it with these ideas...

    - A slack water port in the Howell Rail Yards
    - Light rail or street cars in downtown Evansville
    - High speed rail in downtown Evansville

    If our two mayoral candidates are genuinely concerned about creating jobs, they must give MAPS a shot. Oklahoma City has proven that MAPS can and will be a success, and our city is already following MAPS in baby steps.

    We need a brand new downtown Evansville... We need to replicate OKC's MAPS... WE NEED JOBS!

    Sunday, July 24, 2011

    My Thoughts On Rick Davis' Parks Plan


    Yesterday, Mr. Rick Davis, who is running for mayor of Evansville, released his vision for our local parks. You can view the plan and some additional comments here...

    First of all, I really like this plan. Even if nothing at all were to come from this plan, it would still be a step in the right direction as it will serve as a wake-up call to those in elected positions that it is time to get serious about our parks.

    Like everything else not on the far west or east sides, our parks have gotten into an unacceptable and unimaginable state of ruin. This cannot be allowed to continue if we are going to have any desire at building our downtown back and putting the rest of our city under an urban renewal process.

    I would like to dig into just a few quotes from the plan because I feel like there are just a few things missing from the plan that I would like to add.

    Sadly, for the health and well-being of our citizens, the City of Evansville recently was listed as the No. 1 most obese city in America. Evansville is rightly proud of many of its achievements and resources, but being ranked the No. 1 most obese city in America is not one of them.

    Correct. Like the rest of the cities in the US and around the world, Evansville must convert from an auto friendly community to a walkable and livable community. To do this, we must look at our parks from a whole new perspective. We cannot look at our parks as designated areas on a defined plot of land. Rather, we must begin the process of connecting our entire town, our transportation mode, and our way of life with the parks system. They must be a bigger part of our life than just recreation.

    For instance, instead of driving to Garvin, Wesselman, or Sunset Park for a few minutes of recreation and then leaving, you should be able to walk through park like settings on your way to your transportation source and on your way around town. Atlanta's new Beltline Project executes this theory perfectly...

    Once complete, MARTA, high speed rail, and Atlanta's parks system will all be connected.

    Under my plan, the Evansville Parks & Recreation Department would receive an infusion of at least $150,000 and an additional summer workforce of about 50 school-aged summer workers.

    The Parks & Recreation Department maintains 65 parks and four other facilities on a $10.31 million budget in 2011. But the amount of acreage is simply too much for our overworked and hard-working full-time staff to maintain. An additional 50 high school and college-aged students would comprise a Community Service Corps under the umbrella of the Evansville Parks & Recreation Department. The students would be paid minimum wage for 40 hours per week and be charged with cleaning and improving the parks and cemeteries during a 10-week summer period.

    The Community Service Corps would help give teen-agers their first job, teach them discipline and encourage community spirit.

    This part of Mr. Davis' Parks Plan is the part that I desperately want to see changed and upgraded and I will tell you why.

    Back when I attended the University of Kentucky, I too worked in the lawn care industry to make enough revenue for college. This is not easy work. One time, it ended up with me dehydrating and having to take an ambulance ride to the hospital. Granted I was working 2 other jobs with Fedex, giving Plasma, going to UK, and walking to polls for political candidates at the same time, but this is the type of job that can certainly cause negative health consequences.

    Because of this level of hard work, it is my strong belief that these students should not be relegated to minimum wage pay. Last year, I talked about a program that the city of Louisville, the state of Kentucky, UPS, UPS Teamsters, Jefferson Community & Technical College, and the University of Louisville created for students needing money for college...

    The program is called Earn & Learn and it works like this...

    1. A student signs up to work the night shift at UPS.
    2. UL & UPS assign this student a special dorm that is away from noise during the daylight hours.
    3. The student receives free tuition and books.
    4. The student gets a fair hourly rate to live on.
    5. The tuition expense is split between UofL and UPS.

    Simply put, this program works. It is the byproduct of the Chamber of Commerce, the Teamsters, the state of Kentucky educational department, and the city of Louisville all coming together to work as one.

    Can we bring in a big company like UPS to work on our parks? Maybe, maybe not. Is our parks program going to be as large as UofL's Earn and Learn? Doubtful.

    However, this system will be a vast improvement over the proposed minimum wage system for a number of reasons...

    1. It will reallocate our local educational funds to students who actually want to work.
    2. This program will allow the Chamber of Commerce/ business community, the Teamsters/ organized labor, and the EVSC/USI/UE/Ivy Tech education community to work together as one for the students and the parks.
    3. Although small, this Parks Department initiative would send a strong message that we are serious about Earn & Learn and want to expand it should any business be open to relocating to Evansville.
    4. This program will improve both our educational system and parks system at the same time.

    Of course, opponents to this plan will argue that we shouldn't spend any tax dollars on our parks or an Earn & Learn program. First of all, anyone who believes that the parks do not need more investment isn't looking at the same parks that I am. Allowing our parks to rot to save a buck IS NOT an option. Also, we just spent $149 million on an EVSC bond. It's time we started supporting those students who want to work for their college degree especially given the fact that this program is pocket change compared to the bond.

    Luckily, we don't have to spend that much more to implement this Earn & Learn program. If you look at the city budget, you will notice many departments have a teamsters scholarship attached to it...

    Who do these scholarships go to?

    The scholarships are awarded to sons and daughters of Local 215 members whose employer contributes to the fund.

    It is my opinion that this program needs to be reformed immediately. Instead of giving these funds to students who aren't even on the city payroll themselves, why don't we give these funds to those students who are out there busting their butt so that we can have an improved parks system?

    If those sons and daughters of Teamster employees want to retain their scholarships, they would be more than welcome to come out and give some service to our parks. If not, they should forfeit the money.

    With this additional funding, we would be able to give 15 students over $4,000 for college and then tack on additional funding for the other 35 students, or we could give each student over $1,000 for college. All of this would be in addition to the proposed funding for their basic salary.

    With this program, I am confident that we can bring the unions, the chamber, the city, and the educational community together to find sponsors and to find additional funding so that we can expand this program over time.

    I propose re-visiting our Park Ranger program. Public safety is the No. 1 role of government and we should allow our highly trained Police Department officers to patrol our streets while also having a specialized Park Ranger or similar program to protect the City’s investment in our extensive parks system.

    Absolutely. The best parks in the U.S are those with Park Rangers. With a quality Park Ranger program, we wouldn't just be providing additional safety, we would be providing more jobs, a higher quality park system, and a change of perception about where our parks belong on the priorities list. Adding Park Rangers back to the parks system is a must if we are going to integrate the parks into our daily life and commute.

    I would encourage our neighborhood associations to "Adopt A Park" and work in conjunction with our Parks Department to help make improvements in parks located in or near their neighborhood boundaries.

    Once more, this is both essential and affordable to implement. If we are ever going to expand our parks system with our greenway like Atlanta is doing with their Beltline Project, we MUST get the community involved. Otherwise, we simply will not have the funding to implement a full connector of parks that will turn Evansville into a walkable and livable community.

    We also need to reach out to the business community. Last year, I talked to the Otters about bringing back the festival that opened up Bosse Field back in 1915. They said they liked the idea but I have not heard back unfortunately. If we are ever going to get our citizens involved in our parks, the business community has to be a part of the plan.

    If implemented, both business and community can prosper with Mr. Davis' plan.

    Social Networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, not to mention mass email services, make marketing our Parks & Recreation Department extremely cost effective. Linking the Parks Department to sites like these in the electronic world will allow us to market our programs with our local businesses, schools and universities more effectively. These initiatives will help improve our participation levels as well.

    The City’s Parks & Recreation Department does not currently have a roster of every park in the city on its web site. We need to list and map every park so the public can have a better sense of pride and ownership in these parks, no matter how large or small they are.

    I am thrilled beyond thrilled at the idea of making our parks more marketable. Lack of marketing is the main problem our parks face. If we do not make our parks personal, how can we expect to integrate them into our daily life? The answer is we cannot. While our parks, trails, and recreational facilities have great assets that will naturally attract some visitors, the truth of the matter is that you have to reach out to the community yourself if you truly expect your parks system to be a success. Otherwise, they will not feel like they have anything invested in the parks themselves and will not participate. We have to make our parks system personal!

    Lastly, one thing that I did not see in Mr. Davis' plan is a list of park priorities. This is the most important thing to me. I want to make sure parks such as Garvin and Kleymeyer get their due first before parks such as the 4-H Center, Burdette, and Wesselman which are in much, much better shape because they have received the most attention over the years.

    Garvin Park was the crown jewel of our parks system back in the day. It's about time that notion came back. We have a historic ballpark, a district with the opportunity to replicate the early 1900s and reconnect to downtown, and a park (Kleymeyer) that has the capacity to be the home of the future softball fields project. Fix Garvin and Kleymeyer, then move onto the other parks!

    Overall, I felt like Mr. Davis did an EXCELLENT job with this plan (which is yet another reason why I am endorsing him). I'm glad that he took it upon himself to come out and demand that we change our attitude towards our parks system. For too many years, our parks have been left to sit in ruin. It's about time that changed. If we are ever going to convert to a walkable/livable community, if we are ever going to join the green movement, and if we are ever going to make our parks system personal, we MUST begin the lengthy but necessary process of rebuilding them.

    Thank you Rick Davis!