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 Because of these outdated laws, Mr.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...


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?