The end of Progressive Wayne County

screenshotIn September of 2006 I announced the launch of ProgressiveWayneCounty.org, a website dedicated to   promoting and chronicling the progressive efforts of individuals, organizations and businesses in the Wayne County, Indiana area.

I'm shutting the site down here in April of 2013 for a couple of reasons:

For one, it's been over a year since the last content update to the site.  Some of the old content has even become confusing to users looking for recent versions of past events.  Over the years I've tried various methods for keeping the site up to date and current: trying to post a lot of stuff myself, soliciting area organizations to post content, asking volunteer editors to write posts, paying people to write for the site, and others.  That's not to say that there weren't times when the site was chock full of useful info, but just not in a sustainable way.

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8 ways for the Wayne County Democratic Party to be more effective

Capitol Dome'Tis the season for political reckonings.  As the national Republican Party performs a messy post-mortem on its failed strategy to get Mitt Romney elected President, the Democratic Party in Indiana is also asking itself what it needs to do to be more effective.  The Indianapolis Star says that "Indiana Democrats have plunged to their lowest level of power in decades after Tuesday's election."

This week the Palladium-Item's editorial page rightly took the local Wayne County Democratic Party to task for being too quiet and minimally effective in local politics. (I am on the P-I editorial advisory board but I did not contribute to that piece.)  Today's edition features some analysis of the local party's current leadership, with about the amount of internal finger pointing you'd expect from an organization in some disarray.  It's the candidates! It's the leadership! It's the unions! We just need to get on Twitter!  And so on.

I've followed local politics for a while now, perhaps never so closely as last year when I was a candidate myself running on the Democratic ticket.  It was an eye-opening experience in many ways, including discovering first-hand the significant organizational deficiencies in the Wayne County Democratic Party (and how well-organized the local Republican Party is, due in no small part to the tireless efforts of its Chairwoman, Misty Hollis).  Unfortunately, I've seen some of those deficiencies come into play again in this year's campaigning.

Continue reading 8 ways for the Wayne County Democratic Party to be more effective

2012 Chamber Debate Bingo Cards

Tonight at 6 PM, the Wayne County Area Chamber of Commerce will be hosting a series of debates for candidates in various local, county and state races.   The debate is free and open to the public, and will take place at Vivian Auditorium on the IU East campus.  You can also watch the debates live on WCTV.

I hope local voters will watch the debates to learn more about the would-be elected officials who might significantly influence how tax dollars are spent, government is run, and children are educated.

But if you need another reason to watch, you can now download and print out my Chamber Debate Bingo Cards [PDF].

Each time a candidate says a phrase on the card, you mark off that square.  Get five in a row, and you've got a BINGO! (If you are attending the debates in person, please do not yell out "BINGO" during a debate session.)

Each of the 5 cards has a random ordering of phrases, so you can play against your friends and family.

Local elections have never been so fun!  Enjoy.

I'll pay you to help improve local public discourse

A few weeks ago, one of the online community resources I maintain, ProgressiveWayneCounty.org, soft-launched a new program where we're paying local community members to blog for the site.   During that time, we've already had some great contributions with reflections on affordable housing, national politics, over-simplifying our choices in the world, some heartfelt advice on caring for pet dogs, and what the life of Richmondite Esther Griffin White can teach us about how we plan for the future.  (Thank you to Matthew Jenkins, Aaron Nell, Cassie Oaks, Robert Hertzog and Anne Thomason for serving as the pioneer contributors and testing out the publishing system!)

Today, I'm happy to publicly invite others in Richmond and Wayne County to join in this effort to raise the level of public discourse in our area.  Whether it's commentary on the local arts scene, restaurant reviews, political news analysis, your experiences with religion and spirituality, technology tools, sustainability tips or perspectives on education, we welcome contributions from those who feel they can provide a local connection and provoke conversation that might help move the community forward in some form.

Continue reading I'll pay you to help improve local public discourse

The closing of Really Cool Foods

Groundbreaking for Really Cool FoodsIn 2007, organic prepared food producer Really Cool Foods announced that it would be building a multi-plant production complex in Cambridge City, Indiana and investing over $100 million in the area.  The announcement was met with great joy and significant incentives from state and local governments:

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. offered Really Cool Foods up to $3.05 million in performance-based tax credits, up to $165,000 in training grants and will provide Cambridge City officials with a $200,000 grant to assist in off-site infrastructure improvements needed for the project. Wayne County officials offered the company 50 acres of land, $165,000 in grants and a 10-year property tax abatement.

The facility opened in October of 2008 with 250 of the projected 1,000 jobs to start, and over the last few years the company has had numerous challenges reaching initially estimated milestones of investment and jobs created.

Today, the company told workers who showed up for their morning shift that the facility was closing, and in a press release sent after 9 AM, announced the company is shutting down.

A couple of initial thoughts and questions about this unfortunate announcement:

Continue reading The closing of Really Cool Foods

On the Wheel Tax in Wayne County Indiana

The Commissioners of Wayne County, Indiana are currently evaluating whether or not to institute a wheel tax (formally known as a "Local Option Highway User Tax"), as allowed for by Indiana's General Assembly since 1980.  It would charge an annual fee to residents registering vehicles in the County, $25 for cars and other small vehicles, $40 for large trucks, RVs, buses, etc.  A few thoughts on this proposal and how we got here:

First, the tax is being presented by the Commissioners as a suddenly urgent need for the area, "act before it's too late," they say.  I find this characterization troubling given that one of the fundamental truths of life is that roads will deteriorate over time and will require money be spent on them if we want to keep them fixed up.  If our ability to maintain infrastructure comes down to whether or not we can urgently get the public to approve additional taxation once in a while, then we're doing it wrong. Where was the long-term planning and well-thought-out discussion that would give the community time to react to this significant problem in our county and explore alternatives?

Continue reading On the Wheel Tax in Wayne County Indiana

EDC Board Appointments: Ready for Battle!

If you read today's Palladium-Item article detailing the recent attempts by Richmond's City Council to gain more representation on the Economic Development Corporation's board of directors, you might be a little confused. I certainly was.

On one hand, you've got the City painting a picture of being left out of the key parts of the relationship the EDC has with its Richmond constituents, having to fork over $730,000 without appropriate representation.

You've got a County official noting that the City is as well represented on the EDC board as the County or other entities, and that things are working just fine as they are, while the Chamber president notes that there may be a conversation to be had, but that the current actions being taken are too poorly timed.

What's going on here?  Everyone seems to be making reasonable statements on the matter that represents the point of view of the entities they serve, but it sounds like they're having the conversation with each other for the first time on the pages of the newspaper. ARGH!

Continue reading EDC Board Appointments: Ready for Battle!