Friday, January 15, 2016
Vaughn, Within City Limits: Episode II, The State of Our City.
By Nick Vaughn, Guest Columnist
With the President giving his final State of the Union Address and our Governor giving his annual State of the State address, I thought it would be fitting to give a State of the City Address.
The Mayor of New Albany is not required to meet a congregation of City Council members, Board of Works members, etc., but maybe he should. Admittedly, our Mayor doesn’t show up to regular City Council meetings. He merely sends a representative to read a glowing written statement about some vague platitudes along with your typical “I am still the Mayor” hoorah that is all but expected anymore.
But what if our Mayor were required to give a State of the City Address? Would he do it? He wouldn’t be required to do so, but it would be the right thing to do. What would he say? I’m sure there would be sharp contrasts between mine and his. The following is what I would say in an address to city officials if I were Mayor.
“President McLaughlin, City Council Members, distinguished guests, and my fellow New Albanians.
I could stand here and rattle off all of the negative aspects that are holding our city back. I could talk about how poverty hasn’t been fully addressed when nearly a quarter of our fellow citizens live in dire, dire poverty. I could talk to you about the lack of transparency and general openness our city government lacks. I could even talk to you about our misuse of TIF funding, our bloated budget, and large amount of debt. But I’m not going to. I am instead going to focus on what we can do to make our city the wealth of opportunity we all know it can be.
It’s easy to complain. To come up with solutions to our problems is the tough part that many people stray away from. Everyone wants New Albany to succeed, and we can accomplish this shared goal by making it easier for our local businesses to flourish and by building a better business climate. We need to look into ways that we can cut our wasteful and inefficient spending so that we can put our money back into the local economy and the pockets of our fellow citizens.
Let’s partner with our local industries to help end poverty by creating job training partnerships that allow those in poverty to get back into the workforce so they can become self sufficient and rise through the income levels.
Let’s take a real hard look at our downtown area and figure out what we want it to be. We need to have an actual discussion about two-way streets and how they could help develop our downtown area into something truly magical. This clearly won’t happen overnight, but the discussion needs to be started now; we paid lots of money for a professional study to be conducted on our street grid and there has been nearly no action.
Let’s say no to irresponsible TIF use and begin to construct the path towards responsible spending. If we are to use TIF, we need to use it for economic development, and I am honestly not convinced an aquatic center was the right move.
When I think of economic development, I think of reaching out to businesses, seeing what their needs are, as well as creating fair incentive packages for developers so that New Albany is an attractive place to be for them. There is a very fine line, however, between a fair incentive package and corporate welfare, we all need to be wary of this fact so that we don’t show favoritism towards some corporate entity before we make sure our fellow citizens don’t get screwed out of the deal.
In closing, our city is not Jeffersonville or Clarksville, and I am very much okay with that. We don’t need to be anybody but New Albany, we need to use our unique environment, location, and wonderful people to craft what we want New Albany to look like down the road. Our biggest asset is our potential, and it is time we seize the moment and channel that potential into actual results.
We have many obstacles facing us in the coming days, months, and years. But let us not fear the obstacles. Let us not waver. We can be the best city in Southern Indiana to open a business, to live, and to raise a family. It will just take some effort, concentration, and an open dialogue. Let’s get to work!”
Thanks for reading! I will leave you with this eloquent quote from Martin Luther King Jr.:
“The time is always right to do what is right.”