ROLLIN’ ON THE THREE RIVERS

The need to build along rivers is not unique to Fort Wayne.  Throughout history, civilizations have located close to rivers to provide routes for transportation of many critical supplies and goods.  But, growing cities brought construction of more and more buildings on the surface of the land surrounding the rivers, negatively impacting the ability of the land to absorb and re-distribute water.

The downward spiral of decades of generally unplanned building removed valuable drainage surface, increased runoff into rivers, and led to construction of more and more walls and levees to protect cities in jeopardy.  Increased use of walls and levees only served to rearrange water flow rather than diminish its volume, triggering the need to build even more walls and levees.  Dealing with rivers and their tendency to flood has become a vicious cycle – much of the cycle triggered by the doctrine of “unintended consequences”, or perhaps more along the line of lack of common sense and good, sound planning.

Today, many cities that in earlier days suffered through minor flooding events are prone to ever increasing disasters with greater quantities of water invading city realms.  This is the result of not understanding and not appreciating river dynamics.  Every action that we take impacts a watershed and, ultimately, a river somewhere, somehow.

Rivers are dynamic systems, often impacted by the “lay of the land”, or, in more technical terms, the geologic and geographical formation of underlying strata and surface features that guide and direct our river systems.   Our own city, Fort Wayne, and our three rivers are impacted by location at the end of what once was the “Great Black Swamp“, an impressive and, in our early history, an all-but impassable area roughly 30-40 miles wide by 120 miles in length beginning near Toledo, Ohio, and ending at Fort Wayne.

Our area was created by glacial moraines receding some 20,000 years ago, leaving in their wake a virtually impassable area of  swamps and marshlands.  Early settlers drained the area and proceeded to farm and use what once was an unusable land area.  But, simply draining the area did not change the “lay” of the land and that has impacted our area for thousands of years.

The color of our rivers comes from the contents they carry – typically sediment or dark particles – giving them their dark color.  They will never be blue as the sky, and to wish so is folly.  Although we have three rivers that meet at the confluence on the east side of downtown, the river that impacts virtually all of downtown is the St. Marys.

The City Council has approved up to $500,000 to be spent on a study to analyze every facet of Fort Wayne’s three rivers, and, in particular, the St. Marys, to establish potential use.  The study has been let for bid and 13 companies submitted proposals.  The selection of the company to prepare the study should be released any day now, and the City will move forward with plans based on the study.

But, caution must be used to guard against pressure from developers, real estate agents, and construction companies to force unwise plans that will further exacerbate our existing flooding issues.   A beautiful and aesthetically pleasing river environment will go far to enhance our City, but, ultimately, plans must not become simply a path to rush to development based on financial gain.  Any plans must respect the nature of our rivers with the goal of integrating improvements into the river environment – not the typical philosophy of humans to impose their own will and often destructive practices.

The St. Marys River viewed from the Thieme Drive Overlook.

The St. Marys River viewed from the Thieme Drive Overlook.

 

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COUNTY COUNCIL – COUNTY COMMISSIONERS – WADING THROUGH THE DIFFERNCES!

Year after year voters go to the polls and often fail to understand their own local government, so I decided to write a little on it and continue to learn for my own benefit.  Last year city offices were filled, and, this year, it is the county’s turn.  The county has two basic bodies, and each is obligated to look after the affairs of the county, which often includes issues impacting Fort Wayne residents as well as county residents.

COUNTY COUNCIL

The Allen County Council is composed of seven members – currently all Republican.  Four members are elected from specific districts and three are elected “at-large” to serve the entire county.  The county council has a number of duties; however, all are tied to fiscal issues – none is tied to social wedge issues.

County Council is responsible for establishing an annual budget for county government and is also responsible for appropriating funds for the operation of county government.  The following is a list of actual duties:

  • Exclusive power to fix the tax rate for county purposes and for all other purposes where the rate not fixed by law is required to be uniform, and impose the tax levy.
  • Exclusive power of making appropriations to be paid out of the county treasury.
  • Adoption of the annual budget after receiving estimates submitted by the various county agencies through the county auditor, subject to the modification by the State Board of Tax Commissioners.
  • Incurring county indebtedness within the constitutional limitations.
  • Appropriation of additional funds arising after the budget is adopted.
  • Re-appropriation of surplus funds which might be surrendered by one department of county government.
  • Fixing of salaries of officers, deputies, assistants and employees whose salaries are payable from any county fund, with certain exceptions as provided by the statutes granting this authority.
  • Levying taxes to provide funds for erecting new jails and repairing, remodeling, and enlarging of old jails.

COUNTY COMMISSIONERS

The body of county commissioners exercises both executive and legislative powers: a powerful combination that leaves little check and balance on their decisions (and one that was feared by our Founders, yet here it is tucked away under the guise of the County Commissioners’ office).  The group is much smaller than the county council and sports only three commissioners as compared to the seven members on county council.  Again, all Commissioners are Republican. Anyone sensing a trend here?  All ten county officials are Republican as well as the occupants of the other county offices of Treasurer, Auditor, Clerk, and Assessor.

The following is a run-down on the duties of the commissioners as found on the Allen County government website.

As the executive branch, the Board of Commissioners may approve policies that affect nearly 1,350 full-time county employees and another 400 part-time employees.

As the legislative branch, the Commissioners pass ordinances that primarily affect unincorporated (not within a city or town) areas of the county.

It is the only body in all of county government that can receive bids for projects and services and sign contracts.

  • Receive bids for projects and services and sign contracts.
  • Authorize all claims on county budgets.
  • Decision-making authority over planning and zoning in the county.
  • Supervise construction and maintenance of over 1,400 miles of county roads and 1,300 bridge structures.
  • Issue bonds or approve lease-purchase agreements to borrow money for the county.
  • Serve as the Drainage Board, which oversees the legal drainage system in the county.
  • Operates and maintains all County facilities, including the historic Allen County Courthouse.

The commissioners include Nelson Peters, Linda Bloom, and Therese Brown.  If the names sound eerily familiar, they should.  All three have run time after time for various offices, playing musical chairs – with their commissioners’ seats simply being the latest in a long string of government work.

Here are the commissioners and their links.

Linda Bloom: http://www.allencounty.us/linda-k-bloom

Nelson Peters: http://www.allencounty.us/nelson-peters

Therese Brown: http://www.allencounty.us/therese-brown

All three commissioners have literally played “musical offices” for years.  When an office is term limited, the soon-to-be ousted official simply gets in line for another office, gets elected, and then runs out the terms on that office.  Then on to another lucrative office and possibly two more terms of uninterrupted official bliss attendant with all those nice goodies that go along with the offices.

Which brings me to the issue that sort of started this journey to shine some light on the county offices – a survey floating around that is based on “wedge” issues: issues that cannot be governed by the local county offices.  The county council must worry about a county budget, and, while the county commissioners have a more diverse variety of chores, they also do not deal with wedge issues for the most part.

Yet, the anti-choicers have popped out of the woodwork again to demand that their “litmus” test of social conservatism on gay marriage, abortion, and any other item deemed morally threatening to society be opposed by any candidate who runs for office.  The fact that the office holders cannot impact many of the wedge issues weighing so heavily on the anti-choicers’ minds fades into the background haze as they shake their clenched fists and gear up to make sure that those ten little Indians continue to fall in line.

INDIANA REPUBLICANS ATTEMPT TO USURP MORE LOCAL AUTHORITY

The Indiana General Assembly – make that the Republican assembly – just can’t get enough of snatching power away from county and local authorities.  Their latest effort is to abuse the power to amend our Indiana Constitution to protect the big business of factory farming – those confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) that are hazardous to our health and our environment.

As this year’s session ended, little attention was paid to a number of legislative efforts that made it through.  One of those “under the radar” pieces of legislation is Senate Joint Resolution 9.  The disingenuous caption given to this slippery piece of legislation is “Constitutional right to hunt and fish.”

Ah, one might ask just what is wrong with protecting hunting and fishing?  Were that the only wording, it might be somewhat palatable even if it is an absurd use of the amending power.  But the text of the Resolution reads as follows:

CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO HUNT AND FISH.  Provides that the people have a right to hunt, fish, harvest game, or engage in the agricultural or commercial production of meat, fish, poultry, or dairy products, which is a valued part of our heritage and shall be forever preserved for the public good, subject to laws prescribed by the general assembly and rules prescribed by virtue of the authority of the general assembly.  Provides that hunting and fishing is the preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife.  Provides that this constitutional amendment does not limit the application of any laws relating to trespass or property rights.  This proposed amendment has not been previously agreed to by a general assembly.

The Republicans are abusing the amending power by enshrining forever what they have determined to be a constitutional right to hunt and fish.  But this isn’t the real reason for the disingenuous use of the amending process.  Notice the addition of the “right” to engage in the agricultural or commercial production of meat, fish, poultry, or dairy products.  Calling these a “valued” part of our heritage is absolutely absurd.

What the Republicans are really attempting to do is constitutionally protect the mega-farms of which Daniels is so fond and remove any county and local attempts to limit their construction or regulation.  Recall back in 2005, Daniels and his subservient Lieutenant Governor, Becky Skillman, came up with their “Possibilities Unbound.”  The plan was to double hog production as well as increase other forms of livestock production.

The amendment was just put forth in this session, so it must go through additional passages and be placed on the ballot for voter approval.  Of course, who wouldn’t want to memorialize hunting and fishing as our “heritage” – picturing those musket-toting Hoosier ancestors out there in the woods and fields of Indiana – coonskin caps pulled jauntily to the side covering heads full of bushy hair.

But hiding under visions of frontier hunters hauling home their kill for the sustenance of their families is a flat-out misrepresentation of the true intentions of Republican Senate Joint Resolution 9.  The big agricultural forces have inserted their sticky, manure-covered fingers into the pockets of the Republicans and have come up with an amendment that, while raising visions of rough and tough Hoosier hunters and fishers on the prowl, actually protects  hazardous CAFOs – factory farms so far from our ancestral ideals of hunting and fishing that would our ancestors be here, they would be saying “shame on you” for even attempting a comparison.

Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO)

CAFO where thousands of animals are confined with no access to the outdoors

Compare the above picture to the accepted notion of hunting and fishing.

Angler enjoying the solitude of fishing

The public needs to understand that, should they be fooled into adopting this amendment, local and county control of factory farms will be gone.  Local control will be replaced with rules made by the Republican-controlled and factory farm friendly General Assembly – just another Republican ploy to remove local control.  Haven’t we seem enough of this lately?

DANIELS “SPREADING THE WEALTH” WITH VOUCHER PROGRAM

Way back during the campaign of 2008, “Joe, the whoever” attempted to corner candidate Obama by accusing Obama of wanting to spread the wealth around by using taxes.  The incident led to national recognition for Joe,  interviews, and hero status.

Now, in 2011, Daniels is saying the same thing, and his Republican cronies are eating it up.  Daniels and Bennett want to “give” up to $4500 per child from taxpayer funds to low to moderate income families so that they can send their children to private schools so  that “students who don’t come from wealthy families should have the same opportunity to attend private schools as those who do.”

Pardon me if I am somewhat confused at this point.  Why such a sudden charitable attitude by Daniels and the Republicans?  If the Democrats had come up with a plan like this, they would have been crucified for wasting taxpayer funds.  I guess the fact that it is coming from the public school system’s funds takes them off the proverbial “hook.”

Mitch Daniels- Who me? Spread the wealth?

But, regardless of how it is explained by Daniels and his group, this is a “spreading” of the wealth that so many fear-ridden Republicans and right-wingers called “socialism” when the issue was raised against Obama.   The Republicans even note that taking these tax dollars will give poorer families the same opportunities for their children as wealthy families enjoy.

But, hey, they aren’t “raising” taxes – yet – they are just robbing from Peter to pay Paul and doing a little “smoke and mirrors” two-step to transfer wealth.

 

PLUTOCRACY PFOR THE PFEW – CITIGROUP’S VIEW OF OUTDATED DEMOCRACY

No more traditional democracy for Citigroup.   The omnipresent international financial conglomerate with operations in consumer, corporate, and investment banking and insurance has decided that it is pretty pleased with progress toward a neatly done plutocratic society.  Democracy can be messy, and, frankly, it interferes with Citigroup’s vision of world globalization by countries dominated by plutocracies.

But just what is a plutocracy?  Here are definitions:

  1. the rule of power of wealth or of the wealthy.
  2. a government or state in which the wealthy class rules.
  3. a class or group ruling, or exercising power or influence, by virtue of its wealth.

In a lengthy, but little-noticed two-part report from 2005 and 2006, Citgroup brags that it coined the phrase “plutonomy” to explain global imbalances in wealth.

According to the report, which refers to a Survey of Consumer Finance data, the rich in the United States continue to be “in great shape” compared to main-street citizens who continue to be in a demoralized and declining state of finances.  And, Citigroup thought that given the great shape of the rich, it was “a good time to bang the drum on plutonomy.”

Citigroup’s thesis is that the rich are the dominant drivers of demand in many economies around the world – specifically the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia.  These economies have seen the rich take an ever-increasing share of income and wealth over the last 20 years with the result that the rich now dominate income, wealth, and spending in these countries.

Citigroup posits that:

“despite being in great shape, we think global capitalists are going to be getting an even greater share  of the wealth pie over the next few years, as capitalists benefit disproportionately from globalization and the productivity boom, at the relative expense of labor.” (my emphasis)

Those who oppose globalization already understand the ability of corporate giants and conglomerates to dominate and control growth in many areas of the world’s economies.  Citigroup is ecstatic and gleefully states that, based on the consumer finance survey, the top 10% of families accounted for 43% of the income, while the bottom 40% of families accounted for ONLY 10% of income.

Kicking up its corporate heels, Citigroup uses charts to “show the income and wealth shares of the top two deciles, the next two quintiles and the remaining 40% of US households”, and that – brace yourself –  “we have lumped the bottom 40% into one to emphasize how relatively small their income and wealth shares are.”  Citigroup’s disdainful words.

Citigroup has even recognized certain well-defined risks – one being the risk that those who are increasingly shoved to the bottom of the ladder will fight back. Citigroup opines the following:

  1. a policy error may lead to asset deflation, which would likely damage plutonomy
  2. the rising wealth gap between the rich and the poor will probably at some point lead to a political backlash
  3. at some point, it is likely that labor will fight back against the rising profit share of the rich

The “push-back” – according to Citigroup – could be felt through the following:

  1. higher taxation on the rich or indirectly through higher corporate taxes/regulation
  2. attempts to protect indigenous laborers, in a push-back on globalization (either anti-immigration or protectionism)

Republicans – all the while spewing venom about the dangers of big government, unions, and the Democrats – support this path to destruction.  As long as destruction of our democratic system comes from capitalistic means and corporate dominance, Republicans will turn blind eyes and deaf ears to the increasing disparity between the haves and have nots.

Rather than worry about the Obama Healthcare plan, Republicans should be worrying about the health of our democracy, which is slowly fading at the clapping hands of Citigroup and other corporate powers.

EARLY RETIREMENT!!

After a ton of thought, I decided I would take early retirement.  I am really looking forward to catching up on writing, gardening, reading, campaigning, volunteer activities, crafting, working on my home, and just relaxing.

So, while many denigrate FDR for our social security system, I have to say “thank you” at this point.

Short but sweet!!  Don’t worry, I will have much more to say after next week!

OBAMA’S VIETNAM

Afghanistan has become Obama’s Vietnam.  As the struggle descends into madness, and Kharzai flirts with the Taliban, the country is no closer to stability than it was years ago when we first blasted our way into the countryside in search of the elusive Osama bin Laden.

Pundits have argued that Afghanistan is like Vietnam – or – it isn’t like Vietnam.  Set in two different world locations with two distinct geographical and environmental climes, the similarities exist outside these constraints with one over-riding theme: the inability to overcome the opposition for any length of time.

Johnson and Nixon tried in Vietnam – and in the process cost over 58,000 American lives.  Bush began the war in Afghanistan but quickly turned to his real target – Iraq.  Obama has set his sights back on Afghanistan, where many believe it should have stayed in the first place.  But regardless, Afghanistan now belongs to Obama.  His legacy will include his attempts to conquer the opposition forces and deliver a stable democracy in Afghanistan. A legacy that will probably fail.

The “war” will play out although no one knows for sure when the last of the troops will arrive back on American soil – they just will.  Sadly, the American public isn’t as vocal as it was during Vietnam.  But, then again, college students and the youth are not subject to the draft – a leveler that tends to make opposition to war more pressing and urgent to those facing their exportation to foreign soil to fight a foreign war.

Many dissimilarities exist, but the ultimate similarity is that of the inability to win the “hearts and minds” of a people who have battled foreign invaders for decades.  So, as the war drags on, and Obama becomes further entrenched in his ownership, and the public demurely turns its face away, the prospect of an enduring Vietnam scenario increases.

KING SOUDER DEIGNS HIS OPPONENTS “UNWORTHY”

Souder is running scared.  He is, for the first time, in his overextended tenure in Washington D.C. facing a challenger who may just send him home to Grabill to tend to his knitting – and to pick up on his rural roots.

Souder has determined that none of his opponents is worthy of debating.  This tactic – better known as “now you see him, now you don’t”, provides Souder with the opportunity to remain silently tucked away from any real debate of the issues he has so fervently used to challenge the Democrats.

But, you have to hand it to Bob Thomas, the Indianapolis business man who is sending chills through the Souder camp.  He has used the art of commercials early on to hit Souder where it hurts – votes on bailouts and term limits.  The commercial linking Souder to Pelosi and Reed is genius at its best.  Souder used these very same tactics against Tom Hayburst in 2006 when he continuously labeled Hayhurst a liberal – even though Hayhurst is far from a liberal.  The image of Souder in the foreground and Pelosi and Reed in the background is priceless.

This is a race that should draw a goodly number of Republicans to the voting booth in May.   Souder has been sent back time and again to Washington, D.C. by the herd of Third District Republican sheep, but Kings tend to fall – often because they underestimate their subjects – and the opposition.

While Souder deigns his opponents unworthy, in the end, it is the voters who will determine the worthiness of Souder’s opposition – a fact that King Souder cannot change.

HAYHURST FOCUSES WHILE SOUDER SPUTTERS

Mark Souder has decided the best way to deal with the issues of the Third District is, well, to just ignore them for what he mistakenly believes are better pickins.  Souder, with his little pea-pickin’ right-wing conservative heart, is dodging and weaving like a boxer trying to avoid punches and would rather attack President Obama than deal with the high unemployment rate in the Third District.

Indiana’s Third District is suffering – and suffering greatly.  The eight counties that comprise the district include most of Allen, most of Elkhart, and all of DeKalb, Kosciusko, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, and Whitley.  The Third District is heavily over-represented in the infamous Top Ten of unemployment statistics in the September report prepared October 14, 2009.

The following unemployment statistics show a discouraging and disturbing picture – a picture that Souder seems content to ignore in favor of attacking President Obama:

IDWD Research and Analysis
Labor Area Unemployment Statistics

September 2009 Statistics

Top Ten Stressed Counties

Elkhart County          15.0
Noble County             14.5
Lagrange County      14.0

Adams County               13.4
Fayette County              13.4
Blackford County          13.3
Steuben County         12.9
Starke County                 12.6
DeKalb County            12.4

An astounding 50% of the Top Ten are in the Third District.  Add to that Whitley County – 11.6% – in the second tier of ten counties and Kosciusko County – 11.0% – in the third tier, and the only county in the Third District that has not broken the infamous 10.0% unemployment figure is Allen County, holding at 9.0%.

Tom Hayhurst has been out in the counties listening to the people and communicating with them.  Since he announced in August that he would again challenge Souder, Hayhurst has traveled from one end of the Third District to the other.  His main concern?  The people of the Third District.

Souder’s main concern?  Holding onto that congressional seat which he said in 1994 that he would vacate in 6 terms.  He has become adept at holding town hall meetings and call-ins slanted to his view point of the present government, thereby feeding his attacks on Obama.

Rather than take a cold, hard look at the high unemployment rate that exists in his own district which he is supposed to be representing, Souder focuses on attacking President Obama.  Souder would rather join a battle over gun rights in someone else’s state than address the needs of his own constituency.

Fine with me – Souder can sputter and fume about Obama, but Hayhurst is doing the work that needs to be done for our Third District – focusing on those who will be his constituency.