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9:51 a.m. - February 28, 2007
I Said I Loved This Town???
This town makes me want to chew my own foot off.

No, I love the town and people, but some of our officials, both elected and appointed, need to be slapped upside the head, repeatedly, with blunt objects in a hope that being concussed with knock some sense into their brains.

I knew C’ville had some issues when I found out who was elected mayor of this town (this was before we moved back). I have known him since before I went to kindergarten, and let’s just say that I was less than whelmed with his social skills and tact from the word go.

A while ago, he was someone who was very upset that they were going to build a new high school instead of renovating the old one. Now, I have great nostalgic feelings for the old building, and I still wish they would use the old gym for sporting events, but the old building’s time had come and gone, and the new school is exactly what the kids nowadays need.

He was elected because the previous mayor ired some people in power and the field was fragmented. He promised action.

Well, he’s overreached because he just doesn’t work and play well with others and can’t communicate to save his life. Plus, he was taking on too much too quickly.

(I may not be 100% accurate in some of the exact details – but this is what I recall and remember and the impressions of what has happened).

First, he got a grant for the city to build a commerce park out near the interstate, and this commerce park was supposed to attract high-tech companies to the area. Well, it’s a decent location for that, but he and others dithered around with consultants and all kinds of stuff, and then got a company to locate to town to be the cornerstone for the commerce park.

However, that company did not meet the state’s requirements for a true high-tech company, so they didn’t get a grant. And then the owner of the company basically skipped town owing people money. So the commerce park has no tenant.

And what of the grant money for the commerce park? It seems that it’s almost gone, without building any roads or putting up lights or anything. So basically, the city has some farmland that one day will hold a commerce park, but no money to put up infrastructure.

They also spent time in trying to ram through a special zoning district in the area. Now, for the commerce park per se that would be one thing, but he and the city planner and consultants wanted to expand it to cover almost the entire area of businesses around the interstate.

The exclusions to this overlay district were vast, and basically some of the existing owners of land up there were upset about the exclusions – never mind they were being grandfathered in, and approvals would probably be perfunctory unless someone wanted to put up a slaughterhouse or feedlot there. It just wasn’t communicated well, at all.

So, the mayor basically said, “We’ll build it and they will come” instead of negotiating for someone to come and THEN build it.

Another overreach has been his effort to get the sidewalks improved downtown. Yes, it’s another grant that the city was supposed to get, and they were to put up matching funds as well. Well, it was a disaster, because the city spent the matching funds in getting things ready for companies to bid on the project, and when they bid on the project, it was too much money and the grant wouldn’t cover it.

So, the city is out the money for the grant to do the sidewalks, and the sidewalks won’t get done.

But the mayor isn’t the only Stimpy-certified idiot in the local government. I told you already about the County Commissioners who don’t want planning and zoning in the county, so that we stay in the 1950’s. (One got defeated in re-election, so there is hope). Well, there’s a city councilman who won’t support the Main Street Initiative to support downtown businesses (which we desperately need), and has said the best thing to do would be to level about a four block radius of downtown.

Oh, nice, so we can have a downtown full of things like the CVS and Walgreen’s. The CVS took down a neat, old building, and the Walgreens’ got rid of some businesses and demolished a landmark greasy spoon that Wabash men had dined at for years, and all for the addition of the drug stores that look NOTHING like the rest of downtown.

Then there are the personal issues. One thing about living in a small town is that a lot of people know where the bodies are buried, or knows someone who knows someone. And when you get to my age, you remember when someone was younger and you go, “Holy crap! They’re XXXX!”

First off, the mayor, never a hit with the ladies (or really, people in general in high school) was sued for sexual harassment by his former secretary. Now, there have been allegations and counter-allegations but the end result is that the city had to pay a low five-figure settlement to the former secretary. Of course, no guilt was ever admitted to, OFFICIALLY, but the fact that there was a payoff says something was not all kosher in the Mayor’s suite.

Then, the planning director, the ONLY ONE around who could talk sense about planning and zoning issues and explain the need for the expanded overlay district without sounding insincere and aloof, was forced to resign after an incident in front of the downtown building where he lives.

His parents have bought a few of the old storefronts that have apartments on the top floor, and are renovating the apartments so that they’re very nice places to live instead of the slums that they were about 10 years ago.

This particular area is right near bars, and one of C’ville’s finest couples started a disagreement after a few cocktails right in front of his building and some things were broken on the building. Well, I guess he went downstairs in a fit of pique, and got into it with the couple, and THEN got into it with the cops that responded, so he was arrested for disorderly conduct.

It turns out that the prosecutors dropped the charges on him when they said that they couldn’t prove the case without a reasonable doubt (to which a cop friend of mine started muttering under his breath when he heard that new), however, before that news came out the mayor, who already had his legal issues, mind you, forced him to resign.

And now, the city planning director is someone pretty much right out of college instead of someone with some experience in the field.

So with all of that cheery news in the past year here in C’ville, I picked up the Paper of Montgomery County on my way to cover the basketball sectionals at Lebanon and was greeted with this cheery story.

Now, I’ve known the police chief for years. He is the son of a former mayor and dated a daughter of a family friend (one of a set of twins that all of the boys in our neighborhood had lustful thoughts from about fourth grade on), and so I was familiar with his history. He’s also married to a high school classmate of mine.

So I know where a lot of HIS bodies are buried. And frankly, the charges don’t surprise me. I do think, of course, that there are a lot of other things going on in the background, especially when it comes to the accuser, and the fact that the EEOC dropped their portion of the charges.

Today in the other paper most of the officers and other employees of the Police Department signed a letter in support of the chief.

Police departments aren’t the most open minded places to work, and that has to fuel some of this, sure.

However, the issue is management. At Wabash, ever year or two we sit through mandatory training on sexual harassment, and most of the time it’s a three-hour presentation from an attorney at our law firm in Indianapolis. She hammers at us that it’s not enough to not sexually harass anyone, but that good management is the prevention of even the slighted thing that could be construed in a way that one could be accused, even falsely, of harassment.

Because even if you are innocent of nothing but bad judgment, a suit costs your company money AND prestige, and of course when the city is involved, it just makes everyone look bad that there’s any HINT of impropriety in city government.

So now, we have a mayor who had to pay a settlement for harassment, but did not resign, yet he forced his competent planning director to resign over a charge that was later dropped, and now the police chief has a harassment charge dropped on him.

And I said I loved this town? Well, it certainly isn’t a sleepy little burgh, is it?

 

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