August 1, 2012

Childhood board game offers lessons for city

— Free Parking is a space on the Monopoly game board that doesn’t do much for players who want to land on more important spaces.

Logansport Mayor Ted Franklin can probably relate to that analogy after a tumultuous week that gained him national notoriety when he created his own yellow-painted parking space, complete with a large road sign that read “Mayor Parking Only.” It all came in the wake of Franklin receiving a parking ticket from former Police Chief A.J. Rozzi. Google the incident and you’ll find some less than flattering portrayals of the city’s leadership.

For the sake of city officials and the community that is Logansport, there are other spaces on a real Monopoly game board that also could relate to the agenda Franklin could and probably should be leading:

• Electric Company: A Kansas City consultant has recommended replacing the city’s coal-fired boilers with natural gas generating capacity. It’s a move that could work well because gas is environmentally friendly and an underground storage facility operated by the state’s largest gas supplier lies 10 miles away. But if Logansport is going to raise the money to do great things in the 21st century, investing – or finding investors – for green energy windmills would be more cost effective than a $105 million bill the city is facing. In short, it’s cheaper to let the wind blow than to keep buying natural gas every minute of every hour of every day.

• Park Place: With the Cass County Council’s decision to dissolve the county parks and recreation board, the time is right to streamline city and county parks functions. City Parks Administrator Jan Fawley was previously the county parks administrator. Combining both departments could only save money and impress potential grant sources with the community’s ability to take a progressive step to use what limited park funding it has wisely. Despite a Republican monopoly of both city and county government, not to mention the legislative seats and the governorship, it’s not likely. Not all monopoly games produce winners.

• States Avenue: It could be another name for Market Street, the home of the city’s oldest theater, The State. It recently was sold, but if you’re that investor, you’ve got to be fuming that Franklin and the city council are willing to do away with the entire Logansport Redevelopment Commission just because commission members don’t want to issue bonds to fund a retail entity. Downtown revitalization could really benefit from a similar bond for the State and its surrounding properties where a sparkling street sculpture has just been unveiled.

• Community Chest: It would be good to see Franklin appealing to city employees to be a pacesetter for the United Way campaign, and set an example for the rest of the community.

• Boardwalk: The closest thing Logansport has to it is the boulevard, but just a block away from it is the empty Rural King building. Former Logansport-Cass County Economic Development Foundation President Jim Weaver aided efforts to fill that storefront, but the current administration apparently has no plans to market the building or work with the foundation to make it happen. Wouldn’t this be a great location for a theater multiplex? And if we’re going to fund retail development how much would a redevelopment bond for the Logansport Mall cost the city?

• Water Works: Problems with the water coming out of the Logansport Water Plant that may lead to fines from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management should be a priority that does not affect ratepayers.

• Oriental Avenue: City Attorney Randy Head and his wife recently returned from a trip to China, but how that trip will be leveraged to benefit the city has not been defined. Local high school students will begin taking Chinese next month for the first time, but it’s unclear whether city officials are poised for anything more than Chinese takeout.

• Indiana Avenue: The city had an Indiana Street once that was part of the property along the Wabash River. It represents the next leg of the Little Turtle Waterway that will eventually connect downtown with the new Ivy Tech campus.

• Pennsylvania Railroad: The real Pennsylvania Railroad once owned the building that now houses Transco, and an expansion there adding more than two dozen jobs merits a city commitment to improve Transco’s frontage along 18th Street, a project the previous administration supported. It shouldn’t be much to expect at least adequate sidewalks from the 18th Street Bridge north, but if that doesn’t happen, Transco officials could claim they’ve been railroaded on their commitment to expand the local economy.

• Marvin Gardens: The Cass County Community Corrections program has been a success story in beautifying the community with its own gardens, and it would be timely for city officials to commit at least some funding to beautify areas of the city.

• Short Line Railroad: The city has one and making the area surrounding it a Tax Increment Financing district will generate income for redeveloping the north side corridor with a street or improve rail line for industry. That district should include the former Exide battery factory that sits in Franklin’s old city council ward as a sad reminder of jobs the community has lost.

• North Carolina Avenue: It’s interesting to note that the city probably pays more to North Carolina than any other state because it buys most of its power from Duke Energy. Beleaguered Duke is having problems that have led two board members to resign and the surprise appointment of a new CEO. These anecdotes have made the investor-owned version of the Dukes of Hazard. If it’s not time to sever ties with Duke, at the very least, it’s time to advertise for competitive bids for power until the city’s next phase of electric generation can be realized.

• Baltic and Mediterranean: These are parts of the world that have produced many immigrants to Logansport, yet the current administration’s commitment to the Hispanic community is a curious one. No Hispanic appointments have been made to the police force, the fire department or boards or commissions. If churches can proactively incorporate the Hispanic community into Sundays, the city ought to incorporate it during the rest of the week.

• Reading Railroad: Logansport has one, and it’s a reading program that supports the most important thing we have in the city: Our children. Being able to read them a Logansport success story before they graduate from high school and leave for jobs in other communities should be a thought we all keep in mind.

Finally, many may recall “The Andy Griffith Show” episode in which Andy’s cousin and only deputy, Barney Fife, once ticketed the North Carolina governor’s car because it was improperly parked in front of the town hall. The governor came to Mayberry to pay the ticket personally and to shake Barney’s hand. He, like any other citizen, was not above any law, even an inexpensive one in a small community.

The moral of that episode is that public officials at all levels have to respect the law, even if the consequences are embarassing. If they don’t, it signals a special treatment for the elected, appointed and connected that the average person wouldn’t enjoy. If public officials can’t respect that and do what everyone else in a community does and move on, they can’t expect to be respected themselves.

Andy Griffith died last month. Let’s hope that in Logansport the moral of that episode never does.

• Dave Kitchell is a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached through the newspaper at