Smarter

Smarter

How many times have we winced when hearing about failures of Fort Wayne’s government to get a contract right? When was the last time anyone heard of Fort Wayne’s annual budget staying level from one year to the next? How often do we hear about new taxes, new regulations, and new requirements? Many of us have become numb to the constant dribbling of unfortunate news from City Hall.

As a candidate for Mayor of Fort Wayne, I have met with thousands of people in living rooms and on front porches across the city. Few things get me more excited than to see a better way to get something accomplished for less money – and to see my fellow city residents agree with the principles behind my ideas. I am more convinced than ever that the future of the Summit City can be as bright as we want it to be, that no past generation will hold a candle to the growth and development we can achieve, and that fresh, common-sense leadership in the Mayor’s office will spark a new era of innovative growth, domestic tranquility, and personal achievement. A mayor, it is said, can only do so much. But the right mayor, at the right time, can be transformative. As a city, for too long, we have accepted the status quo. Some might say we have accepted mediocrity. We must expect more!

Fort Wayne has been close to “turning a corner” for many years – arguably for a couple generations. But we have been unable (or unwilling) to look at options to the traditional way of “doing things.” That time is past. We will begin the transformative process by first doing the difficult things that achieve progress and enable growth. After speaking about zero-based-budgeting for months, I am pleased that others have joined the conversation. Starting at zero is what we do in private business where every dollar spent must be justified (not just new dollars). This confirms that every dollar budgeted is actually necessary; it challenges bureaucratic inertia. But zero-based-budgeting is not enough by itself. If zero-based-budgeting is joined by zero-based-regulation, then private sector employers gain a measurable advantage in the market because every regulation – like every dollar – is reevaluated, and those deemed unnecessary are eliminated. An advantage in the market leads to additional sales, additional employees, more pay, and more opportunities. Let’s start over with city ordinances – eliminate the unnecessary regulations that are onerous to our residents and choking to our employers. Many of these ordinances were enacted before some of us were born for purposes that no longer exist. If, in America, opportunity still equals freedom, then we can make our residents and our employers more free by being smart about our laws, ordinances and regulations. Employing zero-based budgeting and regulation will make Fort Wayne the easiest city in the Midwest in which to conduct business.

I have spoken often about the need to protect taxpayer’s dollars by negotiating city contracts more effectively. Every dollar that the city fails to protect – by voting for or signing a bad contract – is a dollar that must come from someone’s wallet, a dollar that cannot be spent in the local economy. If I am elected mayor, Fort Wayne will get better deals and will negotiate smarter contracts. Red River Waste Collection. North River Development property. Discounts for public employees’ health benefits that happened twelve years too late. Think about it: for twelve years, we have spent ~$50M cumulatively more than we should have for city employees’ health insurance! Do taxpayers get a refund for mistakes made by their leaders? At best, such contract failures represent inept leadership. We can do better. I have said it over and over: all of us must expect more!

When I am mayor, the newspaper, radio, and TV news will carry stories about reductions in expenses to taxpayers because I will lead the charge to reduce government expenses. For almost 25 years, as a trained corporate executive, I have been finding ways to eliminate expenses while enhancing services. Using this experience to streamline processes, merging parallel departments, and eliminating waste, the city of Fort Wayne will save millions. This is part of what effective leadership does every day. But, please, note the fact that I am NOT promising lower city budgets. Leadership over the past twenty years has dug a deep hole of taxpayer-owned public liabilities (nearly doubled since 2008 from ~$600M to ~$1.1B, including pension and other city-related legal entities’ debt). If we can reduce our expenses and hold the budget level, we can begin to reduce our debt. This is what successful businesses do. Isn’t this what we all do as families? We tighten our belt and we work harder. Our grandparents did it before us and theirs did it before them. It is part of how Fort Wayne’s prior generations endured and thrived. They expected more. We must as well.

The efficient and successful management of any corporate entity requires vision and strategic planning. As mayor, I will define – in coordination with local leaders, both public and private – a twenty year Capital Improvement Plan, a vision for the future of Fort Wayne. This Capital Improvement Plan is not unchangeable – in fact, it is meant to be evaluated constantly, updated regularly, and used as a guide, giving the public a real-time instrument to measure progress. The Capital Improvement Plan is a critical piece of governance, informing us about what we should anticipate, and guiding the efforts of city departments. It is unrealistic to think that everyone will agree on a specific vision for our city’s future, but we should all know the direction we are moving over an extended period of time, rather than merely month to month, project by project.

Meanwhile, I understand how a Capital Improvement Plan can be mis-used. I’ve suggested a 20 year horizon. Plans that cover shorter timelines can be used to fool taxpayers. Elected officials often smile as they present pretty pictures and rosy projections. If we are wise then we will hold elected office holders (including me!) accountable. If we are honest then we will acknowledge that rosy projections often fail the test of reality but, by then, the money is long gone, and taxpayers are saddled with the debt.

No Capital Improvement Plan should be assembled without entwining the goals of the Capital Improvement Plan with the goals of our neighborhoods. Fort Wayne is largely a composite of its neighborhoods. The stronger and more livable our neighborhoods are, the stronger and more livable our city is. The best Capital Improvement Plan is a failure if it loses sight of this critical relationship.

Finally, Fort Wayne will be viewed by the world as smarter when government is completely transparent. I want Fort Wayne residents to be able to track the dollars as they flow through city government. Residents should be able to easily go to the city’s website and, without any special passwords or backdoors, find current and past data about city finances, city debt, city department budgets, clear and detailed data on neighborhood expenditures, employment, crime, etc. The city’s website should be designed for easy access and intuitive use. More than just finding accurate data, the City’s website should also provide real-time “performance dashboards” on its homepage. Taxpayers and residents deserve accountability. If some data makes my leadership look bad, then we will fix the broken processes.

We live in the 21st Century. As a city, we should begin to act like it. No excuses. What Fort Wayne needs is an experienced business executive in its Mayor’s Office. For 25 years I have honed my professional ability to prioritize and execute my duties so that my employer benefits. MedPro is one of the smartest and strongest companies in the world. It is why Warren Buffet owns it. Now, I am going to do this for the City of Fort Wayne. Like it has never been done before. Expect more, my friends, because when I am elected to the Mayor’s office, our city will never be the same.

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