Jim Sack Life

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Fort Wayne Is On The Move

By Jim Sack

Cindy Joyner’s presentation to City Council on July 23rd was simply marvelous. She should be the marketing director for Fort Wayne.  She could be the cheerleader-in-chief.  We should pay her the $500,000 that goes to greater Fort Wayne to be the champion of our city.   Sitting in the witness chair at the far end of the long city council table with seven council members, the council attorney, the deputy city clerk and a full house in rapt attention she was full of energy, heartfelt enthusiasm and preached the good news gospel of Fort Wayne. In fact, one councilman called her presentation “very excellent.”  Another councilman, the chronically contentious Michael Barranda, even offered an idea for two and how teamwork might be improved.  It was a sterling presentation by the head of our community development division.

Joyner has around Fort Wayne for a very long time.  Lately, for the better part of two decades, she has been instrumental in managing, then leading neighborhood code. She is a South Sider, an Archer, and lives just blocks from Calhoun and Rudisill.  She is married to a respected and recently retired police officer, she is the mother of two polished and successful children. If you ask anybody in City Hall or in the neighborhoods she has long served about Cindy Joyner to a person they will have something upbeat to say.  She has long been a constructive force in the city, and last night at council she gave voice to everything she sees this is going right in our resurgent community.

Of course in her presentation there were sufficient statistics to show we are on the march, and there were the many pretty pictures a downtown redevelopment, neighborhood improvements to illustrate the stats.  But she also spoke to the various programs entered apartment there quietly used to help the elderly and the poor to stay in their homes, and to stabilize our neighborhoods.

She carried a PowerPoint presentation to that long table, but chose instead to speak from the heart without props and without a team of supporters by her side. What she said should be included in the mayor’s reelection campaign with hardly an edit.  It was uplifting and full-throated

For those of us who’ve lived most of our lives in Fort Wayne, who remember the empty downtown with more parking lots than buildings, who remembers the downward spiral of both our wages and our attitude that started when the Harvester collapsed in the early 1980s, her comments rang true.

For those of us who enjoyed the blessings of travel to see the Great cities of the world, to compare them to Fort Wayne, and to bring home ideas in the style of Marco Polo, her recitation of Programs and projects brought a smile.  We compared quite favorable in our own way.

It was only a couple of weeks ago that one of those Internet rating websites ranked Fort Wayne as the 12th Best Run City in the country.  It was only a dozen years ago that we were ranked is the fattest, least motivated, least desirable places in the country.  It has been a remarkable turn around the credit for which in no small part should go to Cindy, to her staff, to City council, to all of the employees of city government, and especially to this mayor and his deputy mayor for inspiring and facilitating the way back. 

In 1963, two years before his death at 52, my father said to me as we drove from his office at Magnavox on Bueter Road back home to our house in Forest Avenue to stick with Fort Wayne, “it is a city that is going places.”  In those intervening years we have suffered a flood, economic devastation, and the brain drain.  Our wages, once well above the national average, fell well below the national average.  Among the results was a malaise, self-doubt, and self ridicule. But, even as we sank into despair we have been smart enough to choose from among ourselves a series of mayors who have strongly encouraged us to do better, who had seen the possibilities and led. Win Moses, Paul Helmke, Graham Richard, and now Tom Henry have been dynamic, resolute leaders who knew we had it in us to stand among world-class cities.  Along with the way our mayors have hired some of the best and brightest, including Cindy Joyner, Karl Bandemer, Mark Becker and scores more who have turned vision into reality, and most importantly who have facilitated us to also be leaders in the renaissance that is Fort Wayne.  Dad was right, Fort Wayne again is a place on the move…forward.  

If you need any further proof that we are succeeding, that our future is ours to determine, you need only watch the July 23rd video of Cindy rousing council to pick up the pace.  Her theme was teamwork, care for our community, the joys of public service, and a call to even greater achievement.  We should all take it to heart.

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