Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry announces candidacy, development, investments at Rotary Club
By Lisa Esquivel Long | Jan 30, 2023
Source: Fort Wayne Business Weekly
Mayor Tom Henry announced Jan. 30 to Rotary Club of Fort Wayne that he has officially filed his candidacy for the May Democratic primary in his bid for a fifth straight term in office.
Henry, who served as a Rotarian while working in the private sector, annually visits the Rotary Club ahead of his State of the City speech, which will be held at noon Feb. 15 at the Grand Wayne Center, 120 W. Jefferson Blvd.
Henry, 71, presented areas that mayors focus on in their towns, including public safety and downtown development and the investments that his administration planned, including a record $48 million in public works.
“That vision won’t be accomplished by me or by my administration unless I were to run again for office,” Henry told the Rotarians gathered for the weekly noon Monday meeting at Parkview Field. “As of this morning I had not signed yet. One hour ago I did.”
His announcement was met with applause by those gathered.
Henry will face fellow Democrat educator Jorge Fernandez in the May 2 primary. On the Republican side, Fort Wayne Councilmen Tom Didier and Jason Arp have both filed. The campaign filing deadline is Feb. 3.
In Henry’s talk, he alluded to a couple of economic development projects underway that he couldn’t discuss the specifics on. The city is talking to a couple of developers for the property north of Fourth Street at Clinton Street. The city also has interest in the Adams Center Road property that has been proposed for the future site of the replacement for Allen County Jail, which was met by a wave of discontent. A new site has been chosen for the jail project.
Among other items of note that Henry announced at the meeting:
* Downtown: With Barrett & Stokely already working on two developments, the Indianapolis company wants to partner with the city on one on Wells Street. The company is discussing with the city plans for the Wedge, across from Promenade Park, and revitalization of Wells Street northward to Putnam Street.
“They have in mind something similar to Broad Ripple in Indianapolis,” Henry said. Broad Ripple is a cultural district with restaurants and retail shops.
• Public works: The previously mentioned $48 million in planned work to start in April on city streets, curbs and sidewalks is six times what the annual spending was when Henry took office in January 2008. Money then came solely from the city’s share of gasoline taxes collected by the state. Over the past several years, the city has looked at ways to raise more money through income taxes and moving money away from other projects deemed less vital.
“To my administration it’s imperative that we have an infrastructure that reflects the positive attitude of our city,” Henry said. “If you’re an employer and you come into downtown Fort Wayne and you see crumbling sidewalks and potholes and lights that are burned out, the probability of you coming back for a second look I would say decreases significantly.”
He said the goal for 2024 is to invest $50 million.
• Public safety: “We have a clearance rate (arrests that have gone through the court system) in crime in our city of 83%,” Henry said. Meanwhile, the homicide rate is down 40% from the previous year. “What’s going in Fort Wayne is a anomaly, He said. “Almost every major city in our country, homicides and violent crime is up, and not in the city of Fort Wayne.” As previously announced, the Fort Wayne Police Department will have two officers patrolling the rivers as more recreationists enjoy riparian activities in the warm weather.
• City Utilities: The utility company is a not-for-profit wholly owned by the city, which make payments of $12 million in lieu of taxes, which goes into the city civil budget and can be used for infrastructure. It invested over $100 million in sewer and water needs last year and plans to spend $112 million this year, Henry said.
• Parks: The city has 100 parks with spending in that area coming to $3 million this year. Franke Park, the biggest with the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo and Foellinger Theatre, and draws over 1 million visitors a year, will get a second entrance that will be tree-lined off Goshen Road, similar to what visitors find at Pokagon Park, Henry said. The park will also get a new pavilion with air conditioning and heating. Meanwhile, Foster Park’s golf course is being eyed for a major renovation in a couple of years.
• Parking: It continues to be scarce downtown during many events. It’s something being looked at, though Henry did not discuss any specifics.
• Finance: The city of Fort Wayne has $40 million in the bank.