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Monday, April 21, 2014

As new year starts, pay attention to these four things

As 2014 starts, this community needs some things.

Truth Editorial
Posted on Dec. 29, 2013 at 12:00 a.m. | Updated on Dec. 29, 2013 at 5:52 p.m.

Not everyone makes Christmas wish lists or New Year’s resolutions.

But as the start of 2014 looms, Elkhart, Goshen and people who live in or near them need a few things.

No formal resolution needed. But here’s what our community leaders need to do in the coming year:

1. Mayor Dick Moore and the Elkhart City Council need to get along. This past year featured political battling. Sometimes tense negotiation is necessary. But when it’s just tense and there’s not much negotiation, no one really wins whatever the vote is, particularly Elkhart residents.

The struggle over sewer compact fees started in 2012 and dragged on most of 2013. It didn’t need to.

Elkhart elected and appointed officials argued a lot. And they simply need to forget past differences and start relating in different ways. There are too many big issues in the city to constantly be fighting.

2. Address the violence, particularly among young people.On the south side of Elkhart, teenagers are shooting each other. Community vigils after a death are becoming too common. Elkhart has a violence problem, and someone needs to address it.

But it’s not just an Elkhart problem. No charges were filed, but four young men ages 17 to 19 were injured in a Goshen shooting in April.

This isn’t random violence. It’s people turning weapons on each other. And that’s bad for our community.

So how does this community address young people turning guns on each other? Who can step forward to lead a conversation on this?

3. Downtown Elkhart and Goshen need to continue their progression. The focus on downtowns by leaders and residents in the last several years has made this a better community in which to live. Elkhart and Goshen, as well as some of the smaller surrounding towns, have worked to fill storefronts and plan regular events. Those events require a lot of work and planning.

Downtown Goshen Inc. and Downtown Elkhart Inc. have done good work, but those agencies can’t do it alone.

The work isn’t done. And how to pay for people to do that work is becoming an issue, at least in Elkhart. But the focus on making downtowns hubs in our community will make it stronger.

4. Schools will need help finding more funding. Property tax caps have a cost, and the bill is coming due.

That’s affecting cities, towns and libraries too, but schools in particular are facing tough challenges.

As the Great Recession forced businesses to become more efficient, tax changes are making municipalities do so. County officials are working on a plan that could include implementing a new local option income tax of up to 1 percent. Goshen and county officials are talking about a food and beverage tax.

The new taxes aren’t automatically bad, but if one group pushes a local option income tax and another a referendum and another a food and beverage tax, it could be detrimental.

So who decides what’s important? All of us. Whether it’s as voters or at public meetings, people who would pay the tax will have a chance to raise their voices about what’s important and how it should be funded. And they should.

Four things we need in 2014. The list could be longer. But if we work at these in the coming year, we’ll have a better community.

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