Muncie Action Plan

Blight in Delaware County

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blighted house copyWednesday night I had the opportunity to attend a public forum addressing blight in Indiana communities.  Muncie was the third such forum held.    Graciously hosted by Mayor Dennis Tyler at City Hall, the event saw a large and diverse group of citizens.

Indiana’s Abandoned Home program was presented by Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority overseen by Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellspermann, and spearheaded by Senator Jim Merritt in conjunction with State Representatives Lutz and Errington, and State Senators Lanane and Eckerty.

I’ll admit not familiar with the legal complexity of blighted properties,  still one doesn’t have to look far to see examples of houses and how it affects the surrounding neighborhoods.  Blighted properties are a magnet for crime, vandalism, squatters, arson and a variety of other undesirable elements.  It’s not just an urban problem, it extends to the rural area, too.

In Muncie, circa 2010, blighted properties were highlighted weekly in the newspaper drawing the public’s eye to the problems and solutions.  Often a property would be targeted, and the end result saw it either rehabilitated or removed.  We had a deconstruction program praised by Joe Hogsett, Indiana U.S. Attorney, which utilized  prison re-entry program as the source of labor.

We had some fantastic successes in rehabbing apartments and homes, but sadly, not every property is worth saving or fiscally feasible to rehab.

Somewhere along the line, the zeal for targeting blight has diminished,  The weekly articles ceased, information and progress on the properties became a guest column now and then with ideas but no real progress has been made.  Oh, we have had successes and hope of future successes to come, yet blight is still here for now.  And it’s very real.

With funding and legislation expected, how can those monies be evenly dispersed among 92 counties?  The State of Indiana has designated “Divisions” which groups together counties based on population.  Delaware County is Division Three and includes Clark, Elkhart, Hendricks, Johnson, LaPorte, Madison, Monroe, Porter, Tippecanoe, Vanderburgh and Vigo Counties.  Estimated amount of funds $19 million dollars.  As presented, this will be a very competitive program.  Municipalities will submit their properties and future reuse of properties.  The criteria used for submission is point based and links to further information is listed at the end of this blog.

The program, is quite detailed and subject to change before it becomes finalized, just consider this as a heads up and something to watch.

I’m still trying to digest all the information, and certainly don’t consider this anything more than a basic source of information.  Just keep your eyes out for further developments.

Economic Digest – Gary, Indiana

Indiana Association for Community Economic Development

Media Release – Muncie, Indiana

Funding Divisions and more info

Muncie competing for state’s demolition dollars (Star Press article available for 7 days)

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Seeking full-time Donkey Whisperers in Delaware County. Steady employment.

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In the opinion sections of newspapers, Lee Hamilton, former U.S. House Representative,  wrote Some suggestions for improving Congress For the most part it’s interesting.  Love him or hate him,  depends on his topic.   For example,  Hamilton spoke at Minnetrista Center May 2011, the topic?   Civility in Civics. Sadly,  many of our elected officials didn’t show to hear his presentation

Perhaps if the Democrats had gone to hear Mr. Hamilton speak, they may have refrained from acting the fools on election night. I am pretty sure nobody sang  “Ding dong, Donati’s gone. Donati’s gone, Donati’s gone. Ding dong, Donati’s gone  when he lost his commissioner’s seat last November, and he is a red-blooded, toe-the-line party Democrat foot soldier.

Yet, election night 2011, Democrats  party loyalists sang with gusto “ding dong the witch is dead” they left messages on answering machines, they flocked like crazed maniacs to the public forums and posted over 200 comments in just a few hours.

Their candidate wins and this is how they celebrate?  This topic is better left for another day, another time.

If you are interested more of Hamilton’s writings visit Center on Congress.

Did you know every two years we vote for one person to represent us in Congress? Uh huh.    But, I’m not here to talk about Congress…  I’m here to talk about irony, double standards, and just plain donkey dung. Read the rest of this entry »

An evening with the “Commish” candidates-poverty, crime and politics

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A few weeks ago, penning the lighter side of politics in an entry titled “Dis-FUNctional – Are we having fun in Delaware County or what!” outlined some of the fun things involved in a dis-FUNctional government.  Thursday evening, I had the opportunity, like 79 other residents, to listen to candidates who want to be the next commissioners.

Most of the evening was centered around poverty and what could be done in Delaware County to combat the growing problem.  Sherry Riggin, I believe best addressed the issue and was more  familiar  with Team Work for Quality Living.  So, I learned something new about Sherry Riggin.  James King grew up in poverty and at the age of 24 made a decision to break the cycle.  Steve Fields, current Yorktown Council, and Mt. Pleasant Trustee for eight years, spoke on the  increasing needs presented to him as the trustee.    Todd Donati said he believed education was the key factor and cited Vision 2016 and Early Child Development (a key component in Muncie Action Plan). Read the rest of this entry »

Muncie Action Plan – Good for our city

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Muncie Action Plan

On December 7th, Muncie Action Plan (MAP) will be hosting their bi-annual community meeting.  For those of you not familiar with MAP here is a brief summary of how it began and where it is today.

Muncie Action Plan could best be defined as “Creating the first city-wide Action Plan”.  beginning in the summer of 2009 with funding from various sources and presentations from three different companies, ACP Visioning+Planning,  Columbus, Ohio  was awarded the contract.  

The next year would be a whirlwind of public meetings, presentations, and ideas presented until the final  plan was completed and presented to the public.     There was some negativity in the public forums of the local newspaper, but it didn’t seem to deter the plan from moving forward.  Our local newspaper did a fine job of reporting the progress and updating the public.

Some would say this was a waste of money, time and effort.  Other plans had failed and this one would also.  I disagreed as Muncie isn’t just a place with buildings and infrastructure, but a living, breathing organism.  The residents are the heartbeat of the city, we make the city what it is.  I had the good fortune to be completely ignorant of any previous  plans the city may have tried.  To me, this was an excellent idea, and so I supported  it from the start.

The Muncie Action Plan has five initiatives, and within the five initiatives are 47 actions. 

  1. Linking Learning, Health, and Prosperity
  2. Fostering Collaborations
  3. Strengthening Pride and Image
  4. Creating Attractive and Desirable Places
  5. Managing Community Resources

Nestled within the five initiatives, you will find  diverse and well-rounded “actions” to include. not limited to: 

  • Developing a Uniform Code of Ethics 
  • Developing the Downtown
  •  Blight removal
  •  Renovating Tuhey Pool
  • Implementing the Prairie Creek Master Plan
  • Early Childhood Development

The downtown has grown into a warm and inviting place (a far cry from the dull, dirty and dingy place it was 20 years ago) and a master plan is in the works.  If it is as successful and fast paced as MAP, Muncie’s downtown will become more vibrant, more inviting, more events, more shops!

We have seen more blighted properties removed, and creative ways to salvage and recycle the materials.  This has been a defining moment for the “war on blight”.

Within two years Muncie has begun to see the fruit of MAP’s’ labor.  Just this summer we saw the reopening of Tuhey Pool.  If you were unable to be at the grand opening day, it was a wonderful sight.  The pool is beautiful and is an asset to our community.

Prairie Creek Reservoir has just received a $150,000.00 grant to expand the Cardinal Greenway.  All part of the Master Plan.

Early Childhood Development, which is a long-term “action” has been extremely active.  Delaware County’s Vision 2016 Economic Plan, which includes early childhood development will partner with Muncie Action Plan.   The following are excerpts from the Muncie Star Press (5-21-11) on Vision 2016 and the importance of early education for our children.

“You have to start somewhere,” Mayor Sharon McShurley told The Star Press. “U.S. high school students rank 24th out of 30 developed countries in math and science.”  McShurley cited a U.S. Chamber of Commerce study that maintained, for every dollar invested in early childhood education for children birth through age 5, “savings range from $2.50 to as much as $17 in the years ahead.”

 Economist Michael Hicks, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research, gave the Muncie-Delaware County Chamber of Commerce high marks for including early childhood education.

“Researchers have known for a long time that this was important,” Hicks said. “Few small or mid-sized communities (like ours) have yet to incorporate it into their planning, so in that respect they are progressive.”

Ray Montagno, a professor of marketing at Ball State who led the Vision 2016 sessions, said early childhood education was added to the plan because “it sends a message we take this seriously and it adds long-term value to the community.”

Cincinnati, OH began a similar program “Success by 6” over 10 years ago, and MAP was privileged to attend a presentation in October.  From what I gleaned, it was very exciting and everyone came back full of enthusiasm at  Cincinnati’s progress and success.

I hope you will agree, Muncie Action Plan has been good for our city.  If we have seen this much Action within two years, imagine what else can be obtained.

From a citizen’s view of Muncie Action Plan.

Please plan to attend.

Date: December 7th, 2011
Time: 5:30 PM
Place: Minnetrista
1200 N. Minnetrisa Parkway ~ Muncie

Click on map for direction.

Muncie Action Plan Website

Muncie Action Plan Looking for Volunteers!

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Looking for a place to invest your time in a worthwhile cause?  Muncie  Action Plan is looking for volunteers to help facilitate the MAP initiative:

 Council of Neighborhoods. 

If you have the desire to make our community better, this is your opportunity.

For more information, please see the article in today’s Muncie Star Press.

Let’s Go Muncie!

Muncie Action Plan on the Move! Let’s Go Muncie!

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Muncie Action Plan Steering Committee announces the hiring of the Volunteer Coordinator.  MAP is moving along nicely.

Mr. Larry Strange, a professional planner has been selected as the MAP Volunteer Coordinator.  Mr. Strange comes to the table with an impressive CV.  He started his own company MP2 Planning and is certifed by the American Institute of Certified Planners and nearly 30 years of experience.

Larry Strange’s salary will be provided through Ball Brothers Foundation and the Community Foundation of Muncie and Delaware County.

Strange will help volunteers implement the plan, for which the first five priorities are:

1. Creating an awareness-building coalition to promote the importance of early-childhood education, especially the importance of Muncie students being able to read well by the end of third grade.

2. Developing a Council of Neighborhoods to represent Muncie neighborhoods.

3. Making Muncie a bike-friendly community.

4. Continuing to pursue a cultural district designation from the Indiana Arts Commission and a cultural trail. The cultural trail would link Minnetrista, Ball State and Heekin Park.

5. Developing a city brand identity and marketing campaign.

Star Press 2-10-11

 Let’s welcome the newest edition to Muncie Action Plan, Mr. Larry Strange!  Welcome, Larry!

 MAP will begin to address Priority #2 which is developing the Council of Neighborhoods.

The Council of Neighborhoods will embrace all the neighborhoods in Muncie, Indiana.  Greg Maynard, the coordinator of Muncie Weed & Seed program had this to say about the Council of Neighborhoods initiative:

Essentially, this council is the heart of the Weed and Seed effort, but it’s also the heart of the (entire) city, as neighborhood people band together to take ownership of the city, … and do all those things we talk about to make Muncie a better place,” said Greg Maynard, coordinator of Weed and Seed. Star Press 2-10-11

To better facilitate the Council of Neighborhoods inititive, MAP had divided the 40 neighborhoods into eight zones.  The Star Press reported of the eight zones, four have facilitators in place.  At the date of this writing (2-12-11) the following neighborhoods are still in need.  They include the far southeast side; the near southeast side; the downtown, Old West End and East Central neighborhoods; and the north side.

Jim Wingate is volunteering his time and if you would like to be a neighborhood organizer or block captain, see below for contact information:

Muncie Action Plan website.
Or by contacting Jim Wingate at 287-3123

Meeting information for the Council of Neighborhoods

Date: Tuesday February 15th, 2011

Time: 6:30 PM

Where: Muncie Boys & Girls Club, 1710 S. Madison St-Muncie, IN

Ball State University criminal justice faculty and students will present the results of a survey of more than 600 residents on topics including graffiti, vandalism, safety, noise, crime, drug use and their opinions of the police department.

What’s happening with Concerned Citizens of Delaware County for Property Tax Repeal? Lots!

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Greetings fellow citizens of Delaware County!!!

There is so much going on with our Organization, Delaware County and Muncie (especially with the imminent Municipal Elections) that we felt obligated to send out an alert and give you a quick summary of the most recent happenings…..

Our organization of the past 3 and a half years, The Citizens of Delaware County for Property Tax Repeal, Inc. has recently undergone a legal identity and name change. Effective January 1, 2011, the legal identity of the organization has been amended to:

The Citizens of Delaware County for Good Government, Inc.

And we are very excited about 2011!! Thanks to you, the property tax caps are permanently in place. Our organization has now made a decision to tweak our identity with a name change. From this point forward, we will be legally registered and recognized as “The Citizens of Delaware County for Good Government Inc”. The alteration to the name represents a more encompassing identity of what out recent focus has been. We believe this change will make us even more effective and allow us to partner with other groups both locally and statewide. As, has always been the case in the past, we will continue to zero in on local and statewide issues that expose waste, fraud and abuse and general bad governing as well as those that result in favorable outcomes for the citizens.

Also, please be reminded that we are currently in our annual Voting Membership Dues and general donations drive period. The recipients of this alert are encouraged to consider their ongoing support of our efforts. This all important annual consideration for membership or donations is the primary funding resource for all our efforts throughout the year. We truly believe there is no greater bang for your buck than the positive changes that we have made together in Delaware County or the State of Indiana for that matter. Just as a reminder, a few of the primary efforts that we’re constantly involved with are:

Annual website fees and costs as well as its daily operations

Newsletters

Miscellaneous mailings and email alerts

Annual 4-Corners Community Updates

Election year Candidate Forums

Discussion Panels

City-County Reorganization

County-Township Reorganization

Assessor consolidations

Video documenting and webcasting of government meetings

Statehouse lobbying efforts

Annual Property Tax Appeal HELP DAYS!

Participation and assistance to various committees and public efforts associated with setting local construction wage packages, sustaining the Public Access Channel 60, the Muncie Action Plan (MAP) as well as County and City Redevelopment issues and efforts.

…..including all the rental, insurances, advertisement and other miscellaneous expenses associated with the previously mentioned efforts.

It’s important mention to that all of our active members and volunteers deliver nearly 100 manhours per week of personal time for the pure love and caring of our County and its communities, nothing more. They all work very hard for free. We have been very blessed to have such a group of forward thinking and hard working individuals and embrace and encourage others to get involved as well.

It’s extremely important for the future operations of this organization to consider your economic support. If you are a property owner/taxpayer, we would urge you to take a look at your 2007 property tax expenditures versus your 2010 property tax expenditures. All of us have enjoyed some savings at least due in part by the efforts of this organization and the citizens of Delaware County.

For the record, our annual budget has ranged between $6,000.00 to $10,000.00 per year with the election years seeing more expenditures. 2011 is an election year. The Mayor’s office and some extremely important Muncie City Council seats are on the line. Please bear that in mind regarding any consideration you’re giving towards your continued support of the CDCGG. Our Core, Voting Members, pay a $200.00 annual dues. This is the threshold established in our bylaws to allow one to cast a vote concerning the annual election of our organization’s Officer and Board members as well on various other important issues throughout the year. It also will afford those Voting Members a weekly emailing of our Meeting Agendas and Minutes. We are amending our By-laws to accomodate a business membership, so if their is an interest to support out efforts through an entity other than individually, please contact an Officer or Board Member or the Citizens of Delaware County for Good Government.

We hope that our efforts, supported by YOU, to confront the many issues that face us here in Muncie and Delaware County can continue. We ask that you please continue to support us in 2011. ANY denominations would be accepted and greatly appreciated! If you have already made a donation to us this year, know that your investment will be held in the highest regard relative to the return on your hard-earned money.

On to other things!…..

As everyone is well aware of this is an election year for the municipalities. We’ve finally are coming to the threshold of being able to make some well deserved and long awaited changes. We’d like to think that our efforts over the past 3+ years have brought to light the very serious deficiencies that we suffer relative to having the elected officials capable of individual and creative thinking and the tough decisions that come with newly restricted revenues in the face of a recession and tax caps. Over the course of time (decades?) we’ve suffered through generations of the elite, hand-selected governing officials often synonymous with the ruling hierarchies of La Costa Nostra and the focus of local governing way too often being driven by sustaining familiar feifdoms.

This year, we are growing very optimistic with the propect of having several new faces step up and join in the effort to run for an elected office and serve their community.

Many carry some very impressive resumes. We are still very early in the candidate enrollment window (January 19 – February 18 (noon)) and we sincerely hope to see several other good citizens decide it’s time to make a difference and jump into the fray. If you rub shoulders with an individual who would make a good public steward, we would implore you to let them know and nurture their consideration, if any, to get involved!! The most current lineup of Primary Candidates can be found at:

http://www.forgoodgovernment.com/politics.html

Last week we had Mayoral candidate, Ralph Smith, come and visit us at our Executive meeting to introduce himself and answer some questions. This week it will be Ty Morton, City Council At Large candidate, the following week, Harold Mason, City Council Distric 6 candidate and the list grows as we see additional candidate filings and the approach of the Primary Elections. We’ve allotted the beginning of each meeting for guests and we hope that the candidates of all political persuasions will take advantage of the opportunity to attend. We realize that there are those in some of the political circles that don’t really embrace our efforts and will not voluntarily engage us, and that’s fine, we’ll just go out and engage them and report back.

Most recently we stumbled upon the total bungling of the Delaware Machine delinquent personal property taxes that saw $845,000.00 of taxes being discharged in the Delaware Machine sale without being escalated to a priority/judgement status in accordance with IC 6-1.1-23-9. As if that wasn’t enough, and to add insult to injury, the Delaware County Commissioner’s legal counsel, Mike Quirk, in collaboration from the Delaware County Commissioner’s President, Todd Donati, appeared to have overstepped their authority in manipulating the Treasurer and his duly contracted collections attorney into abandoning their pursuit of the collections of these taxes in favor of Mike Quirk and his partner attorney, Joe Hunter, assuming the collections and, of course, miserably failing to salvage a nickle’s worth….AND….in the process costing the taxpayers another $10,000.00 in their legal fees to boot. Great job, guys….we’re so glad you got to make a little “pocket change” off of us. If not malfeasance, certainly misfeasance.

Speaking of the Treasurer, it has been rumored that the County and City will be out another combined $4 million next year due to declining property values and delinquent taxes. Most recently we saw the publishing of 1145 properties in the tax sale of March this year. Actually, it is our belief that that the majority of these properties constitute those that weren’t sold in the nearly 3,000 property tax sale of last year. We would imagine that there might be another tax sale in the Fall to pickup those properties that have hence since fallen delinquent as well. Who would like to wager that in all the budget-making processes each year, not one consideration is ever given towards delinquent taxes?…and we wonder why these taxing units are always falling short?

And since we brought the Commissioners into the conversation, let’s share with you their most recent annual reorganization where they move on making their appointments to various boards and commissions, generally done at the first meeting of each year. Well, it appears that Commissioner Donati, et al. had spent his Christmas Holidays attending to his quid pro quo agenda and putting together his wish list of appointments for the coming year. Unfortunately, shortly into his appointing process at the first meeting of the year, we interjected that he was in violation of a County ordinance requiring him to announce said board and commission vacancies in an open meeting affording all those interested an opportunity to apply for the appointment or position…..

Ooops. We thought we heard him mumble something to the effect of amending that ordinance. At the following meeting, when the Commissioners picked up where they had left off and came to the reappointing of the Delaware County Fair Board, they reappointed the majority of the sitting Board until we once again informed the Commissioners that, by their own hands, they had passed an Ordinance last year dictating a simple majority on the very Board where they were busy appointing 13 Democrats, 6 Republicans and 2 Independents….Ooops, again. This time, a very frustrated Commissioner Donati outright stated that he was going to instruct the Commissioners attorney, Mike Quirk, to draw up an amendment to the “conflicting ordinance”…..How convenient….Don’t like the rules dictating transparency and fairness…we’ll just change them.

The Delaware County Redevelopment Commission has been very busy over the past couple years. The $8 million reserve in the Morrison TIF has literally been exhausted, even to the point that we question whether in the current economic environment, the Morrison TIF will be able to meet its own debt service….of course that’s a debt that could have easily been retired saving the taxpayers millions and freeing up tax revenues for the taxing units that serve the area, but that would have meant that either the TIF be abolished or new debt for improvements in the TIF be authorized and this would have required the blessing of the City of Muncie that now holds over half of the TIF’s assets.

So long as the Redevelopment Commission holds the retirement of the existing debt at bay, they can effectively manipulate a huge amount of captured City taxes without the City of Muncie’s input or control whatsoever. What we were able to accomplish was the release of nearly $400,000.00 of captured residential taxes in the area, much of which went back to the local schools serving the area. Watch for further manipulation of the Morrison TIF which is a cash cow for the County…at the City’s expense. Another “bone” that we picked with the Delaware County Redevelopment Commission was the issue of their legal expenses associated with their closely held “yes man”, Tom Pitman of Barnes and Thornburg out of Indianapolis. At $465.00 per hour, Mr. Pitman has spent the lions share of his time finding loop-holes in the existing TIF laws by which the DCRC has used to move the majority of reserves out to the Park One TIF and to build a roundabout at Morrison and Jackson outside the TIF area proper.

 With routine billings to the Redevelopment Commission approaching 6 figures, we protested that this service could be accomodated for far less. Commissioner Donati (the “mover-shaker” who claims to have no control over the business of the DCRC) interjected that if we could bring someone willing to to the job for free, he would be willing to entertain a change in legal counsel. Why we obviously couldn’t locate legal counsel to provide pro-bono services, we did indicate that there was several local legal entities (DeFur Voran and Beasley & Gilkison) perfectly qualified and capable of providing the service at a fraction of the cost. Ahh…but alas…unless we could bring forth a pro-bono consideration, Donati et al. weren’t interested in a change……Huh? Just gotta love the rationalization of those spending other’s money as opposed to their own. So the exploitation of our TIFs and tax dollars continues.

The 911 controversy carries on, and after discovering the complaint and all the agreements associated with said services, it appears that the City has been both overcharged and unfortunately overpaying nearly $500,000.00 per year. The fourth and last amendment to the agreement, Resolution 18-87, stipulates that the City pay between $225,000.00 and $300,000.00 per year. This Resolution can be found in the 911 complaint filings on our website: http://www.forgoodgovernment.com/Misc%20Info/911%20Complaint%20and%20agreements.pdf

Little wonder why the City sued the County for $10 million.

Okay…let’s end this alert on a positive note!….Brevini is gearing up for production and has been hiring (while painfully slow), and while we have expressed concern to the local Redevelopment officials that there is a Madison County staffing operation (Continental) involved that might not be working in our local interests, there is some hiring being done through the local Workforce Development Office. Twoson Tool, while we vehemently objected to the use of $3.5 million of the Morrison TIF reserves to move them out of the Morrison TIF and the City of Muncie, appears to be increasing their numbers as well. Then there’s the huge announcment of Progress Rail moving into the old ABB facility. 650 jobs!! All said and done it looks like over the next year, we could see an influx of about 1,100 new jobs to the area and that is very good news. Let’s keep the ball rolling and do our due diligence in moving our local governing bodies towards improved, responsible and responsive representation.

That’s all for now (although there’s a whole lot more). Have a great week.

Please share this email alert with others!!

The Citizens of Delaware County for Good Government