It was a snow day, very cold and
overcast. I began brooding over why can't we move forward in
Evansville and the problems the Republicans are having in
finding a mayoral candidate. Several glib phrases found
themselves on the page that we have all read a thousand
times before - lack of vision ... political bickering ...
crony deal- making contractors and architects ... personal
and professional conflicts of interest ... lackluster
No, no, no. We
have heard all of that before. We need a fresh perspective.
I called my friend - we will call
him "Gottlieb," a very successful local businessman with
whom I have had several similar conversation - for some
further advice on the matter.
To my initial inquiry he responds:
"Would you really want to run a city of this size with all
the headaches for less than $90,000 a year?"
He had a point but was just getting
warmed up. "We are so conservative, so provincial in our
thinking that proposing anything that would truly be in the
public's best collective interest - aside from a gambling
river boat or a huge new jail - is considered an enormous
waste of money." "We do very little to promote good health,
physical fitness or athletics in this community," hence, an
enormous number of people get their noses knocked out of
joint when the city and the county pass a public smoking
"Go out to a buffet restaurant
tonight and look around at the people eating there. They are
very happy with being 30 or 40 or 50 pounds overweight, and
fire and brimstone be rained down on anybody who would dare
challenge their way of life."
Couldn't argue with any of those
points, either. Go on old wise one.
"We are so inward-looking and
insular here that we have truly cut ourselves off from the
rest of the state and the rest of the world. This is not
only true of the average Joe on the street, but it applies
to the thinking of most of the corporate executives around
here, as well."
"Outside of city-county
unification, when was the last time that the mayor or other
civic leaders from here went to another community to really
learn about how they solve problems or what they are doing
to encourage economic development?
"We have a total lack of concern or
understanding of the needs or desires of young people;
hence, all they do is graduate from our local universities
"There are virtually no leaders of
either political party who inspire confidence, a positive
vision for improving this community and the overall quality
of life for its citizens. Were such an individual to emerge,
he would be viewed as a grave threat to the powers that be
around here and would have no chance to actually win an
"Oh, by the way, when a candidate
for re-election is more preoccupied with advancing his
political fortunes to a higher public office, you know the
interests of his current constituents will not be his
Ouch. I thought he might be getting
a bit personal on that note, but soon he was back on track:
"In large part, since we spend so
much time hiring out- of-town consultants, pointing fingers
at one another, playing the blame game and preoccupying
ourselves with little intramural issues of relative
insignificance, we have completely lost sight of what we
should be doing to move this community forward. "We talk
about building $90 million baseball stadiums Downtown
instead of spending similar sums of money addressing the
nuts and bolts things in the various neighborhoods - such as
new sewers on the Southeast Side or fixing neighborhood
I started thinking to myself that
much of this conversation with Gottlieb could be viewed as a
critique of the Weinzapfel administration, but then, upon
further reflection, I realized that the same could be said
for several mayors over the past 30 years. It was also a
fairly solid indictment of the corporate executives who
abide such mediocrity.
While much of what Gottlieb said
was uttered with his tongue firmly placed in cheek, I
couldn't for the life of me believe that, for at least part
of the time, he was dead serious.
David Coker is a free-lance
writer and community activist.