Community Comment:

Red Mosby spent his life

helping 'the least' among us

It was a hot, muggy day in June when they buried Norman "Red" Mosby.

There we were, hundreds of us, to pay our last respects to a humble man who will be fondly remembered. We first gathered on Franklin Street at Pierre Funeral Home, and proceeded to Saint Agnes Catholic Church, on Glendale Avenue in the middle of Howell.

Sadly, there is not much left of the old Howell that many of us knew when we were very young.

Most of the banks, gas stations, hardware stores, grocery stores, the branch library, the post office and the old fire station have long ago closed their doors.

"Front Street, " what used to be a bustling strip of hotels, restaurants and other places of business flanking the always busy L & N railroad yards, is largely vacant with a few surviving bars that struggle to survive.

After the now CSX rail yards declined in importance and payroll, and nearby Bucyrus Erie shut down laying off hundreds if not thousands of people, many of the little businesses that used to flank Broadway, Barker and Stinson Avenues and some of the other streets in what was once a beautiful working class neighborhood, sadly fell by the wayside.

Many of the residents died or moved away. While some of the streets of this quiet little enclave remain much as they have for the past seventy five years, other portions have declined to pockets of violence, crime and many of the other social afflictions of the working poor.

Upon telling State Representative Phil Hoy and his wife Sandy that my grandparents lived in Howell all their lives and that I spent a good deal of time there when I was very young, he responded "Evansville is in many ways a collection of little villages," an observation that only native residents familiar with the rich history of this city can truly understand.

To "Red" Mosby, this was a part of his village, nestled in Perry Township in the far West side of Evansville – a man synonymous with Democratic politics for over 35 years.

In his homily, Saint Agnes’ Father David Nunning reminded those gathered of the parable in Matthew 25 based upon the Last Judgement in which the Holy Father on his throne separated the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left. To those in the position of honor and approval who would "inherit the kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world," he explained the requirements to qualify for the inheritance: "for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me . . .Truly, I say to you, as you did it to the one of the least of my brethren, you did it to me.

The good Father explained that while "Red" was never one to wear his Christian faith around on his shirt sleeve, he suggested that people symbolically memorialize the last pew in the church on the left hand side as the "Red Mosby Memorial Pew" since this was where he faithfully sat when he was physically able to attend Mass in the later years of his life.

Amid the tears and forlorn faces that trod out the doors of the church to the ecumenical Christian hymn "How Great Thou Art," one could see a few familiar Republican faces in the enormous crowd. As they gathered just outside the church – relatives, friends, neighbors, political allies and former adversaries – the group for this one brief fleeting moment appeared as one enormous family; profoundly saddened by the loss of their fellow public servant, whose long life and dedication will remain the stuff of fond memories.

The funeral procession proceeded up the Tekoppel Avenue levee and past the Howell Wetlands. A lone Great Blue Herron stood as if a sentry in the shallow pool, unmoved by the endless line of vehicles led by several bright red fire service trucks immediately behind the hearse.

Through tear-filled eyes, among a mental kaleidoscope of memories came one of yet another Happy Warrior of the West Side – the sparkling grey hair, piercing eyes and never-ending smile of the beloved Mildred Morgan who lived nearby.

Approaching the grave site on a shallow new-mown hillside, members of the Perry Township Volunteer Fire Department and the Evansville Fire Department stood at attention and suspended an enormous American flag between two of their largest aerial platform trucks – simply oustanding!

While he never aspired for higher public office – although he certainly knew and influenced the thinking of numerous elected officials elsewhere in the county and the state – his accomplishments as the Perry Township Trustee working out of a small white building on the far West side of town were profound.

No more loyal, tenacious fund raiser has ever been known. If he told you something, you may not have agreed with it – but you could take it to the bank. He spent his life helping "the least" among our brethren, finding them jobs, helping financially, greasing the machinery of politics to the greater good for his fellow mankind. Who can argue with a life spent with such dedication?

Oh, how we will miss you Red! Your red suspenders, campaign buttons, fund raising tickets and all the yard signs you gave out to people!

Dear friend, we will have another election, come November – but it simply won’t be the same without you.

-30-

 
 
 
 
For the past several years, taxpayers in Evansville and Vanderburgh County have become outraged over a number of public works projects proposed by city and county officials. It is time for taxpayers to organize.

Some viewed talk of spending nearly $50 million for a new county jail proposed for property adjacent to Highway 41 North a bit over the top. Others questioned the millions being spent for a new headquarters for Central Library downtown across the street from the recently renovated $40 million Centre, another project for which there was no political constituency. They also well remember the nearly 8,500 signatures collected on a remonstrance petition in opposition to the proposed county-wide Victory theater bond issue -- a project which was later rammed through by then-Mayor Frank F. McDonald, II despite the intense public opposition expressed throughout this community.

But here in the new century, while some of the names and faces have changed, the behavior of the power establishment in this community remains very much the same.

Taxpayers are now being asked to approve a proposed $70 million bond referendum being proposed by the administration of the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation (EVSC) and are watching in amazement as the highly unpopular $24 million downtown baseball stadium is being rammed through by Mayor Russell Lloyd, Jr. and his cohorts.

A brief look at the aggregate spending figures for local city, county and school corporation operations over the past several years shows why local taxpayers are outraged and asking serious questions about what we can be done to stop the insanity downtown.

From city budget documents cordially unearthed by reference librarians at Central Library, several hours of study reveals that municipal spending in Evansville has risen from some $15.4 million in fiscal 1973 to over $142.6 million in 2001, roughly a 922 per cent increase in dollar terms over 28 years (note: all reported figures are not adjusted for inflation). Similar figures gleaned from numerous handbooks of School Statistical Reports from the Farm Bureau Local Affairs Committee in Indianapolis and the school corporation show a similar growth trend. EVSC spending from 1979 to 2001 rose from $40.5 million to over $133.9 million, representing a 320 per cent spending increase in 22 years. This means that with the additional $70 million in tax levy proposed in the School Corporation’s referendum, EVSC budget authority could easily exceed $200 million by fiscal 2010.

Finally, thanks to the good offices of Terry Lukeman, County Council Secretary, I was able to learn that county spending increases, while more modest than the city and the school corporation, also rose from some $15.2 million in 1972 to $75.6 million in fiscal 2002, a 490 per cent increase over the 30 year period.

It is hard to imagine any local corporation or business which has experienced anything like this enormous growth in their net profits after taxes.

It also demonstrates why Vanderburgh county has lost its competitive advantage to other counties with respect to ongoing economic development efforts.

If pressed, local decision-makers will probably attest that some of these increases were forced upon local units of government by unfunded federal mandates and that some of the spending represents state and federal money returned to local government in the form of grants.

Still, in all, the money was obtained from somewhere -- ultimately taxpayers.

What is perhaps even more important is the effective burden these enormous spending increases are placing upon a shrinking tax base.

With the help of employees of the Area Plan Commission, I was able to find city and county census data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Over the 30 year period from 1970 until 2000, the county increased in population from 168,772 to 171,922 representing an increase of some 3,150 residents. However, during the same period the population of the City of Evansville showed a dramatic decrease of from 138,764 to 121,582 -- a loss of 17,182 residents (this statistic was deleted from the original story).

From these data it is easy to understand why people like Pigeon Township Trustee Paul Hatfield are outraged over yet another Tax Increment Financing district in his township and taxpayers across the city screaming foul ball regarding the Mayor’s baseball stadium plan. Over time, a larger and larger tax burden is being carried by a dramatically shrinking city population.

With all of these facts plus the looming property tax reassessment in mind, a small group of concerned citizens are calling for the creation of a Vanderburgh County Taxpayer’s Association in an effort to require our local elected and appointed officials to halt this outrageous spending and make them more politically accountable. Our first meeting in this organizational effort will be Thursday March 6th at old McCutchanville School at 7:00 p.m.

All Vanderburgh County citizens who are either taxpayers or registered voters are urged to attend.

(David Coker is an Evansville free-lance writer. His email address is oldcars55@aol.com)