30 September 2008

The Decline and Fall - Part III...
In the first two parts of this "saga", we focused on the PEOPLE and the ENVIRONMENT respectively. Today, we'll add another player to the mix, and that is the CITY itself.
This city, or any city for that matter is a living breathing entity. Anyone that says otherwise doesn't fully comprehend the nuances and the everyday workings that go into making a city what it is supposed to be.
Some cities succeed in that mission; others fail.
And the ones that fail are those that have failed to acknowledge the fact that a city is only as good as it's worst resident...or worst area, to use a broader term. Fort Wayne is not exempt from that by any stretch of the imagination.
Fort Wayne is also a city within a city. Think of it as two concentric circles.
In the OUTER circle you have those that are basically carrying the city along with THEIR tax dollars, and that includes the newly annexed areas as well. It has to, because the INNER circle doesn't include enough taxable citizens to foot the bills needed to sustain that inner circle.
Now we could go into why this happened, but that is a few more posts for future days.
Instead we'll concentrate on the city departments and services.
Out of all the city departments I've had the pleasure to deal with, I would have to say that the Solid Waste Department rates at the top of my list (followed closely by the FIRE department).
The requirements of me BY the Solid Waste Department have been fair, not hard to follow, and provide a much needed service for the city, that being getting the trash away from where's it's NOT supposed to be to where it IS supposed to be (the local landfill). Both Dawn Ritchie and (now) Matt Gratz have been helpful in keeping neighborhoods free from clutter.
The biggest help was the trash bins, and although the cost is minimal, the net result is less trash strewn about, fewer carrion feeders tearing bags apart, and a lot less angst overall.
The Fire Department does a commendable job. They HAVE to in our area, as people are either overdosing on drugs, falling asleep while "cooking" in their houses, forgetting how to drive, or using the oven or a space heater as a furnace. In other words, they have to deal with a LOT of stupid-ass people down here, and that goes back to part one of this series (if you need a refresher course).
The Street Department hasn't done bad by us yet (that I can see), and expedites projects down here well. The same goes for Water & Sewer Department. Lord know they're busy with all the crap people toss down the culverts.
Neighborhood Code Enforcement is another department that until a few years ago was taking it on the chin with people calling them the "code nazis".
Apparently, some folks didn't want some city agency telling them to fix up their deteriorating hovel of a house. And certain landlords didn't like the idea of having to keep their rentals looking like something someone wanted to LIVE inside of.
When Greg Leatherman ran the show, I have to admit it was spotty to get them to do anything. But since Greg has "played" his way up the ladder to better things (development - Costaplenty Square), FWPD (then SGT) Tom Bandor took over when NCE came under the direct control of the FWPD, and I immediately saw an improvement with citations and having NCE officers in the area a lot more. After talking with (now) Captain Bandor, it became evident that he wanted to clean things up...literally. He told me that (a few years back when he first took over) the city had a backlog of about 400+ houses due to be razed (that number is most likely higher now), and that red tape was all over the place. He instituted the weed violation patrol, which helped to improve neighborhood appearances to no end. He was working on a revamp of the codes book as well as trying to get property owners to cut back alley foliage.
It all went for naught, as Captain Bandor was "mysteriously" transferred from that position elsewhere in the police department. NCE is no longer under FWPD control (again).
Which brings me to our illustrious police department.
When it comes to needed assistance with a potential burglary or assault, I can truthfully say that I find MYSELF to be my FIRST , BEST defense...followed then by the FWPD. I will act first, and then call the FWPD when warranted. That's not a slapdown to all the officers out there, it's just a reminder to the administration that their officers will never be able to be everywhere all the time, and that I'm competent enough to deal with a situation with finality. I come from a police family back in Philly, so I know the routine...at least I know how the routine is "supposed" to work.
The FWPD is purely a REACTIONARY force. They REACT when something goes down (after the crime's been committed)...that's all. Any officer will tell you that it's a "go from call to call" venue. Only special assignment officers do anything out of the mundane. But being able to react is not a bad thing.
The time sensitivity of damn near EVERY call demands nothing less that efficiency. What would seem to a civilian as "just another call" can turn real ugly real fast, and every officer knows this whenever they answer or assist on that call.
And yet, with the number of "boots on the ground", and all the technology at their disposal, you'd think the department would be getting a better handle on things like gang activity, or drug-related crime, or some other violent crimes.
Got news for you...they're not.
For every major drug bust made, there are several hundred drug deals on our streets ALSO being made week after week. For every gang leader busted, there are several more gang members ready to step up and take over either from this city, or from outside.
I see little if any PROACTIVITY within the department, and with good reason...it's not good for certain minorities. If the department cracks down on drug use on the south side, someone is there from the NAACP and/or the ACLU crying "rights". Well, you can't have it BOTH ways, people. Either you get the drugs (and other crime) OUT of the area, or you let it continue, along with the shootings, robberies, and deaths in the hope they will kill one another off soon enough and people will shut the hell up.
Make up your damn minds. You can't still have your drugs and not have the violence that often accompanies it, can you?
The same goes for all the other "broken windows" this city has ignored over the years.
The basic theory states that when you crack down on the small $hit, the BIG $hit doesn't get a chance to happen.
Sorry, that doesn't float in this city.
The police department doesn't seem all that concerned with a lot of the small $hit. I know because I can provide a list of vehicles with very offensive and loud stereos...and after a year, the car is STILL on the street, thumping away. Nothing is done about dark window tint (a danger to any officer as well as people at night), or the excessively large rims on cars (that make the vehicle prone to roll over or suspension collapse), and certainly not much is being done to get illegal guns out of the hands of those that shouldn't have them. I suppose those 113 guns that WERE taken from the streets the other year were NOT any that belonged to those living near us.
Still, the police department has a unique duplicity about it. While the department encourages citizen assistance in reporting crime, it will turn on you like a rabid dog, and blow you off should you want to provide them with information about some drug dealers on your street. And I don't recall ANY "investigation" that take YEARS to conduct (unless it's a mafia-related op).
Do I think there is collusion in the department? Well, let's say I have my suspicions, and NO illegal activity in ANY part of the city would be allowed to continue year after year UNLESS there was someone looking the other way, or at least getting their palm "greased" (that happened to be on the city payroll).
Is there a problem with the rank & file cops?
I don't think so.
You might have a very few that are less than honorable, and get dismissed for such reasons, but for the most part, I think they do OK.
As for the administration, well that's another matter.
I don't believe it's corruption as much as incompetence. I think we've got a situation where a smaller city police department is faced with big city criminal problems, and is having trouble dealing with it on several levels.
Lastly, when it comes to politics, Fort Wayne has few equals to petty partisanship and incompetence.
When you email a city councilman for help with your neighborhood and he BLOCKS your email address, that says a LOT (doesn't it , Mr. Pape?) about the good old boys club downtown. And going to Glynn Hines would be a study in black supremacy (what I call black for black sake), so being someone OTHER than black would net me ZERO in neighborhood improvements.
Former Mayor Richards BS'ed me into thinking HE gave a damn...and I admit I fell for his rhetoric...at first. "One of the most compelling letters" he received ( I still have the emails - gotta love technology). He spoke about getting city leaders together to do a "walk-through" of problem areas...yeah, right. Never saw that happen in EIGHT years, did I?
And mayor Henry doesn't look all that much more enthralled, should I choose to contact him.
So what we wind up with is a city of "leaders" that don't give that much of a damn about OUR part of town, save for a new Wal-mart and Menards. Big friggin whoop. What we DO have is a plethora of liquor stores, convenience stores, because we have to keep these aboriginal yokels down here filled up with booze and snacks when that "pot-hunger" strikes, or they need some liquid courage to rob another store, or accost a citizen, or invade a home.
The city simply cannot solve the problems it needs to, but it sure can perpetuate them.
Ask anyone down here that still gives a damn.


Phil Marx said...

I agree with you that the Solid Waste Department is at the top. I also agree that the trash cans were an excellent idea, although I did not think so at the time they were introduced.

I'm a little mixed on my judgement of FWFD. There was one incident here several years ago that made tem look very unprofessional. On the other hand, they handled the fire at my house in the best way possible.

I assume it was the Water & Sewer Department who cleans the storm water drains. I called one day because I was concerned about the massive amounts of trash being stuffed in there by the drug dealers in front of my house. They sent a truck out the next day and did an excellent job of cleaning things up.

Now, as far as FWPD, I would say that I largely agree with your basic analysis. As for the average partrol officer, I find more good than bad. But there is an extreme lack of leadership from those at the top. I also think that the problems are mostly due to incompetence, but do not rule out corruption as a contributing factor.

Bobby G. said...

I don't know much about former FWPD chiefs, but I'd love to see crime stats under THEIR watch.

Also, when crack first hit these streets back in the early 1990s, why didn't the mayor (Helmke) do more to halt it's progress into our neighborhoods by taking some action THEN?

Now I didn't live here back in those days, so I can only relate what has been told to me by those that HAVE lived here.

My neighborhood has been in a slow decline for DECADES, but it's only recently that problems are accelerating (and looking at the current homicide rates and drug/gang activity, I'd say it's infesting itself into a LOT more neighborhoods that a mere ten years ago.

Time and again, you hear people in neighborhoods where some crime took place say:

Now I can take that TWO ways:

1) - these people really DID have a nice area before crime got it's foot in their door (due to the city's uninvolvement), or

2) - These people have been in denial for a HELLUVA long time.

I'd like to believe it's the former because that would chronicle what MY neighborhood has gone through over 10 years.

There's a lot more here than meets the eye, that's for sure.

Stay safe out there.


Phil Marx said...

I believe it was in the summer of 1996 when I attended a political rally at a local church. The people there were complaining about what they felt were heavy-handed tactics practiced by then FWPD Chief Neil Moore. Many people were calling for Moore to resign or be fired.

Chief Moore did not attend that day, but Mayor Helmke did. What was odd is that he did not really seem to defend or attack Moore. He simply stated that the Mayor does not have the legal authority to remove the Chief of Police.

That's pretty disingenuous. The Mayor can't actually fire the police chief, but he can bump him back down to the ranks and replace him with someone else. And even if he couldn't do this, I really doubt that any Chief would want to stay if his Mayor was publicly calling for him to resign.

My point in telling this is not to address whether or not Chief Moore's practices were correct. It is simply to point out how Mayor Helmke responded with a total B.S. answer when confronted by what many people felt was a very serious issue. Regarding issues such as this, I feel that Mayors Richard and Henry are not much different.

Whether it is a people (such as you and I) telling them the police are not active enough, or people (such as those described above) telling them the police are too active, the response will be the same - pure B.S. They are not willing to seriously engage anybody on a complex issue such as this because they just don't give a damn!

Bobby G. said...

Funny that Helmke said that he COULD NOT REMOVE the police chief...I thought the chief was APPOINTED BY THE MAYOR.
(or at least City Council)

If so, then HE could in fact "remove" him.
(or they could)

Again, as you've stated...more BS (as usual).

I would bet that much of "our" problems extend back even further...into the realm of Win Moses (and his escapades in office).

It would be nice to have a crew that we could send into the ACPL to archive the last 2-3 decades of "activities" down here.

You know...the type of stuff that chased away most all the good folks, closed a damn fine MALL, and basically has been turning the SE part of this city into another "Little Detroit".

Be really nice.

Stay tuned for the final 3 parts of my "epic"...