Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Sam Speaks

Sam Talarico: the exit interview

Just like Talarico says, Fort Wayne city council may not be the only governmental body out of favor with its constituents, but it is facing a healthy share of public wrath. And as someone who has broken with his party several times and been a leading champion of the controversial Harrison Square project, Talarico has perhaps seen a little more of this wrath than most.
Talarico was part of the camp that suggested looking into moving the coliseum downtown. Some Republican party veterans at the county level insisted that the current facility should be renovated. Talarico got behind a new slate of Republican candidates for county council in 2002. “To take on fellow Republicans in a primary doesn’t make you the most popular person at the annual bean dinner,” he says. “But I felt so strongly about it, I was willing to get involved and recruit some good candidates.”

The candidates Talarico supported for county council were successful; the plan to relocate Memorial Coliseum downtown wasn’t. But Talarico believes that debate not only brought about a much-needed change in county council, but refocused attention on downtown and laid the groundwork for Harrison Square. “What we’re seeing today with Harrison Square is actually a continuation of what started back then,” he says. “A lot of the same business leaders have been motivated about this.”

Talarico’s support of Harrison Square is unqualified. He sees the project as a “once in a generation” opportunity that is essential for the future of the city. “We’ve had $2 million in private investment in downtown in the last 15 – 20 years. How can we turn our back on $65 – 70 million in private investment that’s going to result from this project?”

“As much as the polls consistently come in with numbers against (Harrison Square), I’m regularly confronted by people who are for it,” he adds. “I think it’s a generational thing. The younger generations tend to be for it, the older seem to be against it.”

That said, he thinks the administration has done a terrible job of getting the relevant facts out to the public in a clear form. This has put Harrison Square supporters in constant defensive mode, battling misinformation. Talarico says there are two major issues that critics don’t seem to understand about Harrison Square. “The first: people consistently do not believe there are no general property tax dollars being used. They must believe that we’re lying, or the administration is not being upfront with them.”

The second? Talarcio says he constantly hears people saying “this is a great project; let’s do it without the baseball stadium.” The fact is, Harrison Square just doesn’t happen without the baseball stadium. The owners of the baseball stadium brought the development to Fort Wayne. Without the baseball stadium, we don’t get the hotel and we don’t get the condos. “People consistently say ‘why don’t we have a water park?’” Talarico says. “Well, show me the water park developer that has come to us and said ‘hey, we’ll make it happen!’ It hasn’t happened. People feel like they can play Legos with it and say ‘we want this part and not this part,’ but it’s all one package, and it’s all resulting from Hardball capitol who owns our baseball stadium.”

Despite the controversy, Talarico believes Harrison Square will move forward no matter who becomes mayor. “(Republican mayoral candidate Matt Kelty) has tried to use this issue as a wedge issue,” Talarico says. “He’s basically an opportunist looking for whatever will make the voters angry, and this is the issue he picked. But if he gets in there, it would be a benefit for him to have it succeed.”


John B. Kalb said...

"Hardball Capital owns our baseball stadium" - where in the heck did that come from? Memorial Stadium is owned by Allen County and the one planned for downtown will be owned by the Fort Wayne Redevelopment Authority who will be leasing it to the Redevelopment Commission which has an operating agreement with Hardball Capital to run the place. Hardball Capital does own the Wizards baseball team.
Councilman Sam T., Jr.'s mantra about "no general property taxes being used for HS" is bunk - IT IS general property taxes being diverted to pay for a special project instead of being used for properly-levied taxing units! His statement is again "lawyer-talk" - an attempt to "cover-up" what's really happening. I look forward to his replacement on council! John B. Kalb

Anonymous said...

John Kalb, I know that you never mispeak. However, believe it or not, in the midst of this long interview, I mispoke a word. Yes, I noticed it when I first read the article. Yes, I said stadium instead of "team". so, go back and re-read with my correction in mind. As for your "bunk" comment, sometimes I think you may have the market on bunk Mr. Kalb. See you at the ballpark. I will let Mike Sylvester by your beer.

Good day.

Sam T.

John B. Kalb said...

Hey Sam - We are all human. But, that's what makes life interesting. I WILL BUY THE BEER ON OPENING DAY - See you there, if not sooner. John B. Kalb

Anonymous said...

Tax is tax. You can call it property tax, green tax, red tax, insect tax, or whatever but it still remains a tax. That means someone is paying for it out of their pocket. The pea and shell game does not work for me.

While I may disagree with Sam T. on some issues I have the upmost respect for him, with regards to his possible conflicts of interest regarding council and the law firm he works for. To that, I say thank you.

barranda said...

Thank you for your service Sam.

Scott Greider said...

Ditto, Barranda. Sam, though I hardly knew ye, thank you!