|Helmke Responds to Key Issues
The following are excerpts of Mayor Helmkes responses to questions from Senators, following his opening statement to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee March 17th.
Brownfields and Open Space
Helmke to Senator Chafee on how he would use any new money: In the City of Fort Wayne, wed probably use it first on brownfields redevelopment. Weve identified a number of sites. Theyre in areas that are close to where people live, close to where schools are, but theyve become in effect dead zones. And, weve already put together some coalitions with bankers, not-for-profits, with developers to do something with these sites - to try to get assessments made and make sure pollution is taken care of and to start building housing on these sites.
If we had flexible funds, I think wed use them first to acquire this land, make sure that the land is properly assessed and cleaned up and then get some productive use out of it. What weve found in our city, and cities around the country, is that there are so many tax dollars lost and so many jobs lost by the fact that we cant redevelop these brownfields sites.
What I think is exciting about the bond program ... is that it does give communities a lot of flexibility, which is the important thing. Whats going to work in Ft. Wayne might be different from whats needed in Providence, whats needed in other communities. Giving local communities the flexibility to design a program to their existing needs is the crucial one. If we can take care of brownfields, we can get more investment, we can get more jobs, we can get more tax revenues. But most important, we can have stronger neighborhoods and thats going to make a stronger city.
Helmke to Senator Chafee on how use of brownfields would prevent urban sprawl and preserve open fields: My theory is that if we find ways to help encourage investment in our cities, then they are less likely to automatically run to the cornfield or the soybean field. What happens in my community is that we have rich farmland around us, is that its cheaper and easier and quicker to buy that cornfield, buy that soybean field and put the new development, whether its commercial, industrial or residential in that cornfield.
Position on Brownfields Legislation