IS IT TRUE: November 23, 2010 (Barnett’s TIF Approved)

Tom Barnett

IS IT TRUE: November 23, 2010

IS IT TRUE that Tom Barnett, Director of the Evansville Department of Metropolitan Development gave a very clear, truthful, and aware assessment of the housing stock of the City of Evansville before the Evansville City Council last night?….that Mr. Barnett stated that at least 20% of the housing stock in the City of Evansville is in such dilapidated condition that these houses need in excess of $100,000 of repairs and maintenance each?…that he stated that there are at least 8,400 such structures in Evansville?…that he also stated that it could cost over $1 Billion (yes that is with a B) to bring the housing stock of the City of Evansville up to snuff?

IS IT TRUE that Mr. Barnett backed up his numbers with picture after picture of ramshackle homes and shuttered businesses?…..that some City Council members seemed to be shocked at the magnitude of the problem?….that Barnett’s presentation was done to seek approval for an Art’s District TIF in a 50 block area of South Evansville that includes the historic district, Haynies Corner, and Goosetown?….that Councilmen Watts and Walker pointed out that vast areas of the Jacobsville neighborhood and the west side suffer from similar dilapidation issues?…..that Mr. Barnett told the City Council that the City of Evansville gets only $4M per year from the federal government with which to address this Billion Dollar Problem?….that Barnett also stated that there is NOT and there NEVER will be a MAGIC BULLET FROM THE GOVERNMENT to fix this dilapidation problem?…..that Tom Barnett admitted that PRIVATE INVESTMENT is the only real solution but also expressed the fact that the only businesses that are currently doing well in South Evansville are SLUMLORDS? ….that truth be told, even the SLUMLORDS are not prospering as is evidenced by the large number of homes that are shuttered and available at tax sales and sheriff’s auctions? ….that the term “Detroit Style Meltdown” was uttered as a possibility by at least one member of the Evansville City Council?

IS IT TRUE that awareness and realization of a problem is the first step to recovery?… that Tom Barnett showed much awareness and courage to stand before the City Council and call the City of Evansville out for having a BILLION DOLLAR problem with dilapidated housing stock?….that the same area of town disproportionally suffers from crime, drug trafficking, prostitution, and COMBINED SEWER OVERFLOWS? …..that the CSO problem has been estimated to cost over a HALF BILLION DOLLARS and has brought the wrath of EPA lawsuits and fines onto the City of Evansville?

IS IT TRUE that Mr. Barnett was questioned by City Councilman Dan McGinn, Cheryl Musgrave, and others about the need to declare some well developed properties in the Historic District to be in need of redevelopment?….that Barnett’s response was that those beautifully restored homes suffered depressed values because of their proximity to dilapidated neighborhoods and criminal activity?….that Barnett’s assessment that a $1 Million home may actually be a $3 Million home if the ghetto next door is rejuvenated as well?….that the BILLION DOLLAR dilapidation problem is costing the City of Evansville more than a BILLION DOLLARS in assessed tax base?….that Councilman Adams asked the question “if I have a wonderfully restored Victorian home that is a block from a crack house do I lose”?….that Tom Barnett simply answered that question with a YES?…that Tom Loesch the chairman of the Blackford Grove Neighborhood Association, used his own home as an example of a terrible investment?…that Mr. Loesch bought his home for about $53,000 and spent about $250,000 making improvements to it? …that his recent assessment of the house for tax purposes, the value came back at about $51,000? ….that as long as $50,000 houses are costing $300,000 that no investor based private money will even consider Evansville’s dilapidated South Side as a viable place to invest?

IS IT TRUE that the Evansville City Council approved the Art’s District TIF as Tom Barnett requested?…that as aware and courageous as Mr. Barnett’s presentation was that it was quite lacking in details of what would actually be happening to fix this BILLION DOLLAR problem?….that much more planning will need to be done before realization of any sustainable progress will be able to happen?….that the resources of the City of Evansville as severely limited when it comes to fixing a BILLION DOLLAR problem?….that at a rate of $4 Million per year it will take 250 years to fix this problem?…that $4 Million per year is not even enough to “stop the bleeding”?….that the amount of money available from government is the equivalent of trying to repair a $1,000 problem on a $4 budget?…that what is needed as Tom Barnett so clearly stated are INNOVATION and PRIVATE INVESTMENT?

IS IT TRUE that the City County Observer congratulates and thanks Tom Barnett for saying what so many senior government officials of the City of Evansville over many years have not had the courage or the awareness to say?….that Evansville has heard enough from public officials about “how great a place to raise a family and how the recession has not hit Evansville”?….if Goosetown was such a great place to raise a family that the Front Door Pride homes would not be sitting vacant?….that sometimes the truth hurts but that truth is always needed to fix problems?….that exposing a gaping wound for what it is takes courage, hard work, and a certain selflessness?….that Tom Barnett may have just shaken some sense into some elected officials and some of the people of Evansville with his graphic but accurate presentation?

IS IT TRUE that Cheryl Musgrave followed Mr. Barnett with a presentation of her own that brought up some new ideas about how to attract private investment to the area?….that some of her ideas certainly fit the term INNOVATION?….that Barnett and Musgrave have histories of creating positive action without worrying about being loved by all?…that dare we say the two of them might just have the potential to form the nucleus of a team that can solve BILLION DOLLAR problems?….that IS IT TRUE PART 2 will address some of Musgrave’s ideas?


  1. I am feeling “instructed” by the report above. The revelation of the extent of our problems is “daunting.” In fact, the truth is that our problems are, practically speaking, insurmountable.
    In order to address and correct problems arising from decades of neglect, a true “miracle” would have to happen.

    I surmise that one, or a combination of three things will occur.
    (1) A miracle will manifest (unlikely)
    (2) We will attempt/feign restorative actions (apparently)
    (3) The cost of living in Vanderburgh County will increase exponentially to a point of exclusion (inevitably)

    Optimism is a virtue, but within the realm of the givens above, hardly appropriate.

    This: In My Opinion

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