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News-Sentinel Editorial: Arp brings needed perspective to City Council

District 4 City Councilman Jason Arp has been tagged by some, including his opponent in the Nov. 5 election, as an obstructionist who is automatically pre-disposed to vote against Council initiatives.

We view Arp as a thinker who represents an important voice on Council — one that adheres to conservative convictions of minimal taxation and limited government.

His principles may not always align with other Council members, but they help check government overreach and protect his constituents from yielding control of the taxes they pay to big public-private projects at the expense of neighborhood infrastructure. For that reason and others, we endorse Arp for a second term in District 4, the sprawling crescent-shaped district that stretches out over the southwest area of Fort Wayne including Aboite and Wayne townships.

Arp offered the example of his endorsement and vote to approve a $1 million loan for the renovation of the former Clyde Theatre in 2017 to show that he is not against helping fund economic development. His judgment was that the loan was an example of the best way to spend and conserve the city’s Legacy Fund. The live music venue called the Clyde has become a jewel in a blighted area.

But Arp is unapologetic about his general opposition to corporate tax abatements. He believes the free market — not government — should determine winners and losers in economic development.

Still, he argues that he approaches Council with an open mind and as proof, points to an example of a project in which he did agree to an abatement.

“I voted yes on an assisted living facility southeast,” he said. He told us it was worth the $80,000 used for sewer tap fees to produce a $27 million project in an underserved area.

Arp voted against public funding for Promenade Park, which has become extremely popular with the public in Fort Wayne. And he doesn’t deny that it has become a great addition to the riverfront.

He also resisted public funding for the Electric Works project because the developers want to spend $250 million on just the first phase of the project on the west side of Broadway, property he said is worth only $75 million to $90 million.

“Nobody would do that with their own money,” Arp said, adding that the high investment is money that could use somewhere else.

“I believe in free markets and letting people make decisions rather than having the government make decisions for them,” Arp told us.

The money in the city’s budget is not his money, he said, and he was elected to be a good steward of that for the citizens of Fort Wayne. That approach adds an important perspective to Council debates over the use of public funds.

Arp’s opponent, AWS Services CEO Patti Hays, told the News-Sentinel.com board that the first-term councilman “hasn’t represented all the people” in the 4th District. “He should be available, responsible. Some say he hasn’t been responsive to their issues.”

Arp disagrees.

“I’ve answered thousands of emails,” he said. “I’ve visited hundreds of homes. City Council has turned into a 70-hour-a-week job. It’s not like I’m dreaming up things on my own. The vast majority of my email time is dealing with constituents.”

Hays, a nursing graduate with a master’s degree in nursing administration, says she has always been involved in the city, including serving on the board of health and the riverfront advisory board. One of her key issues is infrastructure, particularly trying to get sidewalks along Lower Huntington Road in Waynedale.

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