Terre Haute needs a plan to deal with casino impact

Even though I live in Sullivan I feel a comment needs to be made about the Terre Haute casino vote. I lived in and worked for Elgin, Illinois, which had one of the most successful casinos in Illinois. Number one, casinos not only have an impact on the place where they are physically located but also on the surrounding region’s economic state. So all the smaller towns and cities in the Wabash Valley also have a stake in the success of a Terre Haute casino.

My first question to the leaders of Terre Haute and Vigo County is have you consulted with other cities that have casinos up and running in their towns. Asked others how they chose a location, where they spent the extra income the casino generated and how successful their plan for that income has been. Are you willing to present your plans to the voters before the election so the people that are voting know where they stand and what they are voting for?

Since I was born and raised in this area and worked for several years for Elgin, let’s compare their past and present. 

First the population figures for 1970 pre-casino in both towns. Terre Haute, 70,335. Elgin, 55,691. 

In 2018, estimated for both cities, Terre Haute is 60,753, Elgin is 111,683. 

There are a lot of unequal factors leading to Terre Haute’s decline and Elgin’s rise in population, but we are going to look at one factor, the casino, and how Elgin handled the taxes and the success they created with them. Elgin chose to use all the income from the casino for the improvement of their city. They had no real input to the location because at that time it was only riverboat casinos were allowed. However, it ended up right in the middle of the downtown area. 

Terre Haute, on the other hand, is talking about the east side of town. They are building a new convention center in the middle of downtown. Many people are planning riverfront improvements and the mayor is talking constantly about the need to bring more people into the downtown area. What better plan than putting a casino in the center of the city? 

I know the developers are interested in making a profit, but what about their civic duty. They are asking Terre Haute residents to allow them a profit, what about allowing Terre Haute to participate in choosing a location? The gamblers will find it wherever it’s located. 

Getting back to Elgin and its success, they used the extra tax money to build a new police station and jail, remodel city hall, build a city recreation center that includes an indoor pool that is second to none and most importantly they discovered that most of the small tech companies love old buildings.

So they brought the downtown area into the 21st century by running high-speed internet cable throughout the city center, paved the downtown streets and rebuilt the riverfront with parks, town homes and condos. 

That is only a few of the projects completed thanks to the Grand Victoria Casino which opened its doors October 6, 1994. 

Mayor Bennett, why don’t you call Mayor David Kaptain in Elgin? I’m sure he will be happy to share his city’s success with you. Why not come up with a downtown plan and allow the voters a choice?

— Ron Gadberry, Sullivan

Measuring the mayor’s progress

As the 2019 mayoral election approaches, we should examine how well we have been served by our mayor of three terms, Duke Bennett. 

I often ask people about the mayor and his tenure as mayor — I usually get a response along the lines of, “Well he is a nice guy.” 

This may be an accurate statement, but unfortunately this virtue has not resulted in any measurable progress for the city. What can be said of the mayor’s three terms can be summed up in a few words: lack of a vision for the city, lack of any leadership, and continuing fiscal disarray. If he has a vision for the city it has never been communicated. Leadership has been dismal and examples abound. Where has the mayor been when critical opportunities are vetted by the community? Where has the mayor been during the conversations on the convention center besides significantly increasing the city’s financial commitment by paying for a parking garage for a private hotel. Where does he stand on the school referendum ... and most importantly the jail? 

 I do recall him attending a number of ribbon-cuttings, but could not he have tried to broker a deal to build a City/County Justice Center at the courthouse and been part of a wider solution? More emblematic of the fiscal disorder is the recent snafu over the $500,000 item left out of the budget, which the city spent for equipment purchases anyway. Thank you, Pat Goodwin, for exposing this “error.”

Measuring progress the last 12 years, or lack of progress, and witnessing all of the fiscal nonsense, it is hard not to come to the conclusion that it is time for a change. Duke Bennett has had three terms to prove his worth, and he has failed to move the city forward. 

It is time to change course and elect a a mayor with vision, knowledge and the tools to end the stagnation and move Terre Haute into the next decade. Pat Goodwin is the only choice for mayor.

— John Douglas, Terre Haute

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