Hughes Takes Henry To Task Over Downtown Development

By Jeff Neumeyer

May 4, 2011 Updated May 4, 2011 at 6:08 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, IN (Indiana's NewsCenter) --- Paula Hughes is already making waves in anticipation of her coming showdown with Democrat Tom Henry in November’s Fort Wayne mayor’s race.

Hughes was cheered at a Republican election night gathering Tuesday, following her 30-point victory in the GOP primary.

Hughes says if elected she'll cut the mayor's pay, cut wasteful spending, and find a better way to do economic development downtown.

At the GOP post election luncheon Wednesday, Hughes fired up the faithful about the prospects of claiming the mayor's office for republicans for the first time in 12 years.

Because the retail-residential component of Harrison Square didn't hit the target of groundbreaking by mid-April, Hughes says it's time for the Henry administration to explain what, if anything, has gone wrong.

She says if she gets to call the shots, she would usher in a different attitude about downtown development, by asking the private sector to do more in transforming the city's core.

Paula Hughes/(R) Ft. Wayne Mayoral Nominee: " Projects get in trouble when the public sector overinvests. When the public sector is the major supporter of a capital project, it dooms it to long-term failure. I believe that there's got to be a balance between public and private investment, and we're way too far on the public side."

Henry’s administration has ammunition to respond to the Hughes criticisms.

The Harrison Square project, conceived and shepherded along by democratic mayors, has generally been a big success.

It includes the new Courtyard by Marriott Hotel, which was financed, in large part, by private dollars.

Plans for apartments, restaurants, and a bank branch in "The Harrison" are in process, though that aspect has been delayed for three years by problems getting loans approved.

Henry released a statement, saying, “I am an enthusiastic advocate for downtown Fort Wayne. Like you, I’m eager to celebrate the next step in its development, but right now, we’re taking our cues from the private-sector development team.”

It’s an indication Henry is intent on giving the private developer leeway to pull that project together, countering any criticism that government is driving the bus on Harrison Square.

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