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Friday, November 16, 2012

Thank You To Those Boycotting VOICE

Last Wednesday night, Lloyd Winnecke and Leadership Evansville director Lynn Miller-Pease hosted another one of their "VOICE" sessions at the University of Southern Indiana. Since it's inception, this program has not been widely received by the residents of Evansville. Why is this program unpopular with residents?

For those who were unable to make it to one of the public session events at our Roberts Stadium Task Force, it is important to know that Miller-Pease was chosen to be the leader of the public sessions. Obviously, the first question that needed to be asked to the mayor was- What was the purpose of the task force leaders? Winnecke told us on day 1 we couldn't make a recommendation (and as we all know the mayor then lets page 13 be added to the report and now claims that we came to the conclusion that Roberts Stadium was beyond repair), he then put Lynn Miller-Pease in charge of gathering all of the ideas. Right off the bat, it was  more than obvious that Winnecke was just using the task force members so that he could claim their voice would be heard when in reality it was all being controlled by his administration.

The alignment to these meetings was bad enough, but it got even worse. Miller-Pease then tells us that all 3 sessions are going to have the same questions and are going to be divided into 4 groups that will be completely separate from each other. This setup was completely flawed and  prompted several issues from task force members that were rejected by either Miller-Pease or the task force director such as the following...

- At least two members wanted to keep a tally of the popularity of each idea. This would have shown which ideas were popular with the group and which ideas were popular with just one or two people. This was rejected with the excuse being, "let's just focus on the ideas." Luke Yeagar even went so far as to say that he wasn't a statistician and if he was charged with the task of taking tallies he probably wouldn't have agreed to join the task force. This is further proof that page 13 of the report was a complete lie because there were no "general conclusions" from the committee. In fact, they wouldn't even let us investigate which ideas were stronger than others.

- The three subcommittees that were formed were never given time to work together to try to fuse ideas together. One member requested this but was told that each subcommittee should just focus on their topic. Thankfully, I was able to get around this by having Mr. Jeff Justice compile an estimate to convert the back lot to a parking lot. I was also able to get in the report that BMX tournaments could work with a mid-sized Roberts Stadium by taking the open summer dates. Unfortunately, getting those ideas in the report was as far as the idea of developing one true idea consisting of everyone's ideas got.

- When residents at the public session that was held at Roberts Stadium became angry with the process, Larry Steenberg stood up and said he wouldn't be on the task force if he thought the decision was already decided (and of course we now know that he ran to the C&P to defend page 13 which is blatantly incorrect, blatantly misleading, and was added after our final task force meeting). This prompted one resident to say, "perhaps you shouldn't be on this task force." As soon as this comment was echoed, Miller-Pease jumped to her feet, took the podium, and said, "if you have any problems with this public meeting, blame me not him." So far, neither Miller-Pease nor Steenberg have proven or removed page 13.

By far and away, the worst event of the task force happened at our third and final public session. This session took place the week after our second public session was held at Roberts Stadium itself. To see what the reaction was from those who toured Roberts Stadium, task force member Greg Stilwell began going around the room to see who attended the previous meeting at Roberts Stadium, what those who attended the meeting thought, and if they viewed Roberts Stadium's condition in a positive or negative light.

As soon as she saw Stilwell going around to the four groups, Miller-Pease made a beeline to Greg as quickly as she could in an attempt to stop him from asking his questions. When I looked over and saw her heading for him at the third group, I honestly thought she was going to tackle him. She first tried to stop the questions by saying "let's just focus on the questions in our group." But then, Greg turned around and asked the simple question, "Who attended the Roberts Stadium meeting?"

Miller-Pease then ran to task force director Larry Steenberg who began shaking his head in disgust and moved as fast as he could to Stilwell. Stilwell was asked not to ask any questions until after the groups sessions. Thankfully, Stilwell was smart and began asking all of his questions in all of the groups once Steenberg and Miller-Pease left. His findings are the following...

- 28 people attended the Roberts Stadium session and then came back to the third session at the Centre

-  Of those 28 people, 25 viewed Roberts Stadium in a favorable light

- The 3 who didn't view Roberts Stadium in a favorable light wanted the lot to be converted to a green space

- Of those 3, ONLY ONE of them said they would not be willing to accept a compromise of keeping Roberts Stadium with a green space in the back lot.

As you look at the results, you can see why those who didn't want the arena to be saved would have reason to fight Stilwell's survey and tally taking. Roberts Stadium supporters ALWAYS outnumbered those who didn't support Roberts Stadium. Why was this covered up?

Ironically enough, after the final group questions were asked, all of the members began heading back to the regular part of the room and mixing in with all of the other members of the other 3 groups. Once this happened, Miller-Pease came back to where Greg Stilwell was standing and said, "now you can ask your questions."

It's bad enough that Roberts Stadium was treated the way it was treated. But now, Lloyd Winnecke appears to be doing the same thing with our 2001 master plan and city future as a whole. After the Roberts Stadium debacle, Winnecke decided that he wanted to build up community trust (gee I wonder why). To do this, he created the program VOICE...

"This initiative is about building trust amongst the members of our community and learning that if we all join together and have civil dialogue about our future desires and current issues, we can create a strong society that will thrive and grow." -Lloyd Winnecke

It would seem to me that if Winnecke were genuinely concerned about this issue, he would either prove or remove the page 13 that misled the entire media as well as the Parks Board from what those who came to our task force meetings felt about Roberts Stadium. Let's be honest, there is no trust in this city anymore, and it's because of things like the Roberts Stadium Task Force Report.

Can you guess who is running VOICE? You got it, Lynn Miller-Pease...

In a press conference with the Courier & Press, Winnecke told them that he told Miller-Pease he would be the leader in these efforts...

(first minute of the video)

As I dove through Winnecke's campaign report, I noticed there is a Lynn Miller on pages 4 and 62...

Is Lynn Miller in the report the Lynn Miller-Pease running voice? If so, did this affect Winnecke's decision to place her in charge of running these programs?

The main problem with the VOICE project is that we already have a downtown master plan. It was constructed in 2001 and most of its parts are still in play. In fact, it was a campaign promise of Winnecke's to update this master plan and move forward with it. To replace this master plan with VOICE is not in the best interests of our city. Thankfully, the residents of Evansville aren't falling for VOICE...

From the screen name MR_OPINION

"I would go to the meetings if I knew it wouldn't be a complete waste of time, or if it had an open bar. The only people that will attend these meeting will be the political butt kissers. There is a reason that this story has been up now for almost 24 hours and there has been only two post. The average citizen knows its just another dog and pony show so that the mayor can apply his own plan with his own agenda all under the veil of community involvement."

We have already seen this before, it's getting old."

It appears that most of the residents of Evansville feel this way. How many attended the session at Harrison High School?

"Stick people figured prominently in nearly all the idealized images of the future sketched out by some 17 people who joined Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke and more than a dozen Leadership Evansville staff and volunteers at Harrison High School for a couple hours Saturday morning, to share their ideas about Evansville's past, present and potential future."

That's right, Roberts Stadium supporters outnumbered all of VOICE's participants. And how serious did Winnecke take this session?

"The mayor embodied the informal nature of the meeting, dressed in a blue polo shirt, baggy khaki cargo shorts and sneakers with bright orange panels and neon yellow laces. He joined the group for all the brainstorming, including his own drawing, executed as he sucked on a red Tootsie Pop."

Is it just me or did the Courier & Press just describe clown shoes? Did Lynn Miller-Pease talk marketing demographics, geographics, urban planning constraints, financial constraints, or anything else that is imperative when laying out capital improvement projects? Well, she did start off with The Flower Man Book..

In 2001, Gateway Consultants drew up a 100 + page report that analyzed all of the market demographics and urban planning challenges before drawing up a plan that consisted of a ballpark, a canal, a marina, an arena, a new civic center, a government services park, and a revitalized Main Street. What did VOICE draw up?

Participants in a recent VOICE visioning session dreamed of an inviting boulevard entrance to Evansville with a fountain and a park.
Photo Credit: Linda Negro of the Evansville Courier & Press

That's right, Crayola Crowns rule the day at VOICE sessions.

Moving forward, I find it to be extremely important that Evansville residents maintain their boycott of VOICE. Capital improvement projects and community planning are vital to a city. We cannot afford to treat this process like a joke. That is what happened to Roberts Stadium, and that is what is happening at VOICE. In Oklahoma City, residents got serious about their city and it worked...

It may be too late to save Roberts Stadium, BUT, it is not to late to make sure what happened to Roberts Stadium doesn't happen to the rest of our city. Thank you Evansville residents for boycotting VOICE!

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