Tim Salters ask the right question at Monday's city council meeting.
“What do we tell the taxpayers?”
Apparently, what Salters and his fellow council members are to tell taxpayers is that spending millions to create (maybe) only one new job is to be considered a wise investment, a responsible use of tax dollars.
We say this: If there were millions of dollars in loose change lying around in need of spending, then the Pantheon Business Theatre would perhaps be a project worth pursuing.
There are more-pressing needs on which to spend tax dollars, other ways to invest in the community that would certainly provide greater benefits “measured years down the road.”
Local residents work hard and pay their taxes, and local officials have a fiduciary responsibility to see that those tax dollars are spent to do the most good for the most people.
Taxpayer money should be spent with wisdom and not in whimsy.
Unfortunately, all too often whimsy gains the upper hand, as would be the case here.
Those who are pushing the hardest to spend millions in tax dollars on the Pantheon Business Theatre are good people who genuinely believe they have the best interests of the community at heart. Frankly, the community could use a lot more like them, residents willing to put in the time and the hard work required in advocating for such a project.
We just wish their effort and commitment could be shifted in a more promising direction — toward, say, improving our public schools.
Because we need better schools. Improving our schools should be the next step in economic development we take. It should be our priority, for the lasting impact that improvement would have, generation after generation.
School officials are making heroic efforts and doing the best they can with the limited resources at their disposal, but it's just not enough. They need — and deserve — help.
The state is not going to commit the resources on the scale required to bring our local schools up to the level we want them to be; if anything, state government seems headed in the other direction — of making it even more difficult for public schools to enjoy success.
If we want better schools, the burden falls on local governments to help bring them about, to contribute what's possible toward school improvement, to be wise and not whimsical.
Public education is the foundation on which the community's future will be built. The question for all local officials is simply this: Are you willing to commit to building that future?
We're not convinced that a business incubator/co-work space is a priority for the community; it's another one of those “applause projects” that earn their supporters some immediate fame. But fame is fleeting, and there is life after the applause dies away.
Besides, we believe Vincennes University may soon be coming forward with a project that would provide a much more desirable home for a business incubator/co-work space and at much less cost to taxpayers.
And, too, we don't believe that the Pantheon Business Theatre is the last hope for the building, itself — that if the Pantheon Business Theatre doesn't move forward to fruition as presented the theater is destined for the scrap heap, to be cleaned up at taxpayer expense.
We've noticed that many of the successful Stellar Community applications include a project to renovate a downtown theater into some type of performing arts center.
There was talk a year or so ago about creating an arts and entertainment district downtown, featuring multiple venues for performances; having something along that line was also brought up during the community conversations this summer.
The Pantheon could have a stellar role in such a district.