Alone With J

By J Swygart
    The older I get, the less I seem to understand.
    Like Michelle Bachman, for instance. Okay, okay, I know the Republican Party is starving for a presidential candidate with some charisma; someone who not only can spout the Tea Party line but one, in Bachman’s case, who helped invent it. But, seriously ... GOP Presidential candidate Michelle Bachman? C’mon. I know this is the party that gave us George W. Bush, but shouldn’t there be some minimum standards for candidates? Newt Gingrich looks good by comparison, and all his advisors are running for the hills as we speak.
    In wholly unrelated vein, I’ll be the first to admit that the reasoning behind, and enthusiasm for, special celebrations such as the upcoming hoopla planned for Decatur’s 175th anniversary escapes me entirely. I just don’t understand the need to invent a celebration where none previously existed, and probably never will. But that’s okay.
  If municipal movers and shakers want to dovetail some extra 175th anniversary pomp and circumstance with the fledgling Kekionga Festival, and if businesses and residents are inclined to jump on board, well ... the more the merrier, I guess. Just count me out.
  Thankfully I haven’t heard any recent rumblings about a “grow a beard for the anniversary” movement, which in all likelihood would have required shaving off my own long-standing chin whiskers — lest it be misconstrued that I in any way, shape or form cared even remotely that it’s been 175 years since a landlocked little town in Indiana was named for a naval hero who never even bothered to float down the St. Marys River.
    Or that a statue will be erected to honor the guy who supposedly was the founder of Adams County. Speaking of which: how’d you like to be the sculptor on that gig? Talk about a cake job! Since nobody who has any semblance of a real life would have the slightest idea what Samuel Rugg actually looked like, this statue — so long as it depicts some dude in garb from the 1830s — could resemble anyone.
    But I’m in the minority on this. I know that, and I’m used to it. And actually there has been one tremendous upside to the pre-anniversary countdown.
    Mayor John Schultz is to be commended for leading the way with his efforts to spruce up the city as Decatur prepares to put its best foot forward (for whom, we’re not quite sure) come anniversary week.
    Under the direction of Bill Karbach, city employees have set out to rid the city of eyesores that have lingered for years ... even decades. Junk vehicles are being moved; existing nuisance laws are being strenuously enforced; properties with overgrown weeds and grass are being cleaned up. The end result will be a better Decatur, and not just cosmetically, either. A renewed sense of community pride certainly will be a welcome by-product of those clean-up efforts.
     On a personal note, I called the mayor about a vacant house in my neighborhood with grass about four feet tall. Within a week or so, the grass had been mown. Thanks, mayor and city employees.
    But clean-up efforts don’t always work quite that smoothly, as Berne Mayor John Minch has learned.
    Berne City Council is currently pondering an ordinance to give the city greater jurisdiction over vacant buildings in that city. But as Minch recounted at a recent city council meeting, solutions to municipal eyesores can sometimes be more than a phone call away.
    Apparently there is a burned out, vacant building in Berne that the mayor wants cleaned up. He even has lined up a buyer for the property. But tracking down the current owner has proved to be an adventure. The paper trail eventually led Minch to a bank in Columbus, Ohio, that not only did not realize it owned a structure in Berne, but that couldn’t have found the city with a Geiger counter and two bloodhounds.
    “Where is Berne, Indiana?” was the response Minch received from bank officials, who finally discovered the property was once owned by a now-defunct bank that has since been acquired by the Ohio financial institution.
    The bottom line is that, while results are not always immediately evident, city officials in both communities are to be commended for making every attempt to rid their cities of eyesores.
    And the same goes for city residents, who for the most part have shown a willingness to do the right thing. If the joint 175th anniversary of Decatur and Adams County played any role in the beautification efforts, it’s been worthwhile. I guess.

    The writer is the opinion page editor of the Decatur Daily Democrat. He may be reached via email at: