By MICHAEL WANBAUGH
THE GOSHEN NEWS
Allan Kauffman grew up in Goshen, graduated from Goshen High School and later Goshen College. He got married, raised a family here and worked many years in the office supply business, all while serving multiple terms on Goshen’s City Council.
Sixteen years ago he was appointed mayor and has since won re-election four times. During those 16 years Kauffman has become active in the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns and has played a large role in advocating the interests of municipalities in the Statehouse.
To him, Goshen is a special place that he has dedicated his life to making stronger and better.
“I have always said that if Goshen is going to grow, we need to be a community that we’re proud of,” Kauffman said recently while sitting in his office inside the former Carnegie Library on South Fifth Street. “In 20 years I hope Goshen is a place that people who live here are proud to call home. Same as today.”
As part of The Goshen News’ special “Who We Are” publication in today’s paper, we asked Kauffman to talk about what he would like Goshen to look like 20 years from now. He is optimistic about the potential, but also realistic about the challenges associated with continued growth.
“Honestly,” he said, “it’s going to be a lot harder to take care of ourselves over the next 20 years as it has been the past 20 years.”
Kauffman pointed toward reduced property tax incomes as a result of property tax caps implemented several years ago by the Indiana Legislature. City officials have been adjusting ever since to make ends meet without sacrificing city services.
It hasn’t been easy, he said, and new solutions need to be considered in the future.
“We’ve scrimped along and done some things to cope with the curves we’ve been thrown the last few years, but the trick bag is running empty,” Kauffman explained. “We don’t have many tricks left short of cutting services.”
Politically speaking, Kauffman believes Goshen needs to adopt a trash collection fee in the future to help subsidize the $750,000 it costs annually for the city to provide that service currently paid from property taxes. Kauffman would also like the community to have the opportunity to discuss a food and beverage tax, something the state allows counties bordering Indianapolis to have, but not other counties.
Kauffman calls that a “fairness issue,” and believes slower-growth communities outside the immediate orbit of Indy could use that type of revenue even more.
Quality of life
The refrain in Kauffman’s consistent community homily is easy to detect: Quality of life. Kauffman believes that bike trails, public parks and a vibrant downtown are all key elements that will bring people to Goshen and keep them here to raise families.
“I would hope 20 years from now we have things developed like Fidler’s Park,” Kauffman said. “… I would hope that we would have a community center 20 years from now. … I would hope we have (newly developed) housing along the millrace. … I would hope we will have broken the cycle of people not valuing an education.”
Up until recently, the immigration into Goshen was from other states, not other countries, Kauffman explained. Those were the days when the coal mining jobs were drying up in the Appalachian states and the mobile home industry was flourishing in Elkhart County.
“People could swing a hammer or get a job at Goshen Rubber or Western Rubber without a high school education and make a living,” Kauffman explained. “Those jobs even paid enough that one parent could work and support the family. But many of those people didn’t have an education, therefore didn’t value it for their kids. Now those jobs aren’t here. So, how are we going to break that cycle?
“You can’t work a job in Goshen anymore unless you have a high school education.”
Kauffman hopes the Horizon Education Initiative will be an efficient bridge from high school to higher education to the workplace in the future. The objective of the initiative is integrate those three aspects to better serve students and the community. Again, better education, Kauffman says, leads to better quality of life.
Keep on pushing
Kauffman also envisions in the future a restructured downtown. With the potential rerouting of U.S. 33 through a “northern connector” route and by moving Ind. 15 to Third Street (reconnecting with Main Street at Madison), he sees the downtown stretch of Main Street being reduced from four to two lanes, angled (possibly reversed) parking and more outdoor dining options.
Goshen has come a long way with its quality of life, Kauffman said. But as far as it has come, he believes now is a critical time in determining where it is going.
“We’ve been fortunate to have a younger generation stepping up at the right time,” Kauffman said. “We have to keep stretching ourselves. We’re not going to move forward by saying, ‘No,’ all the time.”