By JOHN KLINE
THE GOSHEN NEWS
GOSHEN — There’s a lot of growing and changing in store for Goshen in 2013.
Mayor Allan Kauffman spoke before a packed house Thursday on what’s going to be keeping city government busy this year along with statements on its general health and future outlook during the Goshen Chamber of Commerce’s Founder’s Day event, celebrating the city’s 182nd birthday.
A central theme of Kauffman’s State of the City speech was growth, and everything that word implies. In speaking of growth, Kauffman first harkened back to his 2006 Founder’s Day speech were he used a quote by Eric Kanagy, a young Goshen entrepreneur, to illustrate why Goshen’s population continued to grow while many other cities in Indiana had declined from 2000 to 2006.
“I talk to people daily who come to New World Arts and ask, ‘What is going on? How does Goshen have a winery, how does it have nice restaurants, how does it have a theater that’s doing Chicago-style theater?’” Kanagy is quoted as saying. “There’s a thirst for the kind of place Goshen is and the kind of place Goshen is becoming.”
In reflecting on that quote, Kauffman noted that this idea of “quality of place” is still alive and well in Goshen today, adding that even despite big hits to the area over the past couple of years due to things like high gas prices and the down economy, Goshen continues to be a place where people want to live and work.
“The good new is that we’ve continued to grow since 2006,” Kauffman said.
Even so, Kauffman warned that despite its growth, the city cannot become complacent, as continued growth relies on keeping that idea of “quality of place” always at the forefront. As an example, Kauffman noted that as many as 50 percent of today’s young people are making decisions on where to live before they find a job, rather than after.
“That is why quality of place is so important,” Kauffman said.
In keeping with that goal, Kauffman highlighted what he feels is the importance of the recent community branding initiative, “Goshen: Common Good. Uncommonly Great,” announced by the Goshen Chamber of Commerce last year.
“You may recall that community branding is not figuring out how we’d like to be known and promoting it,” Kauffman said. “It’s assessing how we’re already being perceived and figuring out how to brand that perception in ways that positively represent the community.”
Along those lines, Kauffman noted how Northstar, the Nashville, Tenn.-based company hired to do the city’s rebranding, highlighted the uniqueness of finding so many people and organizations within the city working together for the common good.
“Many folks in our community, including many Chamber members, are active in service clubs, on boards and commissions, in churches, volunteering in schools, helping LaCasa repair homes... the list is long,” Kauffman said. “And they are doing it not for self-recognition, but because it is the right thing to do. Working for common good makes us uncommonly great.”
It is that selfless desire for self and overall community improvement that Kauffman said will help to attract — and retain — the best and the brightest here in Goshen.
Last but not least, Kauffman gave a big shout out to the city’s government employees for their part in helping to ensure Goshen’s continued growth moving forward.
“They are tremendously committed, have wonderful ideas, and are doing great things,” Kauffman said of the employees. “They’re dedicated to the charge that they are to work every day to make Goshen a better place to pass along to its next set of elected and appointed leaders. And in those efforts, they are making this a better place for all of us.”
Vision for the Future
In referencing growth, Kauffman also spoke briefly on where he sees Goshen headed in the future.
“I’m often asked what my vision for Goshen is,” Kauffman said. “I know it sounds trite to say I want Goshen always to be a place we’re proud to call home. But that’s what it is. If we like what we have, others will see it and like it, too. And we’ll grow as a result.”
Kauffman did note, however, that such a statement is much easier said than done.
“There are multiple aspects to community building,” Kauffman said. “‘Bricks and mortar’ infrastructure and services are basic. Whether we’re able to continue improving on these, quite frankly, depends on the City Council. If a majority of its members identify with what I believe is the majority of our community that wants to see us continue getting better, we’ll be OK. But if a majority of council members identify with folks who are satisfied with the status quo, or who want to go backward, then we’re in trouble.”
As one example, Kauffman mentioned the controversial — and ultimately discarded — trash service fee suggestion he made to the City Council during budgetary talks last year when faced with declining revenues.
“I will not willingly eliminate amenities that have made Goshen a quality place, or services that our residents expect and appreciate, just to fit expenses within declining revenues,” Kauffman said. “If we base decisions on the premise that some people can’t afford to pay a new cost, for instance a trash collection fee, we govern to the least common denominator. We won’t provide the resources that allow us to improve our quality of place. We need to stretch past a comfort zone that says the status quo is sufficient for the future.”
Moving beyond the building and maintaining of Goshen’s physical infrastructure, Kauffman also called on local government to become more involved in developing what he called the “human infrastructure” of the city through effective citizenship.
“We have come to see local government only as service providers,” Kauffman said. “However, there is a deeper purpose. That is to help establish and maintain agreements on how we live together. There are times when the goals of efficiency and the need for people to be connected both to the place they live and to each other work counter to one another.
“Some financial challenges faced by all levels of government call for large-scale solutions,” he continued. “But we can’t lose sight of the fact that people long for a distinctive sense of place that differentiates where they live from every other place. Meeting this need takes energy and resources. Advantaged communities are those that are effective at reaching dynamic agreement.”