I was born and raised in Vigo County. My grandfather on my father’s side was a carpenter in the city, and my grandfather on my mother’s side was a farmer in the county. I can still vividly remember the awful smell down town, and I can just as vividly remember my friends in school talking about how badly they wanted to leave Terre Haute. Over the years I’ve seen men and women spend their lives trying to clean up the city and improve our reputation. To leave behind the shadow of “sin city” and embrace a future of creativity and innovation. We’ve made a lot of progress in cleaning up the air quality, but we haven’t come very far in changing our mind set.
Many politicians and corporations have a vested interest in making sure people don’t “change their minds.” They depend on the desperation of communities like ours for job security. It is this type of desperation that makes a community look to French Lick as an example of the benefits that a casino can bring, rather than to Gary where the casinos are actually coming from. That’s what desperation does, it convinces a community that millions of dollars in tax incentives to corporations, and millions of dollars in direct payments to French Lick and Evansville, will “pay dividends” in the future; without looking to real life examples such as Sony or Gary, to see that those dividends are not at all guaranteed.
One of the saddest realities, in these circumstances that are motivated by desperation, is that we very rarely get to see what might have happened if a community had not put all their hopes in corporations or casinos to save them from economic stagnation. But that raises a very important question, “who’s responsibility is it to give a community hope, and help them see what is possible and what they are capable of?” I believe it is everyone’s responsibility. Every person has the potential to be a leader in our community, but there is an added expectation for those who are already in positions of leadership and authority.
We’ve seen that there is a coordinated effort among city and county leadership to push a casino through as part of an answer to our city’s problems. It is my hope that community leaders and faith leaders can come together and help people see that there is a better way, and that a casino is not the right path forward for our city. Online and local markets have opened the door to small scale agriculture and artisans in ways that the world has never seen before. These types of opportunities are what we should be investing in. We’ve spent far too much time and effort trying to rid ourselves of the “sin city” shadow to turn back now and embrace it out of desperation.