Fort Wayne, county taxpayers will take hit

by David Speakman
Special to the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

Upon looking at the map in the March 8 Journal Gazette of the new Allen County proposed by the supporters of the Town of East Allen Communities, I was struck by what appears to be the biggest “town” in the state gobbling up the smaller Fort Wayne like some sort of deranged Pac Man.

Like many former Allen County residents, I was forced to move to Silicon Valley to get a good-paying technology job after college.

Although I have run into hundreds of transplanted Hoosiers here in California, I never put much credence into the thought that the county of my birth was really suffering from a “brain drain” – until now.

If the people in East Allen are stupid enough to be duped into thinking that voting to consolidate East Allen is anything other than having New Haven annex their homes, the brain drain is a reality.

Wake up, people – this is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt by New Haven Mayor Terry McDonald to finally get his wish – to lead a city that would dwarf Fort Wayne in area.

At least Fort Wayne has been honest with its annexation policies. New Haven has a history of rushing through hurried and ill-thought-out land grabs for years.

Overnight, a “town” of 53,000 residents would be born. It would be the largest so-called town in the state of Indiana – the next-largest is Fishers with 37,000 residents.

Overall, it would be the 12th most-populous municipality in the state, smaller than Lafayette but bigger than Elkhart. In sheer size, at 333 square miles, the “town” of East Allen would be bigger than New York City (303 square miles) and Chicago (227 square miles).

Additionally, even if the East Allen merger goes though, it still wouldn’t stop a Fort Wayne-Allen County merger by any means. In fact, it could hasten the need for a city-county merger because all of the East Allen tax money that the county now gets would go to New Haven coffers instead of the county’s treasury.

Allen County has bonds it must pay off well past 2009 when the new “town” would go into effect. Allen County, by law, must maintain East Allen bridges – but with less tax money. It would be forced to turn to Fort Wayne to help shoulder the financial burden imposed by the merged East Allen.

As a son of Allen County, I have good faith that I come from talented, intelligent and practical stock. I am confident that the voters of East Allen will reject this power grab by the mayor of New Haven that would force the county to either merge with Fort Wayne or raise taxes sharply to avoid bankruptcy.

That would cause higher taxes to all homes in Allen County – including the communities outside of East Allen who cannot vote on the matter, like Huntertown, Arcola, Dunfee, rural Churubusco, Lake Everett and even Fort Wayne.

If there is a financially forced merger of Fort Wayne and Allen County resulting from the East Allen consolidation – then, oddly, the town of East Allen could end up paying the highest taxes in the county – both “town” and county taxes. This could be doubly hard on those in East Allen who are in the Fort Wayne suburbs on Fort Wayne sewer/water who will be forced to permanently pay higher rates.

David Speakman, a former Allen County resident, is a freelance journalist based in San Jose, Calif.

Women are dropping the sloppy look in clothing 

By DAVID SPEAKMAN special to next

From the health club to the nightclub, figure-flattering workout-style clothing is quickly replacing the baggy grunge look on Fort Wayne area women.

Tighter-fitting clothes started as a trend on the West Coast in 1994, yet Fort Wayne clothiers didn’t start stocking workout wear as fashion until late last summer. The local surge in figure-hugging clothes began with a boom in sales of belly-baring crop tops, according to Jessica Jones, a sales clerk in Hudson’s New Attitudes juniors’ section.

Jones said the average customers who buy these clothes range from late teens to late 20s. Popularity of the style has been gaining since Christmas, she said.

Joining with the crop top, now form-fitting silk blouses, skirts and pants have been big sellers in the post-Christmas shopping season.

“Workout fashions haven’t changed a lot,” according to Maxine Brown, ladies manager at the North Clinton American Health Fitness Center. “Women in good shape are wearing leotards and thong.”

Seria Nelson, assistant manager of Merry-Go – Round in Glenbrook Square, agreed that the loose-fitting look is on the way out for women.

“Women’s clothes fitting more toward the figure are selling better,” Nelson said. The store’s biggest seller are Y-legs, which are like leggings and are a typical accompaniment with the crop top.

These clothes are available at most specialty clothing stores and department stores in sections that cater to young women. Prices range from $15 to $60, but may be less because of current sales. Most are made of silk, cotton, rayon, polyester and blends.

“Women are more fashion-conscious,” said William Tyler, fitness consultant at the Fitness Connection. “Men just throw things together. Sometimes they match, sometimes they don’t.”

 The alarm is silent. Your wallet is empty. Such is the life of someone who’s been laid off.


“They shook my hand and said, `Merry Christmas, we’ll try to call you back – no promises; no guarantees. Turn in your uniform. See ya.’ It was that cold,” said Bart Sexton, retelling the events after a local United Parcel Service Christmas party last year.

A recently discharged Navy veteran of the Panama invasion and the Gulf War, Sexton said he had been hired at UPS in October 1995. Although startling, his quick holiday-time dismissal was expected – and common. Sexton joined a select group of workers that many industries depend on – seasonal help. These workers, many in the 18- to 30-year-old range, usually are hired in October and become an important part of the corporate team.

When the holidays are over, and things slow down a bit, though, these “migrant workers” of the ’90s are dismissed. The good ones sometimes are called back when future jobs open. But not always.

Sexton knew at the time of hire “the possibility of layoff was an almost certainty.” But that didn’t make him feel any better.

Twentysomethings are bombarded by a series of firsts. First car, first permanent full-time job and, unfortunately, first pink slips.

Young adults are particularly vulnerable to unemployment, according to Gary Gatman, planning director for JobWorks, a northeast Indiana private sector employment and workforce development service based in Fort Wayne.

“Younger workers and part-time workers – usually mothers in two-income households – are among the hardest hit,” Gatman said.

Making matters worse, he said January through March is the most difficult time for the unemployed to find work. In general, the economy tends to slow down during this time period.

Although about the same number of unemployed are processed through JobWorks each month – about 30 in Allen County – Gatman said the program had a 60 percent job placement success rate in December but only a 17 percent success rate for January.

Although both Sears Roebuck & Co. and GTE have announced the possibility of reduction-in-force layoffs, a U.S. Postal Service mail processing center opened last year in Fort Wayne and soon is expected to hire another batch of part- and full-time workers.

Older workers sometimes fear that twentysomethings, who are traditionally paid less than their older counterparts, are a threat to their job security. Gatman said that wasn’t necessarily the case.

“Lower wages (for twentysomethings) is an advantage of sorts,” he said, “but that is offset by less experience. Employers want a proven work and attendance record. Settling for lower wages is not a major benefit.”

Dealing with first-time unemployment can be a scary thing, but it usually isn’t the end of the world. Tim Williams, a 25-year-old former sales administrator at The Essex Group in Fort Wayne, has been dealing with unemployment since he lost his job a year ago.

“First, you look at finances and see what you’re going to be able to pay,” Williams said. “I got rid of my new car, gave up my apartment and scanned the classifieds.”

Then there’s 29-year-old Julia Kirchhausen, who was with the Buffalo, N.Y., Philharmonic from January 1993 to July 1994. During her tenure, she was laid off – twice.

“They sent us registered letters at home,” said Kirchhausen, who has since moved up in the orchestral world and is now the marketing director of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic. “It was very short and photocopied and not personalized at all. It was devastating, even though we knew it was going to happen.

“We knew what the cash flow situation was, and we knew that there wasn’t any,” she continued. “We went on unemployment, which is a humbling experience, because here you are a supposedly professional person who has been to college and done all the right things and has worked hard and worked well.”

And because bills can’t be paid without money, a possible source of funds is unemployment checks from the local Indiana Workforce Development office.

Although some frown on the use of public assistance, Sexton explained: “If you’ve worked, you’ve paid your dues. I don’t plan on living off the system for my entire life. Unemployment claims are a part of a job like medical and dental benefits.”


  • Claiming unemployment
    Why: If you’ve worked at least three months, these checks could keep you from starving or moving back with the parents.
    Where: Indiana Department of Workforce Development, 5821 S. Anthony Blvd.
    Phone: 447-3575
    Hours: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday
    What to expect: It’s first come, first served. Show up as early as possible. Expect at least two hours of waiting in line, answering a computer questionnaire and waiting to speak to a counselor. The counselor will schedule an appointment for a mandatory 90-minute course. Because of paperwork and red tape, benefits will be delayed at least one week from your application. Bring your social security or green card.
    What you get: Providing you have worked long enough to qualify and your past employer doesn’t deny benefits, you can expect to get between $50 and $217 each week for a maximum of 26 weeks in a one-year period – depending on your former salary. No taxes are taken out. You are required to sign a weekly form that lists at least one company where you are trying to get hired.
  • Food Stamps
    Why: Unemployment checks can’t cover all the bills – especially if you have children.
    Where: Allen County Division of Family and Children (formerly Welfare), 4820 New Haven Ave.
    Phone: 458-6200
    Hours: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday
    What to expect: Paperwork galore – especially if you don’t live alone. You can’t buy beer or cigarettes with food stamps. Call before showing up to be sure you bring correct identification and other information to the meetings.
    What you get: Specific dollar amounts depend upon demonstrated need.

It takes a certain type of person to wear hip-hugger – mainly, someone with a perfect body.

By DAVID SPEAKMAN special to next

Like many new clothing trends in Fort Wayne, they first appeared on fashion mavens at trendy nightclub dance floors.

Hip-huggers – slinky body-hugging, gravity-defying pants which barely cover the backside – are the newest addition to the retro fashion scene. A 1970s-era fashion world response to the feminist “She Decade,” hip-huggers “celebrated” the female form – albeit an ultra-toned, thin and anorexic female form.

Although originally designed for women, men too can be found donning the occasional pair of hip-huggers in the unisex ’90s.

These pants, jeans, shorts or skirts, often made of cotton or polyester, are not for the meek. Usually worn with a body-conscious ribbed or waffle-knit top, ’90s hip- huggers can dip way below the navel in front.

Hip-huggers range in price from $20 to $80, and can be found at stores such as Merry-Go-Round, Rave and L.S. Ayers. Or you could go the cheaper – and more authentic – route by finding a pair at a local thrift store.

The rising popularity of navel piercing may help explain their modern-day appearance. With their natural dip, hip-huggers won’t rub the freshly pierced the wrong way – and won’t do anything to hide the proudly pierced.

Because of its body-revealing qualities, however, the hip-hugger won’t be embraced in every wardrobe. In fact, it probably will be a “fashion don’t” for most.

“If you’ve got a bad body, you might as well just forget about wearing these,” said 22-year-old Cherie Damos, a Fort Wayne resident we found wearing a pair of hip-huggers at Glenbrook Square. “You know there’s people out there who still wear them and shouldn’t, but I wouldn’t dare wear them if I wasn’t looking good. Anyway, that’s the point of fashion.”

How do you know whether you can pull off this hot trend in pants? A good body is key. If the average person looks at your thin waist or toned figure with envy, hip huggers might be for you.

According to fashion magazines, such as February’s issue of Self, hip-huggers actually have a slimming effect. If your tummy is less than toned, they recommend tucking in a shirt and adding a blazer.

Otherwise, hippy chicks and those whose abs of steel are more like abs of flab should probably just say no to this low-slung design.

Depending on your fashion taste, some styles are cut lower in back than others. But even if the refrigerator-repairman look is what you’re going for, remember that others have to look at you too.

Like thong swimwear, few men or women can successfully wear hip-huggers – the right way. But if you can, indulge yourself.

(Fort Wayne Journal Gazette – Page 8D – January 9, 1996) 

Some like hair on their backs. Others remove it.

By DAVID SPEAKMAN special to next

Something frightening is happening to many men in their 20s. Through no fault of their own, hey are victims of a cruel twist of fate – an unlucky spin at genetic roulette.

The signs may be noticed by a chance glance in the mirror after a show or by more embarrassing means.

Imagine waking up one morning to the gentle kiss of a loved one while hearing the appraising words, “Hmm, I never noticed your back was getting hairy.”

A hairy back?

Chewbacca is hairy. Sasquatch is hairy. Robin Williams is hairy. But guys in their 20s don’t get hairy backs, right?

Wrong. From a light dusting of darkened down to full-blown wall-to-wall shag, many guys younger than 30 are dealing with the onslaught of hair in that hard-to-reach spot.

“Eww,” was the first reaction Molly Norton had a few years ago when she first saw a guy with a hairy back.

“Honestly, when women picture the perfect male, you don;t expect back hair,” Norton said. “Young girls think its mainly when guys get facial hair, but you don’t think of hairy backs.”

Unwanted hair does not necessarily mean the end of a social life, For some people it may even be a bonus.

Norton, a resident of Berne, has dated hairy-backed men – and gotten used to it.

She talked of an ex-boyfriend with overactive back-hair follicles.

“He was always talking about how to get rid of it, but there was no easy way,” Norton said. after the initial removal, “he didn’t like the idea he had to keep it up.”

Women have been removing unwanted body hair for generations.

“Women have to do this,” Norton said. “We know hairy armpits and legs would be a definite turnoff to 99 percent of the population.”

Why should guys with unsightly back hair be different? That other percent of hair aficionados does exist.

“Why would you want to do that?” Asked Keven Howard, laughing at the thought of removing back hair.

Like some gay men and straight women, Howard is attracted to the Grizzly Adams-style of hairy men. A body type he and others call “bear.”

He has lived with his “husbear” for more than two years in a house east of Defiance.

“It’s a turn-on,” Howard says of hairy-backed men.

Howard first noticed his attraction about three or four years ago.

“They look better to me,” he said. “It’s like the preference some people have for blonds or brunettes.”

Howard talked of groups on the Internet and clubs like the Tri-State Bears, which cater cater to gay men with an appreciation for the ursine.

Howard admits his bear-loving friends are a minority. Most gay men and heterosexual women don’t like furry backs.

“Everyone has their own little hangups,” he said.

So, what’s a guy to do if he finds himself in this, well, hairy situation?

Shaving, waxing, electrolysis, tweezers, depilatory creams or the electric-spring action of the Epilady pro dives hair removal options with benefits – and drawbacks.

Norton talked about a male friend who bought a bottle of depilatory cream to cure his back-hair nightmare.

After the hair fell out, he put lotion on the newly denuded area to sooth the skin irritation, she said.

In place of the unsightly patch of fur, the guy sprouted an equally eye-pleasing crop of black pimples.

This apparently was not the effect he wanted. According to Norton, her friend gave up and now lives with the hair back there.



  • Shaving
    Pain factor: Razor burn, cuts
    Cost: Less than $1 a time
    Upkeep: Every few days
    Comments: If you can scratch your own back, you can shave your own back
  • Waxing
    Pain factor: Hair is ripped out after hot wax is poured onto the area
    Cost: At least $15 each visit
    Upkeep: Every couple of weeks
    Comments: Good for borderline masochists
  • Depilatory cream
    Pain factor: Skin irritation from caustic substance
    Cost: $2 to $6
    Upkeep: Bottle claim three to four weeks. Life says one week.
    Comments: Possible drips may cause additional unwanted hair loss.
  • Electrolysis
    Pain factor: An electric shock kills hair root
    Cost: $20 or more each session (multiple sessions required)
    Comment: Way too expensive – deal with it.
  • Epilady
    Pain factor: A metal spring whirs ant high speed while tearing hair out.
    Cost: $20 to $30
    Upkeep: Every few weeks.
    Comments: Could be tragically confused with other bedroom toys.