Evansville City Council Feeling Left Out After Grand Rapids Trip

Evansville city leaders took a trip to Grand Rapids, Michigan earlier this week to brainstorm how to continue growing Evansville's downtown. Evansville's City Council was not represented on the trip.
Evansville City Council President John Friend says he went on a similar trip with the Chamber of Commerce a couple years ago to Savannah, Georgia and the benefit was extraordinary. He says the trip to Grand Rapids was a great opportunity for the council to be included in the future plans of Evansville. However the sponsor of the event says council members were given every opportunity to go on the trip.
   
Downtown Evansville is in the midst of a huge expansion with the additions of the IU Medical School and the Hilton Double Tree Hotel. City leaders take a trip to Grand Rapids, Michigan to brainstorm how to continue the growth of downtown Evansville. However one key group in moving the city forward was absent from the trip, Evansville's City Council.
   
"If you're there especially with the (Winnecke) administration you could see the benefit of what they're trying to put together outside of just taking somebody's word for it or trying to convince you or have you try to visualize the concept behind that," said Councilman Friend, (D) 5th Ward.
   
Councilman Friend says since the city council is the fiscal governing body of Evansville he would've liked for Finance Chairman Connor O' Daniel to go alongside other city leaders to Grand Rapids.
   
Friend says council members have gone on such trips in the past and it is included in the city council's budget.
   
"To my knowledge I don't think we've used a dime of that at all. So we could've had that and it's there for that reason," said Councilman Friend.

Southwestern Indiana Chamber of Commerce President Christy Gillenwater says Councilman Friend was invited via mail and email to go on the trip, but did not hear back from him.
   
"We did not call to follow up. Those who were interested contacted us. We felt like we did a pretty thorough job getting the word out there creating community awareness and those who were interested contacted us," said Gillenwater.

However for friend communication was not thorough enough.
   
"When we go forward and more of these opportunities come about try to get me or somebody else on the telephone to make sure we get it."
   
Despite the breakdown in communication Gillenwater and friend say they look forward to discussing the Grand Rapids trip and continue working together in revitalizing downtown.
   
"We think we have an equally proactive relationship," said Gillenwater.

"I'm not going to be hung up on this. I just think in the future let's all just try to work together," said Councilman Friend.

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