Mayor Jon Costas and his administration have brought significant improvements to Valparaiso by creating a business plan for the city, presenting it to the citizens, tweaking it as needed, and sticking to it.
In his State of the City address Tuesday, Costas spoke of his administration's past accomplishments.
Roundabouts, of course, are right up there on his list. Valparaiso was the first city in Northwest Indiana to adopt roundabouts as a solution to poor traffic flow at troublesome intersections.
Costas jokingly referred to roundabouts as "those ubiquitous circular shrines of vehicular tranquility." You either love them or hate them, and Costas has gotten an earful.
The new roundabout at the city's five-points intersection — where Vale Park Road, Roosevelt Road and Calumet Avenue meet — is the latest, but not the last, example.
"Now that the roundabout has been at work for almost two months, the only vocal complaint I've gotten is that there aren't enough lights on the big spruce that lives there," Costas said. "I have to admit I was a bit relieved to see it not just worked, but it worked very well."
The roundabouts are a symbol of the Costas administration, and not just because of the number of them installed during his tenure.
Driving in a roundabout is confusing to people who are accustomed to driving in a straight line, waiting for the stoplight to turn green, then proceeding. But not everyone is patient. Some are in a hurry to get where they're going.
I mean that figuratively, not just literally.
When I was younger, I was stymied as I was trying to exit the parking lot at the Arie Crown Theatre in Chicago. I wondered if the traffic rules had been suspended for the evening. Then I got great advice: Aim for a newer car, and you'll go forward.
That advice generally works for driving in a roundabout, too.
When you think about it, aiming for something new isn't such a bad way to lead a city.
I enjoy the new downtown park Costas' administration created. Valparaiso's downtown, in part because of the park, is vibrant again.
I'm looking forward to the park's expansion, beginning later this year. Costas, one of the best mayors in the region, is focused on continual improvements.
Linear thinking, and not just at intersections, goes only so far. It takes a creative spark to turn things around, which is why Valparaiso has so many roundabouts.
For Valparaiso, it all began with a business plan for the city when Costas first ran for mayor. He knew where he wanted to take the city, and he has taken it there.
Now it's time to look deeper into the future to see what else can be accomplished.
This time, though, the planning is being led by citizens. That's a smart move.
This is a model every city and town in the region should follow.