City Council meeting notes – 1/6/2009

Let me just say it looks like another interesting year in the Council Chambers.  I seriously thought Councilman Marty Bender would emerge from the meeting as Council President, but as is sometimes the case, I was wrong.

For those who have never attended an reorganization meeting, things are a bit different. Since the President’s term ends the last day of the calendar year, City Clerk Sandy Kennedy acts as President until the new one is chosen.  Council Attorney Joseph Bonahoom reads the roll call.  We were also treated this evening to another patriotic moment as Councilman Tom Didier sang the National Anthem which tonight was quickly followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.  Although caught off guard by the quick pace, we all caught up quickly.  The customary “moment of silent prayer” was skipped over as well – guess they didn’t think they need it tonight. 

The Fort Wayne City Council met this evening for a Reorganization Session followed by a Committee Session.  Councilwoman Karen  Goldner (D) nominated Councilman Bender (R) with Glynn Hines (D) seconding the motion.  Councilman Mitch Harper (R) nominated Tom Smith (R) with Liz Brown (R) seconding this motion.  Acting President Kennedy asked if they wanted secret ballots, but Bonahoom responded, “no secret ballots.”  

Hines motioned the nominations be closed which was seconded by Goldner.  Kennedy was trying to take a vote on the motion when she was interrupted by Councilman John Shoaff who asked if there was going to be discussion.  The response was that yes, there could be discussion after the nominations were closed.  The vote was taken, but then when discussion was offered as an option, Shoaff did not speak up.  Instead, and this happened quickly with little pause between, Bender (I think) made the motion to move to the vote which was seconded by Goldner.  This vote was taken with all voting aye except Shoaff who voted naye.

The vote was then taken with Bender (R), Goldner (D), Hines (D) and Tim Pape (D) voting for Bender.  Voting for Councilman Smith were: Brown (R), Didier (R), Harper (R), Shoaff (D) and Smith (R) – giving him the victory by a one vote margin.  Tom Smith was announced as the winner and took the gavel and President’s chair.  Smith started off by thanking everyone and stating that, “I will do  everything I can to be a pretty good President and work well with everybody.”

He then recognized Councilman Shoaff who stated:

This was a very difficult choice for me, probably the most difficult one I’ve made in four years.  I have a great deal of esteem for Marty Bender.  He’s been independent and supportive in important ways [as in providing Shoaff support and assistance with his recent light ordinance].  I think he will make one of these days an excellent President.

I do know issues have been raised recently, and I know the Republicans raised it with him about the question of occasional instances where there will be a conflict between [his being] a City employee serving as a officer on the Council.  I fully expect this issue to be dealt with and resolved – I’m told it may not be, but I expect it will be by the [State] Legislature where we’ll have a very clear ruling, and if it goes in the direction of being supportive of Mr. Bender’s position, I will look forward to supporting him in the future as the future Council President.  But as I said, it’s very difficult and I’d like to express myself on that point.

Councilman Smith then welcomed Mayor Tom Henry to the table, who said:

Thank you, Mr. President.

Again, congratulations on your victory this evening. [Smith thanks Henry]  I almost heard a recount being asked for – such was not the case.  

I simply do want to welcome all of you to a new, not only chronological year, but fiscal year of the City of Fort Wayne.  As all of you know from going through the budget, we are going to be facing some very challenging times over the weeks and months to come and actually over the next few years to come.  Not only our City, but our County, our State and our Country are facing some real challenging economic times right now and all of us are going to be called upon to really exhibit leadership in this community to make sure that we continue to move forward even through these troubling times.  So I not only ask for your assistance in making sure this happens, but I stand ready to help you as well and I think together both the executive and legislative branches can make sure that our citizens are served well and served the best.

Thank you all again, for the opportunity to sit before you this evening and again Mr. President, Congratulations!

President Smith then entertained motions for Vice-President.  Councilman Didier nominated Glynn Hines which was seconded by Councilman Harper and Councilwoman Goldner simultaneously.  He asked for a motion to close nominations which was made and seconded by Harper and Goldner respectively.  He then called the vote for Hines as Council Vice-President which was unanimously passed.

Before the next City Council meeting, Council President Smith will appoint the Council Committee Chair and Co-chair assignments.

Next on the agenda were the board appointments for Council members for 2009.  The Citizen appointments will be done later, at the bidding of the President.

City Plan Commission: Tom Smith stated he was interested in continuing on the City Plan Commission which he won unanimously.

Cable Fund Access Board: Councilwoman Goldner held this position last year.  However, she asked if Councilman Hines would prefer to be on the CFAB which would allow her to fill his Affirmative Action Board position.  He acquiesced and the Council voted unanimously in favor of Hines on this board.

An aside – You might remember that I blogged about Hines’ wishes not to be on the Affirmative Action Board and wondered if it had anything to do with his feelings regarding Mayor Henry’s Administration’s lack of minorities in key supervisory positions.  I had an opportunity to ask Hines about this before the meeting.

Hines shared with me that he felt it was time for some new blood on the Affirmative Action Board.  In fact, it meets during the afternoon which is not convenient for his schedule.  When I asked directly if his decision had anything to do with his feelings about the Henry Administration’s minority record, he responded no, but that, “I can work on the problem better from the outside.”

H.A.N.D.S.: This acronym stands for Housing And Neighborhood Development.  No one expressed interest in the board until Liz Brown “volunteered” for it.  She was elected unanimously.

Solid Waste: Councilwoman Brown stated she would like to remain on this board as well and was voted accordingly.

Fort Wayne Allen County Economic Development Alliance: Councilman Harper served on this board this year and was more than willing to serve another term.  He cited his recent experience with a Mayor’s Round Table in Indianapolis concerning the impact of the current economic crisis on the automobile industry and Northern Indiana.  He also attended every meeting of the group this year.  He was nominated by Councilman Hines.  Councilwoman Goldner then commended Harper for the job he’d done, but suggested Councilman Pape, be given a chance to serve so as to expose more Councilpersons to the Board.  Councilman Shoaff seconded the motion with exactly the same arguments.  He also recalled that Councilman Pape was the other strong candidate for this board in last year’s reorganization meeting.

Councilman Pape then spoke:

Look, there’s no more critical issue facing us than economic development.  At a time when our community is trying to deal with the global impact of greater technology, less man hours to produce high-end products, manufactured products and we have an area in the Country, Indiana, and in particular Fort Wayne is heavily dependent on manufacturing and the low-skilled high-waged jobs are of the past – increasingly so.  We need a broad community effort to answer that.  To figure out how we create a community that attracts high wage, high scaled jobs and produces people in this community to fill those jobs.  [I have] nine years on Council, heavily involved with every area of economic development, major development initiatives.  I think I’d be most suitable to serve the community well.

The Councilman Harper vote was as follows: Bender (R), Brown (R), Harper (R) and Hines (D).
Councilman Pape’s vote: Didier (R), Goldner (D), Pape (D), Shoaff (D) and Smith (R).  Councilman Pape won, 5-4.

Councilman Didier then explained that he voted as he had because he felt Councilman Pape was passionate about being on the board and was disappointed last year when he wasn’t elected.  He felt that it would give Pape a chance to learn about the EDA.

The Reorganization Meeting then adjourned and the Committee Session commenced.


Committee Session

There was only one item on the agenda for the Committee Session.  Since the Committees hadn’t been appointed yet, President Smith ran the Regulations Committee.

RESOLUTION establishing an “Amnesty Period” for all Parking, Parking Meters, and Parking related violations as defined in Section 39.03 of the Code 

Please note: I don’t want to write too much about this discussion here because I’m planning a future post, closer to the start of the amnesty program, which will detail some of the behind-the-scenes goings on with these parking tickets.

City Clerk Kennedy talked about the ordinance with Council.  She shared that they had researched other cities to see what they had done.  She felt that this will possibly bring some revenue into the City that it normally wouldn’t see.  

One of the interesting things, to me anyway, is that the Clerks office does not communicate directly with the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles.  Instead, they have to send a tape (I’m assuming a computer data tape) to Indianapolis for them to match license plates up to owners and their addresses.  This is a time consuming system.  In addition, Clerk Kennedy reported there are some 50,000 outstanding parking tickets since 1999 which total approximately $900,000 in past due tickets.

Councilwoman Liz Brown asked if the Clerk’s department really had the authority to take this action because the way she was reading the statutes, the Clerk had no legal say in the matter.  Council Attorney Bonahoom responded that City Attorney Carol Taylor had checked the ordinance and signed off on it, so his feelings were that Clerk Kennedy and her office does have standing in the matter.

Councilwoman Goldner suggested making the amnesty period run from January 20th to February 28th.  This would allow more time for people to become aware of the program and take advantage of it.  This motion was quickly adopted and the ordinance was approved after a bit more discussion, which as I mentioned,  I will be covering at a later date.  The ordinance passed out of committee with two votes against – Harper and Brown.  Harper cited the need for more information before voting aye.  It will be voted on in next week’s Regular Session and approved at that time.

Just before the close of the meeting, Councilman Tim Pape talked about the vote against Bender for President.



New AFW Feature

Starting this year, I will feature an index page of City Council meeting info.  This will include links to mp3 audio files of the meetings, photos, blog posts, slide presentations presented during Council meetings as well as links to agendas, ordinances and minutes.  The page may be found here.  If you are interested, an index of 2008 audio recordings is available here.

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  1. Stephen – How can you be sure that R-08-12-17 “will be approved at next weeks regular session”? Couldn’t it be voted down? If it can’t, why bother to bring it up then next week?

    • John – If ordinances are passed out of committee with a “Do pass” recommendation, as you know, they are almost always passed on the final vote. Unless something drastic were to happen between now and then, I can’t imagine it not passing.

      What’s the problem, John? Why the question? I have made this statement regarding ordinances several times on this blog and you never questioned it before. It has to be brought up next week to have a final vote – that’s the way our Council works – by Statute. Even as unpredictable as this Council has been, they’ve never gone back on a “Do pass” recommendation.

  2. stephen – I listened to all the discussion at the meeting, not in person, but at home on channel 28. If I am not mistaken, Sandy Kennedy did not have answers to at least three questions that were asked by Liz Brown and Mitch Harper and she promised to get these answers to the council. So if these answers bring up more concerns, which I think exist, then I don’t believe that a final vote will be taken next Tuesday – and this does have precedence – it happened last year on the budget approval.

    • John – if you listened at home, then I’m sure we didn’t hear anything differently. Yes, two council members had questions that prevented them from voting “Do pass”. But seven heard nothing to be that concerned about to not vote it “Do pass”. Seven is enough. I didn’t get the sense, being there, that there was any huge concern on the majority’s part to fail the ordinance.

      As far as a precedence, I don’t remember them passing any of the ordinances involved with the budget out of committee with a “Do Pass” only to change their minds in the regular session and fail it. There were various changes made during the committee session, but once the ordinances left committee for their final vote in the regular session, they all passed. Please remind me.

  3. Stephen – Refer to minutes of the Regular Session on October 28, 2008 where thye ordanances A-08-10-01, S-08-10-02 and S-08-10-17 were all not approved but were “held” for additional discussion. They were then approved at a later Regular Session.

    • John, that is completely different from what I am talking about. Being “held” is not passing something out of committee with a recommendation either way, it is simply held over until the next meeting for more discussion – NO action has been taken. Once a bill passes out of committee with a “Do pass”, which is what we are talking about in this situation, the Council very rarely will go back on that recommendation and fail it on final vote in the Regular Session, which is the situation I am talking about. I don’t think the current sitting Council has done this – failed a bill on the final vote after voting it out of Committee with a “Do pass”.


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