City hires Lobbyists to push Legislators to grant referendum vote

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Ben Lanka, in today’s Journal Gazette, states that City of Fort Wayne has hired two Lobbying firms to push Indiana Legislators for a referendum vote on the gaming issue in Fort Wayne, Allen County. Great job, Ben! Read the article, then take a moment and leave me a comment about your gut feeling afterwards.

While professing neutrality on the issue, Mayor Tom Henry’s administration quietly hired two law firms to lobby state legislators to advance a public vote on gambling in Fort Wayne.

On the final day of the state legislative session, the city confirmed hiring Krieg DeVault, of Indianapolis, and Taft Stettinius & Hollister, of Cincinnati, to lobby on the city’s behalf regarding gambling issues. Henry said the contracts weren’t intentionally kept secret and the firms were hired only to promote a referendum on gambling, a proposal he has previously supported.

Henry said many people have said getting any gambling issue through the legislature – even a referendum – would be difficult this legislative session. That is why he believed it was necessary to hire both firms.

[…] City Council President Tom Smith, R-1st, said he was unaware the city had hired the firms and was surprised the city did not make such action known to the public. He said it is especially odd because he has heard criticism that the referendum has stalled because the city hasn’t pushed it enough.

“Why would you hire them to work on this referendum and no one seems to know what they’re doing?” Smith said.

[… Smith added it seemed odd the city was spending more money on this issue, but the mayor has yet to host the public meetings he promised on the topic.

Contracts for the firms were not available Wednesday, but Ozzie Mitson, Henry’s business and legislative liaison, said both firms had been working with the city for months. Each firm is being paid $3,000 monthly.

Henry said the firms are registered as lobbyists and there was no secret in hiring them, but no city official ever discussed or announced publicly the firms were hired, either.


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  1. Fuming, Angry, Typical Administration Tactic!

    That is my initial response…..

    I wonder how long it is going to be before City Council starts forcing approval of special contracts that are under $100K that were not previously approved under the budget.

  2. My gut feeling….grand opening of the new Downtown Fort Wayne Casino in 2012. I’m not opposed to casinos, I just think downtown would be a bad place for one. Though when I first started hearing casino chatter a while back, I thought they wanted to drop it in Wizards Stadium’s location. Wonder what happened to that plan?

  3. Not at all surprised – contrary to his public comments, it is becoming more and more apparent that Mayor Tom wants Fort Wayne to house a casino.
    Does this really seem out-of-character for a Fort Wayne Administration considering events of the past three years? That’s the trade-off in Indiana between a “town” and a “city” government. Fishers, IN is going through this disscussion right now.
    With a “city” you get a strong bureaucracy that can push easily any ideas they may have, just due to the momentum it can generate – almost unstoppable by the citizens.

  4. Kenneth – no, the City Council will not force approval of contracts under $100K. However, I do think they will probably move to requiring some sort of oversight, even if it’s only to be provided with a monthly list for review. It would make the entire process too cumbersome and Council meetings would go from 2 hours to 4 hours.

  5. Ft Wayne seems ripe to change to a Council/Manager form of government. In Indiana this form of government is, improperly so, referred to as a “town”.

    John b. kalb is correct, the question will come to a referendum this November or by next May here in Fishers. Here is an excerpt from a document comparing and contrasting the two forms of municipal government.
    “Born out of the U.S. progressive reform movement at the turn of the 20th century, the council-manager system was designed to combat corruption and unethical activity in local government by promoting effective management within a transparent, responsive, and accountable structure.”
    Professional Municipal Managers, as opposed to Mayors, are educated and accredited to do only that. They must show up for work and earn their pay EVERY day. They report only to the Council so they don’t waste time, effort and resources trying to get re-elected. I cannot think of a more representative form of government. Indiana cities are truly at the mercy of incompetent and unethical elected executives. Certainly not saying that there aren’t any good ones but as demonstrated time and again, it can take a decade or more for a city to recover from the damage a bad one can do. It is also interesting to note that
    “Of the 247 U.S. cities with populations greater than 100,000 residents, 144 (58 percent) use this (council/manager) form of government. (Including Dallas Texas, Las Vegas Nevada, and Phoenix Arizona.) Here is a link to the entire article:

    There is precedent in Indiana for “cities” to convert to this form. Watch for a proposed change to Indiana law, allowing a “2nd Tier” type of Town allowing for more councillors, more districts, more at-large councillors and a “weak” mayor. This mayor would not be elected but appointed by the Council to basically act as a figurehead and PR rep. More importantly, this mayor wields NO power to well…you all know.


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