Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry held a press conference to give an update on the recent Indiana General Assembly session and in particular the City’s hiring of two lobbying firms. Â The firms were engaged to lobby for a referendum vote on the casino issue in Fort Wayne/Allen County.
I don’t have the time to go into the entire proceedings right now, but I will say this. Â Megan Stembol, WANE-15 reporter, was a bit out of line. Â To see what I mean, I would direct you to the video clips. Â If you want, skip the first as it is just Mayor Henry reading his statement. Â Clip two begins the questions. Â Ms. Stembol just won’t let the issue that she feels lied to, go. Â I’ve never been in a press conference like this. Â Of course, I’ve only attended a few to this point, but even some of the veterans were shaking their heads when they left. Â
Anyway, here’s the playlist, followed by some photos. Â A full audio recording of the press conference will also be posted later this afternoon.
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Mayor Henry’s Statement:
Statement of Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry on the recent Indiana General Assembly session
Thank you for joining me today. In a few minutes, I’ll comment about the Indiana General Assembly session that just concluded. It brought some good news for Fort Wayne.
But first, let’s talk about another issue, one that has been a matter of public record since late last year, but in recent days, has consumed a lot of attention.
Yes, the City of Fort Wayne engaged governmental affairs professionals to help us secure a referendum for the people of Fort Wayne on the issue of gaming, something only the Indiana General Assembly can enact. This is how things get done in the state legislature and in Washington, D. C. To imply a service so basic is secret, extravagant or underhanded is at best ill informed.
Yes, our team members were hired openly and properly, the same as any other advocate or vendor we might employ to work on our behalf. Their associations have been a matter of public record from day one. They were retained without fanfare, but with no intent to confuse, and with every expectation that they would operate in public, which they have, and be an essential part of our strategy.
Yes, in addition to my own efforts with our state legislators, our advocates worked diligently examine the issue of gaming and to ensure that the City’s interests were well represented.
As Mayor, I made a commitment to serve the people of this community, and openness is one of the watchwords of my administration. I abide by that principle.
When private business groups came to us exploring the potential for gaming in our community, I said I would do two things: talk to those who have the ideas, and study the issue in depth.
Throughout our investigation, I listened carefully to the people of our city. You told me the issue of gaming was important to you, and you wanted your voices to be heard. That is why I led the way in calling for a referendum. It is why I immediately began working with our legislative delegation to make it happen. It is why I sought out the best talent to make our case in Indianapolis. I kept my word.
I believe strongly that the decision about gaming is not mine alone to make, but ours to make as a community. We must be able to choose for ourselves what is beneficial for us and what opportunities we want to explore.
I pursued this issue, because every day I become more and more concerned about the number of jobs lost in our community. The number of businesses that have closed. An unemployment rate that continues to rise. An ancient sewer system that must be restored to clean our rivers and meet federal mandates. Job creation, economic development and educational needs each requiring major investments to ensure we are a competitive and attractive community. And most of all, diminishing resources to meet all these challenges.
Yes, I pursued this issue, because I am committed to making sure Fort Wayne has every chance to thrive. In these difficult economic times, I believe an opportunity that can bring new jobs, high-quality investment and significant new revenue into our community, enriching it, our region and state in meaningful ways, is one deserving of serious consideration.
We don’t know what the special session will bring, but you can be certain of one thing: I want the people of Fort Wayne to be able to make their own decision on gaming. And I will continue to work with our state legislators using every tool available to me, including expert counsel, to secure a referendum. You have my word.
Now, I’ll make a few remarks about other legislative activity. Let’s start with some good news.
Through the hard work and strong leadership of state Representatives GiaQuinta, Moses, Bell and Borror, and state Senators Long and Wyss, and with the assistance of the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce, the City of Fort Wayne was successful in its effort to establish a Capital Improvement Board. House Bill 1514 will create the Allen County – Fort Wayne Capital Improvement Board which will allow a joint City and County board to prioritize capital projects within Allen County. This board will spur economic development, create jobs and will help us work together to strengthen our community.
The state budget contained an annual appropriation of $1 million for the Public Safety Academy of Northeast Indiana, an important community asset. This $1 million would be used to make lease payments on the building that is the academy’s home. I look forward to working with the legislative leaders during the special session to secure this $1 million in the state budget.
Recently Allen County and the City of Fort Wayne entered into an interlocal agreement on bridge maintenance and repair. One of the terms of the interlocal agreement was for the City and the County to support a change in state law allowing the County to use its major bridge fund to finance the maintenance and repair of all bridges in the County. This language was in the final version of HB 1447 which did not pass the House after the state budget failed. Again, I look forward to working with legislative leaders during the special session to pass the language needed for bridge maintenance and repair.