Mayor Tom Henry earlier this week
at the Courtyard By Marriott Hotel Groundbreaking
I was at the press conference and will have complete video and photos later this afternoon. Press release from Mayor Tom Henry on the Indiana General Assembly’s Special Session:
Statement of Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry on the Indiana General Assembly special session:
Along with every Hoosier, I am pleased that the Indiana General Assembly has concluded its work and approved a new two-year budget for the citizens of our state.
As Mayor of Indiana’s second largest city, however, I had hoped that several issues of importance to Fort Wayne would have been addressed. I was disappointed that our legislators were unable to give voice to the people of Fort Wayne on the issue of gaming, or to protect their interests by affirming City of Fort Wayne ownership of our municipal electric utility. Both of our requests were about basic rights and did not add a single penny to the budget.
We all understood that the schedule for the special session was very tight and that the primary focus was on adopting a new state budget. I appreciated the discipline demonstrated by our legislators, but I believe that some legitimate local needs would have benefited from Statehouse action.
Some months ago now, I shared the news with you that various private business interests had come to us as they began exploring the potential for gaming here. To prepare ourselves as a community, we studied the issue in depth. We engaged professionals to objectively research the economic and fiscal impacts of gaming, as well as its social and community effects.
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, and why I continued to work with our state legislators to the close of the special session to secure one. I believe that the people of Fort Wayne have a right to be heard.
Yes, I pursued this issue and I would do so again, because I am committed to making sure Fort Wayne has every chance to thrive. We are living in difficult economic times, our unemployment rate is the sad proof of the magnitude of our challenge. I believe any opportunity that can bring new jobs, high-quality investment and significant new revenue into our community is one deserving of serious consideration. We must never lose sight of that as we fight for our economic recovery.
Whatever the future might hold on the issue of gaming, let me make one thing clear: I want the people of Fort Wayne to be able to make their own decision about it.
The control of our municipal electric utility and the ability to serve its customers emerged as a central issue during the unsuccessful lease negotiations between the City and Indiana Michigan Power.
Our electric utility is a valuable community asset and serving our customers is a privilege. The legislation that State Representative Win Moses submitted would have clarified City ownership, something singularly important as we seek a new service provider. My goals are to get the best value for taxpayers, and the most competitive rates and the highest-quality service for our electric utility customers.
I believe strongly that the interests of Fort Wayne citizens would have been best served by a straightforward decision from the State Legislature. A small line in the budget bill would have cost the state nothing, but it would have had the ability to save Fort Wayne taxpayers and ratepayers tens of millions of dollars fighting a case in court to preserve what already belongs to them. The issue is fairness. And I will continue to fight for it.
Two other issues were part of the recently passed legislation. I am glad that an annual appropriation of $1 million for the Public Safety Academy of Northeast Indiana was included. The money is used to make lease payments on the building that is the academy’s home.
Finally, language in the bill confirmed Allen County’s responsibility for bridge maintenance. The County and the City recently entered into an interlocal agreement on bridge maintenance and repair, and one of the terms of that 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. That deal has now become part of state law.