Live: City Council notes – 9/8/2009

The Fort Wayne City Council

Notes from tonight’s City Council meeting.

As long as the internet connection lasts, I’ll be updating this post frequently throughout the Committee Session.


Deputy Mayor Greg Purcell and Jim Howard, City Purchasing Director are before the Council to speak to this ordinance, introduced by Councilwoman Lizn Brown.

Jim Howard is talking about the trouble with this ordinance are the definitions used which can lead down a slippery slope.  Someone has to sift through the contracts to determine which will go before the Council.  If lists are made of those vendors presenting contracts, that then becomes public which other competing vendors may obtain.  He’s also talking about the requirements of training others in his department to work with this.

Councilwoman Liz Brown:  Mentioning the High Performance Government Network.  This does cover more than just lobbyists.  If we had limited this to just lobbyists, wouldn’t have covered HPGN?  Jim – that’s right.  All contracts over $100,000 come before the Council, regardless of what it is.  They are flagged by the accounting software and brought before.  She is citing several contracts in the recent past under the $100,000 including the recent NOVI contract.  Baker & Daniels federal lobbyists, $94,000 for this year.  Greg – it’s been on-going and widely known they’ve been lobbying on behalf of the City.  Point – if nothing changes, still no Council oversight.

Jim Howard – probably about 150 contracts to be sorted out of the list which are  under $100,000.  Of the $100,000 and above, probably not 100 have to be approved by Council.  We have to sort through 2,000 purchase orders annually.  Issue is it a special issue usage?  The definition is expansive.  There are other consultants we could be dealing with.

5:51: I still have to go through the contracts.  Talking about the exceptions involved with Buy Indiana ordinance as well as other contracts.

Liz Brown – all we’re doing is moving the $100,000 threshhold down.  Liz Brown just motioned to amend her ordinance, seconded by Tom Didier.

Karen Goldner – works out to about 1 contract a day to be prepared for Council.  Questioning the amount of time that will go into  preparing the amount of information the Council will want.  Anytime you have a threshhold, you have the opportunity to have something come just under that threshhold.  Again, mentioning the “terrible” handling of the HPGN contract.  Questioning if the aggregate amount of a contract should be a determining factor.  Haven’t discussed Economic Development contracts.  “There is not better way to kill an economic development project is to put it in the newspaper.”  If these contracts are brought to Council, it will be  a really good way to make it difficult for those we pay to do economic development’s job harder.

“We’re not in charge of everything financially.  It’s to oversee  everything financial.”  Talking about the small impact of some contracts.  Because of the staff time involved vs the return, it’s not our job to micromanager and we run the risk to screw up the economic development in this community.

Mitch Harper – Might be good to amend it to say those contracts with aggregate amounts over $100,000.  Council Attorney Bonahoom has been asked to draft an ordinance to this affect.

Arguing that it’s not managing, it’s openness, disclosure.  6:04 – Mitch is asking for clarification of lobbyists under current contract.  Mitch is asking why legal services are not included.  Liz responded she is open to it.

Deputy Mayor Greg Purcell – Andy from Economic Alliance.  Issue of land acquisition – fear we have lost our competitiveness.  We want to get the amount of land needed for a plant like Harley Davidson in southern Indiana, but can’t be all the way public about it.  Real Estate Speculators.  Best practice has always been to use public restraint until land is acquired.  This ordinance would have tremendous impact on our ability to obtain land at a reduced cost to the public.  Harley Davidson – 1,000 acres of land available.  Cost around $15,000 per acre, or $5,000 per acre if utilities weren’t run to the area.  It’s misleading to suggest this ordinance would prevent a Harley Davidson project when there’s a lot of things to be done before the project could happen.  Andy – it would increase the cost of a project, not necessarily stop it.

Greg Purcell – that project in Shelbyville is not coming to Indiana because someone in that community opened their mouth and let it out.  This is the thing you need to understand.  Disclosing it to Council, discloses it to the public which effectively kills off economic development.

Mitch Harper – GM is the largest manufacturer land acquisition in Allen County.  Railroad company optioned the land, it did not ocurr through governmental agency.

Greg Purcell – it’s not as if the City is going to be the only player.  If you talk with any economic development personnel, the worst thing that can happen is the possiblity of land acquisition.

Karen Goldner – Every acquisition requires hiring of consultants.  Every time you have to disclose information, it puts us at a disadvantage.  Andy – Railroads and utlities would no longer have the involvement as they did with GM.

John Shoaff – do we differentiate between lobbyists.  Consultants for a certain outcome, or of selling something to our citizens?  Greg – not sure what you mean.  John – very appropriate to be invovled with efforts to evaluate issues like casinos, gambling rather than the economic development portions we’re talking about.

Tom Smith – How often does it happen that we are in this position where it would be an issue?  Andy – past history did not go in this direction, I was hired t change that.  Talking about his past city where parking operators bought properties, demolished the building and put a parking lot on it.  Pre-development activities are needed – banking land.  We have two sites which are shovel ready – 10 and 25 acres are the current sites available.  No downtown land is available for this.  If we want to see future development, we need to do this downtown.

Greg Purcell – talking about Summit 1 and 2. We’ve gotta work hard now and not putting up any hinderances to economic development.  We’re not trying to hinder the right to now what’s going on.

Liz Brown – Andy – could be talking as of Thursday about 3 projects that could be affected by this ordinance.  I would be ok with this ordinance if economic development were left out.

Liz Brown –   Substance of this bill is to merely have disclosure.  I’m willing to cut off those contracts under $15,000.  If we cap them lower and exclude economic development contracts, the public will still get what it wants.  The disclosure has been less than what it should be.

Greg Purcell – we indicated  we would be supportive of disclosure of lobbyists.

Liz Brown – I was willing to put an amendment to exlcude the economic development part, it was turned down.

Andy – (6:35) just asked if gaming was a part of economic development?  The anwer is no.

Joe Bonahoom – discussing how to handle it.

John Shoaff – A motion of postponement until work with Administration can ocurr.  Seconded by Karen Goldner.

Mitch Harper – It should be up to Liz Brown when the ordinance comes back to Council.

All voted in favor of holding.

Live blogging is coming to an end…battery is low.

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