City Council agenda – 1/5/2010

The Fort Wayne City Council

The Fort Wayne City Council meets in Committee Session Tuesday night at 5:30 pm in room 128 of the City-County Building.

The agenda may be downloaded here.  There are only three items on the agenda:

Regulations Committee: S-09-12-15
AN ORDINANCE designating a Historic Preservation District John B. and Amelia Franke House – 2131 Forest Park Blvd.

Finance Committee: S-09-12-16
AN ORDINANCE approving construction contract for the Three Rivers Filtration Plant Lime Sludge Pumping and Draw-off Control Improvements Phase 2 Res. #2018-2007, W.O. #0572 between Robert E. Crosby, Inc. and the City of Fort Wayne, Indiana, in connection with the Board of Public Works.  Total cost of $353,000

Since this is the first meeting of 2010, the first order of business will be the reorganization of the Council.  City Clerk Sandy  Kennedy will preside over the Council as they elect first their President and then their Vice-President.  You will notice that the 2009 committee persons are listed on this agenda.  That may change over the next week or so, depending on the pleasure of the new, or retained President.  The President may at his or her discretion set the committees up any way they wish.  He or she will also set the seating arrangements.

The City Council President can set the tone for how the Council works with the Administration on the various issues to be faced this year.  Two years ago, Councilman Tom Didier (a Republican) served as President and while many lambasted his sometimes apologetic and repetitious style, Didier performed a great job of keeping the agendas and meetings balanced while working behind the scenes with the Administration on issues.

Over the past year, President Tom Smith took a less heavy-handed approach with the agendas.  In fact, one or two of the meetings could have been avoided, some on the Council felt, if only items had been shifted.  President Smith, also a Republican, was not afraid to take on the Democratic Administration, especially in matters regarding Harrison Square, or spending.  At other times, especially with the Calhoun Street widening project, calls for a public hearing came too late in the process to make much of a difference.  The one time Smith tried to get out in front of an issue, the City Light Lease negotiations with Indiana Michigan Power, he succeeded in scheduling both parties to appear at the Council table, however was thwarted in those efforts by a gag order from the mediator working with both sides.  I also wrote last year upon his election as President, that I had concerns about his desire for shortened meetings.  The meetings were a bit more controlled under Smith, so I’ll be the first to admit I was wrong on this concern.  Part of the reason, however, for that shortness was the next discussion point.

One of the best things that Smith did was to appoint Councilwoman Liz Brown to the Finance Committee.  When I first saw this, I’ll admit I really questioned Smith’s sanity.  But, Councilwoman Brown, an At-Large Republican, worked hard and long on the budget process.  I believe part of this came from being caught short on her knowledge of the budget process during her first go-round on the budget process in 2008.  Councilwoman Brown has been criticized much for her short and direct manner of speaking.  Personally, I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of her questions.  However, her sharp table demeanor has raised everyone’s game at the table – especially that of those appearing before the Council to advocate for budgets or appropriations.  They’d better have done their homework because you can bet Councilwoman Brown has.  All-in-all, Councilwoman Brown is one of the hardest working Council members.  I say this because I know of the hours she put into the budget process, not just in the month or two before the hearings, but the entire year.  I have also seen her at almost every public meeting I attend on various subjects.  Hat’s off to Councilwoman Brown.

But getting back to the selection of a new Council President, the name that seems to be bandied about lately is that of Councilman Marty Bender, At-Large Republican.  For those who may not be cognizant of it, Bender is also a Deputy Police Chief with the Fort Wayne Police Department.  Currently, there are no statutes barring a City employee from serving on a governing “policy-making” body.  Last year this time, there was an increased movement to enact some of the recommendations by the Indiana Commission on Local Government Reforms which was lead by former Indiana Governor Joe Kernan and Indiana Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard.  One of those recommendations was to eliminate employees of local government units from serving as an elected “policy-maker”, i.e. a City Council member.

At last year’s reorganization meeting, Bender’s name was proffered as the Republican choice for the Presidential slot.  However, when it came to a vote, Bender received one vote, his.  Smith was elected President and Glynn Hines, Democrat of the 6th District, Vice-President.  Even had the recommendations been enacted by the State’s General Assembly, a grace period would have been allowed and Bender could have served out his term on the Council without jeopardy. In the intervening year, however, there have been questions about some of Bender’s votes on issues which some felt he should have abstained from.   Plus, in the past year, he has sided with Democrats numerous times.

At this point, I think it’s anyone’s guess as to who this year’s Council President will be.  I will offer three names which I feel have the best chance at this juncture: Marty Bender, Glynn Hines or Tom Smith.

Tune in tomorrow night as I will hopefully be blogging live from the meeting.

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