A little late, but I wanted to post this before tomorrow’s meeting.
At last week’s Fort Wayne City Council Reorganizational meeting, City Clerk Sandy Kennedy assumed the President’s chair to conduct the annual reorganization. Â However, Kennedy wasn’t paying attention and banged the gavel 30 seconds too early. Â I say banged because she really hammered that that table. Â In fact, she about gave Councilwoman Karen Goldner a heart attack as she suggested those with heart conditions might want to pay attention. The Council then waited 30 seconds for the television broadcast to catch up and the meeting began without incident.
As has been his custom, Mayor Tom Henry appeared at the Council table, invited by Clerk Kennedy. Â During his address he mentioned the following accomplishments:
- City Light Lease agreement, which resulted in just over $39 million coming to the City over the next decade and a half
- 200 East Berry
- Garbage and Recycling program
- Courtyard by Marriott construction, which has resulted in attracting 5 major conventions
- Balanced budget – over the past 10 years, the staff has been downsized 9%, geographic boundaries increased by 40% and population growth of 30%
- Added rivergreenway and trails – in 2005, only 20 miles, now at 61 miles
- Facade Grants – the City has invested $200,000 which has grown to almost $1 million in private investment
- SmartGov – the Mayor admitted, ‘you’ve kind of kicked us along the way…’ but it’s in place with new items to be added in 2011
Just before he left the table, he mentioned that he’d left the building earlier in the day for a meeting. Â When he returned to his parking spot, he found a car there. Â He then turned to Councilwoman Brown and quipped, “I hope you’re not being presumptuous in parking there, Liz.” Which drew laughter from the Council table. Â He was also given a warm round of applause from the Council members upon his departure.
Councilman Glynn Hines, who has been on the City Council since April, 1999, presented outgoing Council President Marty Bender with a plaque marking his tenure as Council President.
Of Presidents and VP’s
Then matters turned to electing a new President and Vice-President. Â Councilman Mitch Harper was nominated by Bender and seconded rather rapidly by Councilwoman Liz Brown and with no discussion or other nominations, he was duly elected President. Â He assumed the chair and opened nominations for his second in command. Â Again, rather rapidly and with no discussion or other nominations, John Shoaff was elected Vice-President. Shoaff was nominated by Tom Smith and seconded by Glynn Hines. Â John Shoaff, Democrat, looked a little stunned, as well he should given there’s a Republican majority on the Council.
In my prediction last week, I noted it would come down to two names for President – Harper and Councilwoman Liz Brown. Â One out of two gave me a 50% batting average. Â However, I wasÂ completelyÂ off the mark for Vice-President as I’d tossed out Tom Smith’s name. Â Of course, only the Republican council members will know what, if any, discussion took place regarding the selections as obviously this was worked out before the meeting. Â I certainly hope they didn’t caucus!
Shoaff is an excellent choice for Vice-President in many respects and certainly deserves the position and vote of confidence from his fellow Council members. Â I think, with what’s shaping up to be a competitive At-Large race, the selection will give an extra boost to Shoaff in his endeavor.
Shoaff is no stranger to supportingÂ RepublicanÂ positions and going against the wishes of Mayor Tom Henry and his administration. Â Most notable among his opposition has been that against Harrison Square. Â Shoaff has made no qualms about where he stands on the project, which has not softened over the last four years. Â In fact, his public statements concerning the project has outweighed Councilman Tom Smith’s who at one time was taking the opposition lead. Â Shoaff, along with Smith and former City Councilman Don Schmidt, were the three lone City Council votes against almost every Harrison Square related ordinance.
I might add that AFW readers selected the right Councilman for President in the poll conducted last week.
Promises from the President
Newly elected Council President Harper promised to work not so much at the table as behind the scenes to quietly guide the proceedings more efficiently. Â There were some comments about working with City Clerk Sandy Kennedy towards projects which would make the Council more accessible and the consent agenda concept once again was mentioned.
Council Boards and Commissions appointments
One area that Council President Harper made a move to help clarify and ease the process was the Council’s annual appointments to various Commissions and Boards. Â Every year for the last three, confusion and last minute action occurs on these selections. Â Harper suggested slowing down this year’s selections to allow for more scrutiny in the process. Â He also directed citizens to visit the City Clerk’s website for a list of positions the Council will be considering. Â Only one problem with that – which is the same this year is in all theÂ precedingÂ years. Â There is no list available. Â There is a list of the Boards and Commissions that the Mayor appoints members to, but nothing about City Council appointments. Â I asked two weeks ago for the list, but have yet to see it. Â I think two years ago I did receive the list, but didn’t bother to ask last year because it was a hassle and the process so unclear. Hopefully, this oversight will be corrected this week.
Other Council business
People always ask how I can sit through some of the long and oft times tedious meetings. Â Every once in a while, there’s Â a tidbit of information that sparks the imagination. Â One of those tidbits in this meeting was the fact that the City still has in service a fire hydrant built in 1916 – over 95 years old. Â It is still in good working order and was to be inspected last week to insure it is still viable. Â The Fort Wayne Fire Department checks approximately 1,000 to 1,500 hydrants each year of the approximately 9,000 in the system. Â A local supplier is used for the hydrants which resulted in a 5% savings.
Also presenting at the Council was the City’s Purchasing Director, Jim Howard. Â Always animated and interesting, Jim presented the Council with 7 purchase ordinances for various compounds to be used in the Water Filtration Plant as well as the Water Pollution Control Plant. Â Once again, reverse ‘ebay style’ auctions were used and the savings were great. Â This tool has been used over the several years, including the City’s purchase of road salt.
All in all, a very congenial meeting that will hopefully set the tone for a productive year!