Last November, a field hearing was held in Fort Wayne by the DLGF.
At the hearing, Fort Wayne Councilwoman Liz Brown (R-At Large) and Councilman Mitch Harper (R-4th) addressed the DLGF (Department of Local Government Finance) asking the body to decrease the levy for the 2011 City Civil Budget.
Councilman Tim Pape (D-5th) sent a letter to the DLGF the first of December.
Charles C. Garnette Sr., a local citizen has sent a letter to DLGF Director Karen Large in response to Councilman Pape’s letter. He has provided a copy to AroundFortWayne:
Karen Large, Director
Department of Local Government Finance
February 7, 2011
RE: Response to Tim Pape’s letter on field hearing in Ft Wayne.
Dear Ms Large,
Once again it’s necessary for a resident of the 5th District in Fort Wayne to step forward to correct the egregious and deliberate false statements made by 5th district Council member, Tim Pape. On about December 3, 2010, Mr. Pape wrote you a letter and released it to the local media. In that letter Mr. Pape asked you, and your agency, to disregard the requests of two other members of the Fort Wayne Common Council to lower Fort Wayne’s tax levy. Both Mitch Harper, and Liz Brown appeared at the November 30 public hearing convened by the Department of Local Government Finance to plead their case. It’s unfortunate that in Mr. Pape’s letter he resorted to personal attacks, half-truths, and worst of all not informing your agency concerning a financial windfall that recently benefited Fort Wayne. I am sure it was that windfall that motivated the two members of the Council to countermand their previous vote supporting the levy.
Mr. Pape contends that Councilwoman Brown’s assertion her budget cuts would not have been approved because of partisanship was false, because Ms. Brown is a Republican and there are five Republicans on the nine-member Council. But this majority is in name only. Marty Bender is a registered Republican, who has routinely and consistently voted with the Democrats. Mr. Bender is the Deputy Chief of Police and reports directly to the Chief and our Democratic mayor. The conflict of interest is so great that the Indiana Legislature is drafting legislation to outlaw city employees from serving on city boards. Mr. Pape is aware of this conflict of interest, as Deputy Chief Bender has voted with Mr. Pape on many issues, including a recent pay increase for city policeman that benefited Deputy Chief Bender. Ms. Brown is correct in that her tax levy reduction proposal would have failed in City Council.
Mr. Pape wrote “Council unanimously approved the levy and the budget on Tuesday, October 26, 2010. With all due respect, there is no foundation to trump that decision, and you certainly should not do so based upon false and misleading representations made to you”.
Actually something did trump that decision, something very foreign to Mr. Pape – the truth.
Three weeks after the Council voted on October 26, the same Council voted on November 17, to accept $39.2 million in a settlement with Indiana Michigan Power Co. This agreement was to settle the purchase of the assets of the old Fort Wayne City Light after the 40-year lease to I&M ended. It was four weeks after the Council accepted the nearly $40 million settlement that Councilwoman Brown and Councilman Harper appeared before your November 30 hearing in Fort Wayne. At that time the two Council members were really convinced that the increased tax levy was no longer necessary. I believe a $39.2 million windfall does trump any political card played by Mr. Pape.
Link to CC vote:
This $39.2 million settlement with I&M is not to be confused with the already $40 million paid into the I&M- City Light trust fund over the 40 year lease agreement, that is cash already in the bank. And you are aware of the city’s cash reserves.
Both Councilwoman Brown and Councilman Harper took it upon themselves to unburden the citizens of Fort Wayne from an unnecessarily high tax levy after they voted to accept $39.2 million in a windfall settlement. Mr. Pape, who also voted to accept the same settlement, had the same opportunity to attend the same hearing, and make the same request. He could have also simply remained silent. But he took the extraordinary and predictable step of attacking two elected officials whose only interest was to reduce the tax burden on the people they represent. I am well aware that this money cannot be assimilated into the general fund. But as you know it can be used to pay off bond issues, capital improvements to the Parks Department, or new sewers mandated by the EPA, all resulting in a reduced city budget.
Although Mr. Harper has only been on the Common Council for three years, his colleagues elected him president of the Council in January, one month after Mr. Pape’s letter to you. After serving on the Council for seven years Mr. Pape has been awarded no such honor.
Furthermore, with $40 million from I&M in the bank, and another $39.2 million coming in annual payments, the mayor decided to form a committee to explore how the city should spend this money. He chose one Republican and one Democrat from the Council to serve on that committee, and that would be Mr. Pape and Mr. Bender -need I say more?
It is my hope that your agency will rise above the childish politics and agree with those who base their actions on logic and not on political rhetoric.
Charles C. Garnette Sr.