News release from Fort Wayne City Councilwoman Karen Goldner (D-2nd) and Councilman Tim Pape (D-5th):
Setting the Record Straight on the Permitting Ordinance
Council President Harper adds delay to ordinance drafted to cut red-tape, sends negative message to business community
Council President Mitch Harper’s explanations about the Permitting Ordinance at last evening’s Fort Wayne City Council meeting were misleading, obfuscating and at times, simply false. As a result Councilmembers Tim Pape and Karen Goldner are setting the record straight for the public and seeking an honest explanation for why economic development is being delayed by Councilmember Harper.
“Last night in his call for immediate action on the permitting ordinance, the President of the Allen County Economic Development Alliance noted that every permitting delay puts at least $300 million of private development at risk annually in our community,” said Councilmember Karen Goldner. “Instead, Mr. Harper unilaterally decided he’d delay the process himself and add more red tape. The ordinance is designed to eliminate unnecessary delays in large scale business investment that creates good paying jobs, and it needs to get done now.”
“The facts surrounding the delay of this important economic development ordinance lead to a disturbing conclusion,” said Councilmember Pape. “Either Council President Harper knowingly misled the public last night or grossly mismanaged his responsibilities. He abused his power as Council President and in the process has given local government another black eye in the economic development arena. We call for Mr. Harper to provide the council and the public a complete written account of his decision to delay improving Fort Wayne’s permitting process. ”
1. There was an 8-1 vote on Tuesday May 10, 2011, where Council President Harper, after reading the Permitting Ordinance, voted in favor of moving the Ordinance to public discussion at the next meeting on May 17.
2. On May 16, in a highly irregular move Council President Harper, unilaterally and without discussion, removed the Permitting Ordinance from public discussion at the May 17 meeting.
3. Harper mislead the public by stating that there where gross errors in the language of the Permitting Ordinance. What he referenced was a technical formatting glitch in the electronic copy of the Ordinance. Rather than request the City’s Information Technology department help him to reformat his copy of the document, Harper removed it from the agenda. The printed copy had no errors. The glitch resulted in “?” in the place of bullet points.
4. Harper also misled the public in claiming that the Ordinance was poorly written. And yet he voted for the exact same Ordinance a week prior without making such allegations. The Ordinance was written and presented in the same format as every other ordinance.
5. After voting on May 10, Harper was the only member of Council who refused a comprehensive briefing on the program by the city administration.
6. Harper misled the public by alleging that Pape was responsible for the content of the ordinance. Harper claimed that Pape had “â€¦introduced an ordinance that grammatically didn’t work. I [Harper] hoped that you [Pape] would have come tonight with a proper draft.” This statement was factually inaccurate, and leads to the question of whether the Council President intentionally misled the public.
7. Pape did not draft, sign or introduce the Permitting Ordinance. Pape is co-chair of the City Utilities Committee, but the ordinance was introduced to the Regulation Committee chaired by Councilmember John Shoaff. Harper as President of the City Council made those chair appointments.
8. At last night’s meeting, Harper refused to answer basic questions about when he made his unilateral decision, with whom he consulted, and to produce all documents generated.
9. Harper left the meeting before even bothering to hear from the President of the Chamber of Commerce or the President of the Economic Development Alliance. Both stressed the importance of this issue and the need for a timely solution.
10. Harper was so uninterested in moving this ordinance forward that according to his Facebook page he went to the movies rather than stay to hear the important testimony from leaders of the business community.