Political Notebook

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Clerk makes cut easy for council

Salary cuts for themselves, the mayor and even all city employees weren’t too frightening for members of the Fort Wayne City Council to make last week.

But there was one position that most council members apparently were afraid to touch: that of City Clerk Sandy Kennedy.

The council voted 7-2 to eliminate Mayor Tom Henry’s pay raise for 2010 and voted unanimously to cut its own raises. But the sponsor of those cuts, Councilwoman Karen Goldner, D-2nd, backed away at the last minute from even proposing to remove Kennedy’s pay increase.

“Those are the only two amendments I’m going to offer,” she said. “I’ve changed my mind.”

Councilwoman Liz Brown, R-at large, had the gumption to offer the cut in Goldner’s place, but the council defeated the proposal by a 5-4 vote.

Such an action allowed Kennedy to play the hero, later telling the council she would reject a pay increase, although she thanked the five members who thought she deserved one.

The council then approved cutting her raise unanimously.

Opposition switch

A Whitley County man who said in July he would challenge Rep. Mark Souder, R-3rd, in the 2010 Republican primary now says he will run as a Libertarian.

In a news release, Scott Wise said the GOP has abandoned its core principles, such as small government, constitutional rule and individual liberty and responsibility.

“I think our government is too big for its britches,” he said. “The Libertarian Party stands for freedom and limited government, and so do I.”

Earlier, he said Souder has “made a mockery out of the conservative movement.”

Wise ran against Souder in the 2008 Republican primary, losing with 23 percent of the vote.

He announced his congressional candidacy in 2006, but the Indiana Election Board said Scott did not file the forms properly, and his name did not appear on the ballot.

Wise, 42, is a night-shift supervisor at Warner Electric Co.

He is a former Whitley County councilman.

Council confusion

The Fort Wayne City Council spent three hours cutting 0.25 percent from the already balanced city budget and then struggled to get enough votes for it to pass.

But for all the debate, one issue seemed to cause the most agitation: How members actually voted for several cuts.

Unlike in previous years, the council took only voice votes for the proposed cuts – and many of the votes were unclear throughout the night.

Clerk Sandy Kennedy implored the council to take roll-call votes so she could track every cut, but she was rebuffed.

“This has to be correct,” she said. “You guys are confusing me.”

Even council members themselves were unsure how they voted on different cuts when asked between meetings. Several members asked how they were supposed to sign different bills – not a great sign.

The confusion gives Political Notebook the opportunity to suggest some kind of electronic vote board to show how each member voted on every question.

It would be simple, accurate and could even reduce some of the extended vote explanations from members.

Open but crowded

Speaking to an unusually packed room Monday morning, Allen County Commissioner Bill Brown took the opportunity to tout the commissioners’ weekly discussion sessions.

Reporters, photographers, Mayor Tom Henry and senior city and county executive staff filled the commissioners’ conference room to hear the news that a tentative deal had been reached to merge city and county dispatch. Normally the informal meetings draw few followers.

“Well, this is the biggest crowd we’ve ever had for our discussion sessions,” Brown quipped before the meeting got under way. And he quickly noted how great it is that the county’s three executives meet in open session to debate projects, issues and agenda items before they vote.

Brown pushed for the sessions when he first took office in 2007 to comply with open-meetings laws. And he continues to push for the commissioners to be more open and accountable in an effort to prove to the County Council that the board should not become part-time employees.

Brown, however, couldn’t get Henry to openly debate the agreement or to consider changing it. Henry said he would sign the deal and simply wanted to “share” the news with the community. He quickly bowed out of the contentious conversation at the table.

Despite Henry’s non-engagement, Brown thanked Henry for coming, saying again how great it was for the four executives to get together and discuss the merger.

“It’s a great day to get together and talk about this,” Brown said.

Uniting the GOP

Announcing that she will not run for County Council next year, Paula Hughes set the stage for her mayoral campaign. But she has also set some high goals for herself.

First, she wants to be elected mayor. Then, she wants to rein in the city’s budget. And she wants to heal the deep rift in the Republican Party created during the 2007 mayoral race.

“If I do it right, it will really pull the Republican Party together as well,” Hughes said.

But first she has to make it through a Republican primary, an election round that knocked out front-runner Nelson Peters last time. Peters lost to the more conservative Matt Kelty, splintering the party.

That rift widened after Kelty was indicted on felony charges of campaign finance violations and perjury.

Party Chairman Steve Shine said there will likely be other candidates facing Hughes in the primary and the party will support whoever wins.

Border battle

It’s a rare occasion for two governors to attend a ribbon cutting, but that’s what Gov. Mitch Daniels and Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland did last week to open the section of the new U.S. 24 across the state line.

But the actual event was on the Indiana side of the border, a point Hoosier officials made several times.

Rep. Randy Borror, R-Fort Wayne, asked people behind the stage – near Ohio – to come in front of the stage for the event – allegedly so they could properly hear what was said.

Strickland responded, “The Ohio governor wants Ohioans watching his back.”

Daniels corrected a Buckeye official who said he was happy to be in Ohio, noting they were on his turf at the moment.

But the Hoosier governor offered the best zinger when discussing the fact that in Indiana, an improved U.S. 24 would eventually stretch west to Lafayette.

He then noted that Lafayette is where Purdue University is, adding they play football in the Big Ten Conference – an obvious reference to the school’s recent upset of the Ohio State Buckeyes.

The line drew plenty of laughs, at least from Indiana attendees.

Washington Editor Sylvia Smith and Amanda Iacone of The Journal Gazette contributed to this column.

To reach Political Notebook by e-mail, contact Benjamin Lanka at blanka@jg.net or Niki Kelly at nkelly@jg.net. To discuss this entry of Political Notebook or others, go to the Political Notebook topic of “The Board” at www.journalgazette.net.

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