Political Notebook

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Building consensus a tall order

Naysayers on new city-county offices task force

Mayor Tom Henry’s task force to discuss city and county building use has been created, but he will have some obstacles in getting the group to reach a resolution.

The group will include Henry and the three county commissioners, who all supported a plan to move the city and county offices to Renaissance Square and city and county police in the City-County Building.

The City Council voted 6-3 to support the plan, but two of the three council members on the new task force opposed it. Council President Tom Smith, R-1st, appointed himself, Councilman Mitch Harper, R-4th, and Councilman Tim Pape, D-5th. Smith and Harper opposed buying Renaissance; Pape supported it.

Smith, however, said he hopes to find a joint solution with the county to use both buildings. Henry said he will move city offices to Renaissance Square if a deal with the county isn’t reached.

The Allen County Council will provide a more difficult hurdle, as it voted unanimously to oppose spending the $7.5 million needed to renovate both buildings for county use. Council President Roy Buskirk, R-at large, said he is unsure what deal the group could make, especially if the mayor still wants to use the original plan.

“If he’s still talking about locating in the Renaissance Square building, I don’t think it has much chance of going anywhere,” he said.

Buskirk, who intends to run for county commissioner next year, appointed himself, Councilman Paul Moss, R-at large, and Councilwoman Paula Hughes, R-2nd, to the task force.

Those appointments present their own challenges for the mayor: Moss has been one of the staunchest critics of the plan, and Hughes plans to seek Henry’s mayoral seat in 2011.

No date has been set for the group’s first meeting, but it should be interesting, especially because the meetings are open to the public.

An early start

Key Indiana lawmakers will return to the Statehouse in early December to begin hearings on a few priority items.

Speculation has already started that legislators want to finish the 2010 short session before the usual March 14 deadline to give them extra time to campaign.

Regardless, Hoosiers have a chance to be heard on a number of bills – the biggest of which is a constitutional amendment to make property tax caps permanent.

The Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee kicks things off by tackling Senate Joint Resolution 1 – tax caps – along with a bill delaying unemployment insurance tax increases at a hearing at 9 a.m. Tuesday in Room 431 of the Indiana Statehouse.

The House Ways and Means Committee will have hearings on House Joint Resolution 1 – tax caps – and a related assessment bill at 9:30 a.m. Dec. 7. The committee will meet Dec. 9 on an Indiana worker preference bill and Dec. 14 on legislation limiting privatization of welfare benefits. Both of those meetings are also at 9:30 a.m. in Room 404.

Wyss visits D.C.

Sen. Tom Wyss, R-Fort Wayne, joined other executive members of the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review committee Nov. 19 in Washington, D.C., to review a report on counterterrorism and domestic security management, border security, enforcement of immigration laws and disaster recovery.

He was tapped by the National Conference of State Legislatures – a bipartisan organization that serves the nation’s legislators and staffs – to participate in a comprehensive review of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“This review is important to DHS because it will help set forth goals, address challenges the department faces and inform homeland security policy for the next four years,” Wyss said.

“A more efficient department can help better serve all Americans and contribute to the security of our nation.”

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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