Political Notebook

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Negligent panelists won’t be punished

The Fort Wayne City Council last week dived headfirst into the minutiae of city government.

The body spent more than 40 minutes debating whether to create penalties for its appointees to boards and commissions who do not file annual reports on their activities.

Existing law requires those appointees to write a report or appear before the council each year, but the proposed amendment would have made them ineligible for reappointment if they “forgot their homework.”

Several members felt such a punishment was too harsh for volunteer appointees who had other things going on in their lives, and they thought it might scare people from wanting to serve the city.

“Let’s be honest, there are boards that are darn hard to fill,” said Councilwoman Karen Goldner, D-2nd.

Councilwoman Liz Brown, R-at large, wrote the bill and said that such a small requirement to keep tabs on appointees is reasonable.

But that desire for active and effective appointees contrasts with Brown’s own attendance on the Urban Enterprise Association board. This year, she has missed four of seven meetings of the board, which deals with urban economic development.

Brown admits her missed meetings are a legitimate concern, adding that she plans to include those in her report to the council.

“I’m glad someone is tracking my attendance,” she said.

She said she tried to have someone else take that board position in January but could not find anyone else on the council willing to serve.

In the end, the council scrapped the proposed punishment for appointees who fail to file their reports but kept in place the law requiring them to file.

GOP homework

Now you can help the Indiana Republican Party from the comfort of your favorite recliner.

The Indiana GOP announced last week that volunteers can gain access to the most advanced Internet phone-calling technology directly from their home.

The Phone From Home initiative is the newest weapon in the fight against Democrats on the national level and in the effort to help Republicans win back a majority in the Indiana House, the party said.

In the past, the GOP has established Victory Centers in several large cities across the state to serve as phone banks for Republican candidates. Now – through new technology – loyal party members can participate in virtual phone banks from their own home.

State party spokesman Trevor Foughty said the initiative is not an effort to get around Indiana’s law prohibiting electronically dialed and recorded messages.

He said these voter identification surveys have always been conducted by volunteers. Now the program simply uses new technology to allow more people to participate.

The purpose of the calls is generally to find out the person’s party preference, see whom the person might vote for in various races, and find out what issues are most important to that person.

Hypnotized

Bob Meeks spent several years when he was a state senator fighting to establish the Indiana Hypnotist Committee, even overcoming a governor’s veto.

One time, to make a point to his colleagues, he even paid $25 to obtain a doctorate in hypnosis from a fly-by-night institution of hypnosis training.

Now a lobbyist, Meeks is probably a little disappointed to see that as of July 1, the committee has ceased to exist. Lawmakers eliminated the group during the last legislative session.

Or maybe Meeks foresaw what was to come.

In 2006, when Gov. Mitch Daniels was eyeing the elimination of the hypnotist board and many others, Meeks questioned the effectiveness of the group.

“They don’t seem to have any power, nor the willpower to regulate themselves,” he said then. “I would probably stand back and say ‘do whatever you feel is necessary.’ ”

Sign of the times

It just turned August, and already political signs are showing up around Fort Wayne. The biggest culprits: judicial candidates Ken Scheibenberger, the current Superior Court judge; and opponent Wendy Davis, an attorney with Beckman Lawson and a part-time deputy prosecutor.

Unfortunately, both candidates’ campaigns seem to have ignored the city’s laws when it comes to political signs. Each had a sign next to the street off Lake Avenue near Forest Park Boulevard, but city law prohibits signs from being posted in a city right of way.

It should be noted that the Davis sign went up first, followed by one for Scheibenberger.

While we doubt the candidates posted the signs themselves, we’d hope judicial campaigns would instruct their volunteers on how to follow the law.

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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