Political Notebook

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Harper likely pick for City Council president

Fort Wayne’s next City Council president is likely to be its most experienced legislator.

When the council meets in its organizational meeting this week, it likely will appoint Councilman Mitch Harper, R-4th, as its leader. While the position is mostly ceremonial, the president does have power in assigning committees and creating the agenda.

Because Republicans have the majority on the council, they likely will keep the position within the party.

Harper is the favorite for the post because he is currently vice president, has not been president during this term and has the experience of being a former state legislator.

“He’d be a really good president,” said Councilman Tom Didier, R-3rd.

Harper also benefits because of politics. Councilwoman Liz Brown, R-at large, also has not been president. But she has declared her intentions to run for mayor this year. Her appointment as president would be viewed as highly political, giving her a heightened platform from which to criticize Mayor Tom Henry. Didier said she could be appointed vice president.

The other three Republicans – Tom Smith, R-1st, Marty Bender, R-at large, and Didier – all have been president this term. It would not be unusual for someone to serve two years as president in one term, but this group of Republicans has made an effort to share the post.

The only long-shot chance for the position to be given to a Democrat rests with Councilman John Shoaff, D-at large. He is a respected parliamentarian and has sided with Republicans on several issues. But it’s unlikely the GOP would give him the position during an election year when several Republicans will be looking to unseat him from office.

Still aiming higher

Just because the election is over doesn’t mean the job of Gov. Mitch Daniels’ political action committee is done.

The Aiming Higher PAC – which poured more than $1 million into House races to help win a Republican majority – is still raising money to support an “aggressive” 2011 legislative agenda.

That agenda includes a balanced budget without a general tax increase, education initiatives and restructuring of local government.

Aiming Higher also has contributed to other non-legislative races and funded some travel and entertaining for Daniels.

Daniels can’t legally raise money for his campaign committee during a budget session – which starts Wednesday – but it’s a little murky whether he can help raise money for the political action committee. A new ethics law says an individual who holds a state office can’t solicit or accept campaign contributions or “conduct other fundraising activities” during the long session.

Aiming Higher had scheduled a Jan. 13 reception and dinner in downtown Indianapolis. Individual reception tickets were running at $250, but supporters could host a table of 10 for the reception and dinner for $10,000.

It was unclear from the invitation whether Daniels would be involved.

Aiming Higher Finance Director Katie Thomas said the event has been postponed until March and the governor is not participating. The PAC is working on finding a new speaker.

Gratitude top goal

Getting to the gym more – check.

Controlling his temper – check.

Those were two recent New Year’s resolutions that Daniels made. This year, his goal is to make more of an effort to get out and thank people for their hard work.

“I thank people when I’m around them in the day-to-day course of business,” he said. “But this year, I need to recognize the kind of job that state employees have been doing. I need to push myself out a little more often and see people I wouldn’t otherwise see.”

Loving his work

Henry has yet to declare whether he will seek a second term as mayor, but in an interview last week, he could not hide his passion for his work.

“I love my job,” Henry said. “I’ve got the best job in the world.”

While he admits the job sometimes has stress, he said that can be melted away by simply visiting with some young students. He said their innocent questions, such as whether he has Secret Service, make the job truly worthwhile.

“It’s a thrill,” he said.

Asked when he plans to make his re-election plans known, Henry used one of his oldest jokes, saying he first must consult with his family, which can take awhile: The mayor has more than a dozen siblings.

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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