Political Notebook

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Guns OK on city property – but not state

Legislators this year passed a law essentially gutting all local government rules and regulations regarding firearms.

Lawmakers said they acted to make sure Hoosiers with proper gun-carry permits could take their handguns into municipal or government-owned buildings and properties such as libraries, parks or city halls.

But that law didn’t help a handful of Hoosiers who attended a Statehouse protest last week over an Indiana Supreme Court ruling.

The peaceful rally of more than 200 was on the south lawn on a bright, sunny day. People carried flags and signs and even brought chairs and coolers.

But those carrying weapons were quietly escorted to the sidewalk by Indiana State Police officers.

That’s because a weapons ban for state government buildings also extends to the lawn, police told the citizens – all of whom showed proper permits to carry their handguns. The state ban is based on a rule passed by the Indiana Department of Administration.

Some of the men wore the handguns openly on their hips in holsters while others had shirts covering bulges. Back at the sidewalk, they couldn’t hear the speakers and couldn’t participate in the protest.

Eric Barnes of Indianapolis said it wasn’t all that unexpected that police would ask him to step off state property with his handgun – a Colt .45-caliber pistol. But he is a proponent of openly carrying weapons and wanted to attend the rally.

“I think it’s my Second Amendment right to be here,” Barnes said. “I hope that more of us open-carry people would be here next time.”

The House sponsor of the law allowing guns on municipal property attended the rally and said the legislation was aimed at local regulations, not state policies.

“There is irony there,” said Rep. Mike Speedy, R-Indianapolis. “To me it doesn’t seem right.”

He said lawmakers could possibly look into changing the state rule next year.

Back on the ballot?

At least one person has reached out to support Tommy Schrader.

Gina Burgess, a local businesswoman, sent a statement to the media last week announcing her intent to return Schrader to the ballot after what she calls improper and premature actions by the Allen County Election Board.

The board voted this month to remove Schrader from his Democratic Fort Wayne at-large nomination after he told board members he had registered to vote in Wisconsin and voted in the Green Bay primary while on vacation there.

In an extensive statement, she says the board did not give Schrader a proper hearing, and she defends Schrader by saying he should not have been allowed to vote in Wisconsin because Fort Wayne was always his residence.

She concedes Schrader should have known that voting in another district might hurt his chances, but she says it was always his intention to return to Fort Wayne.

Oddly enough, Burgess doesn’t plan to support Schrader in the fall election if he is reinstated, calling him an “undesirable candidate.”

“It’s not about the candidate, it’s about the process and procedure that is being handled,” she said.

Kevin Knuth, local Democrat spokesman, said the party “absolutely” believes the board ruled properly that Schrader did not maintain his residency.

In a move that seems to undercut her own arguments, Burgess asks the election board to ask the Democratic Party to offer Schrader a different spot on the ballot.

“Because Schrader’s residency at the time of the primary was in question, this could be seen as a peace offering as no one can question his current residency now ... which has fluctuated between the Travel Inn and the Country Heart Inn near the intersection of Coliseum and Goshen Road … which is clearly in the 3rd district of the City Council,” she wrote.

She said the compromise would allow everyone to win by giving Schrader the small victory of a fall ballot spot with no true chance of winning office.

Schrader’s case is scheduled to go before the Allen Circuit Court for a preliminary hearing Wednesday.

Joining the fray

Zach Bonahoom, the Republican candidate for Fort Wayne clerk, entered the political firefight over the permitting proposal last week.

He issued a scathing statement attacking Mayor Tom Henry and Clerk Sandy Kennedy, both Democrats, for waiting until an election year to propose upgrades to technology that would streamline the permitting process for contractors seeking to do business with the city and county.

“In order to implement true technology reform, the authors must actually understand what needs to be done,” he wrote. “Right now I don’t think anyone knows because of the lack of specifics in this ordinance.”

The actual appropriation bill contains no specifics about how the city would spend its half of the $1.4 million joint city-county request. Deputy Mayor Beth Malloy has released a breakdown of those costs.

Bonahoom’s attacks are reserved for the mayor and clerk – not surprisingly, as they are his party’s targets for the fall. But it fails to mention that the proposal was pushed by several other city and county officials of both parties.

After being contacted by Political Notebook, he said his concerns over the timing also extend to those county officials, saying many of the improvements could have been made years ago.

While he supports technology upgrades, he doesn’t know “if it has to be that big of a price tag.”

Continuing the fight

After a seemingly calm City Council meeting last week, Councilman Tim Pape, D-5th, decided he couldn’t let the permitting issue rest.

Similar to the week before, Pape sent a statement Wednesday criticizing “misstatements” made by Council President Mitch Harper. He again pointed out that Harper skipped his briefing on the issue and then pointed out the city has several metrics it plans to use to measure the success of the effort.

Harper has long criticized the lack of benchmarking in the proposal – there is none in the ordinance.

“We need a community that is united in our fight for good jobs and business investment, not elected officials who are scaring them away with delay tactics and false information,” Pape’s statement said.

The city and county councils meet this week to finally discuss the proposal in a joint session.

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.