Apparently the debate hasnt been settled over how much debt Fort Wayne has.
Republican mayoral nominee Paula Hughes brought state Auditor Tim Berry to town Wednesday to affirm that the citys debt is really more than a half-billion dollars.
Berry, a Republican from Allen County, did not disappoint Hughes, reading what seemed to be a bullet-point list of her campaigns talking points in support. He said he was offended by Mayor Tom Henrys attempt to change the numbers regarding city debt after reporting a higher number in a state report.
The citys annual financial report lists the city as having $516 million in long-term debt. While Henry has not said this number is inaccurate, he said it doesnt really represent the legal obligations of city taxpayers.
For example, $93 million of the debt are in pension costs the state finances with sales tax revenues – a point Berry acknowledged but said it is still a city obligation.
In addition, more than $200 million of the debt is for City Utilities, which is financed by water and sewer rates, not city taxes. A large chunk of this debt was incurred to finance $240 million of federally mandated improvements to keep raw sewage out of area rivers.
Berry said the federal government required the city only to fix the problem.
I dont think the federal government said you have to spend this dollar amount, he said.
Unfortunately for Berry, the federal government did set a spending minimum. The citys consent decree mandates it spend $240 million in 2005 dollars to reduce the number of times sewage overflows into the rivers. If it succeeds in meeting its target for a lesser price, it must spend up to that total to make the system even better.
Berrys appearance prompted political criticism from Allen County Democratic spokesman Kevin Knuth, who said the event seemed like a time for the auditor to push for a lieutenant governor position alongside gubernatorial candidate Mike Pence.
Hopefully hes better at accounting than he is at transparent political stunts, Knuth said.
Smile, you’re on
Democratic members of the Indiana Election Commission raised concerns Thursday that Republicans were playing political games by scheduling a controversial hearing in a room that broadcasts activities live over the Internet.
The meeting – involving a campaign finance complaint against a House Democrat who participated in a five-week walkout – was moved from the Indiana Government Center complex to the House Ways and Means Committee, which is equipped with cameras.
Democratic member Anthony Long said that in his 13 years on the election commission, the group has never eschewed one of the dozens of meeting rooms in the complex for the Statehouse, and he strongly suggested it was done to attract attention on the Internet.
I have no problem with publicity. But this hearing seems to have taken on a unique tone, he said.
GOP Chairman Dan Dumezich seemed surprised the meeting was being broadcast live and said there was no intent to get the meeting on the Web.
I think it was just a matter of this room being available, he said.
Where is Lugar?
The whereabouts of Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and primary election challenger Richard Mourdock are getting as much attention as their political views lately.
The Indiana Democratic Party pointed out Wednesday that Lugar had not yet visited the failing bridge that carries Interstate 64 over the Ohio River.
After Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., went to the closed Sherman Minton Bridge on Wednesday, five of six federal lawmakers whose Indiana or Kentucky districts include the cracked span have examined it, the Democratic Party leadership said.
When the going gets tough for Indiana, Senator Lugar goes to Washington, party Chairman Dan Parker said in a statement. After 35 years in Washington, Richard Lugar is out of touch with everyday Hoosiers.
In response, Lugar spokesman Andy Fisher said the senator has been working with Daniels and other Indiana and Kentucky officials on how to get the bridge repaired and reopened as quickly as safely possible.
But on Friday, Lugar was in New Albany, appearing at a news conference about the bridge with Gov. Mitch Daniels and Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez.
The previous week, it was Lugars campaign questioning Mourdocks schedule after Howey Politics Indiana reported that the second-term GOP state treasurer had attended only six of the last 17 meetings of the State Board of Finance.
Mourdock seems satisfied to admittedly phone in when it comes to his official duties and Board of Finance meetings, Emily Krueger, Lugars campaign manager, wrote in a letter to media.
Krueger also wrote that we Republicans call on our State Treasurer to come off the campaign trail now and then, and show up for work for the benefit of Hoosiers.
In a story published this week by the Evansville Courier & Press, Mourdock spokesman Chris Conner said that Mourdock and other state government officials, including Daniels, often designate staffers – with full voting powers – to represent their offices at Board of Finance meetings.
Richard is a member of almost 20 different state boards by state statute. Some of these boards even meet at the same time, Conner told the Courier & Press.
Candidate for 82nd
Albion resident Denise Lemmon announced Friday she is seeking the Republican nomination in the redrawn 82nd House District.
The district covers all of Noble County, as well as portions of Allen, Whitley, Elkhart and LaGrange counties. No incumbent lives in the district.
Lemmon is executive director for LEAP of Noble County, a community-based literacy agency.
Her prior professional experience includes working as program officer for the Noble County Community Foundation; serving as office manager for Whiteshire Hamroc, her familys international agri-business; and working as a speech clinician.
I am excited to have come to this point in my life where I can step forward and give back to the community that has done so much for my family, Lemmon said.
Noble County Young Republican Chairman David Ober has also announced his candidacy for the seat.
Rand poses conflict
For the second time this year, a major Republican fundraiser will occur on the same night the Fort Wayne City Council meets.
Even during a city election year, the GOP has made clear the schedule of speakers trumps that of some elected officials. The Bean Dinner will be held Oct. 25 to accommodate the schedule of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.
The date selected is not only a Tuesday, when the council regularly meets, but is also the date the council has scheduled to vote on the 2012 city budget, one of its key votes annually.
Council President Mitch Harper, R-4th, said depending on how budget hearings progress, the vote might be taken in time for Republican council members to make the dinner. The meeting starts at 5:30 p.m., and the dinner begins an hour later. Harper said he doesnt plan to change the meeting date.
The publics business comes before politics, he said, adding he hoped people attending the dinner would already be strong supporters of the Republicans on the council.
People interested in attending the dinner, which will be at Grand Wayne Center, should contact the Allen County GOP at 745-1970 or email@example.com
Tickets are $75 a person for the dinner and $200 a person for the 5 p.m. VIP reception.
Journal Gazette Washington Editor Brian Francisco contributed to this column.