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What is failure?

The Fort Wayne City Council on Tuesday couldn’t quite decide what a tie means.

The council voted 4-2-2 on a tax abatement issue with two members opposing and two abstaining. Council rules require five supporting votes to approve any bill. That means it did not pass, but the question was whether it meant it failed.

Councilman Mitch Harper, R-4th, chaired the committee where the bill was discussed and argued that because the council hadn’t voted successfully to move the bill from his committee to the full council, it should remain there for discussion in future weeks. Harper abstained from the vote over concerns with the abatement.

Several members, plus attorney Jim Howard, questioned whether it was appropriate not to have a final vote on the bill – the council typically takes final votes on all bills not specifically delayed by a separate vote. To end the debate, Council President Tom Smith, R-1st, ordered a final vote to be taken on the abatement – saying closure was needed on the issue.

Harper tried to make a point that keeping the bill in his committee would allow John Shoaff, who was absent, to cast a potentially deciding vote on the issue at an upcoming meeting.

But the final vote occurred and the votes remained the same and Smith, who opposed the abatement, declared the bill dead. Smith noted the vote showed the importance to show up to every council meeting.