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The Journal Gazette

  • Niki Kelly | The Journal Gazette The 12-foot wreath that hung in the Statehouse under first lady Karen Pence is now in storage.

  • Barranda

  • Ober

Sunday, December 24, 2017 1:00 am

Councilman reflects on contentious year

NIKI KELLY and BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

It wasn't a great year for freshman Fort Wayne City Councilman Michael Barranda.

In his remarks at Tuesday's council meeting, Barranda, R-at large, said that of the two years he's been on the council, 2017 was “certainly the worst of the two years, I suppose.”

Barranda noted an ongoing debate with the Rifkin family, who recently sold their North River property to the city in a deal panned by almost every council member but ultimately approved on a 5-3 vote. Barranda in particular was vocal in his opposition, prompting an op-ed column from the Rifkins published in The Journal Gazette on Dec. 17. (Barranda's own op-ed appears today in Perspective.)

“I suppose it's probably also fitting that the year has a little button on it with billionaires taking me to task about my integrity on council,” Barranda said at the council meeting. “I guess that's a sign of good things when billionaires put you in their sights if you've somehow offended them because we overpaid $1 million for the purchase of a piece of property.”

Barranda said his service on the City Council has always been guided by a desire to do the right thing.

“I will always strive to do the right thing. It may not ultimately be the correct decision, I don't know,” Barranda said. “But I will always be guided by what I believe to be right and just, guided by the principles of accountability and integrity and transparency that I ran on.”

Taking a break

A member of the Fort Wayne City Council hopes politicians and constituents can find time to unplug from the country's politics for a little while this holiday season.

“I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, and let's hope we can all unplug a little bit from the fray of politics and spend some time with the things that are truly important, like family and remembering the reason for the season,” Councilman Russ Jehl, R-2nd, said at Tuesday's council meeting. “The reason that brings peace and joy to our hearts.”

Out of sight

A wreath touted by former Indiana first lady Karen Pence is out at the Statehouse.

Back in 2014, Pence gave the Statehouse a holiday makeover, moving away from a gigantic tree in the middle of the rotunda with handmade ornaments.

Instead, she hung a 12-foot wreath with colored lights that was donated by the Friends of the Indiana State Archives. Several smaller trees with white lights dotted the second floor below the wreath.

The smaller trees remain this year but, alas, no wreath.

Stephanie Wilson, spokeswoman for Gov. Eric Holcomb, said the theme of this year's holiday celebration was “Hoosier Holidays: Memories Made Naturally.” It was hosted by the Department of Natural Resources, so the big focus was on Christmas trees.

The wreath is being stored in state archives.

Signing off

Twitter aficionados have mourned the absence of Rep. Dave Ober, R-Albion, from the pithy social media site.

Ober was once a staple of Twitter – quick with sarcastic remarks, perfect GIFs and some 140-character political rants.

But he deactivated when the goings-on in Washington, D.C., with President Donald Trump, as well as state politics, began taking up too much of his time.

Ober said he noticed that only a handful of people in his northeast Indiana district engaged with him on the site, so it was time to back away.

“It was partly to preserve my sanity,” he said. “My quality of life is much improved.”

Congrats to USF

The Allen County commissioners on Monday congratulated the University of Saint Francis on winning a second straight national football championship.

“The Allen County Board of Commissioners wishes to extend its congratulations to the University of St. Francis Cougar football team for its 24 to 13 victory over Reinhardt University Saturday in the 62nd annual NAIA national championship game,” the commissioners said in a statement. “The team once again displayed excellence on the field in capturing back-to-back national titles. Congratulations go out to AFCA regional coach of the year Kevin Donley and his staff along with NAIA player of the year Nick Ferrer and his teammates. Allen County is proud of you!”

Dave Gong of The Journal Gazette contributed to this column.

To reach Political Notebook, email Brian Francisco at or Niki Kelly at An expanded Political Notebook can be found as a daily blog at