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Sunday, February 03, 2019 1:00 am

Contention on council was limited during '18

Majority of votes made by group were unanimous

DAVE GONG | The Journal Gazette

Of nearly 300 ordinances and resolutions approved by the Fort Wayne City Council last year, the majority were unanimous votes. 

“What that usually means is that those were routine votes that don't have a Democrat or Republican side,” Councilman John Crawford, R-at large, said. “There weren't that many controversial issues that came up.”

Exceptions include issues like collective bargaining, the pay-to-play campaign contribution ordinance and the Electric Works vote.

There isn't really a partisan way to fix potholes and pave a road, Crawford said. 

The City Council passed 295 measures in 2018 and 112 received nine yes votes. There were dozens of other unanimous votes throughout the year, though occasionally some council members were absent or abstained. 

There are nine members on the City Council: seven Republicans and two Democrats. 

While most votes were unanimous, a records review by The Journal Gazette shows two council members went against the majority more than their colleagues. Councilman Jason Arp, R-4th, voted no on 82 bills last year. Councilman Paul Ensley, R-1st, voted against 66. Despite these votes, the pair still vote with the majority most times. 

Ensley voted yes on 229 bills last year; Arp supported 213. Attempts to reach both councilmen for comment were unsuccessful. 

Most of those no votes opposed various tax abatement applications that the council reviews. Arp and Ensley routinely vote against those applications because they would rather see Allen County's business personal property tax eliminated. The council considered 21 new tax abatements in 2018; Arp and Ensley voted against most of them. There are two votes required for every tax abatement application – a declaratory resolution and a confirming resolution. 

Ensley is running for reelection this year. Arp has not yet said whether he plans to run again. The deadline to officially begin a campaign is Feb. 8. 

The pair have also voted against various economic development projects, including a parking structure lease for The HIVE mixed-use development, funding for Electric Works, the creation of a public art commission and three downtown dining district liquor licenses. 

Despite the large number of unanimous approvals, every council member has taken a stand against one proposal or another.

Councilman Geoff Paddock, D-5th, for example, voted with Arp against an override of Mayor Tom Henry's veto of the pay-to-play campaign contributions ordinance.

Councilman Russ Jehl, R-2nd, voted against the 2019 city budget because he wanted to see more invested in public works projects.

As the 2019 election season begins, campaigns and voters may begin to analyze votes taken by council members up for re-election, Andy Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at Purdue Fort Wayne, said.

Looking at the votes cast can give constituents insight as they consider who to vote for.

“Votes give some idea of the mindset of council members,” Downs said. “Most of the time they have plenty of chances to explain themselves.”

dgong@jg.net