The Journal Gazette
Sunday, December 12, 2021 1:00 am

Political notebook

City Council votes prove unpredictable

DEVAN FILCHAK and NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

Fort Wayne City Council members often align with their political parties when it comes to split votes.

But that wasn't the case in three 5-4 votes during Tuesday's council meeting.

The council spent most of the two-hour meeting debating the possible repeal of the 2017 ordinance placing restrictions on sexually oriented businesses, such as strip clubs. Ultimately, the repeal failed in the first 5-4 vote.

Republican Councilman Jason Arp was joined by most of the council's Democrats – Sharon Tucker, Glynn Hines and Michelle Chambers – in his effort to repeal the 2017 ordinance.

Arp's fellow Republicans – Paul Ensley, Tom Didier, Russ Jehl and Tom Freistroffer – voted against the repeal with Democrat Geoff Paddock.

A special meeting was held Tuesday to decide whether to approve City Utilities' acquisition of the Allen County Regional Water and Sewer District. Jehl had suggested tabling the request last month, but said he only wanted the issue brought back to the council if the water and sewer district board's representation had changed to become county dominant.

Jehl voted against bringing the issue back Tuesday, as did Arp, Ensley and Tucker. The discussion was reopened with votes from two Republicans – Freistroffer and Didier – and three Democrats – Hines, Chambers and Paddock.

The acquisition then failed in the third 5-4 vote of the evening. That vote was similar to the split vote to reopen discussion, except Hines voted in opposition with Arp, Ensley, Tucker and Jehl.

Tuesday's meeting was another example of how City Council decisions are rarely predictable.

Strip club reaction

The American Family Association of Indiana is celebrating the City Council's decision to keep regulations in place on adult businesses.

Republican Jason Arp pushed for the repeal of an ordinance that prohibits sexually oriented businesses from being open from midnight to 7 a.m. It also states that employees cannot appear semi-nude unless separated from patrons by 6 feet, on a stage at least 18 inches off the floor and in a room no less than 600 square feet.

Local residents involved in the adult entertainment business have complained at City Council meetings that the ordinance hurts employees financially and puts them more at risk because patrons are unhappy with the required distance.

Micah Clark, executive director of the American Family Association of Indiana, recently noted the Fort Wayne effort in his weekly email to supporters – disagreeing with Arp, who is a friend. Clark thanked those who contacted the City Council and criticized one supporter providing a ministry to the dancers.

“What happened to the idea that the purpose of ministering to ladies working the clubs was to help them leave an industry that is demeaning to women?” Clark said. “Thankfully, common sense prevailed, and the ordinance was narrowly voted down. This was due in part to excellent testimony by the police department and city attorneys who defended the ordinance in court and warned of what could happen without the regulations.”

Brown goes to DC

Republican state Sen. Liz Brown of Fort Wayne went to Washington, D.C., recently to hear firsthand the U.S. Supreme Court arguments that could block all abortions.

Brown said she stood with a group of diverse opponents of abortion rights, “praying and cheering on life.”

Ten years after Roe v. Wade legalized abortion, Brown was nine months pregnant while walking across the law school stage for graduation.

“I never imagined that by the time I delivered our seventh child, 20 years after Roe, that abortion on demand would be growing,” Brown said. “I knew, 41 years after Roe, when I was elected to the Indiana State Senate, that I would be part of the movement, championing pro-life legislation that would lead us to where we were this week, at the doors of the Supreme Court.”

Brown pointed to other laws that the court upheld – such as the dignified disposal of the aborted fetus.

“I am confident this new court will recognize the constitutionality of the 15-week abortion ban put forth by the great state of Mississippi as we continue our fight for life,” she said.

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