The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, March 15, 2016 8:55 pm

IEDC open meeting unfriendly to public

Niki Kelly and Brian Francisco | The Journal Gazette

The letter of the law can differ wildly from its spirit. That truism was proved yet again last week at a meeting of the Indiana Economic Development Corp.

Board members gathered at our own Parkview Field for their quarterly meeting. The venue was the Tuthill 400 Club, a suite built on the ballpark’s concourse, offering a stunning view of center field.

What it didn’t offer Tuesday was much of a view of the IEDC.

Although board members were technically meeting in public, as they are required to do, their chairs were pulled up to three tables arranged in a U-shape with the open end facing a wall. Staff, local officials, reporters and members of the public had full view … of board members’ backs.

Granted, a portable screen was set up at the open end of the table arrangement, but little time was spent referring to information projected there. And TV screens located throughout the room displayed the same information. In fact, some board members were seen looking at the TVs instead of the white, pull-down screen during that part of the discussion.

To make matters worse, board members didn’t use microphones, instead speaking to one another at conversational volume that might not have been loud enough for some to hear. Officials made no effort to ask whether everyone could hear them conducting state business.

Tom Lewandowski, president of the Northeast Indiana Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, was among those seated in the audience. It was his fourth IEDC meeting.

Before seeing board members in action, he’d assumed they would welcome interaction with taxpayers during meetings. But the setup quickly sent another message.

"This is not intended for public participation," said Lewandowski, who was a New Haven city councilman for 16 years. "This public is being excluded from the process. That’s the message you get. It’s the way they set up the room."

Mayoral commercials

Mayor Tom Henry’s reelection campaign released its first TV ad of the election cycle last week. The 30-second video features Henry’s mother and siblings and highlights the city’s finances, neighborhood investments and public services.

"Thanks to Mayor Henry’s leadership, Fort Wayne is working," said Robert Dible, Henry’s campaign manager. "Over 5,000 new jobs, historic investments in neighborhood infrastructure, a booming downtown and high-quality city services – all while managing Fort Wayne’s finances responsibly."

Henry’s campaign video can be found here:

The mayor isn’t the first candidate to release a campaign video. Henry’s challenger, City Councilman Mitch Harper, R-4th, released his first campaign video Aug. 12.

Harper’s 30-second video states that if elected, he will strengthen Fort Wayne’s neighborhoods, protect the Legacy Fund and "put an end to corporate welfare schemes."

Harper’s video can be found here:

Banks gets endorsement

The political action committee for the conservative Christian organization Family Research Council announced it has endorsed state Sen. Jim Banks for northeast Indiana’s seat in the U.S. House.

Banks, R-Columbia City, is among seven announced candidates – five Republicans and two Democrats – for the 3rd District seat occupied by GOP Rep. Marlin Stutzman, who will run for the U.S. Senate in next year’s elections.

FRC Action PAC official Jerry Boykin said in a statement that Banks is "a strong advocate for limited government, for individual and religious liberties, and for family values."

Other Republican candidates for the 3rd District seat are state Sen. Liz Brown of Fort Wayne, former Wisconsin state Sen. Pam Galloway of Warsaw, farm operator Kip Tom of Leesburg and manufacturing supervisor Scott Wise of Columbia City.

The Democratic candidates are Huntington games store owner Todd Nightenhelser and Fort Wayne resident Tommy Schrader.

Pence’s new website

Gov. Mike Pence’s campaign launched a flashy new website last week –

Its main page features a large picture of a smiling Pence in front of an American flag with the words "Bold, Hoosier leadership."

It highlights recent newspaper articles, dozens of photos, a scorecard for six key issues such as education, economy and budget, as well as quick links to volunteer, donate and follow on social media.

Those quick links are located in a yellow box on the left side of the page. The only problem is the box stays there when you move to other pages. So for instance, when you click the education part of the scorecard, the box blocks the text. In fact, the box blocks a little of every page.

Young introduction

The U.S. Senate campaign of Rep. Todd Young, R-9th, will run a TV ad dur­ing CNN’s broadcast of the GOP presidential candidates’ debate Wednesday night.

Trevor Foughty, Young’s campaign manager, said Friday that the 30-second spot will run on cable systems in five Indiana markets, including Fort Wayne.

"Given the ratings for the first debate, and the interest in the upcoming debate, we recognized a unique opportunity to introduce Todd to Hoosier Republican primary voters," Foughty said in an email.

Young, a third-term congressman from Bloomington, is among four Republicans and two Democrats seeking to replace the retiring Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., in next year’s elections.

Foughty said the Young campaign is spending about $10,000 on the ad buy and that the spot will air twice on most of the five cable systems. He said the campaign’s text message subscribers will get to see the ad Tuesday night.

Questions for Chambers?

A Democratic candidate for Fort Wayne City Council at-large has plans for a series of question-and-answer sessions with voters.

The one-hour sessions with candidate Michelle Chambers will take place at Allen County Public Library branches located in each quadrant throughout the city.

The dates and locations of meetings are:

•Sept. 23 – 10:30 to 11:30a.m., Aboite branch, 5630 Coventry Lane

•Sept. 30 – 5:30 to 6:30p.m., Shawnee branch, 5600 Noll Ave.

•Oct. 6 – 5:30 to 6:30p.m., Waynedale branch, 2200 Lower Hunt­ing­ton Road.

•Oct. 13 – 5:30 to 6:30p.m., Tecumseh branch, 1411 E. State Blvd.

Chambers won the Democratic nomination in the May 5 primary election for one of three Fort Wayne City Council at-large positions. Fellow Democrats Mike Avila and Terry Anderson also secured party nominations for at-large seats. They will face Republican Councilman John Crawford and Republican candidates Michael Barranda and Thomas Frei­stroffer in November.

Online political tool

Hoosier voters, political candidates and elected officials will soon have access to a nonpartisan online tool that offers a unique spin on the traditional political process., a collaboration between two Indiana-based entrepreneurs, will launch Wednesday across the state.

A news release said the website will give Indiana candidates for public office the opportunity to "claim" their profile page, which they can use to raise ­money, recruit volunteers, post pictures and convey their positions on public policy issues in a format accessible to voters.

Elected officials can also create a profile page.

The site will provide a searchable database for Hoosier voters. will be "seeded" with basic biographical information about candidates running in Indiana this year.

"Voters need to research candidates for public office, and candidates need a platform to showcase what they believe," said Adam Berry, co-founder of and former policy director for Gov. Mike Pence.

"By offering a platform that empowers voters and candidates, we hope to elevate the debate to reach more people who want to be engaged in the political process at the local, state or national level." is the result of collaboration between Berry, a Republican, and Frank Short, a Democratic strategist with 35 years of government and political experience.

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

Dave Gong and Sherry Slater of The Journal Gazette contributed to this column.

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