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A few thoughts
By Jim Sack
Fort Wayne Reader
Nelson Peters and Paul Helmke
Seems there are a couple more politicians assessing chances of becoming mayor: County Commissioners Nelson Peters and former three-term mayor Paul Helmke. Mr. Peters recently ran a telephone poll to rank his name recognition, favorables and negatives vis a vis others who might run. Nelson, you might remember, ran once before for mayor in 2006 when Graham Richard announced he would not stand again. Peters faced off against a pre-Tea Party candidate, Matt Kelty, in the Republican primary. (Politically) unemployed Tom Henry jumped in the Democratic Primary. The right wing of the local Rs rose up against Peters, the favorite of “liberal” Steve Shine, the Republican Party Chairman, and Kelty won going away. In fact, later he nearly went away for lying to a grand jury and the Mayor Thomas Henry era began. Now, seven years later Commissioner Peters is eyeing another run for mayor, as is incumbent Mayor Tom Henry, Councilmen Mitch Harper, Thomas Didier, Marty Bender and Dr. John Crawford not to mention a half dozen others. As for Mr. Peters, we haven’t heard much from his camp since the poll was conducted, so chances are it may have not have given him much hope. Nelson is a good man, has a long record of successful public service and should be taken seriously.
And now, a real wild card in the game, former three-term mayor Paul Helmke, whose recent admission that he missed being mayor, changes everything. However, Mr. Helmke, with his remarkable history and fine name not withstanding, would have trouble getting out of the Republican primary. He led the very, very contentious annexation of Aboite and St. Joe Township areas that made Fort Wayne essentially a Republican city, but one harboring deep seated anger toward him. Remember, elephants have excellent memories. His association with gun control cuts against the AK-packing image of the Republican Party. Helmke has often been called the most liberal Republican in Allen County, so, perhaps he would do better to run in the Democratic Party primary. Given Tom Henry acts more like a Republican it would make for an interesting campaign.
First, a word about Phyllis Pond: she is the epitome of a public servant. I have known her for four decades, interviewed her and admired her from afar. Mrs. Pond has served the people of Allen County in the Indiana General Assembly of Indiana since before most of the people here were born, and the former teacher has made improving education in Indiana her life’s work. Now, she is set to retire from public life and assume her seat as the grand elder of the local Republican Party. She is also the personification of fair and wise. Happily, a good group of candidates have offered to succeed her, among them Casey Cox, a youngish attorney who has greatly impressed city council time and again as their appointee to the Redevelopment Commission. Most who have heard his presentations appreciate his fairness, his thoughtfulness and a unflappable wisdom usually reserved for much older, battle-tested politicians. Like Representative Pond Mr. Cox is clear-spoken and to the point. She will be missed, he would fill her shoes.
New Government Liaison
It was announced recently that the City, you and I, have hired a lobbyist otherwise known as the Legislative & Business Liaison, to work the legislature and schmooze business. The newest employee is a Stephanie Crandall and she “returns” to Indiana from Washington carrying a law degree from William and Mary and years of experience in the halls of power. She is bright, experienced and capable and certainly will do a bang up job for the mayor.
Let’s hope she is soon introduced to the equally capable Phil GiaQuinta, who the mayor may have forgotten, is a manager in City Utilities and a veteran member of the Indiana State Legislature. One would think those credentials would sufficiently enable him to carry the mayor’s water on legislative matters, but who knows in these days of budget surpluses. To wit, last year the city gave the Alliance, a quasi-governmental lobbying group, hundreds of thousands of dollars to represent it (us?) to the business world at-large. In fact, to show Fort Wayne is stanchly pro-business the Alliance/Partnership/Mayor’s Office spent a part of your tax dollars lobbying on behalf of business owners in support of right-to-work legislation to compliment at-will legislation. Those two pieces of law do as much to commoditize employees as anything since serfdom, the dream of almost any board of directors. One would think the Alliance/Partnership/Chamber consortium, that also flogs tax abatements, incentives and other assistance for businesses, would already have all the credentials, and then some, to liais with business.
And, if that ain’t enough, the mayor’s former right-hand man, Mark Becker, now runs the adamantly pro-business Greater Fort Wayne, Inc., the conglomeration of the Chamber, the Alliance and the Partnership. Makes you wonder why the mayor needs the newest hire with that array of big guns. Now, remember back to budget time when cuts were exacted from all other city departments and benefits pared from employees. Remember? Back then departments were expected to “do more with less.” Perhaps the mayor has trouble leading by example.