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Pat yourself on the back
By Jim Sack
Fort Wayne Reader
Senator Tom Wyss
The long-serving and esteemed public servant is not running again. Senator Tom Wyss has decided it’s time to move on. There will be accolades, recognition events and tributes and someone else will try to fill his very big and well-worn shoes. A pack of Republicans have started hustling support. However, those aspiring to his seat do not include City Councilman Tom Didier, the odds-choice. He has a sales job and staring at college expenses for two lovely daughters. Serving in the state senate means three months away from home, family and no income. Ask former State Representative Win Moses, who now is refocused on his successful real estate business, and enjoying the successes undivided attention brings. Serving our area in Indianapolis is for people of means, or those who can take off three months in the winter…like farmers or lawyers or baseball players. It is, however, nearly impossible for someone in sales.
As for Senator Wyss. many of my country club friends will be glad to see him go. After all, his legislation on alcohol consumption and driving made happy hour a bit less frivolous and our roads significantly safer. Without a doubt of all of Senator Wyss’ many accomplishments, and they are many, he would tell you slashing the number of drunks careening down our roadways is his proudest. None of us will ever know whether his legislation saved our life, or that of one of our kids, but you can bet there were hundreds fewer funerals and many fewer broken families in Indiana because of his dedication.
When the administration and their friends on council get down to scrutinizing the budget throughout October one factor under consideration will be the levy, and more specifically, the banked levy. The state allows governments, including cities or libraries or airports, to forego automatically authorized annual tax increases in favor of banking the option to recoup it in subsequent years. Fort Wayne has $6 million of banked levy, taxes eligible for collection that were not used by Fort Wayne. But because city council chose to forego those $6 million did not mean it was deducted from your tax bill; au contrar, the city’s $6 million was collected, but was apportioned to other governmental entities, such as the county, townships, schools, the airport, the library and more. If the administration and council agree to recoup the banked levy, which they will, that $6 million will be deducted from 2014 revenues for the schools, the library system, the airport, the county, and all the others, with the result of seriously denting their budgets. A couple years ago city council members proudly chose not to take their levy thinking it would cut taxes. It didn’t. They should have known. That little bit of conservative flag waving just confused things, nothing more, and now it has hurt every other government district in the county.
One of the smartest, most forward looking steps the Henry Administration has proposed and city council has endorsed is the CIP, the capital improvement plan. In short, the administration and council will budget, revenues willing, for five years into the future for those bigger-ticket maintenance items in civil city and parks, police and fire. Pavilions will be repaired, dollars will be set aside for new police cruisers, the fire department will know when they will have the cash to replace a pumper. Over the years capital improvements have been neglected in favor of operating expenses. Roofs are leaking. Fleet vehicles have crossed that line where it makes more sense to replace than repair. Over the years these ongoing, regular needs were brought to the table on an emergency basis, almost as a surprise to members of council as if they thought tires would last a lifetime. The CIP allocates dollars in 2014, 2015, and 2016 and beyond. There should be fewer surprises and better services to the community. Whoever had the idea, Controller Pat Roller, former fiscal advisor John Stafford, the mayor or some drone in the bowls of the building, he/she should be applauded for this elemental, but formerly allusive process.
Pat Yourself on the Back
Council and the mayor get along, famously. You chose your council representatives and you did a great job. A few years ago council meetings were dramatic, little soap-operas, skirmishes, brawls where three or four members went at each other hammer and tong week in and week out. One member made it her norm to attack every city official, save those she happened to know, as if they were criminals. Liz Brown, who is now a resolution conflict counselor, and trying to find an open seat, brought tears to the eyes of people she attacked ad homonym at the table. Bitter is a valid description of her. Other council members then and now have condemned her behavior. This council is nearly the obverse of that mud-fight; voices seldom rise, questions are more professionally and calmly asked, there is an air of cooperation and collaboration. Mitch Harper makes points through humor or historic reference. John Shoaff genteelly campaigns for his objectives; Councilman Didier offers his “everyman” perspective; Geoff Paddock starts every sentence with words of appreciation and recognition, Tom Smith proffers ideas. Council and the administration get along, thanks to your vote in the last election. You chose a less combative and a more workman-like council that handles occasionally substantial differences with mutual respect. Give yourself a pat on the back.