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Police chief, anyone?

By Jim Sack

Fort Wayne Reader


Candidate Mitch Harper sidestepped the key question at his recent news conference concerning his policing policies, if elected. The question, posed by the dean of local political reporting, Kevin Leininger, was “who will be your police chief?” It was, after all, a news conference about improving the police department, so it is important to know. Not only should we know who would fill that spot in a Mr. Harper, Esq.’s administration, but also who would occupy other key posts, such as controller, head of economic development, planning, parks, board of works, etc. It is the team that a mayor puts in place that makes the difference in whether the garbage gets collected and traffic lights work. Mr. Candidate Harper avoided answering the question citing some prosciptive rule. If you happen to see Mitch on the campaign trail ask that question. Mayor’s do not govern alone, it is the team they build that matters.

Pat Roller is a very good example of that rubric. She is the city’s controller, our Schatzmeister, our treasurer, our principle financial advisor, and further she is expected to serve also as visionary to make sure the city has the money to achieve prosperity and a rising quality of living for us all, including how gas tax will be affected by electric cars and bike paths. She has assembled her own team who serves us all well. In fact, Republicans on city council generally give her very high marks, indeed, for her productivity, her willingness to find solutions and her honesty. Think a laurel wreath at her brow and palm fronds under her feet. Councilman Crawford, a fiscal hawk, has lauded her work to the head nods of everyone else on council, including the ever-skeptical Councilman Russ Jehl. The question goes again to Mr. Harper as to whether he would keep her in that position or who bring in someone else. The answer could save us millions or cost us dearly. The same question in a slightly different form goes to Mayor Henry.

Tell Him I Lied

Years ago, the story goes, on winning the election Ivan Lebamoff was in the process of forming his cabinet. One young lawyer had been told by Ivan, or so that young lawyer recalled, that he would become city attorney if he worked hard enough in the campaign: back then, as now, the position means to all sorts of fees and payments and a sure route to prosperity for the firm of the chosen attorney. The young attorney’s calls to the mayor went unanswered. The young attorney became anxious. He expected a meeting with Mayor Lebamoff. Finally, after a dozen calls the attorney reached the mayor’s personal secretary. Ivan overheard the conversation, it is recounted, and simply muttered, “tell him I lied.” Hope springs eternal in each candidate’s camp where workers spend hours on phones in the hope their work or contribution will buy them a job or “access.” The candidate becomes a tease who encourages hope, but never quite utters a clear promise, except Ivan, or so we are told.

The Public Safety Director Post

Back to the police news conference. Mitch did say that the post of public safety director would be cut. It is currently held by former police chief Rusty York who is running for Councilman Harper’s soon-to-be-vacant seat in Aboite. Mitch says the department is top heavy with brass, and light on patrol officers. Mr. Harper promises to add 50 officers over time and to rejuvenate the Police Reserve which he says has fallen from 60 officers, who fill in for the regulars in times of need, to six officers. For that he blames the Henry Administration. As for police chief, getting back to that earlier question, Councilman Harper broadly hinted that current Chief Gary Hamilton would keep his job. Might we wonder if Ivan is snickering in Macedonian heaven?

Henry and Labor

A campaign mailer arrived the other day with a picture of Mayor Henry and a worker going over a blueprint (or a pizza order form) together. It probably featured the Mayor pointing vaguely into the distance, the worker with his helmeted head turned in the direction of the upraised arm and, girders and bobcats in the background, stares attentively. The image is a cliché, and, according to city workers, misleading. You may remember Councilman Tom Didier reported the mayor told him that Mayor Tom wanted to be rid of the city’s unions, but also wanted council to do the dirty work for him, which, tails wagging, was dutifully achieved. For those who have watched the interchange of Administration and Council every Tuesday they would tell you that Mr. Didier’s report sounds believable. A city attorney often at the table complained about the many hours (read: money) that she spent (read: wasted) in union negotiations, in handling grievances and managing the daily friction of management-labor relations. It is nothing new, every mayor has had challenges dealing with city workers because the city is no different than GM or GE or any other big company.

Management wants things to magically happen, and labor wants workplace safety and rules to be part of the pixie dust. Unlike previous mayors, Democrat Tom Henry managed, according to city labor leaders, to coblbe together a Republican coalition to end worker bargaining rights. Nobody in labor feels Mayor Tom cares about workers, except in campaign flyers.

Mr. Boehner goes to Cincinnati

Rare to hear it, but Democrats are ruing the pending resignations of Speaker of the House and Congressman John Boehner of Ohio. Boehner, to his credit, tried to make things work. He was ousted by the current cadre of Young Turks who demand their way or they will bring our government to a standstill. The previous iteration of Young Turks did the same during the Clinton years. What many fear is that the ideologues in the Republican Party will pull the party 1) apart, or 2) toward increasingly intractable positions that will further gridlock Washington. There are those in the Republican Party who demand the smallest government possible, and at this pace they may achieve anarchy.

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©2022 Fort Wayne Reader. All rights Reserved.