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Dirty tricks and more
By Jim Sack
Fort Wayne Reader
Just before the city election there was an announcement by “Anonymous” of the release of a list of names of politicians with KKK connections. Over a period of a couple weeks Facebook carried blurbs that teased the release. Of course, whoever ran the effort hijacked the famous symbol of the hacker collective, Anonymous, the mask of Guy Fawlkes, the celebrated English jihadii. So, a day before the election the final in the series of posts released the alleged KKK names and on it were Tom Henry and Dan Coats, not to mention a few other politicians from around the country. It was obvious the post was bogus. Henry and Coats are both fine men who you can believe are above reproach in this matter. So, the questions are why and by whom. One has to doubt that the folks at Anonymous are so stupid to make such an erroneous claim. So, who tried to smear these two men, plus a few others? And, why? Well, perhaps it was simply an old style political dirty trick and Dan Coats was merely a red herring. Given it was so close to the mayoral election one has to wonder. One also has to wonder if the FBI might find it appropriate to investigate? It should.
Among the items the wise men of city council cut during their budgetary hearings was $100,000 for bike paths. Stupid and near-sighted. Another cut came from the gateway beautification program which, again, can only be characterized with the same two words. Councilman Marty Bender, the living embodiment of the Grinch, said something to the effect that nobody uses the bike lanes and it slows down traffic. Wrong and right, Marty. Wrong in that plenty of people use the lanes, perhaps just not when he is watching. And, right, it slows down traffic and that, Marty, is just what they were designed to do, make the city, especially the center, more human and less a race track. Sadly, Marty doesn’t get it, happily he is leaving council at the end of the year. The city said, intelligently, that the lanes are here to stay. The gateway program was applauded by nearly everybody normal in the community. As someone said, you never get a second chance to make a first impression, so when investors come to town they should see our best side first, rather than boarded up houses, deteriorating bridges and weeds in the sidewalks. Penny wise and pound foolish is another way of describing council’s budget cut.
Already Republicans and Democrats are eyeing the next mayoral election. Three Republican city councilmen are mentioned: Tom Didier, Russ Jehl and John Crawford. The two remaining Democratic councilmen are both mentioned to succeed Mayor Tom Henry, now embarking on his third term in office, a record for Democrats. Tom, however, will only be 67 at the end of this term, hardly over-the-hill, rather prime of life, anymore. He could surpass fellow Democrats and former mayors, William Hosey and Karl Zollinger, with a little encouragement from his donors. As someone recently said, this is the best job he has ever had, so why leave. The other reason he might continue on is people in power have trouble giving it up. Additionally, Tom is doing a very good job, judging by the overwhelming endorsement the few citizens who bothered to show up on election day gave him. So, why should he turn over the projects he has nurtured and is about to hatch (arena) to someone else. If he chooses to run again in three long years no one in his party will oppose him. On the Republican side the question is which councilman will don the Kamikazi scarf. Mr. Didier has often voiced an interest in the job. Mr. Jehl is a fast learner and oft mentioned. Mr. Crawford has given the role much consideration and will certainly have the financial base to match the mayor’s horde of cash. Check back in the spring of 2017.
There are citizens who regularly attend city council. Some say it is the best free entertainment in the city. Before the camera roll you can watch citizens button-holing councilmen, or Tom Didier flirting with reporters, there are the advocates who come for their issue-de-noir, or the activists who came to unload, and there are those who sit in the back adding whispered criticism or an occasional atta-boy. The regulars end the evening chatting with their favorite councilman. The first meeting in January will be a special treat: the two leading parliamentarians will have departed council and three neophytes will have taken seats. The pressure will be on council attorney Joe Bonahoom to unravel the procedural snarls, and it will be on the returning councilmen to gently guide the newbies along. Expect humorous moments, also expect Russ Jehl to be elected by his brethren to preside over council next year.
It would be nice to see it return. When there are five Tuesdays in a month council takes the night off. A few years ago outgoing councilman, then council president Tom Smith, instituted thoughtful discussions on those quarterly fifth Tuesdays where significant matters were discussed in a more collegial atmosphere for edification of both councilmen and community. It was a superb forum.