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Surprise, Surprise edition
By Jim Sack
Fort Wayne Reader
Quite a twist we Hoosiers have dealt to the presidential campaign. Both Senator Sanders and Mr. Trump were surprise winners in Indiana — Senator Sanders for simply winning when odds and pundits had given him last rites, and Trump for the strength of his victory. Now, the Republican Party is at a crossroads. Will the leaders of the party rally behind Mr. Trump, and thus end the country-club-chamber-of-commerce dominance of the party, and turn toward Trump’s populist, isolationist, caucasionist, anti-trade utterings? If they do, heads will roll and the GOP is likely to lose the White House again, along with more than enough down-ticket offices to swing control in a few state houses and the senate. Or do some Republican leaders form a third party? If history can be a guide that is suicide. Or, will they forsake Trump to concentrate on state houses and a few congressional candidates, then try to reconstruct the GOP after the New Year? As for the Bernmeister, he still is an underdog, but Indiana made his candidacy shine again. California will be the crucible for the Democrats and they may find themselves facing a contested convention, the likes of which was remote before Indiana, unless part of a discussion of the Republican convention. Down ticket, Jim Banks is all but elected to Congress and Marlin Stutzman can get back to farming. Clearly, voters dislike all shades of cronyism, nepotism or scimming. Locally, State Representative Casey Cox, an intelligent, capable and compassion man, was defeated for re-election. Indiana is clearly a battleground in the fall with political divisions wider than the Wabash, with left and right populism ascendant.
Is Sweeney Todd in the House?
It was the rarest of moments at city council when the mayor offered to slit his throat, but the Republicans denied him the blade. Annexation is the razor in hand, an always contentious matter that involves bringing suburban Republicans up to full membership in the city. Politically, those thousands of new Republican voters would all but guarantee a Republican mayor in 2020. But, Republicans on council balked. So far they sound more like they represent county residents than their district or city constituents. Perhaps the bottom line is self-preservation.
Perhaps there would be some limited retaliation in the 2019 primary, but certainly in the fall the new residents would return to the fold and make city council 8 to 1, or 9 to nothing, and gain the mayor’s office. So, council’s reticence seems more personal and less for the good of the party.
It is interesting to watch Mayor Henry do his best to deep six his own party while the Republicans stand staring a obvious gift horse in the mouth, but seeing, instead, a snarling lion. Geoff Paddock and Glynn Hines seem to get it, and are also against the annexation. A hoard of new Republican voters would force redistricting, the Republicans would redraw the lines and Glynn or Geoff of both might find themselves out of office. Self-preservation is a strong instinct.
Over the Top
There is another question concerning annexation discussions — Mayor Henry’s approach. Annexation will certainly benefit the city from which the councilmen were elected to serve. One could argue that the whole county is essentially Fort Wayne, which is Mayor Henry’s point, and that contiguous areas are nothing more than unincorporated parts of Fort Wayne that have already agreed to join the city, that have long benefit from “associate membership” in the city, and that have always been on a path toward the privileges of full membership. But, as one citizen pointed our, the schools and libraries will lose millions in revenue and their roles diminish as pillars of the community. As another man said at the public hearing, think of them as economic development tools. The mayor’s all-or-nothing attitude, as witnessed before in the 2015 Brightpoint Fight, have left more than a few people with stiffened backs. Finding compromise so the schools and library will be strengthened, not hurt, makes eminent sense. Mayor Tom knows that; it is his job to rise all boats. Despite the tax cap constraints there must be a path forward. It is in everybody’s interest to find balance, and the only question is whether the stiffened backs on both sides will endeavor to create a win-win. Right now we have a lose-lose. It is probably best to take a deep breath, reform the negotiating teams and work toward a more creative solution. The privileges of full membership should be attractive, not a threat.
Fiscal vs. Monetary Policy, and the Arena
The Federal Reserve Bank sets monetary policy, governments are the fiscal authorities. In an economic situation such as we have now, with stagnant productivity, struggling employment and flat wages, national leaders wishing to stimulate the economy act through the Fed’s interest rate cuts, monetary policy, and public works projects, fiscal stimulus. Now we are at a point of nearly free money, with low, low interest rates. The monetary authorities have acted to stimulate the economy. Missing has been the other leg of economic stimulation, fiscal policy, where governments borrow to build and repair their infrastructure, such as roads, sewer systems and buildings, i.e., an arena. The Henry Administration is aggressively following this tact and should be given credit for trying to increase wages and create jobs, despite recalcitrance in Indianapolis and Washington. There is currently little to be gained by putting money in a bank, but plenty to be gained by investing in our future at low, low interest rates. That brings us back to the arena. It is a good idea, but the elements and arguments are not yet well understood by the community. Councilman/skeptic Michael Barranda wants a cost-benefit analysis and the city should provide it to him, but Mr. Barranda and his colleagues should also reflect on the knock-on benefits the arena will provide. It may never break even, but what it will do is provide another community venue, compliment the Grand Wayne, the Marriott and Embassy, prompt healthy competition with the Coliseum, spur downtown redevelopment, improve the tax-base, and benefit our tourism trade. Some community leaders badly want the arena so as to burnish our image and reputation in support of their recruiting efforts. They envision the NCAA and ESPN broadcasting to the nation from the new facility, painting Fort Wayne’s name in lights. Those leaders should spend a bit of time with Mr. Barranda. The arena will be probably be as good for Fort Wayne as has been the ballpark, but it takes five votes to build and those five votes are not there, yet.