Home > Political Animal > The Best of intentions…
The Best of intentions…
By Jim Sack
Fort Wayne Reader
…do not always yield the best of results. Just ask freshman City Councilman Jason Arp.
Over the years Mr. Arp, among others, has been appalled by the management of the local abatement process whereby companies promise to expand, to add jobs and modernize plants in exchange for a sizeable tax break on those investments. What started as a program to target blighted areas in the 70s grew with specific help to encompass the most prosperous of areas by 2010. What started as a program to “grow” jobs was so mismanaged that by 2012 officials could barely point to the first job that was a direct result of an abatement. Local labor leaders pointed out the mess with the simple question: where are the jobs? Eventually, council reformed the system and has gone on to terminate abatements that are in non-compliance. There is no repayment of tax dollars should the company fail in its contractual obligations.
Since being sworn in last January, Mr. Arp and one of his fellow freshmen, Paul Ensley, have voted against all new abatements.
For months Mr. Arp has auditioned the idea of getting rid of the specific business tax at the center of the controversy.
So, he laid it on council table for a vote. That, he added, is when all political hell broke loose. Greater Fort Wayne, who one would think would encourage such a dramatic business tax cut, voiced opposition. They use abatements as a sweetener to recruit business to come to Fort Wayne. County government, laden with Republican tax hawks, also rose up against what, in theory, they should have cherished. And the city administration paraded an array of local school leaders and library officials at a news conference who in turn condemned the bill, noting that millions would be drained from already bare-to-the-bone school programs, perhaps as high as $30 million for just Fort Wayne Community Schools. At that news conference the mayor also pointed to a colorful poster that showed the many, many homeowners would see a substantial rise in their property taxes to offset the loses from Mr. Arp’s bill. Hardly anyone has publicly supported his effort.
What we hear proposed as the better approach is to further tighten the abatement rules that are still much too chummy, much too loose, with much tighter focus on new job creation, accompanied by higher wages. Councilmen Jehl, Crawford and Paddock, all veterans of the last reform effort, know exactly what to do and should take Mr. Arp’s best of intentions and turn them into useful reform.
Lawyers around the country will spend election day working in polling places. In battlegrounds Florida and Nevada Democrat lawyers will be working to get more voters into booths while Republicans will be checking every suspect voter’s ID in order to ferret out fraud.
In Allen County it will be so much of a “meh” day. Neither party will have the teams of lawyers on patrol that will be seen, say, in Philadelphia. There are a couple reasons – it is a foregone conclusion that Indiana will cast her electoral votes for Donald Trump; of that there is no doubt. Additionally, locally, we have a fairly trustworthy system to casting, counting and verifying votes.
First, our Election Board and workers have succeeded in increasing opportunities to vote. Talking to old-timer Democrats, they note that there are many more places to vote and longer hours than in the 70s or 80s. Talking to Republicans, they say that the system is secure from external hacking and individual fraud, thanks to the voter ID laws. As for voter suppression, we just have no idea of how many voters have been turned away or never bothered to try because of ID problems. In my years as a poll worker I saw one glaring example, but just one.
In recent history, since Gore v. Bush and the debacle in Florida, the question has been raised about the security and honesty of our ballot system, the foundation of our democracy. Remember the hanging chads? But this is only a variation on a theme, fraud was just as bad years ago when boxcars full of itinerant men were railed from Ohio to vote here, then taken back to Ohio to vote there again, and paid in whiskey. Indiana was then considered one of the most corrupt political systems in the country. Toothpicks, I was told by an old pol, were capable of jamming the old mechanical machines so as to reduce the number of votes for a targeted candidate.
The bigger threat now is electronic hacking of equipment by, say, the Russians, or some angry election worker. A team of researcher/hackers recently managed to replace a normal ballot with a pac-man game on a collection of election machines. They also managed to surreptitiously invade storage areas, and to download viruses through the internet or via thumb drives that could alter an outcome both on single machines and in a main frame. Remember, John Kennedy was elected by a margin of about one vote per precinct, so targeted tampering can change an outcome.
So, there are those who would like to hack a machine to carry a precinct vote to win a county to tip a state to change an election. That is nothing new.
Local officials swear our system here is hacker-proof, fraud-proof and managed by a bi-partisan team. Both of our local party leaders have faith in the integrity of your vote. But, where there is a will there is a way, so each of us has a responsibility to report any suggestion of vote tampering. The vote is, after all, fundamental to our freedoms.