Home > Political Animal > On taxes, gaffes, and How to Sway Council
On taxes, gaffes, and How to Sway Council
By Jim Sack
Fort Wayne Reader
Women’s March Fort Wayne
The women’s march in Fort Wayne was a remarkable event. Turn out was around two thousand people, the crowd was buoyant, kids played, dogs wagged tails and old friends bumped into each other. In the crowd were hundreds of young women, as well as greying veterans of the 70s women’s rights pushes that were led here by the Fort Wayne Feminists. Songs were sung, speeches given along with lots of hugs and smiles, Oh, Lord, Kumbaya. It was a very upbeat event in light of the anti-women rhetoric coming out of the White House, the Congress and our state legislature. As if to echo that spitefulness the local Right-to-Life organization attacked the Journal-Gazette for covering the Women’s Rally with a live reporter, but not covering the RTL regular event. Given the Woman’s March was unusual and a first-time event it satisfies the criteria of “news.” Given the RTL event was a repeat of a repeat of a repeat of a repeat it deserved placement on the community calendar. The question now for the organizers of the Women’s March is how to create political action from the ample energy of the thousands who turned out. Perhaps the RTLers will offer sisterly advice.
Our new county surveyor is either sloppy or greedy, probably both. You may remember Jeff Sorg is the guy who didn’t read the terms of the pay packet for the surveyor’s job, ran a successful campaign, was elected, and then expressed surprise that lacking a professional license he would not command the high end of the salary schedule. He appealed to his buddies on County Council, they said, shucks, it’s just taxpayer money, and voted to gave him a whopping raise. Let’s call council a bunch of good old boys and identify Jeff Sorg as the man whose dedication to public service is measured only in dollars. Whether he is competent is yet to be shown, but we are most certainly paying for his OJT. The Republican country council should have tabled the question until just prior to the next election. There is a norm among politicians that they should not vote on pay raises for themselves. The result is that Mr. Sorg made county council look like a club as well as making a fool out of himself.
Twice citizens have appeared at council table to request the wizened members of that august body to pen and pass a resolution to oppose an I&M rate hike to pay for upgrades to a power plant along the Ohio River. The citizens cite a few salient points — that the power plant wants us to pay for dubious technology to prolong the use of “clean” coal; that the shareholders of the power plant, such as GE and Verizon, are famously rich organizations that would consider the cost a rounding error on their annual accounting statement; and that Indiana continues, thanks to “clean” coal, to have among the very worst air quality in the whole country.
Council won’t bother with the resolution for a number of reasons: first, no one has been specifically asked to introduce the resolution, neither the liberals on council who should call the question, nor the administration who should first have the welfare of citizens at heart, nor the wise doctor who understands the health implications will take the lead. As for the other council members, do they side with the polluter and the owners against, you, the rate payers? A vote on such a resolution would answer that question.
Unless grassroots groups follow council procedures they will go away frustrated. To cause council to act will require the citizens group to write the resolution, find a sponsor and hustle votes. Otherwise, they have wasted everyone’s time.
Best ever, no doubt! In the years of watching Fifth Tuesdays this was the most informative, and best organized of them all. Give Dr. John Crawford credit for bringing together some of the best minds in the area to discuss taxes in front of what must have been the broadest collection of politicians and community leaders ever assembled in the area. Now, the bad news: taxes are all but assured to go up in the coming year by about $100 to $200 per household, depending on our state legislature and a court case. A judge will decide in the coming year how big box stores will be taxed. They want to cut their taxes in half which means you, for the most part, would pick up the difference. Simply put, the cost of running government is not going to go down, so the bill is just redivided with what they would save passed on to us. New or increased taxes will be levied on car owners to pay for roads and streets. The local income taxes will likely go up and something called the Regional Development Tax will be levied to pay for a long list of projects, including the Riverfront, an arena, the GE project and many, many more that have been long discussed. Dr. Crawford went to pains to point out at the beginning of the session that we Allen Countians enjoy the lowest tax rate in the area, but, by the end of the Fifth Tuesday it was clear that is soon to change. The session was informative, but the message was clear that new taxes, and many of them, are on the way. The question will be how to reapproportion the tax load, so find a Fort Wayne city councilman to have that discussion, even if you live in Grabill. Fort Wayne, you see, has the vast majority of votes on the local, countywide tax board, so how our nine city councilmen vote sets taxes for everyone in the county. And, you might go to the library “video-on-demand” page to watch the two hour session.
Kudos to the City, Greater Fort Wayne, and Councilman Geoff Paddock for working over the years to redevelop the GE campus. The sad alternative is the boarded up, decaying eyesore of a slum that currently blocks reinvigoration of the near south side of town. For the last year and a half there has been talk of a developer, but it has been a slow slog given this redevelopment project will cost well beyond one hundred million dollar one should expect negotiations to be long and tedious with plenty of pitfalls, such as remediation of the pollution on site, questions surrounding the rail line running along the north side of the property, the substantial price tag, the thorny issue of public support, and not least, the mix of tenants that would give character to the site and profitable longevity. Given the steady progress on so many other things in the downtown the GE project is essential to continued reinvigoration. Two years ago the tri-partite relations between council, mayor and GFW were quite strained. Much of the dust seems to have settled, so the chance of a truly remarkable redevelopment of the GE campus seems probable. What they should all keep clearly in mind is any redevelopment must clearly show the community how all citizens will benefit, not just developers, officials and bankers.