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Our election and more

By Jim Sack

Fort Wayne Reader

2018-10-20


GE/EW moves forward

A committee of city council voted to move approval of Legacy funding for the Electric Works project to the whole city council for approval. Both committees comprise the very same councilmen, so the final approval is all but assured. The Legacy money, some $10 million, is characterized as the down payment, as if a home purchase, to show city commitment to the project and pave the way for other lenders, and they are legion, to put their money in the pot.

The fly in the ointment is the New Market Tax Credits, a significant portion of the “money stack,” as they call it, needed to make the deal fly. A deadline passed and now the developers have to go out and scrounge up another NMTC arrangement. They will. The vote was 6 to 3 in favor, with the opponents being Messrs. Arp, Ensley and Jehl, with Jehl only voting symbolic opposition because six votes were needed; Councilman Barranda had already sealed the deal, so Mr. Jehl could show his philosophical opposition.

Mr. Arp, during the roll call vote where each councilman pontificates, bellowed a full-throated, angry rant against the media for not properly dissecting and warning the public about threats the deal poses to the community’s future financial security. He was wrong for two reasons: first, the newspapers provided ample in-depth analysis of the perils of the deal, so his bone was not with the journalist to pick, but with himself. You see, Arp needed but one vote to scupper the deal. One. To pass a Legacy expenditure requires six votes. Last night’s vote was 6 to 3. Had he built a case with Councilman Barranda, he might have either deep-sixed the deal or negotiated terms more to his liking, if that is possible among dogmatists. Instead, Arp’s burn the bridges, torch the crops, salt the fields style of collegiality undermines his sometimes logical arguments. Community sentiment wants the deal to go ahead. We are willing to take the very big chance that this deal will turn out as well as the ballpark. You should thank Councilmen Crawford and Paddock for courageously presenting the upsides of the deal, while Mayor Henry, Deputy Mayor Bandemer and Corporate Council Tim Haffner should get similar credit for making sure the deal does not hobble the city’s finances for a generation.


Our Election

Indiana is a fat target for anyone — say, in the Kremlin or Forbidden City, Pyongyang or Minsk — intent upon disrupting our election and sewing discord. Talking to local hackers suggests our state election mechanics, as well as our local vote process, offer ample ways in which a devious government could manipulate our vote. We know the Russians worked to manipulate our election in 2016 with mixed results. Despite the sanctions persisting, Putin & Company have caused us to be at each other’s throats, and evidence suggests they have been shooting cyber bullets at us for a decade or two.

County Commissioner Nelson Peters is so sure of the integrity of our elections that he puts the chance of the Russians hacking at a miniscule .00001. The official who runs our elections, Beth Dlug, backs him up with references to frequent system upgrades, careful policies surrounding the connectivity of our voting machines, and a “fool-resistant” systems of checks and double checks that culminate on vote tabulations election night, followed by audits and certification of the vote. She is sure, he is sure our vote is secure, yet Nelson, Dlug and their team are amateurs compared to Cozy Bear, one of Russian’s many cyber crimes organizations.

Hackers will tell you that wherever there’s a confluence of electronics, code and people there is a way to manipulate results. Certainly, if Stuxnet can destroy Iranian centrifuges, then Volya working for the GRU can shave a dozen votes off Joe Donnelly here or Mike Braun there. Nelson counters that to affect a statewide vote would require a statewide effort that the GRU could hardly mount. He is most likely right. But, for the Russian, who are fighting what amounts to a guerrilla war against the US, it is less about electing “their man” and more about confusion, distraction and sowing mistrust in our systems.


For Whom Are They Working?

On two recent votes concerning annexations, one proposed by the mayor, one self-proposed by the residents of a county neighborhood, a majority of the Republicans on city council voted against both. One had to wonder at the end of the discussion who the Republicans were representing, their constituents or beautiful Scipio Township. Certainly, Fort Wayne is not an island, although certain groups in the county would like to ring-fence the city with all its urban challenges, so it is useful to consider the impact of annexation on others, but in the final analysis city councilmen are elected to represent their city constituents and to further the interests of our corporation.

It really does make you wonder whom Messrs. Jehl, Arp, Ensley, Didier, Barranda, Crawford and Freistroffer represent. At a recent council meeting, Councilman Michael Barranda sounded even more like council for the recalcitrant residents of La Cabrea than a representative of our city. He argued and argued and argued, as if he were practicing his courtroom moves, against each point city officials presented. He was clearly trying vigorously to kill the annexation process; never was there the slightest hint that he was trying, instead, to protect misguided bureaucrats from entangling the city in a protracted court battle. Nope, he was curiously working for someone other than the city he represents.

The mayor was right to propose a sweeping annexation, and the residents of La Cabrea took the appropriate steps to “self-annex,” so the question should be posed again: for whom do the Republicans work, or is it all about undermining the mayor ahead of an election? While Mayor Tom Henry championed the interests of the city for which he is the elected CEO, our city council acted more like saboteurs.

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