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Let The Campaign Begin

By Jim Sack

Fort Wayne Reader


Candidate for mayor, city councilman, oncologist, and trophy hunter John Crawford will become city council president next year, so the mainstream Republicans can showcase their man, their candidate, front and center for the election run. The benefits are two-fold: limelight and agenda setting. First, he will “star” every Tuesday night at “City Council Live” on Channel 58, but moreover his sound bites will be sought by the local media to explain issues that come before council and the community. So, Mayor Tom’s official megaphone will be significantly larger during the election year, at least as council president Dr. Crawford will have one of his own.

Secondly, council’s agenda is largely managed by council presidents who decide what bills are heard and by whom. Council presidents also assign committee chairs, meaning that when budget time rolls around next fall, concurrent with the frenzied last weeks of the campaign, the hearings will be quite contentious, indeed!

First, however, Dr. Crawford has to win the primary. His opponents are Tim Smith, the Dodens, much of the board of Greater Fort Wayne. The Tim and Eric (Doden) combo got into the news, along with trouble, recently. Seems Eric and Tim took a road trip to Republican money meetings in Indy where Eric, thanks to his wealthy dad, was once important. Problem was that Eric had already been publically chided by council a few years back for mixing his self-promoting politics with his work and using local taxpayer money to pick up a part of the tab. We taxpayers pay Greater Fort Wayne to promote the city, not Eric. Doden has since abruptly resigned from Greater Fort Wayne, but the damage has already been done to that organization, to Doden’s political ambitions, and now to novice candidate Smith. GOP regulars and their families, their volunteers and friends now lean toward the more experienced, predictable and winnable Crawford. Smith, you see, is a placeholder for Doden, someone daddy Doden’s power buddies know will deliver for them and their vision of Fort Wayne.

Anyone remember when the fringe of the Republican Party got their man, the untainted and inexperienced outsider, nominated to clean the local swamp back in 2005 only for that nominee to flaunt the basics of campaign law, to then publically lie about his campaign finances, implode before a grad jury, and wither on election day?

With that Republican campaign finance fiasco in mind, Dr. Crawford is beating the local bushes for money, a thousand dollars a whack, and one of the sponsors of a big gala event in the would-be-mayor’s schedule of fund raisers is former Democratic city councilman, Mark GiaQuinta. We could go on and on about Mark’s progressive, Democrat pedigee, so it just a surprising to see Mark’s name on the special invitation…near the top, among the serious givers! So what gives? Has Mark been reborn, converted to social Darwinist, as embodied by Ayn Rand, Crawford’s philosophical guru? Nope. Perhaps it is something even more fundamental, say a bigger chunk of the city’s legal business for Mark’s firm? Or perhaps something else. Regardless, at the soiree Mark will the one standing next to the stuffed grizzly Dr. Crawford killed for kicks in Alaska. Simpler than that, explains Mark: at least in the primary the contrast between Crawford’s experience, long community service and relative moderation is so stark compared to Smith’s fundamentalism and absolute lack of public service experience or history of goverance that Fort Wayne could not afford Smith, and he was happy to contribute. Having once given oodles to a meh Republican against the equivalent of a Republican inquisitor, Mark’s point is well take. Lets just hope the good doctor doesn’t bag, stuff and display Mark beside the dead grizzly as his most recent exotic kill.

The budget hearing next fall will be the formal stage upon which Mayor Henry and Dr. Crawford will clash. This year Mr. Henry rolled out the big gun on the budget debate, Controller Garry Morr, and won nearly every argument without breaking a sweat. In the $175m budget, council cut but $750k of “fat,” and some of that was bone.

One old issue, the charge that the administration was incommunicative and indifferent to Republican requests for budget cooperation, was dashed on the rocks. Councilman Barranda and others had often lamented that their calls to the administration went unanswered, and, that they could not get necessary information upon which to vote. Controller Morr turned that on its head this year with outreach to all councilmen to hear their gripes, ideas, and concerns. Meanwhile, in what might be called a flanking move, the people at Animal Care and Control noted that they had invited all nine members of council for briefings or in-depth discussion and two — just two, only two — members, Geoff Paddock and current council president Tom Freistroffer, bothered to show. Communications, one supposes, should be two-way. Mr. Arp, Barranda, Crawford and the others didn’t show, didn’t return the calls, stood the department up. Makes one wonder.

Meanwhile, the lowest number of proposed cuts to the mayor’s budget were filed by council this year, itself an indicator of Mr. Morr’s outreach. Moreover, many of those proposed cuts were withdrawn at the table, before a vote, after consultation with the administration suggesting both the tightness of the city budget and Mr Morr’s open approach to defending it. The mayor got his budget mostly in tact, and the Republicans lost an issue. And, if history follows, the 2020 budget will be a carbon copy of the one just passed, leaving Dr, Crawford little indeed to attack.

Odd thing about that budget. In late summer someone from the administration came down to council to request that paid family leave become a part of the city’s pay package. Councilman Michael Barranda discouraged funding then, demanding, instead, the city present the request in the fall as a part of the normal budget process, which they dutifully did, and were shot down again.

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