Thursday, March 7, 2013

Evans' Party Switch Still Raises Eyebrows

Councilor José Evans switched from being a Democrat to a Republican. Evans, who represents District 1 on the northwest side of Indianapolis, has narrowed the Democratic majority from 16-13 to 15-14. Evans held a press conference with state GOP Chairman Eric Hoclomb and Marion County GOP Chairman Kyle Walker announcing the party switch. At the press conference, it was also said that Evans was going to be able to meet with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Preibus later in the day.

In an exclusive interview with radio personality Amos Brown, Evans doesn't shed a lot of light on why he switched or what pushed him to the Republican side of the isle.

Evans' repeatedly says he'll "have a seat at the table", but on what? Evans recently voted against several charter school expansions on the council, all of which passed with wide support from councilors. Is he going to have a seat at the table with education reform both at the city and state level which he has very different views on then most elected GOP officials?

Will he "have a seat at the table" in labor issues? Council Democrats were heavily supported by organized labor in 2007, and it is one of the few larger issues that does come into municipal governance with so many facilities in the downtown area that use low wage labor to support the sports and convention industries. Several proposals to support hotel workers in the downtown area have been shot down, either by past GOP council majorities or by the veto pen of Mayor Greg Ballard. In the larger landscape of Indiana, a group of pro-labor Republicans called the Lunchpail Republicans were largely unsuccessful in primarying legislatures who were proponents of the 2011 Right-to-Work law.

Will he "have a seat at the table" when it comes to government reform in Marion County? Evans was very non-descript on how he felt of the Indiana legislature's proposed consolidation, which would give Acting Mayor Ryan Vaughn unprecedented control over the budget of the county without any meaningful legislative oversight. And a provision in the Senate version of the bill would take away the At-Large council seats in time for the 2019 municipal elections.

An issue he cited at both the GOP press conference and in the Brown interview was the Meadows TIF. The Meadows, which is the neighborhood roughly around 38th and Keystone, was proposed to be put into a TIF so that development, specifically a grocery store, could be put in the area. The initial measure was sponsored by Councilor Steve Talley and Councilor Christine Scales. The TIF did not have support from either the Democrats or Republicans and never made it to a vote on the full council or committees. But Evans still could've co-sponsored the proposal, but he didn't. The substitute proposal for the Meadows, which would've taken $3 million in RebuildIndy funds to support a grocery store and other projects, also didn't have Evans as a co-sponsor.

During Brown's interview, he said that if Broad Ripple gets a TIF, then so should the Meadows. He voted for the so-called Midtown TIF.

I understand that Evans doesn't want to air "dirty laundry" from Democratic caucuses. And because of that, perhaps we'll never really know why Evans' has these issues he's super passionate about, but seemingly never got his voice heard on, or why he never made any public declaration of them.

I would like to revise one stance I took on Twitter the other day. I don't think this is a purely political decision made by Evans. I have my doubts that he'll actually run for re-election. It just leaves me scratching my head and I wonder who does this benefit, and I really don't see any individual or group benefiting from this party-switch in either the short or long term.


  1. "The TIF did not have support from either the Democrats or Republicans and never made it to a vote on the full council or committees." The proposal was postponed in committee several times, with each Democrat voting to postpone and each Republican voting not to postpone. When the proposal was finally heard in committee, each Democrat on the committee voted to table the proposal-a means of killing it so that a negative vote on it won't be reflected on their record. Each Republican on the committee voted against tabling it, and were ready to vote for it in committee. If the proposal finds its way to Council, I would wager it would receive unanimous support from Republicans.
    Christine Scales, City County Councillor, District 4

  2. Christine, I certainly understand your tireless efforts on behalf of the proposed Meadows TIF. I know that you have publicly expressed these in committee meetings and at the full council. But when Democratic councilors attacked you during a full council meeting last month, I think there might've been one other Republican councilor who stuck up for you that night outside of Twitter. And there certainly was no comment on the disrespect shown to you from Acting Mayor Vaughn's office.

    I know I've had conversations with both Republicans and Democrats on past issues and they swear up and down "I'm a big supporter of X issue/proposal" and I just tell them that they need to show it. Be a co-sponsor, hold a press conference, put out a press release, be vocal and upfront about it. Or on the opposite end of the spectrum, say its a bad proposal and vote accordingly.

    Unfortunately, the proposed TIF of yours comes too close to the original purpose of a TIF, which is to help out a struggling area and hopefully make it better. The modern purpose of a TIF is to ensure that the lobbyists who dot both sides of Washington Street get to keep as much money in their pockets to finance private development while the public services that average citizens rely on struggle to keep their operations going.

    There might be a handful of council Republicans who truly support it, and there's probably a handful of Democrats who would like to support it but feel pressure not to so that a "win" isn't put in the Mayor's column. But I highly doubt it has the support of the council Republican caucus or Acting Mayor Vaughn. I would be glad to be proved wrong, because that area is so in need of some assistance.


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