Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Democrats, Neighborhood Advocates Winning Image Game in SB621 Debate

I attended the Committee on Local Government hearing yesterday at the Indiana Statehouse. It was held in the basement and probably in one of the smallest rooms they could've used. The seats were filled up well before the meeting started, and many stood in the hallway.

It was no secret that most there were Democrats. There were also representatives of several advocacy and neighborhood groups, including Common Cause and the Marion County Alliance of Neighborhood Association. These two groups, together, had 27 people signed up to testify against SB621.

So who did the Democrats send to testify against SB621? Actual Democrats. The elected officials that hold political positions in Marion County. Sheriff John Layton represented the Marion County Sheriff's Department. Terry Curry represented the Marion County Prosecutor's Office. Council President Maggie Lewis made it clear she was representing Marion County Democrats on the council.

They didn't send lobbyists or representatives. They sent themselves.

Who did Mayor Greg Ballard send to speak on his behalf? His lobbyist, Joe Loftus. Also in the crowd, but not participating, were current GOP county chairman Kyle Walker and former chairman Thomas John.

As for the details of the meeting, Senator Michael Young (R-Speedway) was present and led the committee through a history of UniGov and what he thought the most important provisions of the bill were. Young made it very clear that he was comfortable with most of the bill going to a summer study committee, but he thought the most important part was the elimination of the four At-Large seats on the Indianapolis-Marion County City-County Council. He said that election year politics might prevent that from getting done next year and if they aren't eliminated now, they might never be eliminated.

Before the meeting, committee chairman Kevin Mahan (R- Hartford City) said he'd be offering an amendment to eliminate the axing of the At-Large Council seats to the bill.

After testimony from both sides were heard, Mahan said he had 13 amendments that were filed for this bill before he left the previous day. He said, due to the length of the testimony, the committee would only be hearing one amendment, his own. He said other members can propose their own amendments on second reading.

It passed, creating a difference between the Senate and House version. If it passes out of the House, it'll have to be settled in a conference committee.

If the bit about the At-Large between Young and Mahan was theatrics or genuine is beyond my knowledge, but it certainly was interesting.


  1. If the 4 at-large positions were currently held by Republicans, Common Cause wouldn't have shown up.

    Unigov itself, and the at-large positions, were established to dillute the votes of black people. The at-large concept either makes sense, or it doesn't, and IMO it is the antithesis of representative government.

    Note that the same people who HATE the electoral college LOVE the at-large council districts. How come ?

  2. UniGov certainly has some blatant political notions as its origins. But beside that, the vision of the At-Larges was to have some people thinking of the county as a whole rather than just their individual district. That isn't an inherently bad concept. We have that concept elsewhere in the United States Congress with the Senate.

    Now if I were put in charge of revising Indianapolis-Marion County government, I'd slap 13 (2 At-Larges, 11 district) councilors on the council, give them about $60-65k annual salary, and see if there's something I could do to limit the type of work they could be doing to supplement their income while on the council.

    Even without the At-Large portion, there's a ton of scary stuff in SB621, not least of which is the Metropolitan Development Commission appointments.

    As for electoral college, everyone complains about it after losing an election, Personally, it is an imperfect system but I think it is as close to perfect as we can get.


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