A Good Try, Fort Wayne

A recent newspaper article reported on the demise of a “controversial” Fort Wayne ordinance–another victim of Indiana’s lack of genuine (or even pretended) home rule.

The ordinance (which in a fair and honest world should not have been controversial) addressed the common political practice called “pay to play,” the cynical shakedown of people who want to do business with local government.

In her 13-page ruling, Judge Jennifer DeGroote blocked the city from enforcing the ordinance that restricted how much money the owners of a company could give elected officials and still bid on city contracts.

The ordinance forbid any company from bidding on a city contract if any owner, partner or principal who owns more than 10% of that company gave more than $2,000 to the political campaign of a person with responsibility for awarding contracts.

“The city of Fort Wayne attempted to address legitimate concerns regarding quid pro quo exchanges or pay to play arrangements that tie contracts for professional services to contributions made to elected government officials who have authority to influence the awards of such business,” DeGroote wrote. “However, the court finds that efforts by Fort Wayne, as well-intentioned as they may be, to address such practices in the 2018 ordinance is not permitted under current Indiana law as no such authority has been extended to municipalities.”

Specifically, DeGroote’s ruling stated that the ordinance was superseded by state law, specifically the Home Rule Act, which grants municipalities the ability to self-govern in areas not covered by the state. Elections, under state law, are the domain of the Indiana Election Commission.

Every time I see a reference to Indiana’s “Home Rule Act,” I snicker. The title belongs with other dishonest efforts to turn sows’ ears into silk purses. (George W’s “Clear Skies Act” comes to mind.) In reality, Indiana’s cities and towns operate under numerous onerous restrictions, forcing municipal policymakers to “kiss the rings” of state lawmakers in order to do much of anything.

One recent example: Indianapolis had to beg the General Assembly for permission to hold a referendum to determine whether we could tax ourselves to improve our mass transit system. It took three years, and even then, our state overlords prescribed permitted and forbidden modes of transit that they would allow us to consider paying for.

Fort Wayne’s effort to clean up an unsavory and unethical fundraising practice ran afoul of the reality that governance in Indiana operates under the heavy hand of an excessively gerrymandered state legislature.

There are two lessons here: First–as many of us have said repeatedly– Indiana really, really needs genuine home rule. And second, laws patterned after Fort Wayne’s rejected ordinance should be statewide. (Nationwide, actually.)

Perhaps a legislator from Fort Wayne–or anywhere– could introduce a similar measure during the next session of the General Assembly. It wouldn’t pass, of course, but it might shine a light on just how corrupted the process has become.

 

 

 

11 thoughts on “A Good Try, Fort Wayne

  1. House Enrolled Act 1284 – Self-defense, defense of others, and firearms matters

    “HB1284 contains many important changes to Indiana law concerning carrying a firearm. First, HB1284 allows a person who legally possesses a firearm to possess a firearm on school property if that person is an employee or volunteer of a house of worship located on the school property. This also permits someone who legally possesses a firearm to do so while attending a worship service or religious ceremony conducted at a house of worship. Secondly, HB1284 provides immunity for the justified use of force in certain instances. It will require a court to award reasonable attorney’s fees and costs to a defendant when the justified use of force immunity is successfully raised.”

    Above is the copied and pasted report I received from our state lawmakers in a list of new laws going into effect tomorrow; July 1, 2019. Nationally we have been fighting against allowing guns in schools and churches as a solution to the mass shootings and deaths of hundreds of innocent children and adults in these locations. Here in “Honest To Goodness, Indiana”; home of the NRA, policy makers have succeeded in enacting step one of arming those entering schools and churches. Was any action taken regarding repeal of previous laws preventing carrying weapons in specified locations in this state?

    There was another law enacted allowing health care provision of specific health care treatment for pregnant women; the last sentence describing this bill stated that Republicans had NOT included finding for this provision in the new Indiana budget. That listing mysteriously disappeared from the original list of new laws I received and the copy I sent to a friend or I would have included it here.

    “Every time I see a reference to Indiana’s “Home Rule Act,” I snicker. The title belongs with other dishonest efforts to turn sows’ ears into silk purses. (George W’s “Clear Skies Act” comes to mind.) In reality, Indiana’s cities and towns operate under numerous onerous restrictions, forcing municipal policymakers to “kiss the rings” of state lawmakers in order to do much of anything.”

    “In her 13-page ruling, Judge Jennifer DeGroote blocked the city from enforcing the ordinance that restricted how much money the owners of a company could give elected officials and still bid on city contracts.”

    However great the “ring kissing” it took to block Fort Wayne from enforcing the “pay as you go” ordinance; isn’t it protected by Citizens United and it joins the many state level court cases trying to overturn Roe vs. Wade as upheld by the Constitution?

  2. Big mea culpa; that of course should read “Not included FUNDING”; not “finding”.

  3. Snicker is right. I still laugh every time I am reminded of Judge Scalia’s opinion that there is no reciprocity between donor and politician.

    Yet, here we have a municipality trying to stop corruption on its doorsteps only to be trumped by State law.

    Delaware County prevented a CAFO in our midst because the people who live here didn’t want it. Our decision was overturned by a judge because State laws governing CAFO’s don’t allow localities to make stronger laws than the State. Therefore, we get a CAFO and some state lawmaker gets a donation.

    Corrupt doesn’t even begin to describe it…but it’s also why we must support politicians who pledge not to take corporate donations. These Justice Democrats are winning elections over heavily funded machine related democrats. This must continue until all politicians reject corporate donations are find a challenger in their next primary.

    In some markets, just being a capitalist is grounds for a challenger. And socialists are winning. It’s a slow process but it’s happening.

  4. So, the judge ruled, if something is not expressly permitted, it is forbidden. Sounds like a dictatorship, to me.

  5. Two comments.

    1. The funny thing about the Fort Wayne lawsuit is that the Republicans sued and their own party’s legislature’s overreach backfired on them.

    2. The Republicans are always bellyaching about government being too big. They campaign on getting rid of too many regulations and laws that “harm us” and are “job killers”. In reality the Republicans in Indiana are the legislators who have created a plethora of regs that have given them too much control over cities and counties and they have created tax laws that have brought in low wage businesses while being completely blind to the need to educate the citizens for higher wage tech jobs.

    Unfortunately, the rural citizens of Indiana have been indoctrinated so completely with the R bullshit that those who do vote continue to blindly vote against their own interests. All they know is that the Democrats want to raise their taxes so the money can be given away to the lazy people who refuse to work. This message has been pounded into their brains for decades and it continues to work very well for the Republicans.

  6. While I favor “Home rule,” it can be a double-edged sword. Move forward, but be careful. We need the rest of that trilogy as well: Recall and citizen initiative. That will require amending the State Constitution. It will also require people who want to see our state prosper and improve, not the crop of fools that comprise the GOP majority of state government now.

  7. Scalia, along with his two best buds, Thomas and Alito frequently reminded me of the three monkeys. They could see no evil, hear no evil, and of course never dreamed that any conservative could possible speak evil. Of course, if your eyes are covered, foresight is impossible.

  8. The GOP wants to allow Steroid Capitalism, which includes campaign donations, and exercise maximum control over any attempts to limit Corporate Power.

  9. On a different but related issue, people complain about Fort Wayne’s garbage contract with Red River and blame Mayor Henry. In fact it’s one of his Republican opponent’s major campaign issues. However, by state law our city was required to accept the lowest bid and that was Red River. That won’t be any different if his opponent wins the mayoral race, despite all his “tough talk”.

  10. Actually, State law requires government entities to accept the “lowest and best” bids. Legitimate concerns about the capacity of bidders to perform can justify taking the next lowest bid–but unless there is a good, demonstrable reason for rejecting a low bidder, doing so invites a lawsuit.

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