Monday, November 30, 2009

City-County Council Meets Tonight

The Indianapolis-Marion County City-County Council meets tonight and takes up a couple of interesting Proposals.

According to today's Star article by Francesca Jarosz, the current thought is to send the smoking ban back to committee to buy more time to get the votes needed for passage. This is a very difficult Proposal (#371) to get passed given, especially, the role that Mayor Ballard has chosen to play in the debate - a closed door pronouncement against the Proposal meant to shield him from actually having to take a public stand. So much for leadership. I have heard a book on the subject touted by some business people. Perhaps someone should give it to the Mayor as a holiday gift?

But, other interesting Proposals are also on tonight's agenda - which can be found on the Council website. Prop 303, introduced a couple of months back by Councillor Ed Coleman, which would require the internet posting of all contracts with the City or County government, passed out of the Rules Committee this month with a 8-0 'do pass' recommendation. (It should be noted that no Municipal Corporation would be required to do the same through this Proposal; presumably because the Council does not have legal power to require it.) Testimony at the committee was that it will cost $34,000 for 2010 for initial implementation and posting of the backlog of contracts and $7,000 each year thereafter. In the plus column for this one, the Ballard administration is on board with the Proposal. Chris Cotterill, Corporate Counsel and soon to be Chief of Staff to Mayor Ballard, testified that, although the language of the Proposal does not strictly require it, they intend to post all contracts that are still active, even if the contract was signed prior to January 1, 2008. Councillors on the Committee include Republicans Lutz, Cockrum, Malone, Pfisterer, and Plowman, and, Democrats Sanders, Grey, and Mansfield.

Also passing out of that committee the same night with 'do pass' recommendations was Prop 256, introduced by Councillor Sanders, Plowman, and both Maherns, which is a Special Resolution that "calls upon the hospitality industry to reduce the negative impact of outsourcing jobs on the community". This proposal was first introduced back when the hospitality industry was hiding behind the skirts of the same workers in order to beg for more public money to subsidize their room rates to conventioneers. The Proposal passed out of committee with Councillor Cockrum abstaining, since his son works for White Lodging, which is building the new Marriott hotel downtown. Cockrum seems to be splitting hairs - abstaining on a Special Resolution that only seeks to influence, but not abstaining on raising taxes to increase funding to the CIB and ICVA, the latter of which uses tax dollars to subsidize the room rates of downtown hotels, thus enriching folks like Councillor Cockrum's son.

And for a trifecta of interesting Proposals passing out of the Rules Committee in one night, was Prop 417, which is another Special Resolution, introduced by Councillors Malone, Pfisterer, B. Mahern, Lutz, Smith, and McHenry. Prop 417 requests that the General Assembly enable the Council to have a binding review of all Township budgets. With the tax caps coming in, the taxing authority of the individual entities in Marion County must begin to be coordinated, in my view. Even if this exact corrective action is not the final mechanism, it does lead us down the path of discussing exactly how to coordinate the property tax levies of all these taxing entities. This passed out of committee with a unanimous 'do pass' recommendation.

Other interesting Proposals up for a final vote of the full Council tonight, I'll just cut and paste from the agenda:

PROPOSAL NO. 413, 2009 (General Ordinance)
INTRODUCED: 11/09/2009
BY: Councillors Brown, Scales and Speedy
REFERRED TO: Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee
DIGEST: amends the Code to clarify the definition and violation of animal at large, to expand the definition of serious injury, to specifically provide for court-ordered forfeiture and/or destruction of an animal if serious injury to a person results from the animal chasing or approaching a person in an aggressive manner while at large, and to change the reference to serious bodily injury to serious injury in the section on owner responsibility for animal attacks
COMMITTEE ACTION: 11/11/2009 Do Pass 6-0

PROPOSAL NO. 419, 2009 (General Resolution)
INTRODUCED: 11/09/2009
BY: Councillors McQuillen and Nytes
REFERRED TO: Municipal Corporations Committee
DIGEST: approves the purchase, construction or acquisition by the Indianapolis-Marion County Building Authority of all or any portion of the Wishard Hospital project and a proposed lease or leases between the Building Authority and the Health and Hospital Corporation to finance all or any portion of the Wishard Hospital project
COMMITTEE ACTION: 11/23/2009 Do Pass As Amended 6-1

Interesting Proposals to be introduced tonight - again by my eye - include:

PROPOSAL NO. 427, 2009 (Fiscal Ordinance)
INTRODUCED: 11/30/2009
BY: Councillor Pfisterer
REFERRED TO: Administration and Finance Committee
DIGEST: provides for additional appropriations and transfers in the 2009 Budget for various city and county agencies affecting various city and county funds to provide for continued operations and services of agencies
Included, among other things, is the 2009 Parks budget transfer of $200,000 from 'personal services' (wages) and $150,000 from 'internal charges' to 'other services and charges', which includes outsourcing contracts. This one deserves scrutiny.

PROPOSAL NO. 428, 2009 (Fiscal Ordinance)
INTRODUCED: 11/30/2009
BY: Councillor Pfisterer
REFERRED TO: Administration and Finance Committee
DIGEST: reduces 2009 appropriations for various city and county agencies
Over $5 million reduction total. Cuts throughout the City and County agencies.

PROPOSAL NO. 457, 2009 (General Resolution)
INTRODUCED: 11/30/2009
BY: Councillor Mansfield
REFERRED TO: Rules and Public Policy Committee
DIGEST: approves a request of the Metropolitan School District of Washington Township to certify its public question referendum to the County Election Board for the May 2010 election
"For the next seven calendar years immediately following the holding of the referendum, shall the Metropolitan School District of Washington Township impose a property tax rate that does not exceed eight cents ($0.08) on each one hundred dollars ($100) of assessed valuation and that is in addition to the school corporation's normal tuition support tax rate?"

PROPOSAL NO. 458, 2009 (General Ordinance)
INTRODUCED: 11/30/2009
BY: Councillor McQuillen
REFERRED TO: Rules and Public Policy Committee
DIGEST: amends the Code with respect to the number of committee meetings for which a councillor may be compensated in any calendar year
This one you should read for yourself to see all the manner of compensation the Councillors get. Not saying its not deserved pay, but it is very detailed in its construction. The change from the status quo appears to be an increase in the maximum number of committee meetings for which a Councillor can be compensated - increasing from the current 40 to a new maximum of 50 committee meetings.

The Council is not slowing down just because of the Holidays. That is for sure.

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