By Dan Jehl
It's like choosing a major league baseball team. And, we, the voters, will soon choose who plays. The entire nine-member Fort Wayne City Council is up for reelection on Nov. 6, and it will be interesting. One local bar and restaurant has an outdoor sign already welcoming new council members and bidding farewell to present incumbents.
Although the public spotlight has focused on the two candidates for mayor, Tom Henry and Matt Kelty, the council plays a large role on many issues. From closeto- home issues like zoning variances and honoring the Scouts, to big issues like the smoking ban, Harrison Square, the city budget, and tax relief, the City Council is right there playing in the World Series weekly. And this year some of the Council decisions like the smoking ban has fueled an anti-incumbent voter mood. As always, who wins will depend on who shows up to vote.
The winners will receive exactly $21,414 annually beginning Jan. 1. Their job is to represent us. We hire them; we fire them. That's how representative democracy is supposed to work.
There are 26 candidates vying for the nine roster spots. That's nearly one for every 10,000 Fort Wayne citizens. Six slots are based on district or area and three slots are earmarked for at-large candidates. The candidates range in age from 22 to 70 and range in public experience from zero experience to 36 years. The candidates include full and part-time students and full and part-time plus retired employees. Their top priorities embrace improved neighborhoods, tax changes, less government, more affordable housing, reverse brain drain incentives, more green space, a river project and much more.
The 26 candidates include 21 men and five women. There are four African American male candidates, one African American female candidate, and one female Hispanic candidate.
The minority candidate percentages mirror the city's population, given that there are five minority candidates of 26, with minority groups comprising more than 25 percent of the city with 16 percent African Americans and eight percent Hispanics as the two largest according to the Census Bureau. But, the gender breakdown is way out of whack. Fort Wayne's estimated 2007 population is 129,044 females and 121,042 males. The current council has no female members.
Who are they? The candidates for this four-year term roster are presented by the six city council districts and then by the three at-large positions.
THE DISTRICT CANDIDATES
Tom Smith vs. Kevin Boyd vs. Byron Peters
The 1st District is Fort Wayne's northeast area, consisting of an estimated 2,055 African American residents. Incumbent Republican business-owner Tom Smith-is running for his third term. His interests include more greenspace, trails and bikeways. He votes his constituents' wants on the issues and promotes the purchase of the OmniSource property for the North River project. Developing community resources is a top priority.
His Democrat opponent is pastor and insurance representative Kevin Boyd. His priority is economic development and instilling positive and constructive ideals into the public issue dialogue.
The Libertarian candidate is business- owner and executive Byron Peters. Many candidates are talking up the use of the rivers as a resource, and only Peters is bringing up ceasing sewage dumping into the rivers, which occurs now 100 days each year. He opposes any use of public dollars on out-of-town consultants.
Don Schmidt vs. Karen Goldner vs. Jonathon Bartels
The 2nd District, the north central area, has an estimated 2,214 African American residents, and has the fastest growing minority population district. The incumbent is 10-term seeker and current Council President Don Schmidt. A recently retired IPFW engineering faculty member, Schmidt favors city-county consolidation and limiting government and tax growth to the rate of inflation. His voting pattern shows fiscal restraint and resistance to government growth, as evidenced by voting behavior on city budgets and opposing proposals such as refurbishing the animal shelter, forming the Women's Bureau and creating a flood control district.
His Democrat opponent is business executive Karen Goldner and current member of the Redevelopment Commission . Goldner has 20 years of community development experience, including three as the City's director of Economic Development. She said her style would reflect fiscal prudence, an emphasi-Fort Wayne" initiative was the first of the non-incumbent Council candidates' new proposals.
The third candidate is Jonathon Bartels, representing the Libertarian party. Bartels said he would stress neighborhood and individual advocacy and also reigning in the government's role in public affairs.
Tom Didier vs. Debra McBride vs. Gloria Diaz
The 3rd District consists of the northwest area of Fort Wayne and an estimated 1,958 African Americans. Republican Tom Didier aspires to his second term. National Anthem- singer and businessman Didier stresses strong neighborhoods, business growth and city upkeep of its downtown and all around town to attract tourists, retain families and build communities.
Debra McBride, the Democrat contender, has very similar views and emphasizes overall economic development supported by her financial background as a business accounting director.
The Libertarian candidate is Gloria Diaz, who said she would advance new ideas to address the "brain drain," promote physical fitness and pursue less taxes and less government
Chris Stewart vs. Mitch Harper
The 4th District is the city's southwest area with about 1,614 African American residents. This area will have a new representative since Dr. Tom Hayhurst is not running for reelection. This is the only contest with two, not three, candidates. Democrat Chris Stewart, a business owner and business executive, got a late start due to the withdrawal of the former Democratic candidate Charles Langley. Stewart said he would be active on economic issues, like the local business climate, job growth and personal income growth. He favors homeowner tax incentives to keep homes upgraded.
His contender is Republican Mitch Harper, a former 12-year state legislator, and youngest ever Indiana state legislator when first elected at age 22. Attorney Harper has interests in environmental issues, transportation, and running and supports the Port-to-Fort cross-state transportation initiative.
There was no Libertarian candidate listed for the 4th District.
Timothy Pape vs. Ron Buskirk vs. Robert Fuller
The 5th District is the city's south central area with an estimated 8,216 African Americans and 4,300 Hispanics with minorities accounting for 29.9 percent of the district. Incumbent Democrat Timothy Pape seeks his third consecutive term. Attorney Pape is a proponent of ideas to attract highpaying jobs and to curb the decline in city residents' average income. Pape has demonstrated Council leadership and ability to make unpopular decisions which favor economic development in the long term.
Ron Buskirk, the Republican contender, is a certified healthcare compliance officer for St. Joseph's and Dupont hospitals. Buskirk is a 30-year Fort Wayne police officer. He said his priorities would be public safety issues, adequately equipping police and firefighters and reinventing community-oriented policing. Buskirk also said economic development to create more jobs for the community is a top priority.
Robert Fuller, the Libertarian candidate, a computer technician, promotes neighborhood and individual freedoms as paramount. He said his priority is to address economic struggles in the district. He cited the tax crunch on homeowners and renters, grocery stores and small businesses leaving the area and the City's lack of attention given to the increasing minority population's need for jobs, affordable housing and community resources as problems.
Glynn Hines vs. Joe Smith vs. Robert Enders
The 6th District is the southeast area with just over 50 percent African American residents and a just under 10 percent Hispanic population. Glynn Hines is the Democrat Party candidate and is seeking his third consecutive council term. Hines, a leader of the Southeast Strategy, has had results. This district has seen resource development with the coming Police Training Academy, new major retail stores at or near Southtown Centre and the new Lifetime Sports Academy Facility at McMillan Park, which opened this past summer.
Joe Smith, the Republican contender is the national chairman of Pastors and Elders Council. Smith has 27 years at Dana Corporation and more than 30 years involved in city charitable and religious community organizations. He favors fiscal constraint by curbing or reducing property taxes and promotes community collaboration to get things done.
Robert Enders, the Libertarian candidate, a security officer and treasurer of the Allen County Libertarian Party, favors less government, less taxes and more attention to all city neighborhoods including downtown.
City Council At-Large:
There are nine candidates, one from each party, campaigning for each of the three at-large positions. Each voter can vote for three candidates in the At-large race. At-large candidates are citywide representatives. The three at-large seats were created years ago to ensure an odd number for council voting, to give citizens other kicks at the cat besides their district representative, and to provide "swing" council voters on issues where council members tend to vote by party allegiance or loyalty to the mayor.
The At-large candidates are:
Democrat Shoaff is seeking his second term to go with his eight years on the Fort Wayne Park Board and 12 years as president of Headwaters Park Commission. Shoaff is very active on greenspace, North River project promoting and transportation issues. He favors coordinating traffic planning with community planning and developing more trails.
Denise Porter- Ross
Democrat Denise Porter- Ross has served as the city's Northeast Area Advocate for the past eight years. She has served on or with various community boards and organizations. She is known for her abilities to organize people and neighborhood groups and to advocate the peoples' interests. She has strengthened the city's Partnership program and has enhanced the importance of Community Development Action Plans.
Libertarian William Larsen is a mechanical engineer and promoter of less government. He questions whether there is a brain drain problem while others forge ideas to address the problem. He is almost the sole candidate raising the issue of the more than $200 million unfunded liability attributable to the police and fire pension fund and argues that the city should work down this debt.
Libertarian Douglas Horner is a medical transporter and part-time student. He favors less government and less public spending. On economic development, he contends government involvement usually means failed projects. On jobs, he stresses that jobs are created by private businesses and not by government.
Thomas Essex Jr.
Democrat Tom Essex is a Fort Wayne attorney. He has public experience as a twoterm Wayne Township Trustee and three years as a county prosecutor. Essex stresses public safety, including resurrection of community-oriented policing. He is the only candidate suggesting the pragmatic use of the city's 18 fire stations as possible satellite or substations. On the City Utilities surplus, he supports Tom Henry's idea of seeking citizen input; and on property taxes, Essex advocates an appropriate distribution of the multiple tax streams.
Dr. John Crawford:
Republican Dr. John Crawford is seeking his fourth term as an atlarge Council member. He is more than just the architect of the smoking ban. His interests entail city development both downtown and what he terms the "infield" or the downtown's surrounding areas. He was also architect of the Brain Drain Loan Repayment program, and espouses working down the city's debt even if it means using part of the City Utilities surplus. Due to the smoking ban, Crawford is the main target of the anti-incumbent movement. Even his detractors, however, concede he does his research and listens to his constituents before making up his mind.
Republican Elizabeth Brown has been active in civic affairs. She is one of the few non-incumbent candidates to propose a new initiative through her "Angel Fund" proposal to attract and retain young people by using part of the City Utilities surplus interest. She promotes development and use of green space by starting downtown and working outwards. Brown favors purchasing the land for the North River Project and developing a greenway consortium.
Republican Marty Bender will have 33 years experience with the Fort Wayne Police Department on Jan. 1. He stresses working down all city debt, including the police and fire pension fund. He argues that the city must cut red tape to foster business growth. On property taxes, he advocates a modest increase in the sales tax with corresponding relief in the property tax. Bender sees the greenway trails as a good start and argues for cleaning up the rivers and developing them as a natural resource.
Libertarian Michael Brightbill is in restaur a n t management and an IPFW student. He advocates city growth through the free-market economy . Brightbill favors less government interference in business and in people's lives, and states his top priority would be stopping the city's anti-business and anti-individual policies. He supports increased citizen involvement in public decision- making.
That's it. Now it's up to us. And, yes, it's big. Like the mayor, who lives in the public spotlight like it or not, the council too is a major player with a critical role in shaping the direction of the city. A good example is Renaissance Pointe, the premier housing development project of the year, which will provide 600 new or rehabbed housing units on formerly smoldering land. The mayor couldn't do it by himself. It took the citizens and it took the council to get it done.
It's time for the voters to choose. We hire them; we fire them. They work for us. Best of luck to all; and remember Colts-Patriots game Nov. 3, and then three days later, it's Nov. 6, Election Day-and we decide the winner of the game.
Copied From Frost Illustrated 2007-10-24