Council Leadership – My Thoughts

This week, the City-County Council elected a new President, Stephen Clay, in a 14-11 bi-partisan vote.= that included 9 Republicans. For weeks I wrestled with this decision but ultimately I voted in favor of President Clay. It was not an easy choice and I’d like to explain why. First, I personally like Maggie Lewis. I like having a woman in a prominent position, and I have enjoyed working with her. There are, however, pervasive leadership issues and problematic governing approaches that we have been unable to resolve during Councillor Lewis’ 6-year tenure as President.

In November of 2015, Indianapolis voted for a moderate Democrat Mayor and elected a City-County Council that was almost equally divided (13-12, in favor of the Democrats). Several races, including mine, were close enough that the Council majority could have easily broken in either direction. Following the election, the Council united to unanimously vote to re-elect then-President Lewis. I was hopeful that the message Indianapolis voters sent would register with our Democratic leadership, but it didn’t.

President Lewis incrementally changed the committee make-up, giving Republicans less and less representation. When typically there have been no more than 2 “super-committees” (committees with a margin of 2 or more in favor of the majority party), we had 6. For example, at the time of the vote, the Public Safety Committee was 7-3 in favor of Democrats, and the Public Works Committee was 6-3, and there were four other committees with a margin of 2 or greater in favor of the majority party. It’s hard to see that as bi-partisanship no matter which lens you use. For more on the specific partisan  issues, read see my colleague’s LTE here. These decisions are made by the Council President, not the Mayor. After repeatedly being asked to re-balance committees and make modifications that would allow for a more balanced government, then-President Lewis did nothing. 

Wrangling 14 Democrats on a vast continuum of ideologies (for example, both Councilor Scales and Councilor Gray are Democrats) is no easy task. The Democratic caucus has often been divided, and this leadership challenge has been discussed by Councillors since I was sworn in January 1, 2016. Councillor Lewis had prior knowledge and opportunities to resolve outstanding concerns on both sides of the aisle.

I often hear referenced the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Thus far, the Council, working with Mayor Hogsett, has not made significant progress on the major issues facing our city: crime, infrastructure, and economic development. We opted for change.

Councillor Clay committed to give Republicans a better seat at the table and more balances committees. I am hopeful that, working together, we will be able to deliver more for the residents of our city. It won’t take long for us to know if meaningful change will come about; and I expect more changes in the coming weeks. If not, or if it becomes clear that President Clay’s character is unworthy of this position, I will be the first to call for his resignation. For now, I remain hopeful that we can accomplish more for our districts and our city.

Also, please see my colleague’s Letter to the Editor. I echo Councilor Kreider’s sentiments. 

CURRENT COMMITTEE ASSIGNMENTS (as of Thursday January 11, 2018)

Committee on Committees: D-Stephen Clay (chair) D-Monroe Gray D-Mike McQuillen

Administration & Finance: D-Joseph Simpson (chair) R-Colleen Fanning D-La Keisha Jackson D-Blake Johnson D-Maggie Lewis R-Brian Mowery R-Marilyn Pfisterer D-David Ray

Community Affairs & Education: D-Blake Johnson (chair) D-Zach Adamson R-Jason Holliday D-Frank Mascari R-Brian Mowery R-Marilyn Pfisterer D-David Ray

Ethics Committee: R-Mike McQuillen (chair) D-La Keisha Jackson R-Jason Holliday D-Blake Johnson R-Brian Mowery D-David Ray

Metropolitan & Economic Development: D-La Keisha Jackson (chair) D-Zach Adamson D-Jared Evans R-Colleen Fanning R-Scott Kreider R-Brian Mowery D-Vop Osili R-David Ray D-Leroy Robinson D-Christine Scales

Municipal Corporations: D-Monroe Gray (chair) D-Stephen Clay R-Susie Cordi D-Jared Evans R-Jason Holliday D-La Keisha Jackson D-Frank Mascari R-Mike McQuillen R-John Wesseler