Behind-the-scenes, strong-arm tactics of the Mayor Ballard's administration on council Republicans who dare question what is happening on the 25th Floor will surface.Well, that did not take long. I obtained a 2009 schedule of committee assignments for the City County Council. (Since when does a legislative body change committee appointments in the middle of an election cycle?) Republican At-Large Councilor Ed Coleman, who dared suggest to a reporter that the Capital Improvement Board and the Indiana Sports Corporation not operate in secrecy and be forthcoming with requested documents, a quote that was taken out of context in a subsequent news article, has been stripped of his three committee assignments.
Hmmm, let me see if I can make some sort of connection here. Robert Grand is chairman of the CIB and he is on the board of the Indiana Sports Corporation. Grand’s law firm, Barnes & Thornburg, has several clients that come before the Public Safety Committee, one of the committees Councilor Coleman was removed from. Not coincidentally, the Public Safety Committee is chaired by Ryan Vaughn, a Barnes & Thornburg attorney.
This comes on the heels of the removal of Kent Smith, a Republican at-large council member, from the Vice-President position in favor of Vaughn. I am not sure if that was because of behind-the-scenes pressure from people supposedly on behalf of the administration, but from what I have heard from several council members, any Republican who dares question any administrative initiative will be a target.
Mayor Ballard and his advisers need to be reminded that the base vote in Marion County during the last election was 40%. Demanding 100% support on every issue from Republican officeholders is a foolish proposition. The GOP is a minority party in Marion County. The only way the Republicans win is by having thoughtful councilors like Coleman who dare to have an independent mind and a willingness to express those opinions. Right now, Coleman is the Republican’s best chance to hold on to an at-large seat in 2011. It appears Republican leaders though would rather lose all the at-large seats than have someone on the council who may not agree with the Mayor's people on every issue.
Bob Grand and Joe Loftus, the Mayor’s advisors who sit in on every key meeting with the Mayor, need to step forward and give an honest account of their involvement in threatening Republican councilors and, in particular, what role they played in stripping Coleman of his committee assignments. Likewise, Marion County GOP Chairman Tom John needs to fess up to any involvement he had in the retaliation against Coleman. John is up for re-election in March. Republican party workers have the right to know if their county chairman is threatening or retaliating against Republican elected officials they helped slate and get elected. If Tom John was not involved, he needs to be demanding that Coleman receive his committee assignments back.
I have been active in this party since 1986. Since then the power of the Marion County Republican Party grassroots organization has declined steadily to the point where the Democrats now have nearly every county-wide office. If this silly strong-arm tactics continue, Republican leadership will assure that the Demcorats have all the county-wide offices after Ballard loses re-election in 2011. That decline in power has corresponded, not coincidentally, with party bosses seizing more and more power, year after year, and using ever more reprehensible means to silence anyone who might bring an independent thought to the table or dare challenge the status quo. What those leaders did behind the scenes to force Judge Miller and Judge Johnson to drop their plans to run in the primary is scandalous.
For my part, I am tired of a bunch of wannabe thugs intimidating and threatening Marion County Republicans who dare exhibit an independent mind and speak out about issues. During the upcoming weeks, I am going to begin organizing a reform Republican group that will stand up for the principles of open and honest government as well as for much needed ethics reforms, an agenda the Mayor ran on and then summarily tossed aside. The group will also stand squarely against those who believe the purpose of being involved in Indianapolis government is to enrich themselves and their friends at the expense of the taxpayers. Enough is enough. It is time for Marion County Republicans to fight to take back their party.