Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Doug Rae's Supporter Fires Back; The Rubberstamp Mentality of Indianapolis Board Members

Several months ago I was watching Animal Control Director Doug Rae appear before a committee explaining his vision of animal control. Later I watched him again in another committee meeting. In an administration filled with so many appointees lacking experience in their jobs and who are unwilling to give the Mayor independent advice, Rae stood out as an exception. Rae brought incredible experience to the job and tackled his job with enthusiasm and and creativity not seen from the traditional political appointees who have occupied his position.

I forgot my rule of Indianapolis politics though. Creativity and innovation (unless it involves finding a way to put more taxpayer money in the pockets of politically-connected contractors and law firms) is not rewarded in this city. Rather what they look for is people who will be rubber stamps for what certain folks in power want.

Enter the picture Warren G. Patitz who has a letter to the editor in today's Indianapolis Star. Patitiz was chairman of the Indianapolis Animal Care and Control Advisory Board. Last week he was dismissed by Mayor Ballard because of his outspoken support of Rae. In the letter to the editor, Patitz defends Rae's philosophy which shows more compassion to the stray animals than showed by previous directors who turned the center into little more than a euthanasia center. Rae believes a priority should be the adoption of the animals, not killing them.

In terms of politics, what I found the most interesting is this comment of Patitz:
The advisory board should be composed of people with knowledge of the laws and history of animal welfare issues in our community, and public safety should use the board's advisory contributions instead of silencing it, as is current policy.
Amen. Amen. Amen. That is the way these boards are supposed to operate. Even though they are made up of appointees, they are supposed to offer independent advice to the Director and to the public. Board members like Patitz are not supposed to simply be a rubber-stamp for the Mayor or the Council, or whoever else might have appointed that board member to that position. If Board members feel their duty is to be a rubber-stamp, then they need to resign their position because they are not doing their job.

The rubberstamp mentality of board members though is part of the political mindset in Indianapolis. Nowhere is it more evident than on the Capital Improvement Board. Not one member of that Board has ever questioned the idea of picking up $15 million in annual operating costs on Conseco Fieldhouse a building, a building in which the Pacers, i.e. the Simons, receive 100% of the revenue. Not a single CIB member has ever questioned whether the contract would require such payments or what the actual penalty would be if the Pacers were to try to exercise their early opt-out charge. Not one CIB member will ask CIB President Bob Grand or Executive Director Barney Levengood a tough question, the same questions that people in the community are asking and continue to ask.

What would happen if a CIB member started asking tough, thoughtful questions at a meeting? He or she would undoubtedly meet the same fate as Patitiz.

Returning to Rae, I have held off blogging on the matter because I figured there had to be some other reason why administration officials like acting Public Safety Director Mark Renner have targeted Rae. That reason, beyond the public explanation, though never surfaced. Now Mayor Ballard has clearly crossed the line by firing Patitiz because he, as chairman of an ADVISORY board, dared speak out in support of Rae's approach to animal control. Independent thought? Not here in Indianapolis and not in this administration. Indianapolis voters deserve better from their boards than rubberstamp politics.

1 comment:

redheadfrog said...

AMEN! Thank you for your comment and insight. I could not figure out why the let Rae go, but it's Indy politics as usual.