Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Exercises in Legislative Leadership: A Lesson for the Indianapolis City-County Council

Today's Indianapolis Star brings complaints from state legislators about the remaining Family & Social Services Administration privatization partner, Affiliated Computer Services. While Governor Daniels has dispensed with IBM and its role in the privatization effort, ACS remains. The two legislators, Peggy Welch (D-Bloomington) and Suzanne Crouch (R-Evansville), suggest it is time to end ACS's role as well and and that that company's performance as as bad as IBM. Rep. Crouch goes even further, noting that people were uncomfortable with the fact that former FSSA director Mitch Roob had previously worked at ACS before the privatization effort.

Early last year, Rep. Crouch and fellow Evansville Republican Vanetta Becker led the charge against the roll out of the FSSA privatization, suggesting that Governor Mitch Daniels put a halt to the it until problems could be studied. Governor Daniels lashed out against the two Republicans, suggesting they were being disloyal. Rep. Crouch and Rep. Becker stuck to their guns and were proved correct. Let's not forgot that this all happened just a couple months after the Governor had overwhelming won re-election.

Rep. Crouch and Rep. Becker demonstrated legislative leadership. They stood up and asked tough questions and demanded answers, even when the target was something going on in an administration controlled by their own party.

It is a lesson that Indianapolis City-County council members should heed. Republicans on the Council are too often little more than a rubber-stamp for the Republican Ballard administration, even when faced with dubious administration policies and projects that jeopardize taxpayers. Even Democratic council members seem unable to formulate tough questions, even when those questions are obvious and need to be asked. Attending council meetings, one sees an unfailing politeness toward those officials who come before the council, which politeness means not asking questions that might goes much beyond the official's presentation. Inevitably, that presentation ends with council members praising the official for being open and candid, even though the council members were simply accepting as true whatever the official was spoon feeding them.

I have long preached the need for the Indianapolis City-County Council to play a more active role. The Council acts as a necessary check on the administration, regardless of whether the 25th floor is occupied by a Republican or Democrat. Not only has the Council not played that role during the last few decades, but the Council has time and time again willingly allowed the administration to bypass the Council's role in approving various projects. The time is long past due for the Indianapolis City-County Council to reassert its role in governing Indianapolis.

2 comments:

Sean Shepard said...

I've heard councilors suggest that they have to play along with the administration sometimes for fear of not getting city services in their district expeditiously performed. That they don't always want to seem 'against the Mayor'.

Potholes, road repaving or other things could get conveniently held up if a councilor gets cross ways with the (or a) mayor. I did not perceive that there were specific examples or threats in this area, but it is still interesting to hear.

I guess that's one political game that can be played to coerce votes, but I unfortunately like to think we elect adults to these positions. I know, kind'a naive.

Citizen Kane said...

"Attending council meetings, one sees an unfailing politeness toward those officials who come before the council, which politeness means not asking questions that might goes much beyond the official's presentation. Inevitably, that presentation ends with council members praising the official for being open and candid, even though the council members were simply accepting as true whatever the official was spoon feeding them."

Paul,

I told my councilor as much just last week; she seemed to understand, but I don't expect much change.

Sean, if that should happen to a councilor, then they should get tougher, not weaker. If they allow themselves to be bullied, they will be.