Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Republican Councilors Vote to Oppose Public Input and Open Government

Councilor Janice McHenry
Last night at the Indianapolis City-County Council meeting last night, Republican councilors showed how they collectively have betrayed the promise on which they were elected to the majority last fall.  One of the major criticisms by Republicans in the 2007 campaign was that the Democratic majority limited or barred public testimony at committee hearings.  Now in 2011, with the GOP in control of the council, it is Republicans who want the public to shut up.

Councilor Angela Mansfield
The open government issue was sparked by the appointment of Richard Kraft to a zoning board of appeals.  Kraft is the typical such appointment.  Kraft works for an engineering firm that does business with the City, a firm that is a contributor to the Mayor.  Kraft earns his living from government contracts, the very type insider who, wanting to keep those contracts, is going to do what he's told.  People had arrived at a committee meeting chaired by Councilor McHenry, prepared to ask questions and possibly raise concerns about Kraft's appointment.  McHenry, seeing that more than softball pleasantries might be raised during the meeting, shut out any public input.

Council President
Ryan Vaughn
At the regular council meeting last night, Democratic Councilor Angela Mansfield pointed out that Councilor McHenry's silencing of public comment on an appointee was contrary to council tradition, and ask that the appointment be recommitted to the committee for debate. By a 12-16 vote the motion failed. All Republicans present and Libertarian Ed Coleman voted against sending Kraft's appointment back for public comment.   Republican Councilor Christine Scales was not at the meeting.

Councilor Brian Mahern tried another route, allowing public comment at the regular council meeting.  Council President Ryan Vaughn said that Kraft's appointment wasn't scheduled for public comment, it wouldn't be taken.

Councilor Brian Mahern
In explaining why public comment wasn't taken, Vaughn said he had examined the council rules and found that council chairs aren't required to open an appointment to public input.  He then talked about how some appointees had been the subject of critical comments and that allowing critical comments would make it difficult to find people who would volunteering their time.  BS.  If these appointments were opened up so someone but insiders could serve, then there would be a line of people wanting to serve.  I have long said that we need to ask regular working men an women to serve in these positions, not insiders feeding at the public trough.  Of course those average individuals might not rubberstamp whatever the power brokers in this City want done.

Even if Vaughn is correct that committee chairs can, under the rules, bar public comment from council committee meetings, that does not make it the right thing to do, especially when Vaughn and the rest of the Republican councilors campaigned on the idea of open government and were critical of Democrats for shutting the public out of council meetings.   McHenry, Vaughn, and Angel Rivera, who of course had to chime in with his two cents, should be ashamed of themselves for silencing public input during the council review of appointtees.  Meanwhile, we Republicans who strongly support the idea of open, transparent government should applaud Democrats Angela Mansfield and Brian Mahern for standing up for the very principles Republican councilors ran on in 2007.

To see a previous column I wrote on this matter, click here.


Hoosier in the Heartland said...

Dictatorships don't allow the little people to comment.

Phil Swaim said...

This is happening in Columbus too, but it is worse. Public input is allowed, but then never discussed, and certainly never recorded.

I actually stream the City council meetings live on my website so people can see what is happening at any meeting any time they want.

guy77money said...

Isn't a dictatorship just wonderful ;)

Marycatherine Barton said...

Yes, Angela and Brian should be applauded. And thank you, OoP for your position, "that we need to ask regular working men and women to serve in these positions, not insiders feeding at the public trough."

Go Voorhies!! said...

i will be sure and point this out. Go Voorhies for Council!