Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Making of Enemies

This is a commentary about the Fishers Town Council, and how they seem to be generating, not just political opponents, but political enemies.  I draw a fairly sharp distinction between the two.  An "opponent" by my way of thinking, is someone with whom you have a reasonable, and respectful, difference of opinion.   An "enemy" by contrast, has gone beyond mere opposition, and is characterized by a determination to overcome the other side.

I think I have tended to be an "opponent" of much, but not all, that the Fishers Town Council has done and stands for.  As an example, I tend to be wary of throwing tax incentives and other taxpayer dollars (such as TIF districts) at future developments without some pretty firm evidence that the development is a "good thing" and will generate positive dollars for the community.  After all, it IS the taxpayer's money.  In this, I tend to differ in degree from the majority of the Town Council, but at least two members of the Council have recently shown a willingness to dissent somewhat along my lines of thinking. 

But the Town Council has so angered some people, over some issues, that they have made, and are making, rank enemies, not just opponents.  Indeed, many if not most of these enemies are within the ranks of the Republican Party, in areas which vote heavily Republican.   The first sign of this was when Scott Faultless backed a young challenger to council incumbent Art Levine in the 2007 Republican Primary, a primary fight which was surprisingly bitter.  Perhaps this cowed Mr. Levine, but he seems to follow the lead of Mr. Faultless since then. 

About the same time, the Battle of Geist was happening.  An area heavily Republican  and well-to-do, they were angered by the Council's blunt determination to forcibly annex them, a process over which Geist residents had little say.  The annexation went thru, and now those folks are Fishers voters.  They believe, with some merit, that their taxes will rise, and for little or no additional services.  Geist residents felt, and still feel, that they were wantonly put upon by the Town Council members, none of whom they could vote for ... then.  By the Geist belief, it was all about their taxes, period, which the Council coveted to cover a rising amount of bond debt.  They felt lied about, and lied to.  Many of them have become hardened opponents of the current Council, when they could have been allies.

But it seems the Town Council did not learn.  They are now proposing a "merger" with Fall Creek Township (the eastern part of Fishers and adjacent unincorporated area) which would eliminate township government (which is independently elected), give the township's tax money to Fishers, and in one stroke, incorporate ALL of the unincorporated area into Fishers.  Needless to say, many residents in the unincorporated area, who see no need for any of this, are not too pleased.  The large majority of those people are Republicans.  Of the 3 township appointees to the merger study committee, 2 voted against the merger plan. 

The merger is up for public hearing on November 29, 2010, at 7:00 p.m. at Hamilton Southeastern High School.  I urge all interested citizens to attend.

Another way the merger has angered people, is that there is already a pending legal petition signed by 1700 Fishers voters to have a referendum on changing Fishers from a town form of government to a city.  The Town Council has refused to even discuss having this referendum, even tho they were legally required to approve it.  The CityYes committee which submitted it asked that it be set for a vote on November 2, 2010, which obviously has passed.  They show no signs of EVER letting it be voted on.  Indeed, this has led to speculation that the merger is just a way to try to prevent the "city-town" referendum and keep the same form of government, without an elected mayor, and other changes. 

Isn't this the height of political arrogance?  Has the Town Council forgotten that they are supposed to be the servants of the community, and not its masters?  Do they fear a public vote that much?  For better or worse, the people have ultimate power, and right, to determine their own form of government.  And that sort of arrogance makes people angry, and turns them into enemies, not just opponents. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Knee-jerk politics

Election Day rolled around Tuesday and I spent all day in and out of the polls.  I spent a part of the day at a couple of Hamilton County polling places with Democratic Secretary of State candidate Vop Osili, you know, the guy with the funny name who also was endorsed by the FOP, firefighters, teachers, and most major newspapers.  You know, the guy whose opponent couldn't seem to follow the very election laws he was trying to get elected to enforce.

People like Vop when they meet him.  He is bright, engaging, smart, articulate, and has a brilliant smile and easy manner.  So I was pleased when voters at strongly Republican precincts greeted him (mostly) with smiles and "pleased to meet you!"   I thought maybe they really "got it" this time, and the polls and pundits were wrong.

Until we talked to a perky 20-ish blonde voter, who seemed delighted to meet a candidate.  Then with a confused smile, she sheepishly asked if Vop were Democrat or Republican.  When told Democrat, she got more confused.  When further informed that Vop's opponent was under felony investigation for voter fraud, she looked even more confused, and said, "But he's a Republican, isn't he?" as if that excused everything.  Stunned, we let her go on her confused path to the voting booth.  

Sadly, that young woman actually turned out to be typical for Hamilton County.  While Vop led the statewide candidates in Hamilton County, returns indicate the drop-off for White was small, perhaps 8%.  I am still stunned that any informed, intelligent voter could or would vote for a potential felon to safeguard their elections, and that party label was all that mattered for far too many.  

But conversely, I also spoke to many Republican precinct workers, probably the most involved people in their party, who did NOT vote for Charlie White, but voted for one of the other two candidates.  They put principle and facts first, and should be commended.  But they seem to be a tiny fraction of the whole.

Lest anyone think this is a partisan diatribe, Democrats, buckle your seatbelts, you get it next. 

Some readers will already know the shameful story of the 5th District congressional race on the Democratic side in 2010.  An intelligent, articulate physician by the name of Nasser Hanna, midwest born and raised, and a Fishers resident, was preparing for a mighty battle against Dan Burton.  He raised money, criss-crossed the district many times, and made thousands of phone calls.  But he had a primary opponent, Tim Crawford, who was in fact no Democrat, but a Republican poll worker and Tea Party member.  Crawford raised no money, made no appearances prior to the primary.  Crawford won, handily.  His victory was attributed to ballot position and not-too-subtle racism.  After the primary, Crawford's sole campaign appearance, with the Hamilton County Democratic Women, went so badly for Crawford that he briefly promised to resign, then backed off that, never to be seen or heard from again.  Crawford remained on the ballot.

No Democratic leader that I know of would admit to voting for Crawford, and I certainly did not.  But while Democrats had no GOOD choices, Crawford was certainly not our choice.  Personally, I voted for the Libertarian candidate, feeling he was the only one in the race who actually had an intelligent thought.  But rank and file Democrats in Hamilton County appear to have voted in lock-step for Crawford, as his vote totals were nearly identical to the base party vote.  There was one exception.  An unknown voter in my home precinct wrote in, "A Real Democrat please".  Bless you my neighbor! 

I cry SHAME! on any Republican who voted for Charlie White and SHAME! again for any Democrat who voted for Tim Crawford.  You did not do your homework as voters.  You voted for party label with no clue as to what the candidate stood for, or what baggage he carried.  Those were ignorant, petty votes, and your party and your community will suffer for them.  Voters simply must do a better job of educating themselves and voting intelligently.  Party label is not enough, never has been, never will be.