Unlimited and Unrestrained, or Politics as Usual

It’s bad enough when partisan warfare leads to gridlock and a refusal to operate in the public interest. It may be worse when one party has super-majorities that allow it to pursue political advantage despite the wishes of the opposition and effect on the general public. We have such super-majorities in the Indiana General Assembly, and among the many kinds of mischief being proposed, the one that may be most nakedly self-serving would eliminate the four at-large Indianapolis City County Counselors, and dramatically increase the power of the Indianapolis Mayor to act without Council approval–indeed, in defiance of the Council–in a variety of situations.

Senate Bill 0621 allows the Mayor to unilaterally reduce appropriations approved by the Council (now he must either sign or veto them as passed), essentially allowing him to ignore legislative actions. It eliminates the requirement that the Council approve the Mayor’s appointments of Departmental Directors. It “eliminates provisions that allow the city-county council to require the capital improvement board of managers to make payments in lieu of taxes.” It gives the Mayor effective control of the Development Commission. And it eliminates the At-Large City County Councilors.

Quite the power grab.

This is terrible public policy–whether you approve of the decisions made by the Council or not, in a government of checks and balances, it is inappropriate to strip the legislative branch of its authority and to create an “imperial” Mayoral office. We can debate the necessity of at-large positions, but the purpose of those positions was to elect at least four councilors whose allegiance would be to the voters of the entire county, to balance those whose votes would be geared to the interests of their own constituents.

The irony, of course, is that this naked attempt to reduce the influence of Marion County Democrats is likely to come bite these short-sighted Republicans in the you-know-where. Indianapolis is increasingly a “blue” city. Upcoming Mayors are more likely than not to be Democrats, and the ways in which those Mayors deploy the new powers being provided to that office are unlikely to be palatable to the folks who are promoting this power grab.

That’s the problem with trying to game the system: you can’t always foresee who will be playing the game.


  1. But; golly, gee whiz, speaking of “gaming the system” we now will have a pro soccer team to look forward to. More balls, these with colorful patterns…does this mean another stadium to pay for? I have’t read the articles or watched news items in depth because I don’t give a shit about another sports venue to support.

  2. Generally, I agree with the points you make. However, two other points are worth consideration. First, UniGov was enacted at a time when the City (within the old limits) appeared close to being comprised of racial minorities (or minority). What had been the suburbs were brought into the local governmental structure. Second, and unfortunately, the local Democratic Party appears to have an agenda highly similar to that of the local Republican Party. “Corruption” does not consist only of outright bribes. It also consists of no-bid (or close to no-bid) contracts and creation of mechanisms (such as that imported parasitic species TIF) that effectively line the pockets of the already-fortunate few.

  3. If the legislature passes the version that immediately removes the At-Large seats, they won’t care if the next Mayor is a Democrat. They will have already sold signed dozens of 50-year lease agreements for everything that isn’t nailed down — and sold off (and given away the proceeds from) everything that is.

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