Democrats Accuse GOP Of Indy Council Power Grab
Republican bill in Legislature would eliminate at-large council seats, give mayor more power
Democrats on the City-County Council say a Republican in the General Assembly is trying to take power away from them outside the ballot box.
City-County Council President Maggie Lewis is among those trying to bring attention to a bill introduced by Republican state Senator Michael Young. The bill would eliminate the four at-large seats on the council and would give more power to the mayor's office in Indianapolis. The four at-large seats are currently held by Democrats, who won a 16-to-13 majority on the council after the November 2011 elections.
Lewis says the bill would "eliminate the independent power and authority" of the council. Democratic state Representative Ed DeLaney accused Republicans of using the bill to try to undo the results of the 2011 election. But Young says the bill has nothing to do with politics, noting that the changes on the council wouldn't take place until 2016.
Young says recommendations for the bill came out of meetings with the mayor and city-county council, as well as other local lawmakers, though Marc Lotter in Mayor Ballard's office says the mayor's legislative agenda did not include eliminating the at-large council seats. Young says other large cities don't have at-large seats, and says the counties in Indiana who do have them generally don't have a chief executive, and says at-large seats were a way to give a voice to voters across a county.
In addition to eliminating the council seats, the bill would eliminate the requirement that the council approve mayoral appointments. It would also allow the mayor to appoint two additional members to the metropolitan development commission and eliminate the appointments of the Marion County board of commissioners, which consists of the county treasurer, auditor and assessor.
The bill also reduces the length of time a candidate for mayor must live within the city limits of Indianapolis from five years to two. It has been assigned to committee, though a hearing has not yet been scheduled.