General Assembly Approves Abolishing At-Large City-County Councillors
With a signature from Governor Pence, Indy's City-County Council will shrink by four members in the 2015 election, in a move Democrats blast as a "power grab."
On a 33-16 vote, the Senate sent Pence a bill eliminating the council's four at-large seats, and strengthening the authority of Indy's mayor over appointments to executive posts and to the Metropolitan Development Commission.
Democrats' current 15-14 majority on the council is made possible by their control of the four at-large seats. Without them, Republicans will be defending a 14-11 council edge in the 2015 election, which will be the first under new district maps. Democrats are challenging the Republican-drawn map in court.
Senator Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) contends that map would lock in a Republican majority they can't win any other way. But he charges abolishing the seats is not only power politics but bad policy. He says the legislature shouldn't, and customarily doesn't, meddle in local government.
Senator Mike Young (R-Indianapolis), the bill's author, argues Indy's 29-member council gives it one councillor for every 35,000 people -- four times the average for big cities. And he says district councillors have accused at-large members of blocking proposals to benefit their districts.
A House committee had deleted the change in the council. Democrats still opposed the bill, challenging the reduced council input on mayoral appointments. They also object to a provision allowing the city controller to police the spending of county officeholders, all of whom are Democrats.
A House-Senate conference committee restored the council provision. The bill passed the House on Thursday night with three votes to spare, 54-45.
Republican Mayor Greg Ballard had lobbied for the other provisions in the bill, but remained neutral on the elimination of the council seats.