Marion County Republicans have settled on a simple but potentially effective strategy as they make a last-month push to regain control of the City-County Council.
With Election Day less than one month away, Republicans are pointing at every turn these days to controversy-plagued council President Monroe Gray, a Democrat. Their point is that a vote for any Democratic council candidate is a vote to continue Gray's reign, as he keeps his job as council boss only if Democrats keep their majority.
County GOP Chairman Tom John made that argument Tuesday, standing before the media outside the City-County Building and calling on Gray to resign as council president. John used phrases such as "abomination of government," "abuse of power" and "old-style politics" as he pleaded his case.
Whatever your political tilt -- and I've never understood why anyone cares about partisan affiliations at the local level of government -- it's hard to dispute any of John's words. Gray's controversies have come as consistently as a faucet drip during his tenure as president.
The flaps and missteps have ranged from his often-inept management of council meetings to his failure to report financial ties to a city contractor to questions about whether he does any work for the $83,000 a year his longtime employer, the Indianapolis Fire Department, pays him. But after all that, Gray outdid himself at Monday's council meeting. The trouble began when Republicans pushed for an investigation into potential ethics violations by Gray. In another in a long line of silly escapades at council meetings this year, Gray continued to run the meeting even though the issue at hand centered on his own conduct. In the end, he cast a vote to block the investigation.
"What you saw was someone who believes they are above the law," John
Tully picks up on the irony of this debate over Gray. "Funny thing is, Gray will likely win re-election to the council, because his Northside district favors Democratic candidates," he says. "But his name and his many controversies could hurt other members of his party, thereby threatening the Democrats' council majority." Tully managed to find one of the few Democratic council members who is facing no opposition in the November election to defend Gray publicly. "Has he made mistakes? council Democrat Jackie Nytes asked. "Yes. But I think he's done some really good things. I still stand behind him." Nytes', like Gray, has also benefited from city contracts. Her husband's business, Printing Partners, has lucrative printing contracts with the city. She was wise enough, however, to disclose the business relationship on her statement of economic interest, unlike Gray.
Meanwhile, the Star's Brendan O'Shaughnessy has another front-page story on the Gray controversy. Referring to GOP calls for Gray's resignation yesterday and a new call for an ethics investigation of Gray, O'Shaughnessy writes, "Their plans came after Gray, relying on procedural rules, effectively managed to shelve a proposal calling for an investigation into his business dealings at a council meeting Monday night." Quoting Council GOP Leader Phil Borst, O'Shaughnessy writes, “This is abuse of the juice,” Borst said, referring to Gray’s statement last year that there is no use in “having the juice if you don’t use it.”“What they’re doing is old-school politics,” Borst said of council Democrats. “They are blatantly violating the rules to protect Monroe Gray.” O'Shaughnessy's story points up yet another vote Gray cast, which raises questions of a conflict of interest. "Moreover, Gray voted in September to renew a $28.million-per-year contract with United Water for up to the next 20 years," O'Shaughnessy writes. He adds, "Asked then whether he should have abstained from the vote, Gray replied that he no longer has a contract with United Water." Gray's business, of course, has contracts with United Water, a company with which the city has contracted to install sewers.