Thursday, December 13, 2012

Council Democrats To Lose Stongest Member Of Leadership Team

City-County Council Vice-President Brian Mahern stands heads and shoulders above the leadership team of the Democratic-controlled council and most other members of the council for that matter. It is disappointing and troubling to learn that he will step down from his leadership role next year due to differences with the leadership of President Maggie Lewis, who appears to be completely under the thumb of the Ballard administration despite being a leader for the opposition party. Mahern told the Star his differences with Lewis over her support of another $10 million public subsidy for the Indiana Pacers and economic development matters. Mahern has been an outspoken advocate for curtailing the use of TIF districts as an economic development tool and implementing substantial reforms to protect against their misuse and further erosion of the tax base.
In part, Mahern cited disagreements with President Maggie Lewis on some issues. Those include on economic development and Lewis’ support this week for a $10 million, one-year extension of the city’s arrangement to help offset the Indiana Pacers’ operating  costs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Though he still supports Lewis as president, he said, it’s become apparent that “Maggie and I share some principled, philosophical differences.” He says he’s stepping down from the leadership position next month so that the party, which has a 16-13 edge on the council, can select someone else for the VP role who is on the same page as Lewis.
“It goes back to a recognition on my part that there may be different world views between myself and Maggie,” Mahern said. “It ends up being a simple question: Am I able to contribute?”
Mahern is the only articulate and well-studied member of the Democrat's current leadership team. The Star's Jon Murray speculates that Mahern's hold on his leadership position may have been at risk due to his aggressive and outspoken posture on issues about which he feels passionately, particularly when most of his fellow colleagues could care less about his passion for good government. Murray notes Mahern's vocal criticism of Lewis' support of the $10 million subsidy for the Indiana Pacers, which was done in a fashion "to avoid scrutiny of the deal by the council" because it was done in between budgets, as well as her agreeing to allow the expansion of the controversial downtown TIF district to go forward before the council addressed the larger issue of the negative impact the creation of so many TIF districts had already inflicted on the county's tax base.

It's almost painful to watch Lewis, who is obviously in over her head, try to preside over meetings at times. Her ability to act independently has been compromised by her employment as the executive director of a nonprofit agency, The Dove Recovery House, that is dependent on city funding for its viability. Mahern's departure creates a real void for the Democrats. The other member of the leadership team, Majority Leader Vernon Brown, is a city firefighter batallion chief who must answer for his job to Mayor Ballard. Murray, who almost appears to revel in Mahern's departure from the leadership team, knocking his "penchant for calling press conferences and his perceived political ambitions," doesn't speculate on who will succeed Mahern.

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