Monday, July 09, 2007

Has Scott Keller Abandoned The GOP?

In his first term on the city-county council, Scott Keller has underscored traditional GOP principles despite vociferous criticism from the extreme right. He led the successful passage of the city's Human Rights Ordinance over the objections of many within his own party because he believes strongly in equality for all citizens, a principle upon which the Republican Party was founded. He further angered some members of his party when he supported Mayor Peterson's effort to consolidate law enforcement agencies. This, however, was really just a continuation of the process started by former Mayor Richard Lugar (R) and other local Republican leaders more than 35 years ago to streamline and economize the delivery of governmental services in Marion County. Although an angry Jim Bradford urged Keller and another GOP council member, Lance Langsford, to leave the party after voting with the Democrats on these two critical matters, Bradford's sentiment was shared by few within the Republican Party, particularly those who understand the party has to seek greater diversity to have a fighting chance in an ever-increasingly diverse Marion County.

More recent developments, though, have shaken support for Keller within the GOP. Keller is not supporting GOP mayoral hopeful Greg Ballard in his effort to defeat 8-year incumbent Bart Peterson (D). In fact, Keller is supporting the Mayor's re-election bid and showed up at a Peterson fundraiser earlier this summer to prove the point. Although Keller says he is not counting on the Mayor's support in his own council bid for re-election against Brian Mahern (D), others insist Keller is operating under the delusion Peterson is supporting his re-election bid and will help him out. So committed is Keller to helping out Peterson that he has pledged to support Mayor Peterson's 65% increase in the county option income tax despite an earlier increase in the COIT and record increases in Marion County property taxes this year. Keller is unapologetic about his position. Keller says he received no support from the GOP in his race 4 years ago, and the party is focused on races other than his this year. Furthermore, he insists his constituents want him to vote for a tax increase to put more police officers on the street.

Keller's antipathy towards the party is surprising. Keller's choice for Marion County GOP chairman, Tom John, took over the party earlier this year. John has supported an inclusive approach to reach out to Marion County's diverse population unlike his predecessor, Mike Murphy. John has been helping build support for the GOP's ticket this year, and tapping into voter anger with rising taxes is critical to the GOP's success this year. A less than united front on the tax issue is problemmatic for the GOP. City-County Councilor Lance Langsford (R) too is supporting the Mayor's tax increase. Unlike Keller, however, Langsford was brushed aside this year in favor of another council candidate. As a firefigher, Langsford is probably more concerned at this point in making sure there's plenty of money in the budget for firefighter salaries and pensions than he is about his own party's fortunes in this year's election.

Keller's unabashed support for Peterson's tax increase is very disturbing. Like Keller, I too supported the police consolidation ordinance. I'm very distressed, however, by the lack of proof that the consolidation generated the millions in promised savings. It seems Mayor Peterson and Sheriff Anderson were so concerned about handing out promotions left and right prior to the consolidation that the newly-formed IMPD is more top heavy than ever before. More disturbing was the discovery that more than 137 police jobs have been allowed to become vacant this past year despite funding in the budget for them. Now were told we have to pay higher taxes to get back the police officers we already funded and were promised when Mayor Peterson was first elected 8 years ago. Moreover, Mayor Peterson insisted we could do it without a tax increase. "Raising taxes may sound like an easy answer, but if we want to avoid the urban death spiral that so many other American cities have experienced, we cannot give individuals and businesses an incentive to leave our city," Peterson said 7 years ago in rejecting a tax increase to fund public safety and unfunded pensions costs.

Keller insists that the police positions, pension liabilities and criminal justice obligations cannot be met without this latest tax increase. Keller complains that the schools are to blame for the skyrocketing property tax bills, not the city. Yet, Keller and other proponents of the tax offer no explanation to already hard-hit taxpayers for what is being done with the huge increases in the city-county tax levies. County taxes are up 25%, Indianapolis fire district taxes are up 34% and city taxes are up 9%. Keller insists that folks at the Chamber of Commerce have been over the city's budget, and that extra money can only be found by cutting parks, libraries, patching streets, etc. to raise sufficient funds to hire more officers, all choices he is unwilling to make.

While Keller patiently heard my pleas to vote against the Mayor's tax increase, he has chosen to cast his lot with the leadership of Mayor Bart Peterson. He tells me he is sorry to have me mad at him over this issue, but he insists there is no alternative. I think Keller is making a terrible mistake on this vote, as well as the other councilors who plan to vote for it. It is the complete disconnect in their understanding of the impact they are having on the lives of the working men and women of Marion County, who've already been knocked down hard by their staggering property tax bills, by clobbering them with yet another tax increase that I find really distressing.

Keller really has lost his way on this one. As a pioneer in promoting the redevelopment of our inner city neighborhoods, Keller should understand more than anyone that higher taxes is the last thing the city should be considering if it wants to keep the people who've invested their livelihood into restoring the city's older neighborhoods here. The people who gave the city a second chance are now going to be fleeing in droves to the collar counties. Not because they want to leave the city, but because Mayor Peterson, Scott Keller and other city leaders are giving them no other choice.


Wilson46201 said...

So now you are supporting NONE of the Councilors that voted for the Human Rights Ordinance?

Oh what a tangled web Republicans weave when they build Log Cabins...

Gary R. Welsh said...

Wilson, I'm not a single issue voter. You worked against Keller 4 years ago because he was a Republican, and you're working against him again this year because he's a Republican, notwithstanding his vote for the HRO. I don't live in his district so I won't have a chance to vote for any candidate in his race. There's one hypocrite here, and it's you. Do I need to remind you of the lies and dirt you dug up and slung against the first openly gay congressional candidate in the history of Indiana?

Wilson46201 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wilson46201 said...

Yes, I'm supporting Brian Mahern - he's as gay-friendly as Keller, if not more-so. Yes, four years ago I supported Karen Horseman, a Latina who was a pioneer on the Council for LGBT issues.

So there are NO Councilors who did vote for the HRO that you support? None at all? Do you advocate they all lose their re-election bids? All of them?

Anonymous said...

Gary, I share your frustration with Scott. I spoke to him about the tax increase as well. I expected him to be fully informed on the budget and this tax increase. He was very short on details and had no good answers to my questions. Nothing he shared with me convinced me of the need for this tax increase. I left disappointed with the realization he is not a fiscal conservative.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the two townships which merged their fire departments into Indianapolis' already. Zero savings! Why?

Anonymous said...

There's a reason Keller sits on the left side of the assembly room during the CCC meetings. Langford needs to join him.
I do not understand why the GOP endorses either of these men.

Anonymous said...

8:04, I don't know where you get your facts, but the fire department merger has already produced savings, and will continue to do so as the payrolls, retirement schedules and hiring schedules are fully blended.

Already, fewer chiefs. Bound to save money.

Anonymous said...

Keller never was a Republican, really. Great guy, but sort of apolitical, if you will.

He's a formerly bankrupt apartment developer who is socially progressive. He worked his campmaign real hard in 2003, and barely won. Over a candidate who took him for granted.

Urban myth recast his image into some sort of Supergod. He is not that. He is a mere mortal.

And he'll likely lose to yet another Mahern this fall.


Anonymous said...

I don't necessariy agree that Keller abandoned the GOP but he DID abandon the district he represents. He made the mistake of representing the "new urban gentry" and left the rest of us and our neighborhood out to dry.
I applaud his vote on the human rights vote but that vote affected about 1/10 of 1% of the voters in his district.
If you are a member of the gay community Keller WILL take your phone call about a problem. If not, well you have to deal with it yourself or put up with it.
We registered 227 new voters to vote against him in November for his failure to respond to problems with vacant abandoned houses in the neighborhood. Those voters aren't voting for Peterson either so it works both ways.
Mahern has our votes now.

Anonymous said...

1:09 has a valid point, but a lot to learn.

If (s)he thinks all 227 of those voters will vote, and vote for the candidate (s)he supports, and NOT vote for the Mayor, then I've got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell him or her.

The sad electoral fact is, if any of those "new" voters is under 34, there is a 75% chance they won't vote at all.

And you do not control more than a dozen of them, if that.

The wild-eyed optimism is charming. And completely full of shit.

Electoral optimism and idealism......Ahhhh....I remember it well. Then 35 years of blatantly partisan Unigov smacked me in the face. Reality check.

Here's a challenge to you, 1:09: after the election, check those 227 new voters. See how many voted.

Over/under: 40. I'll take under.

Anonymous said...

All over 40, and all are homeowners.
FYI, I've ran statewide campaigns so a councilmatic district is a walk in the park.
Full of shit? Hardly. Determined to get rid of Keller? You bet your ass!

Anonymous said...

I couldn't care less if you want to get rid of Scott. Not my district.

But I'll still take under. I've done muiltiple statewide and one presidential, too...40 out of 227 represents about 17 or so percent...about average for voter registration efforts.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 1:09,
I take issue with your assertion that less than 1/10th of 1% of Scotts voters were affected by the HRO.

I was part of an effort that collected signed letters in support of the HRO and distributed them to their respective council reps. Of the 25 geographical districts, Scott had the third highest amount collected.

While that issue might not have been important to you personally, it was obviously important to many others in your district.

Anonymous said...

1/10 of 1% is being generous. Very few of those downtown vote.
And if 1:09 had 227 HOMEOWNERS over the age of 40 registered and only 100 vote in person or absentee then Keller is out. Emphasis placed on absentee voting will most likely result in a minimum of 200 casting ballots especially with the fact that these voters have been targeted.
Either way, Keller has zero chance of reelection given the sentiment of voters in his disrict outside of the downtown area.

Anonymous said...

Scott listens to his constituents and calls things like he sees them. He is a refreshing politician in this day and age. His fellow colleagues on the Republican side attacked his for preaching tolerance and a "big tent" in the Republican Party. We need far more quality leaders just like Scott to represent the Republican party.