If you drive through Fishers, it’s hard to miss the competing signs urging you to vote “Yes” or “No” on question 1. At stake is whether the Town of Fishers goes forward with the Reorganization Plan with unincorporated Fall Creek Township or it becomes a second-class city and joins the likes of neighboring Carmel, Noblesville, and Indianapolis. Either way, Fishers becomes a city. But the outcomes are drastically different.
By way of background and perspective, I was intimately involved in the land fight that ended in 2010 with the Town of Fishers annexing over 2,000 Geist homeowners. After an ugly, expensive legal battle that spanned five years, there were hard feelings on both sides. Most of Fishers’ newest residents went on with their lives. Meanwhile, a small vocal group is still hell-bent on regime change to oust the current Town Council at any cost.
Introducing City Yes PAC. Comprised mostly of Democratic political wannabes, a fired Fishers town employee, and a sitting Fall Creek Township board member, City Yes organizers pushed to get the second-class city option on the ballot by getting signatures on a petition. Their yellow and black signs, and sentiments, are reminiscent of the “Say NO to Forced Annexation” signs that populated every street corner of Geist for years.
To help understand why the City Yes PAC pursued this option to begin with, it’s helpful to look at how they benefit from the Town of Fishers becoming a second class city. Three major changes would benefit City Yes PAC organizers if you vote “No” on question 1:
- Elected Mayor: Electing a mayor, regardless of cost or subsequent gridlock, outs current Town Council President Scott Faultless. Over the years, Faultless has become the head of the proverbial Town Council snake, and nothing would give City Yes organizers more satisfaction than taking him out of power.
- Council District Elections: As a town and under the proposed reorganization, town/city council elections are voted on at large. Everyone in the town/city votes for all the council members making it nearly impossible for a Democratic candidate to win in a Republican-dominant town/city. A second-class city is their best – and maybe only – option of getting a Democrat on the town/city council.
- Fall Creek Township Remains Intact: Even though the Fall Creek Township Board endorsed and approved the reorganization plan, one board member decided he wanted to keep his salaried position and support City Yes. Considering how little time the board spends on township business, I’d take that job any day.
A better option to becoming a second-class city is on the ballot by voting “Yes” to Question 1: The Reorganization Plan.
Under this plan, the Town of Fishers goes away, Fall Creek Township goes away, and they merge to form a new city with a new tax identification number called the City of Fishers. By doing so, Fishers residents will save an estimated $1 million each year, keep the Council-Manager style of governance, and keep taxes lower than every city in Indiana but one (view full list).
Perhaps the biggest benefit, in my opinion, to becoming a reorganized city is the ability to keep good personnel and minimize turnover. Elected mayors can, and most likely will, make management changes as soon as they take office. The unemployed brother-in-law becomes the head of the parks department, campaign manager becomes chief of staff, and election fund raiser becomes fire chief. Under the reorganized city plan, if the city manager isn’t doing his/her job, 5 of the 9 city councilors can fire him/her at a board meeting and sift through resumes of qualified applicants for the next one. Want to fire a mayor? You have to wait until the next election.
Even though the current employees of the town have remained quiet on the issue, if you talk to them off the record, they want the Reorganization Plan to pass in a bad way. They don’t want a 4-year term put on their jobs. Who would? Talk to the Fishers firefighters or police. They are in favor of Reorganization because it allows them to opt into the 1977 Police Officers’ and Firefighters’ Pension and Disability Fund, saving the new City of Fishers approximately $800,000 annually and giving them a better retirement program to boot.
Over the last couple years, I, like many Geist residents involved in the annexation fight, have buried the hatchet and embraced the Town of Fishers. Fire Chief Steve Orusa, long-time Police Chief George Kiehl, and Town Manager Scott Fadness are doing a great job. Just look at the awards and accolades the town has received in the last few years:
- Top 100 Best Places to Live in America (#12 Ranking) – Money Magazine
- 11th Best Place to Move – Forbes
- One of 10 Best Places for Families – Family Circle Magazine
- Safest City in the Nation – CQ Press in the City Crime Rankings 2011-2012
- #1 City for Families in the United States – The Learning Channel
- #1 Best Affordable Suburb in the United States – BusinessWeek.com
In contrast, City Yes PAC can only poke holes in the Reorganization Plan and claim through their signage that voters are being “tricked.” At the Hamilton County courthouse one Saturday during early voting, one City Yes PAC supporter was yelling to voters as they passed the Reorganization Plan supporters, “They’re lying!” If you don’t have a strong position, just yell really loud and try to shoot holes in your opponents’ position.
Citizens to Reorganize Fishers (www.ReorganizeFishers.com) has some useful information, videos, and links to help understand how the Council-Manager government works. Most importantly, they have positive reasons and present a compelling argument to vote in favor of the reorganization plan. Voting “yes” on Question 1 allows the new City of Fishers to form on January 2, 2013. The current town council, 4 of whom were just elected a year ago, becomes the new city council. They will, in turn, elect the city’s first mayor, which is merely a name change for the current town council president. Two new city council seats will be created to give Fall Creek Township representation on the city council until the first municipal election in 2015.
After going through the information presented in the Reorganization Plan, talking to other elected officials outside the Town of Fishers, listening to a few legislators close to the Indiana Code 36-1.5 Government Modernization Act, and the treasurer for the HSE School district, I have full confidence that transforming the Town of Fishers into a reorganized City of Fishers is the most cost-effective way to proceed. I strongly urge all Fishers residents to go to the Fishers website (www.fishers.in.us) and click on the non-partisan “Future of Fishers” link to learn about both sides to this issue. You will most likely come to the same conclusion I have.
My vote is for “yes” on question 1.