Last week, Mayor Bart Peterson's Indianapolis Works proposal suffered a body blow when the House Local Government Committee voted to pass a heavily stripped-down version of the bill to the House, and to put the rest of the proposal on hold pending answers from a study group. Mayor Bart Peterson (right) and counsel A. Scott Chinn prepare for their testimony before the House Local Government Committee about the Indianapolis Works proposal.
However, supporters of the bill noted that there were still at least two more public hearings and three more opportunities to make changes to the bill before it becomes law, and that the Indianapolis Works fight will continue right to the end of the session, if necessary.
"It's far from over," said A. Scott Chinn, counsel to the Mayor's Office and the lead man in the Indy Works project. "This is about keeping it alive. We're going to spend every day of the next 10 weeks pressing our case with House members and senators. Every element of Indianapolis Works is still on the table."
Committee chair Rep. Phil Hinkle said that his greatest concern was the lack of detail in the proposal.
"After eight and a half hours of testimony in front of this committee, these questions were still not answered," Hinkle said.
"It was apparent to me that there was little discussion or input from the various entities affected ... This is not about shutting down this process. It's about keeping it alive. It is about bringing all the parties around the table for a dialogue about how to best serve the public. This problem did not develop overnight. It is unfortunate that the administration feels the Legislature should take the responsibility and apply the cure overnight."
The committee voted 9-2 to amend the proposal, and 11-0 to pass that version to the full House.
Peterson said his next step will be to again bring his case to the public and explain the consequences of not adopting the proposal, as well as answer the criticisms about lack of detail.
A secondary issue shaping up in this debate is the role of state government in determining local affairs, as committee members asked for specific details and the Mayor's Office said the Legislature was micromanaging.
"I was really struck by how awkward it seemed," Peterson said.
"The reality is, I don't really think that that's ultimately their responsibility. I think they should make a determination as to whether they want to leave these local government decisions to the local government decision-makers. That's my responsibility, and I want to be held accountable for it ... If this thing goes to a study committee, what they're going to do is understand the budget of the city of Indianapolis far more than they'll ever desire to, and it won't change their conclusion. The fundamental issue is in front of them right now and I think it should be decided this year: Should Indianapolis be given the freedom to make structural changes to make it smaller, smarter and to avoid fiscal crisis?"
Both sides agreed that the issue is far from over.
"The name of the game in the Legislature is to stay alive, to keep on going, to keep on making our case," Peterson said.
"Anything can happen between now and April," Hinkle said. "Absolutely nothing is final until you hear that gavel fall down."