Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Politics Behind Henry's Request to Increase Property Taxes

I've reported about the upcoming city ordinance that might raise property taxes. I've also talked about the policy behind it and why the original decision made by council may have not been the wisest choice they've ever made. But we haven't discussed the politics behind this ordinance and how it relates to the new administration.

This ordinance provides an ideal example of the dangers of carrying over department heads from a previous administration. Tom Henry kept Pat Roller on as Controller and that wasn't a bad decision considering her experience in the position. However, Roller has been insulated from recent politics due to her position in the Richard administration and the fact that he wasn't seeking re-election, so it's not surprising that she would advocate for a property tax increase at the worst possible time. But where is mayor Henry's political advisor? Somebody should've been in his ear telling him it's not the right time or circumstance to fight this battle.

This situation has been mismanaged from a political point of view. First, there's no guarantee that the governor's property tax bill will even pass so why in the world would Henry want a front page story in the JG discussing a future property tax increase that he is asking for? Second, you simply can't author an ordinance to increase property taxes in this environment on your 3rd day in office - nobody has that kind of political capital. As Clinton used to say, good policy doesn't always make good politics.

So what should've happened? The administration should've worked on a contingency plan behind the scenes in the event that HB1001 or something similar was passed. In the meantime they could've been publicly discussing the problems to warn the citizenry and council about the likely effects. This way if they couldn't build the necessary council or community support they could save face because they didn't advocate for a specific ordinance calling for a property tax increase.

Now what we have is an ill-conceived ordinance being thrown to the council as a political hot potato. And I'm sure the Henry administration is lobbying all the councilmembers, especially the Democrats, to support the ordinance. The problem is the administration is on the verge of starting a major financial battle with the council that wasn't even necessary. Budget battles can get ugly and it's not what Henry or the city needs right now...


gadfly said...

The arrogance of City Hall continues into another Democrat administration.

If Fort Wayne faces a shortfall in tax revenues, how is it that we can afford to finance the purchase of Harrison Square properties from city coffers?

bobett said...

It certainly makes it difficult.

I wonder how the bridge to New
Haven from Maplecrest & Lake will be built and financed?

Another $24 Million dollars to whom? The County?