Now that the election is over we move into the speculative phase of what’s next for the Indianapolis City-County Council. Democrats are getting ready to assume control of the body come January 1, and while they have a 16-13 majority, they do not control the Mayor’s office which will make their agenda tough to push through.
For example, there may be enough votes on the Council for an expanded smoking ban, no one is quite sure exactly how expanded that smoking ban will be. I think it’s fair to say cigar bars, private clubs, hookah bars and tobacco shops will be excluded in any new proposal, but will all other bars and taverns be included immediately or will they be phased in over time?
On the more concrete issue of the budget, some in-coming Councilors have talked about re-opening the budget and moving money around. Good luck with that one. They may not be aware of the fact that most of the Council’s budget passed with at 20 votes from Republicans and Democrats, so the will may not be there to go back and revisit certain items.
I can see a big fight developing over redistricting. The Council was compelled by law to draw new precinct maps to fit the new U.S. House and State Legislative Districts. However, the question is will new maps be approved prior to the end of the year. If Democrats redraw the maps for next year, will Mayor Greg Ballard sign them? And life gets even more interesting in the fact that if you take out the at-large council seats, Republicans actually have a 13-12 majority on the Council.
But while there is potential for a lot of contention on the Council, I do think there is a lot of room for compromise and key people the administration can work with: Mary Moriarty Adams when it comes to public safety, Vop Osili when it comes to economic development and John Barth on neighborhoods. I think we can expect some fireworks from time to time, which will make life interesting; especially for people like me who follow and write about this stuff every day.
And a friendly reminder for all parties; no matter what the make-up is of a legislative branch, if the Chief Executive Officer puts a target on your back, it’s best to make immediate haste.