Commentary by Larry Lannan
Fishers voters will head to the polls on May 6 to begin the process of electing the new city government. This will be a major change in the way our local government works.
We have had 7 town council members. They were required to live within their districts, but all 7 councilors were elected by the entire town. In essence, Fishers has had 7 mayors.
In order to get anything done, it would take 4 of those 7 council members to pass any major actions.
On January 1, 2015, that all changes. We will have a mayor in Fishers. Indiana law confers a great deal of power and authority to the office of mayor.
The 9-member city council will primarily have authority over city ordinances and will act on the mayor’s budget proposals. The council is also allowed to conduct its own independent investigations.
The new city council is expected to form committees for much of its work. Look for council panels to be formed around operations such as public safety, community development and transportation.
The relationship between the mayor and the council will be very important. For the new city to move forward, the mayor and council need to be on the same page.
If you don’t think that’s important, look to a city just west of Fishers. Disputes between the mayor and city council there are well documented.
It will take time for the new mayor to get traction and for the city council to organize itself. It’s difficult enough to reorganize a city government when there is a large turnover in elected officials. Starting a city from scratch will present some major challenges and it will take time to work through all the issues.
Fishers has faced predicaments in the past. No matter what form of government we have, it will be the quality of our elected officials that will be the most important factor in overcoming any problems transitioning from a town to a city.
Fishers had a spirited debate in 2012 on what form of government to adopt and the traditional Indiana city with a strong mayor’s office won the referendum by a wide margin. The 2014 city election has prompted some spirited debate as well.
The Town of Fishers had a population of roughly 11,000 when I moved here in 1991, and has grown to nearly 85,000 in 2014. If Fishers can manage that kind of growth, we can manage anything.