Just over a year ago in December of 2018, conscientious taxpayers of Westfield-Washington Township, collected signatures in an effort to defeat the Township’s $15 million-dollar Park Bond. As the threat of development in a non-contiguous area of Westfield loomed, certain “insiders” labeled Township residents as an anti-greenspace faction; which was completely absurd. After we (a few friends and I) successfully filed the Remonstrance Petition, the newly elected 2019 Township Board, gloriously shocked a few when they withdrew the resolution to bond the project. With that item firmly seen from our rearview mirror, the Township was then sued in Hamilton County Superior Court for violations of the Indiana Open Door Law. Not particularly newsworthy, but it happened all the same; the Township admitted their error and has yet to violate it again, to my knowledge.
Early in the fall, but also in the Township, a small tax increase was narrowly avoided for unincorporated residents after the Board requested the Trustee shave some money from her annual budget. The Township attorney commented in the public hearing that “It [the request] was all politics.” I can’t say I disagree with Ms. Altman, but there are good politics and bad politics. Keeping the tax rate flat in a Township flush with cash, made a lot more sense than the minor proposed increase. Kudos to the Trustee and Board for doing the right thing.
Three new faces of fiscal conservatism enter the ring in the May Municipal Primary which made for an unbelievably exciting election season! The Westfield City Council, made up entirely of incumbents but for one retiring member, saw their races totally upset when challengers took four victories in the Republican Primary. Without challengers, Joe Edwards and Scott Willis would claim their respective district seats at the dais. Cindy Spoljaric and Troy Patton won the At-Large races defeating incumbent, Jim Ake, with him firmly in their wake. Scott Frei won his race over Chuck Lehman and Jake Gilbert won Steve Hoover’s seat in the spring. The struggle got real in District 5, when the Primary winner, Mike Johns who defeated Bob Horkay, was challenged by Independent Kate Snedeker in the General Election. Despite some “sloppy” filing paperwork completed by Ms. Snedeker, a Fall Election Hearing proved that battle lines were being drawn locally within the Republican Party.
A Westfield GOP Club rally was held at Urban Vines just before the election where the former Westfield GOP Club President parked his truck with signs supporting the Independent out front. As ugly as the event started, the room was obviously divided into two factions. Those who support the “old guard” and Mayor Cook and those who supported Mike Johns. Needless-to-say, it finished just as ugly as it started.
With the notion of big changes looming, the City Council, Advisory Planning Commission and Board of Public Works worked fast and furiously to approve and/or began a myriad of PUD’s and projects in 2019. Whether they will prove to be a good or bad thing has yet to be determined as only time will tell. Among the most ridiculous are the $39 million-dollar six-acre park and the $6 million-dollar Monon Trail tunnel at 161st Street. The most successful venture should be the addition of Abbott Labs’ facility in North Point, located along US 31 between 196th Street and State Road 38, among others.
Following the victories in the General Election, I am encouraged that our “new” Council will bring a new direction. I anticipate seeing a great deal more oversight and transparency in their decisions. As all APC commissions are due for reappointment, perhaps we will see a new face there too. A new dynamic should also mean better and more representative governance from our seven Councilors. I’m looking forward to watching them in action in January!
As an aside, some folks claimed that low voter turnout was to blame for the flip, completely undermining the strength of the voter’s will. Others believe that had turnout been anything more than average, larger victory margins would have been realized for the challengers. A tried and true incumbent, Westfield’s Clerk-Treasurer, Cindy Gossard, was the top vote-getter per usual. Another victory for all!
The last Westfield GOP Club of the year began with a rather unique statement from Club President Scott Willis. As Westfield-Washington Schools Superintendent Sherry Grate took the floor for her “Growing the Rock Way” presentation, Mr. Willis noted that we were about to hear a “very un-Republican” conversation. Indeed, the school district is seeking another $53 million dollars from its community stakeholders. That means you, me and every other taxpayer in Westfield. (Except for businesses in one of Westfield’s many TIF districts, but let’s not even go there right now.) Let’s just say, you better pay attention to what’s coming because it’s not pretty and the debt load is burdensome to say the least.
With that being said, what about the Party? By now, I presume you know four of the Fiscal Conservatives of Hamilton County came under attack following the General Election. And while three of them came through their 5th Congressional Committee hearings unscathed, one member wasn’t so lucky. The assumption that he would care must have been thought to play well among the staunchest of GOP Club followers. Perhaps, and much to their chagrin, he doesn’t. We continue with Bill Smythe at the helm, to advance our efforts. Breakfast and lunch dates line the calendar as we hope to coalesce with individuals and groups who share our beliefs about Hamilton County politics. (A proverbial “olive branch” was extended to me personally by a party official, but I think that might have been a temporary offer and since expired.)
Questions continue to be asked about the membership of the Fiscal Conservatives of Hamilton County which we hold in the strictest confidence. But from the cheap seats over here, I don’t mind telling you, I think the “small group” label has shifted from “us” to “them". We’re finding that more resident taxpayers are willing to stand together and fight bad government. Those who prefer new and shiny, monstrous debt, penny decreases in their taxes and pay-to-play-insiders can have one another. We’re working on amassing a coalition of “good guys”; the taxpayers and residents who don’t want to take this crap lying down. Whether you’re interested in being kept in the loop or would like to be a Republican Precinct Committeeman or want to be more participatory in local political issues, shoot us an email! Fiscal conservatism is a pretty awesome thing when you think about it…all we’re saying is money doesn’t fix everything. It’s not a commitment, it’s a belief. You’re either fiscally conservative or you’re not. It’s that simple.
In closing, let me offer a little food for thought. If the Mayors of Hamilton County are truly fiscally conservative, don’t you think they would support other elected officials who are? If they don’t support a candidate who is; shouldn’t that tell us a lot about what and how they wish to accomplish their goals? I predict we’ll see their true colors shine through in 2020 as another election season closes in. Happy New Year, Westfield and all of Hamilton County!
Marla Ailor, Vice-President of the FCoHC and Director in Westfield, is a twenty-year-resident living in the unincorporated township. She is a wife, mother and full-time student studying Public Administration.