12/27/2020 - Marla Ailor FCoHC Vice President
If you were paying attention, and frankly, one wonders why you wouldn't have had anything better to do at 9 a.m. on the last Monday of the year, a Westfield City Council meeting occurred. Regardless, some great things happened. A breathe of fresh air was felt from an occasionally vexed council as they took quick charge of a long over due vote on the "161st Street Tunnel vs "any other option besides a $6 million-dollar build project."" In a 5-2 vote in favor of "enhancing the safety of the intersection focused around the implementation of a HAWK system," the Council was told the tunnel project (at 161st Street and the Monon Trail) was going to take until October of 2021 to engineer, and it would be July of 2022 before it could be bid for construction in 2023. Funnily, there were only a few comments on social media later in the day proclaiming some kind of defeat of their much beloved tunnel. At least that's the way I understood it, because at no point did the council actually say "no" to the tunnel. They most certainly said they weren't prepared to borrow $6 million dollars now while waiting two or three years for years for construction. The small and growing-less-powerful-over-time "Spend-it-right-this-second Committee" was up in arms for no good reason.
What was outstanding was this...fiscal conservatism was once again resurrected as an important ideology in Hamilton County politics. It never dies, but has been seen as a mantra of the lunatic fringe until a recent shift in thinking by the regular voter. Most elected officials only think about fiscal conservatism in election years. Since 2021 is an "off year" in local politics, nobody's sniffing around for an endorsement at the moment. And here's where things get interesting.
The "Non-Mayors in Carmel", according to Bill Shafffer, report the Carmel City Council just approved a $125-million dollar "gift" for a "Master Plan Wish List" to be paid for by their constituents. Taxpayers in Carmel, other than true fiscal conservatives, seem satisfied to assume their "burgeoning toward $2 billion-dollars-in-debt" is just part of responsible government. Sometimes, the ideology gets lost on wants. The Westfield City Council is proving that's not how they roll.
Councilors Mike Johns and Scott Frei took center stage, as far as this writer is concerned, and hammered home a few thoughts: 1) Always conduct the public's business in public 2) Communication and clarity are key. 3) Patience is a virtue that is defined as "the opposite of frustration." And 4) A system of checks and balances is integral to government operations. Notably, even incumbent councilor Spoljaric, who largely has always deferred to her background in urban planning, spoke up to question if park impact fees existed to pay for the needs of a linear park. Interestingly, Jeremy Lollar, Director of Public Works for Westfield, said it would take three years to save the kind of money needed by deferring monies from any other project to the tunnel.
What one might glean from this is the municipalities build luxuries that makes "their city" look amazing. When you admit you can't or won't follow safety instructions, or they admit they've gone over budget, they will happily use your money to fix that which they broke. Some are naive enough to think that's good governance. The not-so-small group of fiscal conservatives recognize the inherent problems in this line of thinking. We know exactly who to blame and we're prepared to call them to the carpet to answer for it. You see, we're a movement not a membership list.
When your local government, whether in Noblesville, Fishers, Carmel or Westfield, tells you they are going to issue a general obligation bond, you would be smart to remember they're borrowing against your tax dollars, typically for 25 years or more. Who, exactly, decided some of these projects? It seems there's a small group of people guiding surrounding rubberstamp councils like squirrels to all things new and shiny in the name of continuity as was suggested in the Westfield Council meeting. Continuity? Really? That just doesn't make sense. Perhaps these administrations are just advancing the hopes and dreams of our neighbors to the south because they can't figure out how to spend your money fast enough. Have they not figured out they've lost their power and support? This Council put safety and spending first and it was obvious and refreshing because you shouldn't put one above the other. Westfield councilors are actually speaking up with a collective voice on behalf of their constituents and it should be noted, not attacked. This is representative government at its best and the fiscal conservatives felt it.
The Fiscal Conservatives of Hamilton County is an multi-partisan organization of Hamilton County, Indiana residents who are volunteers focused on fiscal policy and fiscal issues. It is free of outside control by any individual, organization or group. It exists to distribute opinions on issues affecting Hamilton County residents. Opinions expressed in signed articles do not necessarily represent the views of all members of the FCoHC or its board members.