FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — What took Fort Wayne’s City Council weeks to accomplish is now in the process of being undone.
City Council passed an ordinance to introduce term limits on appointments that it makes on boards like the Plan Commission and the Board of Zoning Appeals in July.
When they went to do the same to the mayor and level the playing field in the eyes of some councilmembers, Mayor Tom Henry vetoed it, leaving only City Council with limited appointment powers.
City Council discussed the ordinance that would take away the recently imposed term limits Tuesday.
Republican voters largely wanted to remove term limits to allow experienced board members to stay on long-term and to keep a level playing field with the mayor, and Democratic councilmembers sought the diversity and change that could come with term limits.
The ordinance set to remove term limits was given a 5-4 do-pass recommendation, with votes being evenly split on party lines.
“You really need to take a hard look at particular boards and commissions to make sure you’re getting the right people on that board,” said 3rd District (R) Councilman Tom Didier.
“I think the opportunity still exists for all council members and the administration to be able to appoint new individuals,” said 6th district (D) Councilwoman Sharon Tucker.
The vote will need to be finalized in the weeks to come, but unless one of the Republican members of the council can be swayed, term limits won’t be enforced on any City Council board and committee appointments.
At-large (D) Councilwoman Michelle Chambers said her decision to not support repealing the newly enacted term limits has nothing to do with the mayor and everything to do with getting fresh faces on boards and commissions.
“I’m looking at it as a legislator for this City Council, again the mayor is governed by state statute about what he can or can’t do, I can’t come in and tell the mayor what he can do,” Chambers said. “But I am very passionate about creating that diversity and that inclusion demographically on the various boards and commissions.”
Ultimately, Chambers thinks the systems need to be reevaluated.
“We have people that have been in place for decades, for literally decades, even on council,” Chambers said. “We have councilmembers who have been serving for four terms, make it make sense.”
On top of Chambers’ diversity gripes, City Council President Glynn Hines had issues of his own aimed at Mayor Tom Henry.
Hines was in support of term limits across the board — unlike other Democrats — which in his eyes would create a level playing field between the mayor and City Council with term limits and would also create a level playing field by allowing more diverse appointments.
“I think that had there been a more mature position taken by the Mayor’s office, it would have passed and we would not have needed to override it,” Hines said. “I noted back when we talked about including the mayor for the same term limits, seven black elected officials gave the mayor a list of over 40 individuals who wanted to serve on various committees, and I don’t know if he appointed even one of them in total disrespect to black elected officials.”
While Republicans aren’t opposed to diverse boards, they don’t want to tie themselves to a system that restricts them in a way that doesn’t bind the mayor.
“At the end of the day, I do want some of what Councilwoman Chambers has said, we still have a choice, we always have a choice to put in a new name … the choice is still there,” said At-Large (R) Councilman Tom Fresitroffer.
The ordinance will be put to a final vote in the weeks to come where City Council will finally decide what to make of term limits for appointments.