Fort Wayne Mayor, Council at odds over state funding
Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry and the City Council are at odds over how to spend almost $20 million the state sent the city in corrected pandemic funds. Henry sent the council a proposal on how to spend the money on Tuesday night, but Republican Second District Councilman Russs Jehl took issue with the balance of the spending when he broke down the $16 million the proposal sent to different parts of the city.
”By my estimation, the first district will receive only about one percent of that 16 million,” Jehl said. “The second district will only receive about 1%. The third district will receive about 2%. The fourth district will receive zero. The fifth district excluding downtown would receive 6%. Downtown would receive about 64%.”
Henry took issue with that estimation.
In a statement released during the meeting, Henry called Jehl’s comments “myopic” and said “he ignores $2.1 million for public safety, $2 million for increasing energy efficiency through LED streetlights, and $800,000 for neighborhood street trees and improvement grants, which serve all across the City.”
Jehl felt the council had been shut out of discussions on how to spend the money and as a result, he said the city’s neighborhoods became “an afterthought.”
In discussion on how to spread the money out more evenly, multiple council members felt the sixth district—the city’s southeast side--should receive more money than other districts due to the more needs it has.
Jehl, while wanting a more even approach to the distribution, agreed.
“I am pleased that the sixth district is receiving a sizable investment,” Jehl said. “The City Council moved forward with that last night. That issue is for every one dollar spent in the second district, $64 are being spent downtown. To spend this large amount of revenue in projects that almost exclusively benefit downtown to the neglect of the rest of the community… Neighborhoods just need to be priorities not afterthoughts.”
Jehl proposed Tuesday night that the council pass the neighborhood improvement portion of Henry’s proposal, or less than half of the proposed spending, and hold the downtown investments until members of the council can hold discussions to create “a more collaborative spending plan.”
In his statement, Henry said “(Jehl) further ignores the unprecedented investments this Administration has made in neighborhood infrastructure in recent years. Just since 2018, the City has invested $233 million in improving sidewalks, streets, roads, trails, bridges, parks, and for the first time in 100 years, alleys. This level of funding was made possible due to adjustments to the local income tax focused on public safety, public works, parks, riverfront, sidewalks, and alleys, which Councilman Jehl voted against. Tonight’s additional appropriation is but one piece in the funding puzzle we assemble each year.”
Jrhls proposal passed five to zero with 5th District Councilman Geoff Paddock, (D) abstaining and three council members, 3rd District Councilman Tom Didier (R), 4th District Councilman Jason Arp (R) and At-Large Councilwoman Michelle Chambers (D), absent. The council needed six members to reach a quorum.
Council members now have until Sept. 12 to determine how they want to spend the money that was in Henry’s downtown investment part of his proposal.