Government

Mayor slashes city spending, combines local police forces:

December 26, 2005

It was the roughest year yet for Mayor Bart Peterson-at least until 2005's final weeks.

In the spring, the I n d i a n a G e n e r a l Assembly defeated the majority of his proposed Unigov overhaul "Indianapolis Works." So Peterson, a Democrat, spent the summer slashing local spending.

State legislators left the door open on one major Indy Works provision: Peterson's controversial plan to merge the Indianapolis Police Department with the Marion County Sheriff's Department. In November, Republicans stung Peterson with his worst-ever political defeat, thwarting cop consolidation thanks to a rogue Democratic City-County councilor.

But Council President Steve Talley, a Democrat, resurrected the police merger a month later by convincing two Republicans to cross the aisle. It passed the Council 16-13 on Dec. 19.

Severe financial shortfalls in city and county budgets were the motivation for drastic measures all year long. Peterson had promised Indy Works would save local government $35 million annually.

After it failed, Peterson announced $30 million in emergency cuts from Indianapolis' $542 million city budget. Most every department felt the knife. But public safety departments took the deepest cuts. The process ultimately eliminated 78 cops and 44 firefighters through attrition.

The council studied the police merger a l l s u m m e r. I f i t fa i l e d , P e t e r s o n warned, he'd have no choice but to cut another 48 IPD cops, leaving just 1,106. He said the police merger would save $8.8 million annual ly. Opponents called Peterson's projection a vast overestimate.

Until just days before the merger first came to a vote, Marion County Sheriff Frank Anderson refused to support it. A series of last-minute concessions changed his mind. On Nov. 14, Peterson expected it to pass the Council thanks to his party's narrow one-seat majority. But Democrat Sherron Franklin broke ranks to join 14 Republicans and the plan was defeated.

Then, as the year came to a close, Talley dramatically resurrected the merger in a Council special session. It passed when Republicans Scott Keller and Lance Langsford changed their votes. Opponents cried foul, complaining that vote trading had linked cop consolidation to the city's hotly debated human rights ordinance. After failing in April, the antidiscrimination measure also passed at the Council's special Dec. 19 meeting.

Amid it all, Peterson quietly began his campaign for a third term as mayor. He'll next face voters in 2007.
* Peterson Huber
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