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Lawmaker cries foul over Fishers vote endorsement

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A state lawmaker is taking issue with a group that backs a new "hybrid city" government in an Indianapolis suburb and says she never endorsed the plan.

Republican Sen. Beverly Gard of Greenfield said she never endorsed a proposal under which Fishers would reorganize to a city with an appointed mayor and at-large council. Gard was listed as a supporter of the plan in mailers sent to Fishers residents.

Fishers, a community of 80,000 northeast of Indianapolis, is asking voters Tuesday to choose from one of three options: continue as a town run by seven council members and a town manager, reorganize as a city in combination with Fall Creek Township and have a council that chooses a mayor and hires a city manager; or become a second-class city with nine council members and an elected mayor.

The ballot questions that will resolve the issue are so complicated that it's taking an educational effort by supporters and opponents to help residents know which way to vote.

The proposal has divided residents. Signs supporting and opposing the move to become a city have popped up across town, and a lobbying group has filed a complaint with the state accusing the town of trying to steer residents toward the appointed mayor option.

Gard told The Indianapolis Star she thinks the "hybrid" city form of government would disenfranchise voters.

"I am really uncomfortable with the appointed mayor," said Gard, a 24-year lawmaker whose district reaches from Greenfield to Fishers. "I am also uncomfortable with the fact that council members, although they package it as running from districts, are voted on at large.

"I think that has the effect of disenfranchising people in a district, preventing them from picking the person they want."

Wayne Crane, who leads the Fishers reorganization effort, said Gard's image would be removed from websites promoting the option but disagreed with Gard's contention that a hybrid form of government would hurt voters.

"I think it's more representative and democratic to be able to vote for all of them," he said.

Gard said she expressed support for a part of the proposal that would eliminate township government but never agreed to be an official endorser. Her image appeared on the group's website, Facebook page and on postcards sent to area homes.

"They did not ask permission to do that," Gard said. "I think it's pretty bad policy. You don't go around doing that without letting people know."

Crane said he took Gard's communication as an endorsement but apologized for the mix-up, saying it was "inappropriate for us to move forward."

Crane, a Fishers investment banker, has argued that the hybrid is the best option and would eliminate township positions and save residents money.

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