Welcome to the latest installment of “Leading Questions: Wisdom from the Corner Office,” in which IBJ sits down with central Indiana’s top bosses to talk shop about the latest developments in their industries and the habits that lead to success.
Next Monday should be a long night for the City-County Council as it tackles two traditionally contentious issues in the second-to-last meeting of the year. At the center of the action will be Ryan Vaughn, the outgoing council president who will introduce proposals for both issues: a broader smoking ban for the city’s public places and redrawn election districts. With Democrats set to take a 16-13 majority on the 29-member council next year, both of Vaughn’s proposals have been seen as attempts to fast-track Republican-led legislation to Mayor Greg Ballard’s desk and outflank the opposing party.
The final two council meetings of the year will cap an unusually busy two-year presidential term for Vaughn, who was the youngest-ever council president when he took office at the age of 31 in early 2010. Captaining the Republicans’ slim 15-14 majority, Vaughn shepherded councilors through several high-profile and controversial undertakings. They included:
— The $1.9 billion sale of the city’s water and sewer utilities to Citizens Energy Group, a local public charitable trust. The Council approved the deal, 19-10.
— Approving a 50-year deal to lease the city’s parking meters to the Dallas-based private firm Affiliated Computer Services Inc. The Council approved the deal, 15-14.
— Considering sweeping reforms to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, co-authored by Vaughn, after criticism surrounding its handling of a traffic fatality involving an allegedly intoxicated officer. Some have been enacted or adopted, such as seeking national accreditation for the department by 2014, and some are still being studied.
“I’m very results-oriented. We had some major things we needed to get done, and did get done, in the last two years,” Vaughn said. “My style has been to be as inclusive as possible, so that we can really eliminate the hurdles that lie in front of us beforehand.”
In the video at top, Vaughn discusses lessons and strategies learned over his five-year tenure on the council. (He was reelected in November, and will remain the representative for District 3 after stepping down as president.) He extols the value of listening, learned over a nine-week period in which he nursed a ruptured vocal cord and was unable to speak.
In the videos below, Vaughn discusses the two hot-button issues to be considered in December. He has resurrected the push for a more inclusive smoking ban in public places than the one currently in place. The council tabled a similar proposal in late 2009 after a protracted battle to get the required 15 votes. The new proposal, which includes bars and some nightclubs but carves out several exemptions, has some urgency for Republicans in light of an even more restrictive proposal expected from Democrats next year.
“I’m fond of the phrase, ‘Leadership is seeing opportunity in its biggest context,’” Vaughn said. “I took the opportunity, knowing that their ban might be so strict that the mayor wouldn’t be inclined to sign it, to introduce something the mayor would sign, and that some of my caucus members would be inclined to support, even though they didn’t support it last time.”
In August, Vaughn hired Republican attorney David Brooks to redraw voting precinct boundaries in Marion County, as required by state law by the end of the year, but then to also redraw the county’s 25 council election districts. (Redistricting taking into account 2010 census numbers is required by the end of 2012.) Planning to introduce the redistricting proposal on Monday, Vaughn and the lame-duck Republicans could conceivably approve the districts before the end of the year (although Vaughn pledges that he’d allow more time for investigation and discussion if needed or demanded by the public).
Democrats say Vaughn exceeded his bounds in hiring Brooks, entering into the contract illegally when reprecincting is the mayor’s responsibility. They also have posited that money could be saved by bidding out the work or turning it over to city or state staffers. Councilor Angela Mansfield has introduced proposals to cancel the contract and to both censure and remove Vaughn as president.
In the video below, Vaughn responds to the various claims. He believes that he likely saved money by combining reprecincting and redistricting under one $225,000 contract, and that the redrawn districts provide an equal number of safe havens for both parties, as well as several competitive districts.