Carmel City Council votes to change city to second-class status

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Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard took advantage of a newly elected and friendlier City Council on Monday night and moved to upgrade the city to second-class status, a designation in state law that will expand the council and mean other governing changes. 

The ordinance, which was initially pegged near the end of a lengthy agenda for the first council meeting of the year, was bumped to the first action item and approved unanimously. Brainard immediately signed the document, rather than waiting until the end of the meeting.

“This has been in front of us on numerous occasions,” newly appointed council president Ron Carter said. “It is something I’ve felt very strongly about for many, many years.”

The change takes effect immediately, according to Brainard, although several significant differences won’t occur until the next city election season.

In 2019, voters will elect a city clerk and two additional council members—one at-large and the other representing a new district. The clerk-treasurer position will be eliminated, and the mayor will have the authority to appoint a city controller.

Brainard will no longer be allowed to preside over council meetings or break tie votes. However, he will gain the power to veto legislation approved by the council.

Carmel follows other northern suburb communities, including Fishers and Noblesville, which have both fully made the transition to second-class cities.

The Noblesville City Council voted in 2013 to upgrade to a second-class city, and residents elected the city’s first nine-member council and clerk in 2015.

Fishers changed to a second-class city Jan. 1, 2015, after voters elected the city’s first mayor and nine-member city council in the 2014 election.

The state has a population threshold of 35,000 for communities to become a second-class city, which Carmel has more than doubled. The population is at 86,682, according to a 2014 estimate from the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Today we’re close to the 90,000 mark, but we’re still a third-class city,” Brainard said prior to the change.

The ordinance declaring Carmel a second-class city was one of nearly 20 agenda items the council opted to take action on Monday night rather than send to a committee or consider at a later full council meeting. Typically, agenda items are not voted on during the same meeting they are introduced.

The new council includes a majority of Brainard’s supporters. Carter, along with Sue Finkam, Kevin Rider and Carol Schleif, returned to the council for new terms, and Jeff Worrell, Bruce Kimball and Laura Campbell replaced Luci Snyder, Eric Seidensticker and Rick Sharp, respectively.

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