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Council reaffirms push to end collective bargaining; veto next

– Once again, City Council members voted along party lines to end collective bargaining for all city workers except police and firefighters and, once again, Mayor Tom Henry vowed to veto the measure.

The council approved the measure along party lines two weeks ago, but a parliamentary move brought it up again for reconsideration Tuesday. The motion to reconsider – which would have had the council vote a second time on the proposal – failed 5-3.

Democrats John Shoaff, Geoff Paddock and Glynn Hines voted in favor of reconsidering. Republicans Mitch Harper, Marty Bender, Tom Didier, Tom Smith and Russ Jehl voted no.

John Crawford, R-at large, co-authored the ordinance but was absent Tuesday. Shoaff opposes the measure but voted in favor of it two weeks ago, enabling him to make the motion to reconsider.

Only those on the winning side of a vote can make a motion to reconsider. The rarely used move allows someone on the winning side to change their mind on a vote. Since Shoaff’s motion to reconsider failed, the original vote stands.

Henry has 10 days to sign the measure into law, veto it or do a “pocket veto” by failing to sign it within the 10-day window.

If vetoed, the council will then be able to vote on overriding the veto June 24.

It takes six votes on the council to override a veto.

It appears that the last time a Fort Wayne mayor issued a veto was in 2008, when Henry vetoed a new merit board to decide how firefighters are hired, promoted, disciplined and fired. That veto was overturned.

In 2004, Mayor Graham Richard vetoed a law regulating trucking in the city, but the override drew only four votes.

“I would urge members to think about what it means to override a veto,” Paddock said. “I would hate to see us further divided.”

Henry, in a statement issued after Tuesday’s vote, also called the measure divisive and said it sends the wrong message.

“We’re experiencing unprecedented momentum in the city of Fort Wayne by working together. … Now is not the time to risk the progress we’re making in our community by rushing through an ordinance that takes away the rights of our award-winning city employees,” Henry said.

“We win the future by making smart choices, not by jeopardizing the formula for success and demoralizing our city team,” he said.

Dozens of people spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting after the vote, with many of them vowing to vote members out of office who supported the measure.

The Rev. Saharra Bledsoe, president of the local branch of the NAACP, whipped the standing-room-only crowd into a frenzy with her exhortations to use the ballot box.

“We must, we must, we must use this power to send a message that you have done this to us once, but I guarantee you it will never happen again!” she shouted, wagging her finger at council members.

“You can count on this!”

Some longtime union members talked about the days before collective bargaining and told of patronage and being forced to buy tickets to political events and work on campaigns, and they warned that without union representation, those days will return.

The meeting got off to a raucous start when the council held a public hearing for routine changes to its sewer fees.

A letter that went out to thousands of people drew dozens of angry residents to the meeting believing they were going to be forced to hook up to Fort Wayne sewers and pay large fees.

In fact, officials said, the measure only raises fees slightly for some developers or homeowners voluntarily connecting and lowers fees for others.