Some question if opponents of new council will be heard
During its first City Council meeting of 2016, the newly elected body swiftly voted to unanimously pass many ordinances. Some disagreements were voiced and some proposals were tabled, but long gone were the split 4-3 votes and heated rhetoric of the previous council’s four years.
Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard said this is a good thing and that not everyone will agree on everything, but he hopes there will be a “spirit of cooperation” during this next term.
City Council President Ron Carter described it as “a relief” and a “breath of fresh air” compared to the previous term.
Of the seven candidates that Brainard endorsed for council, six won their elections. Carol Schleif, who won her reelection but wasn’t endorsed by Brainard, voted with the rest of the group on many unanimous votes, such as turning Carmel into a second-class city and giving the mayor the power to remove the stop sign at 126th Street and Auman Road.
But some Carmel residents who have strongly disagreed with Brainard in the past now wonder if they have a voice in the current makeup of the council.
“When it comes to having a voice, we saw at the recent council meeting, everything was unanimous and that begs the question, why even have a council? Just come in at October and sign off on what the mayor wants,” said Bob Wallace, who regularly speaks at council meetings and is a member of the Constitutional Patriots, a local group that shares many of the views of the Tea Party.
Rick Sharp, former president of the council who ran against Brainard for mayor and lost, said it’s up to the public to step up and participate in the “blue card” session of every city council meeting when the public is allowed to speak.
“The blue card portion is pretty much is their only voice,” he said. “I have not gone away forever, but I don’t have any immediate plans to run for office but I still stop and talk to people about the issues that are going on … I’m trying to figure out the sweet spot is where I can come back and speak. I won’t be more than a minor annoyance but I would want to counter some of the propaganda with facts.”
Kiel Kinnaman, a Carmel resident and former owner of Carmel Chatter, a Web forum for community debate, said he’s taken a step back from local politics because he admits it can be discouraging at times. He has publicly disagreed with Brainard on several issues, including Carmel’s debt, but he said he hopes the new councilors will be independent thinkers and not just pass anything that the mayor wants.
“It’s kind of, ‘wait and see’ right now for me,” he said.
Some, like Wallace, admit they feel slightly disengaged because they think most of Brainard’s proposals will pass with ease, regardless of what he says during the public portion section.
“I’m debating with myself about whether to stay engaged,” he said. “The civic-minded part of me tells me to stay engaged. The realist part of me asks why I would keep bumping my head against the wall?”
Councilor Sue Finkam said she encourages anyone with an opinion to call or e-mail any of the councilors, including herself. She said transparency is important and even those who disagree will be heard. She said the public will find that the council won’t agree on some matters and the council won’t immediately pass everything the mayor supports.