Saturday, December 21, 2013

Portage Council Split

The Portage City Council is divided.

Richard Ford wins drawing to become newest member of Portage City Council; Jim Pearson named mayor pro-tem

For years, the Portage Council has been fairly harmonious, run by moderate, "good government" types, many affiliates with the Rotary Club.  There was some minor controversy when Margaret O'Brien was elected, criticizing how road assessments were funded, but that eventually died down.

In 2009, Patricia Randall was elected to a two-year term on a platform criticizing the Portage assessor's office.  She got some investigation of the office, but it did not find the problems she believes exist.  This led to conflict with some of the other council members.

In 2011, Randall's absence at several board meetings was attacked by councilman Ed Sackley, but this backfired when she revealed that she was being treated for breast cancer.  She was reelected, and her ally Jim Pearson was elected to an open seat, defeating Cory Bailes, who is an ally of the other board members.

Before the 2013 election, council member Elizabeth Campbell had resigned after she was caught embezzling from the Portage Rotary Club.  The council again appointed Cory Bailes to fill the vacancy until the November election.

Also in 2013, Sackley retired, and Nasim Ansari won the open seat, with Richard Ford finishing fourth.  Ansari was a county commissioner 2002-2012 and city council member before that. Ford is a political newcomer.

After the election, the council had to appoint a new mayor pro-tem, a largely ceremonial position.  The council split 3-3, with Mayor Peter Strazdas and council members Terry Urban and Claudette Reid voting for Urban, and Randall, Pearson, and Ansari supporting Pearson.  The same split was repeated over several votes in multiple meetings.

The council then had to fill Campbell's seat for the next two years.  They again split 3-3, with Randall's group supporting Ford, and the others supporting former Mayor Betty Ongley.  They eventually agreed to pull a name out of a hat, and Ford was selected.  He then broke the tie for vice-mayor 4-3 in favor of Pearson.

It isn't clear whether there are any larger political implications.  None of those involved are democrats.  Only Ansari and Strazdas have had any significant involvement with the Republican party.  Aside from the assessment issue, it isn't clear whether there are any other issues dividing the council.

Time will tell.

No comments: