Fort Wayne City Council renews contracts with economic development groups

March 11th, 2019

By Chelsea Boulrisse | Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly

Three economic development agreements were discussed and approved in committee during the Fort Wayne City Council meeting March 5.

All three contracts, per Cindy Joyner, Fort Wayne community development director, were amended before this committee meeting to include an “advocacy clause,” which would prohibit employees of the three entities entering into deals with the city to promote political candidates in their official capacity.

During discussion, council member Michael Barranda emphasized that this would not prevent people in these jobs from running for office or advocating for causes on their own time.

The reason for this clause, as alluded to by Council President John Crawford, is rooted in past conflicts with former members of Greater Fort Wayne, Inc., where council members were threatened with losing their council seats to a candidate backed and promoted by the organization in an effort to intimidate them.

Joyner and John Urbahns, the new CEO of GFW, assured Crawford that should something like this happen moving forward, it would not be supported under the advocacy clause and could be seen as a breach of contract.

The $250,000 agreement between GFW and the city was approved by a vote of 7-2 with council members Paul Ensley and Jason Arp casting the dissenting votes. Ensley stated that he has opposed this annual contract for four years now because of the “perceived authority” it gave GFW to speak on behalf of the city on certain matters.

“The problem that I see … comes in giving an implied or perceived authority to speak on behalf of the city on certain matters that (GFW) advocates for,” Ensley said. “In particular, advocating for the increases of taxes and increased public spending positions that certainly my constituents don’t believe is in their best interest.”

John Sampson, president and CEO of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, was present at the meeting to give the council a status update on progress made by the partnership and future projections. An advocacy clause was also included in this contract that would give the Partnership $125,000 for direct marketing services.

Barranda commented that he was pleased with the amendments made to the original clause for the partnership’s contract to ensure that it did not prevent the organization from lobbying on behalf of the region for further funding and development.

This agreement was also approved 7-2 with Ensley and Arp again opposing the agreement.

The third agreement, which would see the city sharing professional services with the Downtown Improvement District for $150,000 was approved unanimously.