Political Tensions Mount Over Delayed Permitting Process Proposal

By Scott Sarvay
By Jeff Neumeyer

May 19, 2011 Updated May 19, 2011 at 5:29 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) - Allen County Democratic and Republican Party officials are joining the heated dispute over why a vote on an economic development initiative is being delayed.

The conflict seems to be morphing into a fight in the Fort Wayne mayor's race.

Democrat Tom Henry and Republican Paula Hughes originally were not at odds over the issue, but they are being pulled into the squabble.

Tempers flared at Tuesday's city council meeting, after Republican Council President Mitch Harper had decided that consideration of a proposal to spend $700,000 in city money to streamline the business permitting process should be pushed back two weeks to a joint city-county council meeting.

Democrat council members Tim Pape and Karen Goldner complained Harper was abusing his power, by unilaterally putting the matter off until a May 31st meeting.

Democratic Party spokesman Kevin Knuth says the delay is about helping the cause of GOP mayoral candidate Paula Hughes.

Republican Party Chairman Steve Shine says democrats are unfairly attacking Harper.

Steve Shine/Allen County Republican Chairman: " They were uncalled for and unprofessional, in fact they should be ashamed of themselves for making such an outcry. Councilman Harper is simply doing what he's been entrusted to do."

Kevin Knuth/Democratic Party Spokesman: " The Republicans are trying to stop it, clearly they're trying to stop it, to give Paula Hughes time to get back from vacation, so she can be critical of this issue. That's the only reason."

Mitch Harper says he gave city council members advanced notice of his intentions to deal with the permitting issue at a later joint city-county council meeting.

He says benchmarks need to be established in the ordinance before a total of $1.4 million in city and county money gets committed.

He also says he has received overwhelming positive reaction from citizens about the idea of the joint meeting to hash things out.

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