5 Republicans seek council seats
With five Republicans vying for three open at-large seats on the Fort Wayne City Council, the field is crowded heading into the 2019 primary.
On May 7, voters will choose three candidates to move on to the Nov. 5 general election, where they will face three Democratic candidates.
The Republican ballot includes two City Council incumbents : Tom Freistroffer and Michael Barranda : and three challengers: Perry Township Trustee Eric Tippmann, actuarial pension consultant Nathan Hartman and political newcomer Joe Townsend.
Barranda and Freistroffer are finishing their first terms as City Council members.
A 33-year-old, Townsend manages the New Haven Rent-A-Center. On his campaign website, Townsend describes himself as a political outsider who has never run for office. His website also says taxation is theft and decries the city’s trash collection misses.
Townsend would also rather the city end all garbage collection contracts and allow residents to choose their own provider, similar to many Allen County residents. In an interview, Townsend criticized the city’s method for handling trash collection from its contractor, Red River Waste Solutions.
“Neighborhood associations can negotiate and choose what company they use,” Townsend said. “The way it is right now is a bad way to do it, because when they do a bad job, you can’t fire them.”
Townsend said his status as a political outsider will add a new perspective.
“I am the only one not endorsed by other City Council people, and I view that as a definite positive,” Townsend said. “It means I can vote based on what my constituents want, not what other City Council people are wanting.”
Townsend said he has volunteered for political campaigns in Utah and Indiana but has never run for office.
Unsuccessful in his 2016 Allen County Council run, Hartman, 39, has returned to the campaign field. Hartman is an actuarial consultant and is a City Council-appointed member of the Citilink and Cable Fund Access boards. He is also president of the Allen County Economic Development Commission.
“I think we can do a lot better than what we’re doing,” Hartman said. “After my race in the county, I started learning about how things work in the city. I got appointed to some boards, and that experience has helped be understand how the city works and, if I’m elected, will help me hit the ground running.”
Hartman also said he’s interested in helping the council craft better contracts and deals. Previous deals, including the North River property purchase agreement and the Red River Waste Solutions garbage contract, were examples of contracts that did not favor the city, Hartman said.
“People don’t know what’s going on, and even City Council sometimes seems to be in the dark on what they’re agreeing to,” Hartman said. “That frustrates me and a lot of people.”
Hartman said his experience in finance will be an asset during annual budget talks, adding that he currently helps companies with up to $2 billion in assets understand their pension liabilities.
An incumbent, Barranda, 40, said he’s running for reelection to keep things moving forward. He is an attorney for MedPro.
“The biggest thing I really think we need to focus on is the way that we prepare our city’s budget and the way the administration works with council : or in this case, doesn’t work with council,” Barranda said.
He has been critical of the budgeting process, advocating for increased City Council input early in the process. City Council cannot add to the proposed city budget; it can only make cuts. Barranda and others have complained that Mayor Tom Henry has not included the council in budget-crafting efforts.
“That’s certainly something (Henry) has the right to do via statute, but he doesn’t have to do it that way,” Barranda said. “Something that’s more of a back-and-forth process would serve the citizens of Fort Wayne better.”
Barranda said he is working on two new bills to be introduced to council. The first, he said, is meant to help improve the process regarding city contracts.
The second bill will seek to rework how the city’s Legacy Fund is handled. That means providing more loan options and reworking the composition of the Legacy Joint Funding Committee. Barranda said it’s unnecessary to have three City Council members and four city employees on the board.
“I’m trying to rewrite those components so we can get more community involvement into the assessment of those projects,” Barranda said.
The biggest issues facing City Council, Freistroffer said, are public safety, infrastructure and jobs.
“We are elected as officials not only to give our view to the City Council but to listen to the wants and needs of our constituents,” he said.
Freistroffer owns Freistroffer and Associates Realty and Freistroffer Appraisal Services and was also a teacher for 15 years.
He pointed to his experience as a City Council member and business owner as reasons that he’s best suited for another term.
Freistroffer said he supports riverfront development and Electric Works. He was also one of four council members who led discussions regarding the local income tax increase for sidewalks, alleys and the riverfront.
Freistroffer is a member of the governing board that oversees the city’s comprehensive plan.
“I truly listen to the needs of my constituents,” Freistroffer said. “I think I listen to all of my district councilmen at the table and try to take everything in before I made my final decisions.”
The trustee for Perry Township, Tippmann said he decided to run for City Council to “shake things up.”
“I think people with a technical background : engineers, CPAs, those kinds of scientists : are woefully underrepresented on the City Council,” said Tippmann, a chemistry professor at Purdue Fort Wayne. “I think there should be better diversity of backgrounds. I’m running for all those people for whom facts are important.”
Tippmann said if elected, he would help the city craft better contracts and use his technical background to “get into the minutiae that people don’t want to get down into,” regarding issues like city finance, public policy, bonding, TIF districts and more.
“It’s interesting for me,” Tippmann said. “People can also look at my fiscal voting record on County Council. I talk the talk and walk the walk with all of my votes.”
Tippmann also said he plans to use his position to “dispel whatever misinformation” he can regarding city operations.
“That would lead to lower fear on the part of the constituents and better understanding,” Tippmann said. “I’m an educator, and (voters) are going to get an educator that’s able to break down complicated topics for the average Joe.”