INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – To the victor go the spoils and the Reverend Stephen Clay followed up his surprise ascension to the presidency of the City-County Council by remaking some council committees, rewarding Republicans for their support and punishing at least one of predecessor Maggie Lewis’ allies.
Clay, along with Minority Leader Michael McQuillen and Majority Leader Monroe Gray, named the chairpersons of several committees.
The president reserved for himself the key chairmanship of the Public Safety & Criminal Justice Committee while dethroning and striking from the committee fellow Democrat Leroy Robinson, who was a key Lewis supporter.
McQuillen takes over the Ethics Committee while Republicans Janice McHenry and Scott Kreider were named chairs of the Rules & Public Policy and Public Works committees respectively.
Gray unsuccessfully sought to roll back those Republican assignments, though he did stop a McQuillen attempt to strip Lewis of her seat on the Ethics Committee.
Other committees remain in the hands of Democrats who split with their party leadership and backed Clay’s successful effort to unseat Lewis last Monday night.
Speaking to reporters after the Committee on Committees meeting where the changes were approved, Clay said he would create a Neighborhood Services Committee to focus on the needs of residents and their communities.
During the 2016 run up to the successful Marion County Transit Tax referendum and the parallel debate over IndyGo’s Red Line project, Clay voiced opposition to the rapid transit plan, claiming, “The Red Line will do nothing for my (eastside) community.”
Though the project has been approved, and is set for groundbreaking early this year, Clay said he wanted to meet with IndyGo officials to determine if a promised $50 million federal subsidy has been received or is still merely promised.
Clay has also been a frequent critic of policing in Indianapolis, though he said he generally supports Mayor Joe Hogsett’s plan to build a $575 million Community Justice Center, including a new jail and courthouse, east of Fountain Square.
When pressed about potential council input on the project, Clay said he expected a “robust” discussion about the details of the proposal.
Hogsett, whose administration will soon seek $50 million to begin site preparation of the justice center home on East Prospect Street, said that he has spoken to Clay and looks forward to more bi-partisan support for projects and ordinances.
“We have accomplished a lot over the last two years with a bi-partisan coalition. Very few votes taken by the City-County Council over the last two years have been straight party line votes,” said Hogsett. “I’ve always been an outspoken advocate for bi-partisanship.”
Hogsett, a former U.S. Attorney, admitted he and Clay may have some differences when it comes to public safety and policing, but also share some of the same goals.
“He has been an outspoken critic, as frankly I’m an outspoken advocate for greater diversity among IMPD, and, frankly, we just swore in a new class that is the most diverse in our city’s history, so, we’re making progress in that regard to the extent that he’s been critical of the Police Merit Board, I share some of his concerns.”