The City of Muncie is on the 12th day of rebuilding a new administration. Most of the high profile positions have been filled. The first city council meeting with nearly a complete turnover and a Republican majority came off better than expected. The meeting was like watching history in the making. The department heads were introduced. Mayor Dan Ridenour was on hand to answer any questions or provide information. Old habits die hard as former city council at-large, Linda Gregory, was quick to provide the parliamentary procedure as needed.
We had the opportunity to review the Board of Public Works (BOW) meeting and recommend any interested party to watch it on the City’s Fb page. Despite the newness of the board and lack of information, Linda Gregory, Jerry Wise and Ted Baker handled the business at hand professionally. Next meeting the board will be more prepared as well as the city controller. Everyone is working with limited information. (More on that later.)
Linda Gregory voted in as President. Jerry Wise, Vice President, and Secretary isTed Baker.
How does one define a living organism? Does it move? Grow? Change? All of these things and more. This is how we envision the local government to be. To move, to grow, to change, to be fluid.
Don’t be deceived, the past administration may have appeared to be moving, growing and changing but ultimately, it was only holding on to the past ways. We seemed shocked at the depth of corruption. To be sure, it is amazing. By far the City of Muncie under the direction of Dennis Tyler and a council filled with party operatives approved everything either by vote or by silence. It has been a revolving door of FBI personnel, economic development, gifts, and grafting reaching even into the private sector. It was bold and in your face corruption.
Muncie Proper surpasses the Delaware County Highway Department, Justice Center, Royerton Sewer and all the other minor issues that have cropped up over the decades.
Let’s take a look at some of the issues we are or will be facing.
First is the Muncie Sanitation District. For nearly 8 years the administration has taken a “hands-off” approach. Now among other things we’re facing the cost of $17 million dollars for a new building. A record increase in our monthly sanitation bills. You ready for that, ratepayers? The three-person board makes decisions with absolutely no oversite. The president is still expecting the District Administrator to return to her job after the FBI arrested her. US Attorney Josh Minkler says Grigsby used her authority to approve contractors to steer work to Franklin’s company, in exchange for kickbacks. And we have paid for “working lunches” as if kickbacks weren’t enough…sheesh. Madhouse. So adding three paid board members may seem to be government overreach, but in this instance, it seems warranted.
Then there is the Muncie Redevelopment Commission and you talk about millions of dollars in debt. The MRC was out of control. And Human Resources and Street Department and Parks and, and…..
So while some moan and groan over Ridenour’s picks or obsess over who gets the office with the window or the new coffeemaker or the newest iPad …have at it if these are the most important issues. Know this, change has come to Muncie, Indiana and change will continue, like it or not.
Considering every department head, the city council and the board appointments are fairly new and considering the ongoing FBI investigation, there may be changes and where we are at financially, projects administration’s records, Mayor Dan Ridenour has put together a solid team.
As of this writing, we have 52 days until the swearing-in of Muncie’s new mayor, Dan Ridenour. Dan’s win will usher in a complete change for the Muncie City administration. Yet, the big news is should Hampton be removed? Of course, he should step down of his own volition. Or the council should exercise their legal obligation and remove him. Doubt either will happen.
Why do we think Hampton is a non-starter? First, and foremost we still have Mayor Dennis Tyler in office. He’s not leaving the city in the best of shape. Sadly, he will do as much damage as possible. His true colors are showing for all to see. If he loved the city as much as he claimed, his desire would be for the city’s well-being. We have nine city council members who could vote anything in or out. Seven of those members won’t be returning in 2020. Jerry Disman and Brad Polk will be the veteran members.
Hampton is a minor distraction amongst the major issues facing this city.
Some of the items on the agenda is an independent audit of the city. Additionally, we have accounts running in the red and millions of dollars in debt. Time doesn’t permit all of the issues facing our city to be listed.
Not to mention getting major positions filled as well as the support staff for each department. Below is a list we compiled – not necessarily in order of importance.
- Muncie Parks Superintendent
- Fire Chief
- Police Chief
- Community Development Director
- Superintendent Board of Public Works
- City Controller
- Prairie Creek Superintendent
- Building commissioner
- Human Resource Director
- Redevelopment Director
- Law firm
- Animal Shelter Director
- Board of Public Works
- Channel 60 Director
- Various board appointments
- Support staff
Despite the fact, the Democrat Headquarters broke Indianan State law by appointing Hampton in the first place, this is just 214 DHQ doing what they have always done. So, let’s get him out of that position. And for sure, let’s watch how the council votes and the actions of the outgoing mayor.
You see after Hampton is gone he will soon be forgotten. Sticking with us for some time is the effects and cost of corruption. John should gracefully and with dignity remove himself. So should Tyler exhibit the same when he leaves office, However, whether it be winning or defeat, grace and dignity have never been their strengths.
This is going to be a rant. A full-fledged rant. Most of it centers around the state of the city and how we feel about a city-run EMS and even an elected official or two. It may be all over the map, who knows? Let’s begin.
In 2015 Mayor Tyler decided to repair Fire Station 1 on Jackson & Madison. Two bids were submitted. S.A. Boyce for $98,700 and Mayor Tyler and Muncie Board of Public Works favorite company Walls and Ceilings came in at $99,000. The bid went to Boyce. The cost was $100,000 and the city taxpayers and grant money paid the bill.
In 2017, Mayor Tyler decided to reopen the station for use. Everyone applauded his decision. The neighborhood and downtown could now be fully protected. Mayor Sharon McShurley had closed the station due to budget constraints, fireman lay-offs and the building wasn’t structurally sound. Closing the station created quite a firestorm and Nora Powell led the charge. We were all going to die.
So for $180,000, Tyler was able to open the station for business once again. In the November 2, 2017 article “Fire Trucks to move downtown again”, Chief Eddie Bell was quoted as saying this will cut down response time and would be good for downtown and the Courtyard hotel.
Not so fast, Jack.
At the August 5, 2019 city council meeting during Chief Bell and Councilperson Moore’s not so friendly dialog, Chief Bell spilled the beans. Firestation 1 has not been a working station. It never opened as a fully staffed, fully functioning firefighting station. The reason per Bell was the city didn’t have the money to staff it. WHAT? This station is just sitting there just as it did in 2009?
Chief Bell, Mayor Tyler and likely the chair of the Finance Committee, Councilperson Nora Powell had to know the station was just sitting there looking pretty.
The non-staffed station didn’t appear to upset Powell as it did in 2009. She is fond of the current mayor. But it did matter to her when it closed. You would find her at city meetings badgering the previous mayor on such things as LOIT and the SAFER Grant. Powell would show up, with several laid-off firemen disrupting Chat with the Mayor meetings. The June ’09 meeting became so contentious it ended 90 minutes early. You see, Powell accused McShurley of not being transparent about raising income taxes. However, McShurley had authored a guest column that same month stating she was not inclined to raise income taxes. I’m sure that Powell read the column. (Larry Riley and Nick Werner both penned articles on the meeting.)
At the May 2019 council meeting, a citizen, Audie Barber, asked a simple question. “Where are the finance committee meeting minutes?” Cool as a cucumber Council person Powell stared at Barber. After the meeting, she was escorted to her car by two MPD officers. The police report stated Powell was visibly shaken after seeing Barber in the parking lot. So what upset her? Did she receive texts, emails, phone calls from Barber that led her to believe he was a danger to her? Did she file a report he was harassing her? However, her step-son, a police officer, did run an illegal check on Barber.
What goes around comes around.
Here’s the breakdown. We have a fire station where tax dollars were allocated to make it fully functional, The kicker is, there was no money to man it. A council member feeling threatened by the same actions she employed as a citizen. Drama.
- Lame-duck Mayor who is pursuing a city-based EMS. Guaranteed to provide fewer services and end some county jobs. (Based upon his history as mayor.)
- A mayor who was handed $8 million earmarked for MFD once the SAFER grant ended. Gone.
- 2015 he passed a 43% income tax to fund MFD when he had the money once.
- Prairie Creek once self-sustaining running in the negative.
- A building commissioner funneling monies to his companies with the blessing of Mayor Tyler.
- City properties are overgrown with no money to mow.
- Breaking ordinances like the Wheel Tax ordinance. Submitting paving plans months after the deadline (as written).
Here’s a forgotten fact. In 2009 the Delaware County government became majority Democrat and immediately went to war with the Republican mayor. If it wasn’t the restructuring of the 911 board, making it a political football, it was the county working to take over animal control. And on and on it went.
When the city finally got their treasured Democrat mayor, he immediately handed over 911 monies to the county. Although, Tyler claimed there was nothing he could do about 911 since McShurley signed the ordinance in December 2011 and he took office January 1, 2012. This was just not true. He should know since he was a State Representative for six years. One person does not a bill make. Both the county commissioners and the county council signed off on Tuesday, Jan 2, 2012, and City Council called a special meeting on that Friday. They signed off, too. 16 elected officials all Democrats except for three or possibly four Republicans and he couldn’t do anything?
He planned on handing over the millions held in escrow from the start. The city and county were under 214 Democrat control. The night Tyler won, the County Democrats were planning on how to spend the 911 money.
True to form when the county became Republican, Mayor Tyler repeated the same as his friend and former Commissioner Todd Donati.
Hurry FBI, we can’t take much more and we certainly can’t afford their self-serving and greedy actions any longer.
We are just weeks away from the primary and it looks to be ramping up. Early voting has begun and some of us have done the deed. Others are still undecided.
Today, we’re going to talk about the Democrat mayoral candidates. They have five on the ticket. A current city employee, former law enforcement officer, businessman, perennial candidate and one citizen (not sure of his occupation).
The BSU Democrat student organization sponsored their debate. Hats off to the students for their hard work. Below is the audio of the debate.
If you want to get a well-rounded view of the election, we would recommend you listen to all the candidates. This is often a political blog, and in case you didn’t know, there is an election on the horizon. We follow all of the candidates. We visit social media to get our fingers on the pulse of citizens’ thoughts on the candidates. We carry on conversations with the people and sometimes we even interact with the candidates. If they have a history, we review it, too.
After introductions, the candidates went into corruption. Oh, boy, do we have it. How many of those candidates voted for Dennis Tyler? How many knew the history of Tyler and his cohort Nichols and still chose to place the corruption in the main seat of Muncie governance? Until they need your vote, they stand silently by. The opportunity was there in 2015 to get the city under control. That primary saw only two city council districts up for grabs. District 2 (R) Conatser vs. Ridenour and District 6 (D) Anderson vs. Ivy. Both parties fell short that year. The corruption was just beginning to come to light. It was going to be messy. Thoughts on the lack of candidates…for another time.
Just a brief history. In 2003, Dennis Tyler ran for mayor. One of the biggest concerns was how much involvement would Phil Nichols have in Tyler’s administration? Tyler said none. However, after Tyler lost it was believed he and Nichols joined forces and set their sights on dismantling Center Township Fire Department and behind manipulating the 911 call center. Some of the old-timers would remember. Not unlike what we are seeing from the Tyler administration today. A leopard doesn’t change its spots.
Tyler and Nichols have been joined at the hip since birth. In 2012 Tyler immediately appointed Craig Nichols as the Building Commissioner. Well, we know the rest of the story. Phil Nichols was privy to the private meetings with Mayor Tyler and others as they schemed to hide the crimes committed.
Oops, I digress…
One area of this debate centered on blight. The interesting part of this is the previous mayor, Sharon McShurley, also campaigned on the blight. She addressed the blight head on, looking for monies and the newspaper did “Blight Watch” keeping the people informed of the status and the challenges of the blighted community. That all ended when Tyler took office. Why?
We wrote about the Hardest Hit Fund program. When Muncie received notice we were selected, the city sat on the funds. Mayor Tyler claimed the requirements were so stringent the city had a hard time implementing it. Most of us believe Tyler was trying to find a way to funnel the monies to Nichols’ companies, et al. Other communities were well into the program demolishing properties, and Muncie was not. Everyone was on a level playing field yet Tyler’s administration just couldn’t get the program going. Hmmmm.
That being said, here is our synopsis of the candidates:
Dale: Maybe the best of the bunch if being well spoken was a prerequisite for mayor. He was involved in city government during the McShurly administration. Not sure if he continued the same involvement under the Tyler administration. He was part of the UNISON group which wanted to engage Commissioner President Todd Donati and the Commissioners as part of the Tuhey Pool plan in 2010. Fortunately, that went nowhere. Would he continue the MRC with Donati as president?
D. Smith: Focused on corruption. Yes, this administration is filled with corruption and there are two Tyler appointed department heads on the ballot. The first step in ridding the city of corruption would be to never place any person affiliated with Tyler in a position of power. Mayor or council both would still be governed from 214 N. Walnut.
Bailey: Appointed to the Community Development office by Tyler. In charge of the Hardest Hit Funds. Consider looking at Larry Riley’s FB post and at the State Board of Accounts audits. Bailey said she did the duties of the deputy mayor with no added pay. Bailey is the only mayoral candidate that has a history with the current administration and would be privy to the inner workings of this administration.
Riley: Saul is someone you would like as a neighbor, but not for mayor.
Davenport: Was vacationing in Urbana, Il and couldn’t make the debate. (just kiddin’)
In closing: Not much dialog on the current public safety issues or how they would address the issue once in office. No mention of the debt. Or how they would improve upon the paving. Candidates are fluffy nowadays. They have lots of words but no concrete solutions.
Do you all remember Hank the Dog? If not, here’s a synopsis. Once upon a time, there was a dog named Hank. Hank was notorious for being picked-up by city animal control. You might go as far as to say he was targeted. The owner was summoned to city court, and although the details are a little murky, one thing we do know, the City of Muncie violated their own animal control ordinances. You see, there was nothing about the number of times an animal could be picked up and nothing about an owner having to appear in court. Later they did change the ordinance after they violated it.
Funny, how the city’s attorney could find an ordinance that was decades old. Suddenly, the elected officials are concerned because they aren’t following this ordinance. City Code 32.33.
Sec. 32.33. Time and place for regular meetings.
The first regular meeting of the council shall beheld on the first Monday in January after thegeneral election of the members-elect of the council, at 7:30 p.m. as provided by IC 18-1-3-2. Allregular meetings shall be held on the first Monday evening of each month at 7:30 p.m. and maybe adjourned at the pleasure of the council. Adjourned meetings shall have all the force andeffect of regular meetings. Meetings shall be heldin the council chamber, unless otherwise determined by the president and designated on theagenda.(Code 1968, § 31.14; Ord. No. 620-80, 10-10-80)
The city council has been in violation of this for years. So, what’s to stop them from violating a 2013 Indiana State law? Or any law, for that matter? As you can see, absolutely nothing. Ah ha. Let’s have a meeting on January 1, 2018. Surely no one would show. And, and, and we’ll be following an ordinance we have never observed.
As the City-run EMS began to heat up, the elected officials, who are supposed to represent the people were hoping to find a something that would weaken the DCEMS supporters on council turnouts. Wrong on Muncie City Proper’s part.
Demolishing empty lots? No problem. We’ll change the addresses. Who said anything about bid rigging? Did you hear anything about bid rigging?
This has to be the most poorly run administration to date. Or at least it comes close. With all of the history and many of the old-timers would remember days gone by, there was quite a bit of action. Have talked with a few and the stories they would tell. Sadly, many have passed from this earth. Oral history is most effective.
So just for fun, and possibly to jog a few memories, here is a clipping from the local newspaper dated February 21, 1993. You would think the cost of corruption would be enough to throw these characters out on their ear. Nope. They are like a bad penny…just keep showing up again and again. Most have been replaced with the younger generation. Make no mistake they learn from their elders.
Well, it looks like Doug Marshall is finding himself in quite a pickle. The Indiana State Board of Accounts has levied the charge of “double-dipping”. Apparently, there is a law on the books which states you can’t hold a position of an elected official and a paid government position at the same time. Doug is contending the Muncie Sanitation District is not a city position. He has said he will resign from MSD. Either way, it’s a pickle. If he stays with MSD the salary and benefits would remain intact. However, if Republicans take control of the Mayor’s office he may lose that position. (Disclaimer: just surmising, not positive if it would be legal to dismiss him.)
He currently has a challenger for District 1 and that would be Ralph “Jigger” Smith.
If Smith beats Marshall in November, then Marshall would be out. Doug has said he will resign from the MSD and continue as Muncie City Council representative. It’s a gamble either way. Certainly wouldn’t want to be in that pickle jar. Feeling some sympathy for Doug.
Moving on. Here’s a sweet pickle. Sarah Beach is running At-Large. The funny thing is she is employed as the City of Muncie Human Resource Director and moonlighting as the spokesperson for Dennis Tyler, uh, City of Muncie.
Clearly, she won’t be able to hold both positions. The 214 Democrat Party didn’t know about the law? Yea, they did. You see, if there is a Republican mayor, she is out. Possibly, out if a Dem makes it in. The Democrat party headed up by the silent majority of Dennis Tyler and Phil Nichols need their people. They need someone who will do their bidding and take the fall, too. She votes the wrong way, Beach will be summoned to the interrogation room at Dem Headquarters.
A document filed by federal prosecutors in the Craig Nichols case reported that members of Tyler’s administration had been summoned to Democratic Headquarters in early 2016 to discuss – in groups that included the mayor and Phil Nichols – a response to allegations against the building commissioner. That document did not specify Stewart had attended those meetings.
Beach may be a plant, too. She’s at the beginning of the alphabet. Sure to gain at least 7% of the vote (statistically speaking). Some voters just vote for the first person on the ballot. No matter what, she’ll be governed by the hidden and quiet previous Democrat officials. Just because of Mayor Tyler saying he won’t run again doesn’t mean he is going away.
This is about as much political commentary we can provide today. Hope you enjoyed the humor.
And remember, a pickle a day keeps the State Board of Accounts away…
Muncie 2019 Primary ballot. Here is the first chance you have to rid this city of the 214 Democrat strongholds. Remember, when you vote for a candidate you are also voting for their appointments. Please know the candidates and spend some time researching their votes if they are an incumbent.
During an election campaign season, you will be told what you want to hear. Please keep this in mind.
It’s also good to find where they stand on the issues facing this city. Debt, corruption, infrastructure and how they will select and vote appointments, etc.
We don’t seem to ask the candidates difficult questions. They should be held to the fire. Questions should be pointed and on target. Don’t accept pat answers. There is so much at stake in this election.