Balance in Representation

By Jim Sack

One of the rallying complaints of the American Revolution was “taxation without representation.  So lets take a look at Fort Wayne City Council.

First, no women.  Nine men.  All male. 

Secondly, all suburbanites.  And no working class representatives.

But from there the demographics are more diverse.  Ethnically, seven European-Americans, one African American and one Hispanic.  One of the Euro-Americans is nearly as Japanese-American as he is a German-American, of which there are three. That line up approximates the ethnic mix of Fort Wayne.   By profession they are a doctor, a lawyer, a salesman, an accountant, a financial advisor, an appraiser, a retired ex teacher/banker/activist, a park manager and a commercial realtor turned congressional aide. 

They are all conservatives.  All of them.  All speak the language of the middle-right in American politics in a town that is mostly conservative.  Even the two Democrats on council are much more moderate than progressive.  Age and a mortgage do that.

What is missing is gender and geographic diversity.  Only Tom Freistroffer lives close to the central city, but at that he is one street over from exclusive Forest Park Boulevard, but close.  Councilmen Barranda lives so far north he needs a visa to come downtown, La Cabrea.  Near him lives Russ Jehl and not far away resides Tom Didier.  They all live in putty-colored house in tidy sub-divisions.   Mr. Ensley can almost see Ohio from his eastside apartment balcony and Mr. Arp lives west of Time Corners.  Slightly closer in, but still a suburbanite, Mr. Paddock lives in the nearly-gated Wildwood addition, while Mr. Hines putters in a garden closer to Hessen Castle than Hanna-Creighton.  As for Dr. Crawford, he drives to council in a flashy Italian sports car from Buckingham.  It just sounds so remote, physically and psychologically from the rest of us.  The consequence our council men they look at legislation from a suburban perspective.

The same goes for the gender overload.  It is an all boys club.  The women in the room take notes and serve coffee.  There is no Vivian Schmidt, Karen Goldner or Liz Brown at the table to offer a feminine view on matters that more relevant to women, less so to men.  Venus is different than Mars, but at council testosterone rules.

Certainly, the mix will change with the 2020 council.  A woman will join council, perhaps two.  The intellectual and libertarian (sometimes) doctor will be gone, perhaps a second Hispanic will take a seat.. Dr. Crawford’s leadership will be replaced by Barranda, if he survives November, and Jehl.  Freistroffer will, if he survives, become the stabilizing father figure with his quiet approach, his imposing presence and his calming voice.  Regardless, they will all be conservatives, another imbalance.