Members of the Indianapolis City-County Council kicked off the new year by re-electing its Democratic leaders, with one change.
Council President Vop Osili was re-elected unanimously. Vice President Zach Adamson also retained his seat, and defeated Republican challenger Marilyn Pfisterer with a vote of 14 to 0. And SaRita Hughes was re-elected as the Council Clerk.
But Maggie Lewis will take over as majority leader for the Democratic caucus. Lewis was ousted last year by fellow Democrat Stephen Clay, who served a short, tumultuous term, then quit before the Council was expected to vote him out.
In her new majority leader position, Lewis replaces Monroe Gray. Gray was one of a handful of Democrats who helped Clay win the election last year.
Parking meter changes
Councillors also voted to reduce free parking hours across the city. Paid parking will now last until 11 pm, instead of 9 pm as it is in most areas. The change affects all current meters and any meters built going forward.
City officials say they plan to use the additional money for a variety of projects, including an expanded street sweeping program.
The proposal passed with a vote of 21 to 3. Democrat Jared Evans spoke against it. Evans says with a $1 billion annual budget, the city should be able to fund programs without imposing new taxes on citizens and visitors.
Vice President and Democrat Zach Adamson, who authored the proposal, says it's always a challenge to find revenue sources for new projects. And he says Evans' argument usually fits.
"I don't believe he was wrong. I think there's a lot of merit to what he said," Adamson says. "The challenge is, how do we address some of the important issues when they are at their urgency...which is currently ongoing."
Adamson says he hopes the funds will be used for initiatives that address homelessness and panhandling in the downtown area, an issue that garnered increased attention in 2018.
Mayor Joe Hogsett last month announced his own proposal to tackle the complex problem – a plan to increase police presence in the Mile Square and to support outreach and service programs for the homeless population.