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April 16, 2024 | Who's electing the new mayor anyway?

April 16, 2024 | Who's electing the new mayor anyway?

Hey Locals,

Today is my (Kara's) birthday, and it's shaping up to be a historic week in Fort Wayne, too. On Saturday, about 100 Democratic Party precinct chairs will elect a successor for the late-Mayor Tom Henry in a rare mayoral caucus. But you might not know who they are. That's because their names are private. We explore why.

We also update you on next steps for a soccer stadium on the Southwest side and the new owners of Downtown's iconic Powers Hamburgers.

In the Local Spotlight, we catch up with Morrison Agen of Welcome Back Records on must-snag Record Store Day LPs this year and just how big of a "record city" Fort Wayne is becoming. We also share ways to celebrate Earth Day this weekend and the first anniversaries of a few favorite local dining establishments.

Quick correction to last week's newsletter: There was actually no caucus in 1954 when Mayor Baals died in office. Former Mayor Paul Helmke tells us: "The law back then provided that the City Controller would become mayor if there was a vacancy in the mayor’s office. Robert Meyers, the Controller, became mayor when Baals died. He finished Baals’ term and was elected to a full term of his own in November 1955. The last and only other time there was a caucus to deal with a vacancy in the mayor’s office was when Win Moses resigned in the mid-1980s as part of a plea deal and was then returned to office a couple weeks later as a result of a caucus vote by Democratic precinct officials." In the meantime, Fort Wayne briefly had its first female mayor, when City Controller Cosette Simon became “Acting Mayor,” as Karl Bandemer is now.

Community Event: When starting The Local one of our goals was to harness our community to help Fort Wayne neighbors in need. So we're organizing a day of service through Neighborlink. On May 18th we'd like to get our subscribers together and help a few neighbors in need with spring yard work for an afternoon. It'll be a chance to help our community and meet fellow subscribers. If that sounds like something you are interested in, sign up here! We'll follow up with specific details in a separate in email closer to the date.

Don't forget: This month, we're partnering with Bravas to honor the one-year celebration of their brick-and-mortar April 18! 🎉 Anytime in April, all paid subscribers get a FREE order of patatas with any sandwich when you dine-in.

You can gain access to our monthly freebies (and our premium newsletter) with a paid membership. And guess what? You can get those patatas with this 30-day free trial.

Now, let's get started!

"Most people don’t ever have any interest in finding out who their precinct chair is. But when less than 100 of them are going to be picking Fort Wayne’s mayor for the next three-and-a-half years, that becomes a pretty big deal."
-Nathan Gotsch, writer of the Fort Wayne Politics newsletter, on this week's historic mayoral caucus vote.

Who's electing the new mayor anyway?

If you can't find the name of your Democratic precinct chair, you're not alone. We explore why they're private – and how they occasionally play an outsized role in state politics.

About 100 Democratic Party precinct chairs will elect Fort Wayne's new mayor in a historic caucus on April 20. But their names are private. We explore why.

What's happening?

Following the recent death of Mayor Tom Henry, Fort Wayne's Democratic Party is facing a historic caucus, where 98 precinct chairs will elect a new mayor to serve out the remaining three-and-a-half years of Henry's term – and likely compete in the 2027 mayoral election.

But while these 98 precinct chairs are (sometimes) elected by the public and supposed to be "the face" between them and political parties, Fort Wayne's rare and high-stakes mayoral caucus is drawing attention to how the system works and why.

  • Perhaps most notably: The list of precinct chairs is private, so many people don't know who's voting for the new mayor or how to contact them. This privacy is compounding with concerns about the small venue originally chosen for the public town hall with mayoral candidates this week— which will be citizens' only opportunity to hear from candidates before the caucus vote on April 20.
  • Just this weekend: the Democratic Party changed the location of Thursday's town hall to a larger venue to accommodate "immense public interest."* Instead of Franklin School, it will now be held at Purdue University Fort Wayne's Classic Ballroom inside the Walb Student Union from 6-8 p.m. (The caucus vote is scheduled for April 20 at 10:30 a.m. at Parkview Field, and the public may attend to watch, but seating is limited.)
  • So why are precinct chair names private? Like many things in politics: it's complicated. To learn more, we spoke with Andy Downs, a former political science educator moderating this week's town hall. We also caught up with political writer Nathan Gotsch of the Fort Wayne Politics newsletter and former Indiana legislator Rep. Mitch Harper of Fort Wayne, who has advocated for greater transparency.

Don't miss our quick breakdown of the situation here.

NOTE: Links to Journal Gazette articles are marked(*) and may be behind a paywall.

  • The Plan Commission will give a recommendation on BND Commercial's proposed 7,500-capacity soccer stadium in Southwest Fort Wayne this week. Todd Ramsey with BND tells WANE 15: “(Sports are) just a great economic driver that our town has really grasped. I want more people here, more people spending money.” The proposed stadium across from Buckner Park off Bass Road could host more than soccer, too, including rugby, lacrosse, seven-on-seven football and softball. BND has experience developing multi-sport facilities, including SportOne Parkview Fieldhouse and Icehouse. But it's up to the Plan Commission to determine if the project warrants a rezoning and "fits" with the area's comprehensive plan. (Similar stadium projects have been previously pitched for Downtown and the riverfront.) The Plan Commission is expected to give a recommendation on the project's rezoning this week, followed by a final vote from county commissioners.
  • Powers Hamburgers has a new local owner: Salvatori’s Hospitality Group. The group (and its managing partner Alex Richardson) plans to "continue to offer the same great Powers experience for generations to come!” Former owners Michael and Gloria Hall announced they were selling the iconic Downtown burger joint last October. Last Tuesday was their last day running it, and they ran out of meat early at 6:30 p.m. The restaurant will be closed for a few weeks as ownership transitions.

Plus: A namesake for Mayor Tom Henry. A controversial hotel update. Electric Works anchor tenant's growth and more. Read all about it in our premium newsletter.

Welcome Back Records shares tips for its "biggest" Record Store Day on April 20.

We learn about must-snag LPs this year – and just how big of a “record city” Fort Wayne is becoming.

Rachel Dostal, Morrison Agen and Neli Jasarevic of Welcome Back Records.

What's happening?

Morrison Agen of Welcome Back Records is gearing up to celebrate his second Record Store Day at his new shop, which happens to fall on April 20 (4/20), and it might be his biggest to date. Case in point: He’s been participating in the event since 2011 (with the exception of a few years off between shops), and his order of records this year is his largest ever. “There’s something in the neighborhood of 420 titles that will be released that day nationwide, and we’ll have a lot in store – both new and remastered,” Agen says. “It’s not just the quantity of titles either, but the quality of those titles. The list is pretty superb.” Doors open 8 a.m.-7 p.m., and the Bravas food truck will be onsite from 8 a.m.-10:30 a.m., too. 

When you go...

  • Be sure to grab some of the hottest Record Store Day LPs – first come, first served — like the Hives Black & White (limited to 4,000 copies), Cheech & Chong’s Up In Smoke (40th Anniversary Deluxe Collection), a South Park record (Celebrating 25 years of the animated sitcom) and DIO’s The Last In Line (40th Anniversary Zoetrope Picture Disc) – just to name a few.
  • For the Swifties: Taylor's new album (released the day before) will be in store (25 copies). Agen says Welcome Back is not typically a "strong Taylor Swift store," but they have come across some pretty rare Record Store Day versions of Red and Fearless in the past, which each sold for $700 and had Agen fielding hundreds of calls from all over the country.
  • Check out the stereo equipment and consignment streetwear, too! Agen is a master of restoring vintage stereo equipment, which you can see along the walls. His store also consigns some pretty rad streetwear. We're fans of its $5 rack, where you never know what kind of hidden gems you'll find for a bargain.

Learn more in our full Q&A with Agen here!

  • Browse: the free Tim Baron Art Show at Phan Gear Prints (the first art show in their new location) on April 19, 4-9 p.m.
  • Celebrate: the first anniversaries of Bravas and Draft Taproom. Bravas has deals planned all week (TBA) for its April 18 anniversary. Draft Taproom is hosting a Block Party April 20, noon-4 p.m., with vendors and live music.
  • Honor: Earth Day with a full weekend of events curated by Eco Fest. (Earth Day is April 22.) Two events on our radar on April 20 are the free Earth Day Market at Electric Works 10 a.m.-4 p.m., and the Sustain Indiana trash cleanup plus clothing and book swap on The Landing 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

What else? We recommend more things to do in our premium newsletter. Try it out with a 30-day free trial.

Got a story tip or idea?

Let us know at thelocalfortwayne@gmail.com.

Have a great week, Locals!

-Your Editor, Kara Hackett