Abdul-Hakim Shabazz

To coin a phrase, “Indianapolis’ long national nightmare is officially over.”   Now granted, it was only for six weeks, but the governing body of this great city has been mired in chaos and dysfunction as now former (it has a beautiful ring to it doesn’t it?) City-County Council President Stephen Clay, with the help of some of fellow Democrats and a mix of angry and opportunistic Republicans, managed to swing a coup that would make a Latin American dictator proud.  

Clay’s ascension to the position of Council President created divisions and fissures in local politics the likes of which I have never seen. Clay was already a divisive figure with a checkered past, to begin with, i.e., substantiated allegations of sexual misconduct by a minor, a $14,000 default judgment levied against his church for failing to pay for office equipment, disparaging remarks accusing IMPD of being racist. And that was all before the deal he cut with Republicans to give them committee assignments and then what I could argue was the illegal firing of the Council Clerk which cost the taxpayers at least $395 an hour.

And now he is gone, and not just from the Presidency.  On February 23, the Council Committee on Committees which consists of President Vop Osili, Republican Minority Leader Mike McQuillen and Democratic Majority Leader Monroe Gray approved a new list of committee assignments and Clay was removed as chairman of the Public Safety Committee, a position he appointed himself to earlier this year shortly after the coup.

I am told Clay is despondent and still can’t believe what happened. He is not the only one. He was backed by a group called the “Concerned Clergy” a group of African-American pastors who are really more like “Afri-can’t” Americans because they have a bad habit of backing the wrong horse when it comes to the significant issues of the day. They backed the losing slate of candidates in the last IPS School Board election. They called for massive protests against a visit by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions last November to study how the Ten-Point Coalition has helped reduce crime in some of the city’s most dangerous areas. It turns out more people participated in the news conference than showed up to protest. With this type of track record, I should have known their support of Clay would not have been long for this political world.

It’s people like Clay and his supporters that give Indy a bad name and why they should never be allowed anywhere near power or authority. Clay’s reign hurt Indy’s reputation as a functioning city, and he cost Marion County taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal fees. And that was only with six weeks on the job. Could you imagine how bad it would have been had he been there for six months? By the time Clay and his cronies were done this city would have been one giant political pothole.   

Luckily, Clay’s reach exceeded his grasp, which gave the Council the opening it needed to remove him from office, and now we can focus on crime, infrastructure, and economic development. 

With new Council President Vop Osili, the body has a chance to hit the reset button. Those steps have already been taken with Councilors focusing on appropriating $14 million on potholes and street resurfacing. And from a political perspective, Councilors who were facing a likely primary challenge over their vote for Clay, now have at least a year to improve their reputations and rehabilitate their images with their constituents.  So, if you live in Indianapolis, and your Councilor voted for Clay for President, you are about to get the best elected official ever, so if there’s a problem in your district, let them know. I think you will be pleasantly surprised on how well they respond to your inquiry.

The era, make that, error, of Stephen Clay, is over. Unfortunately, he is still on the Council, but if there’s a God, the May 2019 municipal primary will take care of that, and then he really will be the biggest loser, in more ways than one, of them all.

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