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Commons Remonstrance Leaves Columbus Officials Silent and Searching

As the Bartholomew County Clerk tries to verify signatures on a petition that is attempting to force a remonstrance on rebuilding the Commons, questions remain on what will happen if the remonstrance is successful.

In fact, the matter is foreign territory for most in the city’s government.

Columbus Mayor Fred Armstrong and other city officials are refusing to answer questions about the remonstrance on the legal advice of city attorneys. Laws prohibit government officials trying to sway opinion during a remonstrance, while operating in their official capacities.

City Council President Martha Myers, the only council member who will address the issue in public, said she does not know what the petitioners are trying to achieve.

“I don’t know. I haven’t seen it. I believe that you’d have to ask Mr. Lovelace because I don’t really know,” Myers said. “I haven’t seen the wording on it. Is it to stop the process of the Commons altogether? Is it to stop funding in the way it’s going to be funded? I do not know the answer to that.”

Columbus resident Mike Lovelace collected signatures for the remonstrance seeking a Commons work stoppage. If 100 of the 130 or so signatures he turned into the county clerk this week meet certain criteria, then a signature-collecting contest will ensue between pro- and anti-Commons groups.

Lovelace said if his side wins, it is his understanding the city will have to wait one year to begin work on the Commons project. He said [the city] will also have to formulate a different way to pay for it.

Bartholomew County Clerk Annie Hines is currently checking over Lovelace’s list of signatures. She attended a conference this week and asked clerks from around the state how to go about handling a remonstrance, since she has never handled one.

“A lot of them say they’ve never done them. I’m new. This is the first one for me. Bartholomew County’s voter registration staff did one before,” she said.

Starting Monday, Hines’s office had 15 days to complete verification of the signatures on Lovelace’s list.

Daniel Robison

Daniel started as WFIU's Assistant News Director in July 2008. He graduated with a B.A. in history in 2007 and earned an M.A. in journalism two years later. Daniel hosts Ask the Mayor weekly and the occasional Noon Edition. He also hosts Morning Edition on Thursdays, sleepily. Daniel's beats include everything News Director Stan Jastrzebski wants him to cover. And it feels strange to type biography of myself in the third person like this. So that's that.

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