More than anything here's the part that just flat out stuns me. We had this as our legal question, from Justice Shepard's decision:
In particular, Judge Tanya Walton Pratt of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana has asked us the following question, certified under Indiana Appellate Rule 64(B):Are you kidding me? The question is, 'Can Fishers eliminate voting rights'? The answer is 'Yes!'?
Whether a political unit may reorganize into a city under Ind. Code art. 36-1.5 (the “Reorganization Act”) in a manner that eliminates voting rights recognized under Ind. Code § 36-4-5-2 and Ind. Code § 36-4-6-3(i), including reorganization as a city with (1) a council elected entirely at large; and (2) a mayor appointed by that council.
We have accepted this question and now hold that Article 1.5 of Title 36 does allow a political subdivision to do so.1
I think the big learning curve for me here is that the consideration is strictly a legal question. Our question was framed in Indiana court, with it imposed against a particular law, the "Reorganization Act". They took an incredibly narrow view of the law. The law doesn't preclude a municipality from forming this kind of government, or any other. Shepherd points to a 'liberalization' over time in Indiana in reducing barriers and restrictions to the municipalities, and evokes a move away from Dillon's Rule, and towards Home Rule.
I'm not sure I buy that. My interest is in the people's self-government. Our petition was sandbagged by the Town Council so they could advance a plan crafted in its' own interest. I don't see that as Home Rule at all. A vote of the elected officials is nowhere near the same thing as a vote of people. Maybe I just badly misunderstand the term. Anything is possible. I thought this case was a slam-dunk.
The language of the decision suggests that a door is open for laws to be written that do specify the forms of municipal government entities can form. It offers no guidelines. So, wanna create a kingdom! Hey hey, go for it! Home Rule, baby!
What move comes next has not been determined. I do expect the Fishers Town Councilors to call a press conference, do a happy dance, and generally drag our names through the mud. Can't wait for that.