This podcast interview is available on iTunes, Stitcher, Player FM, and right here:
Michael McQuillen is the Republican District 4 councilor and minority leader on the Indianapolis-Marion County city-county council. Despite his council’s long name, he tries to make quick decisions on votes, including the difficult ones involving unseating the council president. We talk about those occasions, his perfect attendance, and more.
Q: I hope it is not too late in the year to congratulate you for winning a perfect meeting-attendance award in 2017. Why does the Indianapolis council prefer to honor people who attend all of the meetings instead of my preferred method of shaming people who miss any meetings?
A: That’s actually my crowning achievement for 2017, so we can’t take that too lightly. But seriously, I think it’s something that’s been done for 40, 45 years and I’m just caught up in the minutiae of it now.
Q: You’ve been on the council for ten years. How many of those years have you had perfect attendance?
A: I’m probably about a 50-50 hit or miss. But I generally hit all the council meetings, occasionally will miss a committee meeting here and there.
Q: Okay, gotcha. Well it actually was five out of the ten, and I appreciate you pretending like you didn’t have that memorized. Very convincing! In your second year on council, Republican Council President Bob Cockrum decided to alternate the adjournment between his vice president and the minority leader, rather than have the minority leader do it always. How strongly do you feel about being in charge of that part of the meeting?
A: Being the minority leader, there are very few bells and whistles that that person gets to use. The reading of the memoriams at the end of the meeting is one of the very few. As you point out, that has been my responsibility for the last several years now on council. I don’t know where it would rank in the hierarchy of importance in the council meetings, but I do enjoy brushing up on tricky last names sometimes when I’m on camera.
Q: Sure. I mean it’s ceremonial akin to the invocation and the Pledge of Allegiance. So would you be pretty protective if someone tried to take that away from you?
A: I guess I probably would. Again, it’s one of the few things that puts the spotlight on the minority party for just a very few minutes at the end of the meeting.
Q: Earlier this year when the council was choosing whether to retain the council president or elect a challenger, the vote stayed open for a really long time. Do you recall what was going on that took people that long to decide?
A: I’ve never understood in the ten years that I’ve been on the council why some councilors, especially if they know how they’re going to vote on an issue, sit there and wait to hit the button and be perhaps the last person. That’s great if you want to be on the news as the councilor that “made the decision” on how the vote goes. It’s not really true that that’s the way it works, but sometimes that’s how it’s perceived. My personal philosophy has always been to hit that red or green button immediately and move on.
Q: Is that something you’re obligated to do as the leader of the caucus? Or might that be why you’re the leader of the caucus: because you’re so darn decisive?
A: Good point. I do try to throw the button down fairly early for that reason. But also again, I just don’t want to be the last man standing. A few years ago there was a vote on overriding the former mayor’s veto. I was the only person to hit a red button that night. It was 24-1. But it was kind of lonely sitting there at the end of the 60 seconds the board was open and having one lonely, little red button up there.
Follow Councilor Michael McQuillen on Twitter: @mike_mcquillen