Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Brief History of the City of Lawrence, Indiana

Lawrence is one of the four cities within Marion County that were "excluded" under the Unigov policy in the 1960's. Under Unigov, the City of Indianapolis grew to include the entirety of Marion County, excepting only the excluded cities. Three of the cities, Lawrence, Beech Grove, and Southport elected their own mayor and council. The excluded cities also maintained their own police and fire forces as well as their own schools. The City of Lawrence is the in the Northeast corner of Marion County.

For much of my life, Lawrence continued to send one of the most corrupt and unethical men in the city to the mayor's office. Tom Schneider was a crook, a drunk, and a racist to boot. After nearly 20 years as mayor, Schneider decided to run for Marion County Sheriff in 2002. He defeated a former sheriff in the primary, a longtime friend of his named Joe McAtee.

During that campaign for sheriff against Democrat Frank Anderson, Schneider released an unusual mailer that included a blurred image of then-Congresswoman Julia Carson that was widely described as racist, or at the very least race-baiting. The image is below:

Tom Schneider Brochure The Republican pulled the image, but it provided a narrative that Schneider was running an in-the-gutter campaign, while Anderson was playing above the fray. Frank Anderson was always going to win that election, but when Schneider's primary opponent Joe McAtee cut an ad endorsing Frank Anderson, the deal was sealed. Schneider was so ungracious he didn't even attend his party that night, didn't speak to the press, and didn't even thank his supporters.

In between his race for sheriff and his reelection campaign, Schneider thought it would be a good idea to privatize the Lawrence water company and sell it for cheap to political allies of his. In a period of months water bills in Lawrence doubled.
Voters, already embarrassed by his behavior in the race for sheriff, were pissed off about the privatization. The Democrats nominated a political neophyte, Deborah Cantwell, to challenge Schneider in the race.

I remember the election well. I thought Lawrence was so Republican that Schneider, crook or not, would have the seat for as long as he wanted it. When election returns came in showing Cantwell in the lead, I assumed they must be reporting the Democratic precincts first. But the lead never gave way, and Lawrence elected its first Democratic mayor in recent memory. Cantwell campaigned hard on the water issue, and so that was a major focus of her administration. She sued the utility company, alleging (rightly) that the deal wasn't legit and the consumers were getting screwed. At the end, she decided to settle but that made her look like a failure.

Cantwell had her own problems, too. Throughout her administration she was teased about being a body builder, she was accused of not actually living in Lawrence (her detractors said she lived in Broad Ripple), she hired bodyguards due to several "death threats," and she was allegedly romantically involved with the city attorney. Democrats on the city council voted with Republicans on big issues and Cantwell wasn't seen as being particularly effective.

In 2007, she was running against Republican Paul Ricketts, the former Lawrence Township Assessor who lost that job in 2006. Ricketts, too, was an interesting character. Ricketts admitted to trying to run over a man who allegedly hit on his wife. That man, Ron Ryker, decided to run for mayor as an independent candidate. Cantwell was soundly defeated.

Paul Ricketts has continued in the tradition of the Mayor of Lawrence being a political punchline. But that, my friends, will require another post.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting history on Schneider. I'd like to hear more about the current mayor. where can I find information on Ricketts background, policies, and political agenda?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I can't believe you would try to write something that it "history", then try to post your twisted view of Lawrence...try just titling your work "whatever I want to say" and post it...maybe less people would be tricked. It's people like you that further the notion that the internet isn't good for obtaining ACTUAL knowledge. Thanks for nothing and wasting peoples time.

Anonymous said...

Ron Ryker DID NOT hit on Karen Ricketts ( Paul Ricketts Wife) in fact read the police report before you report false statements