Saturday, September 24, 2011

City Council Forums--Indianapolis, via Indianapolis League of Women Voters

The Indianapolis League of Women's Voters facilitated two city-council candidate forums. I attended and took notes on both--below is a report. I tried to limit my personal commentary, although I cannot guarantee accuracy of these notes.

City-Council Forum, 9/8/11-Marquette Manor:

Jose Evans, D; Susan Blair, R; Angela Mansfield, D; Sam Goldstein, L; Anthony Simons, R; Len Farber, D; Ryan Vaugn, R; Kostas Poulakidas, D

Goldstein—Rep & Dem spend money on sports that can’t pay for crime, sidewalks, public health. The only party that reps small govt
Simons: “want to make sure everybody’s views are heard”
Farber: “not your regular candidate”; biomed researcher, PhD in pharm; “scientists always look at the whole picture” “I believe in neighborhoods”
Vaughn: crime, infrastructure, alleviate tax burden
Poulakidas: Family heritage, personal contact with audience member

Working with neighborhood issues vs. abandoned houses

  1. Blair-ID houses that are abandoned; homeowners/neighbors should know and “rectify it”
  2. Mansfield-ppl aren’t taking care of property—call MAC/Health Hosp
  3. Goldstein, Simons—partner with NA to resolve problem
  4. Farber—open communication with neighborhoods and between councilors; deal with all stakeholders—bank, NA, neighbors
  5. Poulakidas “interesting question…starbucks everywhere…level abandoned houses to make a pocket park…. Play with my kids in these local parks…work with at large candidates”—introduced connection with at-large-candidates in audience
  6. Evans-personally collecting data and giving that to code enforcement

Audience Q—does council have gun control regulation and how can it be addressed

  1. Mansfield—ridiculous new law that allows guns in public meetings and public parks; we should advocate gen assemb for “home rule”
  2. Goldstein—illegal guns vs. legal guns; ppl who carry illegal guns won’t care about the laws anyway;
  3. Farber-old westerns all had guns, civilization came with the sheriff; guns are the responsibility of police
  4. Vaughn—CC can’t control guns, but can regulate “discharge” of guns
  5. Poul—CCC are bridge between govt and “us”—we can work with gov office; supports “home rule” (Mansfield)
  6. Blair—would support gun amnesty; “supports 2nd amendment”

Transportation—how do you envision public transportation in Indianapolis

  1. Goldstein—some cities spend billions and they run empty. We really need improved highways
  2. Simons—cost-benefit analysis. Supports looking at everything on the table.
  3. Farber—“problems do not stop at political boundaries”. “benefits of a booming economy accrue to all” “we have to think regionally and work with surrounding counties because it will benefit all of us.” Funding—public/private partnerships. Bring this to the public for approval
  4. Vaughn—it’s going to referendum, so what I believe doesn’t matter. It’s a public decision. Funded by sales tax
  5. Poul—70% of indygo riders are PT dependent—without the busses they can’t get to work. Cut routes mean workers can be late and get fired, hurting those communities even more.
  6. Evans—Govt Magazine—of the top 25 cities, we are 25th for transportation. What is the ridership, how will we pay for it?
  7. Blair—the most cost effective is light rail and bus; decided through referendum

Many cultural organizations are struggling. Your position on funding libraries, arts, etc, and would you support referendum.

  1. Farber-“a city without the arts are barely a city”; public libraries provide internet to those who can’t afford them.
  2. Vaughn—strongly favors referendum for large capital projects.
  3. Poul—concerned as economic development attorney when elected official say we can either raise taxes or cut services. There is a 3rd option, which is to invest so that revenue can be raised without taxes. Increasing quality of neighborhoods and value goes up, so revenue goes up without “raising taxes”
  4. Blair—referendum is GA, not council. Too much waste in govt, and we look to govt to solve too many of our problem. We pay enough taxes. We need to look for efficiencies.
  5. Mansfield—we have to first determine our priorities. I would not fund sports so much, redirect those to libraries, therefore don’t need referendums. That can be confusing and time-consuming, like CA, which has propositions for everything.
  6. Goldstein—arts should fund themselves

Personal/political philosophy of function of local government.

  1. Farber—people can exist in vacuums and it’s not a very good life. People come to cities because of the amenities we associate with cities—arts, small business, etc. it is the function of government to pool resources for the public good that the private sector cannot or will not do.
  2. Vaughn—take the least amount of tax dollars to provide the core of public needs. Most money should be on crime.
  3. Poul—to make the lives of everyday people a little simpler and better. I saved businesses and taxpayers $8.5M a year by eliminating useless fees under Bayh.
  4. Evans—ramble about his family—purpose of local govt is so families can live their dream
  5. Blair-use tax $ efficiently. Govt is too large. Govt exists b/c services that private sector cannot/will not do.
  6. Mansfield—provide adequate services and infrastructure to create safety and livability. Not a fan of privatization, mostly which lines ppls pockets, like the parking meter deal. City sold off utilities—that $$ is now going out of state, whereas it should be staying here.
  7. Goldstein—perhaps library; public safety; publicly funding sports isn’t a good idea
  8. Simons—strong fiscal conservative; will look at every single budget with fine-tooth comb and make sure we can afford it. Quoted Reagan—govt is not the solution, it’s the problem. We shouldn’t waste money

What would you do to make Indianapolis a more environmentally sustainable city.

  1. Vaughn—Ballard is first to create a sustainability office. Planted 50K trees over last 4 years. Many infrastructure projects are designed to improve sewage system. EPA cost Indpls lots of $$ by deeming it environmentally unsafe.
  2. Poul-promote ability to enjoy the environment, like pocket parks; think creatively as they pertain to all issues.
  3. Blair—trees provide oxygen and clean air. We have been planting tree. Local oil company was diluting oil with acid and putting into sewers—my organization helped stop that.
  4. Mansfield—curbside recycling. Build sidewalks to encourage ppl to walk to parks, businesses.
  5. Goldstein-Sewers keep backing up into ppls homes when it rains b/c of combined system. State and Fed govt need to be involved in helping fix this. That’s the biggest nonsustainability issues
  6. Simons—bike lanes; incentives for businesses (rebates); sidewalks
  7. Farber—pocket parks, trees, curbside recycling; indoor environment—smoking ban in all public places

Closing remarks

  1. Poul-govt is important. IBJ will be publishing article I wrote on these issues. “work hard and do good things”. Toxicity in DC is spilling to local level. We need to work together. CCC is “public service”, working with people, doing the tasks in front of us.
  2. Evans: Has led an opposition to get rid of a bad situation. With democratic council and mayor will have greater leverage to take care of my district.
  3. Blair: I’ve won many awards for public service, and sit on many boards. I understand housing code.
  4. Mansfield: My top 3 things—comprehensive smoke-free ordinance; sidewalks; curbside recycling
  5. Goldstein: bring a firm philosophy of small, less intrusive, more tolerant government. Will allow citizens to be responsible for our own well-being and not govt dependent. I am not beholden to special interest groups—I am funding my own campaign as a small business owner.
  6. Simons: A lot of energy and passion. Will hold regular town-hall forums. Keep district safe and strong. Sidewalks on Michigan
  7. Farber: Come with a different background and a different level of analysis. Come from grass-roots. Dem party didn’t ask me to run, but neighbors did. Parking meter shenanigans…
  8. Vaughn: Govern for the next generation of families. Recognizes Les Duvall in audience who is a former Senator.

At large candidate forum, 9/24/11, library, Indy League of Women Voters

Adamson-D, Barth-D, Hickman-D, Levin-L, Kalscheur -R , Malone-R, Rivera-R, Robinson-D

Barth-pub trans is critical; indyconnect needs supported; multi-modal pub trans approach; expand indigo, biking/walking, light rail; user fees, fed support, hopefully Gen Assemb
*Hickman-pub trans allows low income people to get to jobs, so needs greater funding
Kalscheur-$2B funding to expand funding
Levin-funding for pub trans has to be funded privately, not public for people who won’t use it. Can tax Marijuana to get transportation funding
*Malone-Indygo is inconvenient; spent first 23 years reliant on Indygo for transportation b/c no car in household. Hasn’t yet resolved this issue—needs to be expanded, but where is the support?
Rivera-Indy income is $500M, so where to come up with $2B? Technology is moving so fast, that trains may not be the best option
Robinson—Indyconnect; if Noblesville will benefit, they should help support it.
*Adamson—embarassment that 13th largest city is 100th; no transport means ppl can’t spend, therefore inhibits economic growth; “hub and spokes” model currently isn’t great—should connect local areas better

Abandoned Housing
Hickman-No house should be razed without neighborhood support. Can we rehab the house and put people in there. Sexual assault in field that was a razed apartment.
Kalscheur-10K houses deemed inhospitable; we have received funding to raze 2k of those; need to determine which ones we can rehab vs raze;
Levin—can we get the homeless into the abandoned houses; make the razed house fields into gardens; fields cost city money to cut the grass
Malone—Neighborhood stabilization fund for demolition of Keystone Towers; houses that are abandoned are uninhabitable;

Rivera—urban garden plots are in high demand, not abandoned houses.
Robinson—must first work with neighbors to see what they want done; jobs can be constructed by rehabbing; former prisoners can take those jobs
*Adamson—the 2K houses that have been put on the raze list are NOT the worst—it was a political decision and neighbors were not consulted
Barth-neighborhoods have not had enough attention; rebalance council priorities to focus on supporting neighborhoods; house govt employees near the communities they serve

Police leadership
Kalscheur-make sure they have the tools to get the job done
Levin-indy police is one of best in nation, but have bad press. Root of police problem is alcohol. Putting breathalyzer in every single police car—treat them like they treat us.
Malone-build on what we currently have in place; classes for leadership and training
Rivera-same as malone
*Robinson- has endorsement of FOP; rid position of public safety director and have chief of police; include officers in decision-making process to increase morale
Adamson-housing for rookie officers to get them involved in their communities, putting them into abandoned houses; force is 300 officers short of what it needs to be for a city of this size
Barth-is endorsed by FOP; create program to encourage officers to buy abandoned homes in the communities where they work
Hickman-lowest morale in this police force for a long time; police should be run by the person in charge of it—mayor

Where to invest energy money from Citizens Gas sale
Levin—save since things could get worse; invest what we can, but give preference to saving
Malone-gas sale was a good idea; mayor’s office has very little to do with education, so that’s not an option
Rivera—infrastructure investment is what we said we would do b/c it’s what citizens wanted; Indy has a $1.5B deficit to bring infrastructure up to “fair”; current matching funds available will make that investment money worth more
Robinson—invest in human capital, like education
*Adamson—street investment has shelf-life of 10 years; early childhood education has much longer investment life
Barth—this is a 1-time transfer of money; invest in both infrastructure and human capital—Kennedy’s vision—early childhood education, literacy, crime prevention
Hickman—citizens weren’t asked what this money was to be for, but were told. Part of money should be saved so we can get interest; should also invest in the future in terms of early childhood education
Kelscheur—early education helps kids to read earlier, but by 4th grade, ISTEP scores flatten for early vs regular educated children.

*Malone-getting federal funds from EPA to address it; finding previous owners and holding them responsible is next to impossible; without fed funding, council is limited; redevelopment is ideal but reclamation costs are prohibitive
Rivera-city incentivization to private contractors who want to redevelop it
Adamson—engage with community to find grant possibilities for reclamation
Barth—Fed gov is the primary reclaimer of brownfields; council needs to investigate that for Indy advocacy; nonprofits are already taking action and leveraging funds---we can facilitate those groups
Hickman—expensive, but there is a way to do it, we’re not doing it—why not; pocket parks
Kalscheur—expensive, but the money is there; I have overseen in Perry Township getting brownfield reclamation funds from Feds
*Levin—contamination comes from oil companies—get them to clean up their mess. 1000s of underground tanks contaminating the soil

Public vs Private partnerships—parking meters
Rivera—voted for parking meter deal; brought in top experts in the world; high quality meters and technicians; generate revenue for city infrastructure;
Robinson-supports private/public partnerships; current 50-yr deal is too long; we had the means to do it, but we sold it for 50 years
*Adamson—horrible deal; testified before the council, obtained 81 small business signature petition to oppose it; money is going out of state--$1.6B total, $1.2B is going to Texas—we are getting 0.4B instead of $1.6
Barth—looking through the lens of public policy analysis, rather than doing what we are able and should be doing ourselves, we outsourced it to Texas for 50-years
Hickman—make citizen lives simpler and more comfortable with tax dollars; if the street gets closed for repair, we still have to pay the company for the loss of revenue!!! The TX company proposed the 100 year deal. With the new parking meter deal all we got was higher prices and loss of revenue
Kalscheur—how many administrations did we go through that did nothing; we finally got something done; we can build a parking garage in broad ripple now
*Levin—one of the worst deals the city has ever signed; we can’t audit the TX books—we will give them all the money and give us back whatever they “claim” we get; that is unconscionable
Malone—10 year renewable option to get out of 50-year deal; 100year deal was never proposed; unaudited books is false

Smoking Ban—do you support comprehensive smoke-free ban?
Robinson, Adamson, Barth, Hickman—Yes
*Hickman—2nd hand smoke is #3 killer in the US. We are the largest city with no smoking ban; some companies won’t come here b/c of the lack of a ban
Kalscheur—Never. shouldn’t go into private businesses and tell them what to do
Levin—Never. Don’t want his friends fired b/c that bar shouldn’t have smoking; ppl can choose not to go into bars
*Malone—YES; huge tobacco cities like Louisville and Lexington have bans
Rivera—likes the current policy; doesn’t need govt to protect me from myself

Adamson—Kennedy has an ambitious plan—Ballard does not; #1 impediment to graduation is poverty; creating a more economically stable climate is the best thing we can do
Barth—it’s not good enough to say “it’s not our job so it goes to the state”—mayor can take a strong stand and exert leadership;
*Hickman—Mayor should be engaged; make sure charter schools are transparent; I taught multiple-handicapped preschool kids; we have lost an entire generation with No Child Left Behind—how many kids dropped out b/c they knew they couldn’t pass the test
Kalscheur—home-school; my kids are home-schooled; my wife knows she can teach her kids better than public schools; every parent should be able to make that choice—wherever they want to send their kids; on-line
Levin—charter schools;
*Malone—Hasn’t seen any plan from Kennedy; city isn’t who deals with education; could look at consolidating all schools in the county—we have 10 public school systems in Marion County and so only half of our tax base is IPS
Rivera—Mayors plan with charters and competition is good; has made traditional schools better by encouraging magnet schools; single-gender education
Robinson—as school board member and administrator; Ballard has ignored education for 3.5 years; kennedy wants to fund early childhood education; Mayor and council is the city executive branch should be strong advocates for education

Changing name of Georgia St. b/c of the Superbowl so visitors won’t be confused
Barth, Hickman, Malone, Robinson—ridiculous
Kalscheur—mountain out of molehill
Levin—has nothing to do with Georgia b/c of the song Georgia on our Minds
*Rivera—who cares, I’m open minded-what is the business evidence to support change?
Adamson—does not support; concerned that this change is to “market” this quadrant—a name change is no way to market anything

Economic Development—growing local business vs. bringing in larger businesses?
*Hickman—if you don’t get kids through schools, companies won’t move here, neither will small businesses survive. You therefore can’t get tax revenue to do any of the above things
Kalscheur—95% of businesses have less than 20 employees. The best thing you can do is have a stable, flat tax base and little red tape.
*Levin—we should legalize MJ—growing and possession; this would create cash flow
Malone—develop comprehensive tax increment finance program; support minority and women-owned businesses; need comprehensive economic development plan for the city
Rivera—code enforcement has streamlined the process of getting permits; keep tax rates low and predictable; be open to ideas and out of the box plans
Adamson—wouldn’t focus on Fortune 500, but 500 of his neighbors; what prohibits development of small businesses? Establish incubator system to develop small businesses; develop chamber of commerce processes that are expensive and prohibitive to businesses—I also have other ideas
Barth—Small businesses create 85% of jobs. Hire economic job specialist that goes into communities to facilitate jobs. As neighborhood association, they canvassed neighborhood businesses and asked—what can we do to help you—unanimously they said “get rid of parking meters”—which they did.

Closing Remarks
Kalscheur—ideas won’t come from top down, but come from the community
Levin—“are you better now than you were 10 years ago. Are the red and blue making you black and blue? If not go for the gold, vote Libertarian”
Rivera—contact me to tell me what you want—gives e-mail and phone; property taxes are now lower by 1/3, budget is balanced, murder is down
Robinson—“ Councilor—what city are you talking about?” looking at Rivera; “Those are debatable statements.” also gave contact information; need Kennedy as mayor; failed to support his critique of Rivera
Adamson—plugged all of the Democrats on the ticket and mayor
Barth—plugged all D’s and Kennedy—vote for us; neighborhoods should be the council’s priority
Hickman—is running in place of J Sanders who couldn’t run again; plugged the entire D team and Kennedy; budget isn’t really balanced, b/c it was shored up by a large sale fund derived from other administrations

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