Candidates from both the Democratic and Republican parties had an opportunity to share their ideas. Photos by Allie McKibben.
ALLIE MCKIBBEN | STAFF REPORTER | email@example.com
SAMANTHA COHEN | STAFF REPORTER | firstname.lastname@example.org
In the last week of March, IndyStar hosted two town halls for the Democratic and Republican Indianapolis mayoral candidates.
The Democratic town hall was held on March 28. Four out of the five Democratic candidates attended the forum, including incumbent mayor Joe Hogsett, representative Robin Shackleford, community activist Clif Marsiglio and community activist Larry Vaugh. Bob Kern, a paralegal, did not attend.
The Republican town hall was held on March 30. The candidates in attendance were businessman and former City-County Councilor Jefferson Shreve, pastor James Jackson, attorney and political commentator Abdul-Hakim Shabazz and business owner John Couch.
The town halls were an opportunity for candidates to interact with the citizens of Indianapolis and share their ideas and campaign platforms.
The events were moderated by Oseye Boyd, IndyStar’s public engagement editor and an adjunct communication professor at Butler University. Candidates were asked questions gathered from the audience. Some questions were open to all candidates, while others were directed at specific candidates.
Primary elections are on May 2 from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Early voting starts on April 4 at the Indianapolis City-County Council Building. To register to vote or to check your voter registration status, visit the voter portal on in.gov.
Here are some key takeaways from the events:
DEMOCRATIC TOWN HALL
Solutions to the Indianapolis crime problem
Hogsett focused on the fact that increasing crime rates have been a growing issue in the city since before he took office in 2016.
- His plan for reducing crime is to continue the measures that his administration has already put in place.
- Earlier this year, his administration invested $150 million toward gun violence prevention over a three-year period — $9 million going toward police and $45 million going toward local community-based organizations.
“Last year alone in 2022, we saw the largest single decline in murders in the history of IMPD, Hogsett said. “Not to declare victory, but the progress is being made.”
Shackleford’s approach to crime in the city is to bring back the role of public safety director. She believes the mayor does not have enough time to dedicate solely to public safety, and wishes to establish a position that exclusively focuses on the matter.
- Shackleford would require law enforcement officers to release bodycam footage no more than 48 hours after an event in which there are allegations of excessive force.
- She wants to offer more safe places for youth, with programming dedicated to nonviolent conflict resolution.
“Our youth want more safe places,” Shackleford said. “I want to partner with schools, faith-based organizations [and] also community-based organizations to make sure that our youth do not pick up a gun — giving them training and alternative dispute resolutions, and then making sure we partner with organizations for intervention programs.”
Marsiglio is focused on the aspect of prevention when discussing crime. Preventing gun trafficking is one area where Marsiglio is focusing his campaign.
- He believes that people who have proven to be trafficking guns, or otherwise pose a threat to the community because of gun violence, should be imprisoned.
- Marsiglio wants to focus on being prepared on the issue of crime and gun violence.
“We need to be proactive, not reactive,” Marsiglio said. “However, with what we’ve put up with over the last seven-and-a-half years, we may have to be reactive so we can go back to being proactive.”
Vaughn’s approach to crime is to instate a commissioner, as he believes crime is not a mayoral issue.
- Vaughn plans to ensure the money appropriated toward public safety is actually reserved for public safety matters.
- Vaughn is insistent on this issue being a commissioner issue rather than a mayoral issue, claiming that this division of responsibilities will allow the mayor to focus attention elsewhere.
“If somebody’s gonna murder, they’re going to do it,” Vaughn said. “I don’t think that should even be something that the mayor is actually concerned about.”
Plans to fix infrastructure and housing issues in Indianapolis
Economic development has played a key role in Hogsett’s administration. During his time in office, there have been investments made along East 38th Street to strengthen infrastructure.
- Cook Medical made an investment in the neighborhood that is located along East 38th Street, which resulted in a factory being built, supplying 100 jobs to the community.
- This investment has also been used to bring supermarkets and food stores to the surrounding community.
“There’s a sense of purpose and there’s a sense of commitment,” Hogsett said. “Certainly on East 38th Street, what the investment there has done is [it has] rekindled the hope that other neighborhoods [may] have.”
Shackleford plans to use Tax Increment Financing, TIF, money to fund the development of infrastructure in the Indianapolis area. This money comes from incentivizing companies to develop in Indianapolis.
- Shackleford wants to use TIF money to invest in affordable housing in areas along Martin Luther King Jr. Street and throughout the neighborhood of Martindale Brightwood.
- Shackleford also wants to create enterprise impact districts in historically distressed areas to benefit the community.
“Within those zones, you have incentives to bring in businesses [and] give them tax incentives,” Shackleford said. “You give them money to train employees who are hired within that area.”
Marsiglio’s ideas about infrastructure focus on development in areas that are not in the immediate downtown area.
- Marsigilo notes that there are areas that the local government favors when it comes to infrastructure development — areas such as Nora have been fixed while other areas still have potholes.
- Marsiglio also mentioned that citizens should pay attention to the issue all the time, instead of just during elections, as that will solve the problem more efficiently.
“Most people don’t live downtown,” Marsiglio said. “They’re living on the East Side. They’re living on the Far West Side. They’re living where the Cultural Trail isn’t at.”
Vaughn believes that the affordable housing currently being built is an injustice to the people who actually need affordable housing. Instead, he proposes a commissioner of public works be instated to take over these projects.
- Vaughn says that the current system of people being given an apartment and 12 months’ rent is a form of enslavement.
- He also notes that affordable housing does not allow people to learn how to make it on their own and that it destroys lives.
“All they’re doing now with these new apartment complexes is allowing people to come in on the breadth of COVID money and giving them 12 months’ rent,” Vaughn said. “That’s enslavement.”
REPUBLICAN TOWN HALL
Solutions to the Indianapolis crime problem
Shreve said that the current administration has “missed the mark” on officer employment in the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, which he said is constantly short on staff.
- He said the understaffing of IMPD has led to the burnout of current employees due to police officers having to work overtime.
- Shreve also said that he wants police officers to become more involved with the community but to implement that, the IMPD needs to employ more officers.
“[Officers] don’t attend the neighborhood meetings, they are not communicating with citizens,” Shreve said. “You don’t see officers on the street, on the beach. We can’t get ahead of it that way.”
Jackson said he wants to work hard “in ending the revolving door” of prisons by terminating the early release policy for repeat offenders.
- He cited Landon Mitchell, an offender who committed a murder out on early release, as an example of why this change is justified.
“He didn’t get the help that he needed before he was released,” Jackson said. “I believe that if he had gotten the help that he needed, [the victim], quite possibly, would be alive today.”
Shabazz plans to bring back the Office of Public Safety and end the early release of repeat offenders.
- He said the mayor cannot commit all their time to public safety due to the other responsibilities of the position, but appointing a public safety officer would ensure that the proper attention is given to public safety in Indianapolis.
- Shabazz also aims to end early release for repeat offenders and cites that 80% of suspects have prior felonies.
“We need somebody who can eat, sleep, drink and think public safety 24/7,” Shabazz said.
Couch said he wants to work to bring “self-control classes” to Indianapolis and to set up new security cameras around the city.
- He explained the way to decrease the amount of crime is through the practice of self-control, and to implement self-control classes in high schools and colleges.
- Couch said he will implement cameras in neighborhoods with a GPS system so police are able to see where suspects run after a crime is committed.
“I’d like to bring [self-control classes] in not just for our students in school, but also make it available for everyone,” Couch said. “The investment is low, the gain is high … anger management, critical thinking classes have to be available for everybody.”
Plans to fix infrastructure and housing issues in Indianapolis
Shreve’s approach to the infrastructure problem in Indianapolis is to be selective about the neighborhoods that receive updated infrastructure.
- Shreve says that there is not much power in the City-County Councilor’s Offices and that elected officials cannot fix these issues as much as they would like to, especially since there might not be enough funding to do so.
- He wants to use his position to redirect resources as best as possible to fix the infrastructure issue but does not want to promise that he will be able to fix the problem.
“The juice is in the mayor’s office, and district councilors don’t have a lot of that,” Shreve said. “I’m determined to use the office to amplify the flow of some of those resources and get that done more efficiently, but I won’t make the campaign on this.”
Jackson defended his record of connecting communities through his work as director of the Community Alliance of the Far Eastside and his position on the board of the Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative.
- His goal is for Indianapolis residents to be able to safely walk to various stores, parks and places of worship.
- Jackson wants to source money through federal grants and different funds to raise money that would be used to improve and pave sidewalks throughout Indianapolis.
“There’s never a shortage of money as far as sidewalks are concerned [for projects such as] potholes and resurfacing our streets,” Jackson said.
Shabazz aims to gain permission from the legislature to impose a tax on gas stations to pay for infrastructure projects.
- He wants to utilize a TIF district around gas stations, which would collect money from the sales or gas tax to pay for road and sidewalk reparations within a mile radius of that gas station.
- Shabazz said he would get the TIF district approved by the legislature through his connections to lawmakers.
“Luckily, I have relationships with a lot of lawmakers because I’ve been covering the Indiana government for almost 20 years,” Shabazz said. “At the very least I get them to listen. And then if that idea doesn’t work, give us another idea to work with.”
Couch vows to take steps in marketing Indianapolis as one of the top recreation destinations nationwide.
- He wants to pave both bike and jogging lanes to encourage residents to enjoy outdoor recreation.
- Couch will include these lanes in neighborhoods where it is possible and will consult home owners about their preferences as well.
“I’d like to see the city of Indianapolis be one of the recreation leaders in the Midwest,” Couch said. “If not, then across the United States of America.”