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Indianapolis race for mayor: 3 questions for the candidates

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Posted at 8:18 AM, May 02, 2023

Mayor Joe Hogsett is seeking his third term as leader of Indianapolis, but several people want to unseat him.

Election Day is upon us. The polls are open, so here are three questions with some of the people running for Indianapolis mayor.

Democrats

Joe Hogsett

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Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett speaks Monday to City-County Council.

Joe Hogsett has been Indianapolis mayor since 2016 and is seeking to lead the city for a third term.

Q: What will you do about violence in the city?

Hogsett: "We have a three-year, $150-million plan designed to interrupt and prevent violence wherever it can occur. We have record amounts of commitment to public safety personnel throughout the city. We're raising the pay of first-year officers to get more officers to join IMPD. A wide variety of different commitments that are designed to help us keep every neighborhood in Indianapolis safe."

Q: What should be done to bring more affordable housing to the city?

Hogsett: "Last week, we announced the restart of the IndyRent program, which goes a long way toward keeping people housed in housing units throughout the city. Our Vacant-to-Vibrant initiative is trying to transform current housing into more affordable housing. And frankly, we can't do enough to provide the housing needs for the city of Indianapolis. So we're doing everything possible to make more housing available for more Indianapolis residents."

Q: What is your vision for the future of downtown Indianapolis?

Hogsett: "We committed $3.5 million to Downtown Indy over the course of the next 18 months to provide greater cleanliness, greater safety and greater vibrancy to the downtown. And we're talking with Downtown Indy and the Indy Chamber as to how we go forward after that $3.5 million in American Rescue Plan dollars has been spent."

Robin Shackleford

Robin Shackleford, a state representative from Indianapolis, is running in the Democratic primary.

Q: What will you do about violence in the city?

Shackleford: "One of the things I want to do about violence is have us focusing on those root causes. What is making someone pick up a gun? What kind of neglect are they feeling? So I want to focus on those mental health issues, making sure that everyone has a job with a livable wage, and also look at the family structure, look at how people are being affected by trauma in the family."

Q: What should be done to bring more affordable housing to the city?

Shackleford: "I really think we got to tap into the different types of housing that are out there, whether that be 3D-printed housing or tiny homes. We need to start investing more in truly affordable housing, making sure that we're using some of that downtown TIF money into some of those surrounding areas in our neighborhoods, like the Martindale-Brightwood area, like over by Dr. Martin Luther King Street. So as long as they benefit downtown, you're able to use some of that TIF money to make sure that we have affordable housing on those outside areas."

Q: What is your vision for the future of downtown Indianapolis?

Shackleford: "I would like to see downtown Indianapolis as an entertainment hub, as a creative entertainment trail connected to the Cultural Trail and connected to Mass. Ave. Reimagining Circle City Mall, making that more of a family friendly entertainment place, making it where people can have smaller conventions and making sure that our businesses downtown are taken care of and that they're getting that flow of traffic that they need throughout the year, not just for tourism. We have to get our neighbors, our friends back downtown in order to build up downtown."

Bob Kern

Bob Kern is a life-long resident of Indianapolis and a paralegal. He is running for the Democratic nomination.

Q: What will you do about violence in the city?

Kern: "The community needs to come together with the Indianapolis Police Department... The first thing I would do is hold some public meetings, have some discussions on the violence, the homicide rate, crime in general... and try to get the community to have a good relationship with the police department and the police department doing the same with the community... No one can say say they can solve crime in one day, or you know, even in four years. It's going to take a little while to solve this problem. Because none of us have a crystal ball. None of us see the future. But if I did anything, I would probably put more police officers out into those high crime areas."

Q: What should be done to bring more affordable housing to the city?

Kern: "We need to make sure we get the slum lords together, because you got people that own property that don't even live in Marion County, don't even live in the state of Indiana and who are leasing property out and they're slum lords.

Everybody should be entitled to living a decent life. But the city of Indianapolis itself, they don't even take care of their property and before the city of Indianapolis can talk about someone else's property, we need to take care of our own backyard. That's where the homeless fall because you have people who can't afford housing... So I would work with each and every agency; the township trustees, work with developers into making affordable housing, apartments, condos, things that will make Indianapolis safe but yet make the environment safe for the children. Because right now, the way some families have to live is just horrible."

Q: What is your vision for the future of downtown Indianapolis?

Kern: "I don't want to just focus on downtown Indianapolis. That's what the the issue is. They have forgotten about the rest of the city. What we need to focus on is infrastructure. I'm not worried about downtown Indianapolis. I'm more concerned about outside of downtown Indianapolis. There is crime even though the mayor says that we got crime under control. We don't have crime under control. But we need to focus on more issues than just downtown Indianapolis. We need to focus on getting our streets repaired. We need to focus on making sure that our children have a place to go to school where it's safe, and they can come out and play where it's safe, where there's no guns, where there's no drugs... We need to focus on the entire city, not just downtown Indianapolis. There are those that are suffering that need a mayor that's going to lead the city in in the right direction and right now we're going south."

Larry Vaughn

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Larry Vaughn is an artist, craftsman and a community activist, He is running for the Democratic nomination.

Q: What will you do about violence in the city?

Vaughn: "There's nothing you could do about violence, especially the mayor has nothing to do with that. The only thing he can do is to execute the laws and statutes of the state of Indiana and the ordinances that the City Council produces. I think one major step is to have a commissioner over our public safety so that they could actually spend the appropriations they get from the council without the transfer being interfered with by the mayor's office. It's a big temptation."

Q: What should be done to bring more affordable housing to the city?

Vaughn: "There's no such thing as affordable housing. As long as government gets involved in the housing through the HUD programs, which are when people came down to get these projects going, came to the city council to ask for actual incentive packages and tax abatement's... There's nothing you can do about about public housing, as long as we have the government syndicating on the sides of different corporations that provide housing and looking to up the assessments on the property. So I just think that that's not gonna happen."

Q: What is your vision for the future of downtown Indianapolis?

Vaughn: "We need to tighten our belt. We need to tighten up on all these vacant and abandoned properties... We need to be realistic about that and stop inviting people into our city and allowing them to take advantage of tax abatement's and so forth... I remember back in the '60s, '64 or '65, when there was a bunch of holes downtown. The same thing is happening right now. So I don't think there's really any future for downtown as long as we keep using downtown and the exposition centers and so forth as a patsy to do free work for conventions and so forth. And even in some cases like the Super Bowl, we're paying a tremendous amount of money to draw these people to our town and it's not benefiting anybody. It's certainly not benefiting me. We need to be more realistic for downtown. It's a disgraceful mess right now, and it's not going to be any better as long as we keep on encouraging people to move down there with incentive packages. And any good corporation, as soon as that runs out, they're gonna leave town. So we need to be more realistic... I just think that we need to be more realistic about downtown because I think it's on the brink of dysfunction right now and headed for receivership."

Democrats Gregory Meriweather and Clif Marsiglio have dropped out of the race but their names still appear on the ballot.

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Republicans

Jefferson Shreve

Jefferson Shreve is an Indianapolis businessman running for the Republican nomination.

Q: What will you do about violence in the city?

Shreve: "Violence is where we have to start. In the Shreve administration that is what we have to fix and we will fix it. With too many homicides and a whole lot more shootings that don't result in homicides but are just unacceptable, it is job one for any mayor to look after the safety of the citizens and the property. That's very much where I will start in my focus as mayor of Indianapolis... We need more police on the force. We've got to retain the ones that we've got. And we have to let them do their jobs. They are trained men and women on our department and we've got to bring them in, retain them and back them."

Q: What should be done to bring more affordable housing to the city?

Shreve: "I'm a Republican, which is to say I'm a believer in the market. Supply and demand. We need more affordable housing stock. If we can increase the supply, if we can encourage more people to invest in building new and more affordable housing to meet the demand that's there, we'll have price compression in a market economy. I will encourage and remove some of the obstacles and barriers that slow that investment in the creation of new housing stock."

Q: What is your vision for the future of downtown Indianapolis?

Shreve: "Downtown is so important because it's common turf for all of us. The Mile Square is everyone's neighborhood. We may live in Perry Township or Decatur Township, but we want our citizens to come into and enjoy, and share those things that make Indianapolis so special. And the Mile Square has to be clean; it's got to be safe; and you've got to feel like you want to and can be there... We've got to get more of our employers to encourage their people to work downtown so we return to that vibrancy that we had, gosh, when I started right out of college 30-odd years ago... We are hungry to return our city to those days with that sort of vibrancy in our city core. And I'm going to make that happen."

Abdul Hakim -Shabazz

Abdul Hakim-Shabazz is an attorney and political commentator. He is running for the Republican nomination.

Q: What will you do about violence in the city?

Hakim-Shabazz: "There's a difference between people we're mad at and people we're afraid of. People we are afraid of, they need to go to jail... People we're mad at, we look at some other alternative form of sentencing. One of the first things I do as mayor is bring back the position of public safety director. I would create economic empowerment zones. If you commit a crime in those areas you can be subject to enhance sentencing. I would work with churches, businesses, colleges, universities. What the church would do, they would open their doors from three to eight which is when kids are most likely to get in trouble. Businesses would provide the funding and colleges and universities would provide the mentors and tutors. I think we do those things. Let's take a holistic approach to dealing with our public safety so we can reduce violence and crime in Indianapolis."

Q: What should be done to bring more affordable housing to the city?

Hakim-Shabazz: "I don't necessarily like the term affordable housing. I like the term more attainable housing A lot of it is supply and demand. It really is. It is market forces. When supply is down and demand goes up, the prices go up. It's just that simple. But what I will try to do is when we have a developer who wants to build here, okay let's see what we can do in the attainable housing universe because there's not a whole lot of space here in Marion County for a lot of houses anymore."

Q: What is your vision for the future of downtown Indianapolis?

Hakim-Shabazz: "I would like to turn downtown Indianapolis into the capital of the Midwest... It's like making Indianapolis a financial capital. I would love to bring the Chicago Board of Trade and make it the Indianapolis Board of Trade... We need to re-imagine downtown... make it retail, make it housing... We need to bring people back downtown, but downtown has to be safe... Everyone has the right to live in a safe neighborhood."

James Jackson

James Jackson is a pastor and has served on the Indianapolis police merit board and the Indiana Civil Rights Commission. He's running for the Republican nomination.

Q: What will you do about violence in the city?

Jackson: "I'm going to bring back the public safety director's position... Indianapolis has a director of public works, now we have a director of diversity, but we no longer have a director of public safety and that's one of the areas where we're suffering the most. Another thing I'm going to do is work with a lot of state elected officials to make sure our 911 emergency service is working properly. It's one of the more immediate problems in that people have had to call 911 and be put on hold. I experienced that myself. I witnessed a robbery a few weeks ago and was on hold. After further research, I found out that they don't have enough telecommunications [workers]. I will also work with local and state legislators to end the early release of repeat violent offenders... As mayor, we would be able to work with the powers that be to make sure that people who are repeatedly committing crimes would not get out before they're ready to get out."

Q: What should be done to bring more affordable housing to the city?

Jackson: "We need a housing-first approach, making sure that people don't end up homeless in the first place. There are a lot of programs that exist in Indianapolis to help people budget and help people with their rent... Connecting people to faith-based organizations that assist people in paying their rent and mortgages. Also working with developers and faith-based nonprofits to create more housing stock in Indianapolis. We just don't have enough housing. I want to make sure that as quickly as possible we have affordable housing, housing that people can have access to very quickly and afford to live in."

Q: What is your vision for the future of downtown Indianapolis?

Jackson: "I want to make sure that downtown Indianapolis is vibrant again. I want to make it safe. IMPD's downtown (district) used to be the safest policing district in the city of Indianapolis and that has changed. We want to make sure that Indianapolis' downtown is safe, clean and vibrant. I think by making it safer, we can attract businesses to downtown Indianapolis. In 2007. Visit Indy worked on a plan for putting a waterfront and some activities down on the White River. Incidentally this is something that Fishers is opening up this summer, and it's created jobs for city of Fishers. It's going to create revenue for them. In Indianapolis, we have two natural waterways that flow through downtown. And so Visit Indy estimated that we could draw 5 million new visitors every year to Indianapolis if we were to develop that. I think that COVID was a good time to clean up the waterways, but under my administration, we'll get that cleaned up and make full use of what God has given us."

John Couch

John Couch founded an animal rescue non-profit and is seeking the Republican nomination.

Q: What will you do about violence in the city?

Couch: "The first part is self control. I don't know where people have gone but it seems like self control is just not there... I'd like to bring safety, listening skills, anger management and critical thinking into our community for anybody in Marion County, in the city of Indianapolis, but also in our schools. The other thing I want is a system that helps our law enforcement find the suspects as they are leaving the scene of the crime, because by the time you call 911 and go through your wait and everything else, the majority of the time everything's done. But if they can go back and view the direction they went, they might be able to catch them."

Q: What should be done to bring more affordable housing to the city?

Couch: "I would like to see more home ownership by individuals, not by investors. The city has freed up the money... for helping people with mortgage and with renters housing, which is great. But it just seems like anytime that there is money proportioned for those areas, it winds up getting divided into other entities, like homelessness, home-ownership, bringing property taxes down. Those are a lot of areas that we need to address but a lot of it is getting people to own a home.

Q: What is your vision for the future of downtown Indianapolis?

Couch: "It's not just downtown. It's the whole city and the whole county that we have a crime-free, safe community and a community that people want to come and live here. They come visit... they want to come back and hopefully, you know, down the road possibly they might want to own a home here. Moving the justice center... hurts some downtown businesses... It's almost like ghost town there. There isn't as much traffic around the City-County Building."