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5 mayoral candidates discuss veteran issues in election forum 

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Five mayoral candidates gathered last night on the city’s east side to answer questions centered on military veteran’s issues.  

Democrats Clif Marsiglio, Larry L. Vaughn and state Rep. Robin Shackleford; and Republicans John Couch and James Jackson, who left the forum early due to another engagement, met for the two-hour forum. Absent were Republicans Abdul-Hakim Shabazz, Jefferson Shreve, and Democrats Bob Kern and incumbent Mayor Joe Hogsett.  

The event was held at Amazing Grace Christian Church and was hosted by the Veterans Association of African Descendants and the National Assocation for Black Veterans. Dave Rozzell, a member of VAAD, moderated. 

Both organizations put the event together to hear the response of how the mayoral candidates would include veterans into their overall plan. 

“We know that any veterans voice should be important enough to be heard because we signed on the dotted line, we raised our right hand and took the oath and we went and defended our country,” Rozzell said. “We need to have somebody who sits in the City-County Building who has veterans’ interest in mind and has Black veterans interest in mind.” 

Before the forum began, Commander of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Chapter of NABVETS, Rhonda Seward, told the Recorder she wanted to hear how mayoral candidates would include the veteran population in their campaign. Seward also had concerns regarding the city’s infrastructure and safety that she hoped the candidates would address. 

The five candidates were asked two primary questions at the beginning of the forum. The first was: “Will candidates support increasing the disabled veteran’s property tax dedication?”  

Majority of the candidates agreed that it is important to increase the property tax deduction for disabled veterans, but some did not specify how they would include it with their campaign.  

“You’re talking about people that fought for us, that fought for our country and now you have many veterans that don’t have a place to live,” Shackleford said. “They cannot afford to live on their own so it will be a great benefit if we can increase that deduction for them.”  

 The second question: Will candidates support the increase in the percentage for Certified Veteran-owned businesses higher than three percent? 

While most candidates agreed that it would be important to increase the percentage for Veteran Owned Businesses, Vaughn had a different perspective on the topic. 

“There’s no favors in business. You cannot have the city of Indianapolis syndicate for you because you are a veteran. So you can forget about that,” Vaughn told the small crowd.  

Towards the end of the Q&A portion, Rozzell opened the forum up to questions from small audience of about 15 people. One audience question was: “What are candidates plans for homeless veterans?”  

Shackleford said she will be coming up with a homeless plan that addresses homelessness around the city. However, the state representative did not go into detail as to what that plan would entail or when it would be announced.  

“For homeless vets, we have to find affordable housing for them,” Shackleford said. “Right now, in our city, we our down about 30,000 housing units, so that means there is not enough affordable housing. And I’m not talking about market rate. I’m talking about what a veteran . . . what an individual can afford.”

Seward, who was in the audience, had mixed emotions following the event. 

“Some of the issues that I thought would be addressed were not and some of the candidates seemed to not know what the plan of action would be to support these various priorities,” Seward said. “I would like to have seen more in depth explanation of what plans they would have laid out for the priorities.”  

Seward was not the only one feeling unheard after the event. Rozzell said he was insulted the remainder of the mayoral candidates did not attend.  

“The fact that so many of the candidates did not show, including Mayor Hogsett, who did not even respond to the invitation…We took it as an insult,” Rozzell told the Recorder after the forum.  

Contact staff writer Timoria Cunningham at 317-762-7854 or timoriac@indyrecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @_timoriac.  

This article has been updated to accurately reflect the name of the church mentioned in the article.

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