With the primary election less than two months away, seven mayoral candidates participated in a panel discussion to explain their platforms on a variety of issues, including public safety, affordable housing and crime.
The candidates – Democrats Bob Kern, Clif Marsiglio and Larry L. Vaughn; and Republicans John L. Couch, James Jackson, Abdul-Hakim Shabazz and Jefferson Shreve – each tried to position themselves as the best choice for the city’s future. They touched on many ideas but generally lacked specifics on policy solutions.
Conspicuously absent from the March 12 forum was incumbent Mayor Joe Hogsett, and state Rep. Robin Shackleford, both Democrats.
Primary Election Day is May 2, and the General Election is Nov. 7.
The event was held at First Trinity Church on the city’s far east side and was hosted by Ladies Under Construction, a mentoring program. Ibrahim Tanner, national director of media and public relations for United Sons and Daughters of Freedom, served as moderator.
The panel began with candidates introducing themselves and explaining why they are running for mayor.
Vaughn said if elected, he would bring up “important elements” that need to be changed in the city instead of focusing on the “emotional cries and helping the poor” because “there’s a remedy in our constitution for that.”
“If I’m mayor, our city will never be closed down for public health emergency that I deem as not necessary,” Vaughn said.
Shreve, a former City-County Councilman as a Republican who serves on Indy’s Metropolitan Development Commision, said his experience in municipal government will serve him well as mayor.
“I believe our city is drifting. I don’t think it’s what it can be,” Shreve said. “I don’t think it is what it has been and I’m running for the job because I think I can do better at leading the course of voices and concerned citizens to move our city in the right direction.”
James Jackson is a pastor at Fervent Prayer Church located on the city’s far east side. The Republican served on the Indianapolis Police Merit Board from 2012-2015 and currently is in his second term on the board of Indiana Civil Rights Commission.
“I’m running for mayor because I believe I can help make Indianapolis the best city to live in, in America,” Jackson said.
Several of the candidates talked about crime and the city’s decaying infrastructure in their remarks.
Shabazz said he is running to deal with crime, roads and “for these young people right here,” as he pointed to children in the second row of the church.
“Because it’s not just the next four years, it’s the next 40 years and what does our city look like 40 years from now,” Shabazz said.
According to Marsiglio, he is a “doer” and currently visits the community daily to speak with people on topics such as public safety, drug overdose and violence.
“I’m here trying to figure out what the best policy is that we can do to make this a better city for all of you,” Marsiglio said as he looked at the crowd. “I love this city. I want people in the city to see the same city that I do. This is not a city to be ashamed of, this is a city to celebrate.”
Couch said he is running for mayor because he would like to increase public safety, create a road lane dedicated to those who are walking or riding a bike, and revoke bond for crimes such as murder, rape and any crimes involving a weapon.
Couch would also like to improve the education system by providing resources to help students with anger management and critical thinking.
Kern said he wants to focus on the violent crime rate, public safety, homelessness and the city’s infrastructure. And he offered a specific policy action he intended, which raised the political climate at the event.
“I see our young African American children and just our children in general being gunned down,” Kern said. “And I see that our children are being given drugs and our children are dying from drug overdoses.”
Kern wants to place 215 officers in designated areas around the city where homicides are occurring, he also wants the community to have better relationships with the police.
According to the candidate, “we think they’re our enemy but yet they’re just human beings just like us,” Kern told the audience.
Before Kern finished his statement, Tanner interrupted with information on the city’s budget regarding the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.
“Mr Kern, right now the criminal justice budget for the city is 22% of the city’s budget,” Tanner said. “IMPD officers start off at $60,000 with a $10,000 bonus. How much more money do we need to throw out the problem?”
Kern responded, saying, “We have to look at what’s important.”
“What’s important is … our children, our safety,” Kern yelled. “It doesn’t matter how much money we spend to make our city safe again. Everybody deserves to be able to walk down the street, to hang out. Our children deserve the right to play on the street like I did as a kid.”
As the discussion continued, Marsiglio explained his stance on public safety, saying people should not be criminalized for their personal choice to use drugs.
Instead, Marsiglio said he would like to see those who use drugs be given resources to help them get better.
Marsiglio, who said he does not use drugs, told the audience about a recent trip to a Chicago cannabis dispensary. The Democratic candidate said he wanted to see what it was like for people who shop there.
“It was the cleanest situation I’ve seen, it felt like walking into an Apple store,” Marsiglio said.
Addressing the housing crisis, Couch wants to make sure residents have a place to live no matter their circumstance.
Couch wants to go to “private landlords” and create an agreement which would allow those who are on the Indianapolis Housing Authority waitlist to obtain Section 8 vouchers to get them in a home sooner.
That idea, however, did not sit well with Colonial Square Apartments service coordinator Madelyn Hill.
“Let me stop you right there,” Hill told Couch. “I have a couple of my residents who have Section 8 home vouchers right now… and they cannot find a house to even rent with that voucher because people do not want to deal with Section 8 because the stigma behind it.”
Hogsett is running for a third, four-year-term. He was first elected in 2015, beating Republican Chuck Brewer by a margin of 62% to 38%. He was re-elected in 2019, increasing his margin of victory to nearly three-to-one over GOP challenger Jim Merritt.
The winners in the Democratic and GOP primaries in May will face each other in the General Election in November.
The polls in Indiana are open on Election Day from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m.
For more information on where you can vote, visit www.vote.indy.gov.
Contact staff writer Timoria Cunningham at 317-762-7854 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @_timoriac.