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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Meet the candidates running for City-County Council District 13 

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Jesse Brown (left) and Elizabeth “Libby” Glass (right)

Two candidates are running for Indianapolis City-County Council District 13: Democrat Jesse Brown and Libertarian Elizabeth “Libby” Glass.  

Brown, 37, is a former teacher. He currently works alongside human services nonprofits.  

Glass, 36, works as an engineering draftsman.  

*Editors’ note: An earlier version of this story said that Brown is the Republican incumbent. Brown is a Democrat candidate and is not an incumbent. 

The Indianapolis Recorder and WFYI sent Brown and Glass six questions to help voters learn more. Candidate responses are presented in alphabetical order. 

Editors’ note: Responses were edited for style and grammar, and any numbers used were checked for accuracy. When a statement required more clarification or could not be independently verified, WFYI and the Indianapolis Recorder reached out to candidates before publication. Those instances, and those candidate responses, are noted throughout in editors’ notes, marked by an * and presented in italics.

Early voting opened Oct. 11. Election Day is Nov. 7. 

JESSE BROWN

What are the top concerns that your district’s constituents have shared with you, and what are the issues that you foresee affecting them most in the next two to three years? 
My constituents are very concerned about housing, infrastructure and the general trend of development in Indianapolis. It feels like there is one Indianapolis for tourists and visitors, with clean and well-maintained streets and attractive destinations and businesses. Then there’s the other Indianapolis, where our sidewalks and streetlights are nonexistent, people die trying to get to and from work due to the unsafe pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, people lose their jobs because the bus lines aren’t adequate, and property taxes seem to go up and up without paying for anything in the neighborhood. My neighbors don’t feel like the government cares about them. I will work to change that by advocating for the east side, bringing constituents into conversations to be part of solutions and staying fully transparent and accountable to the community. To that end, I do not accept contributions from any organizations – only from individuals. My top donors are an IndyGo driver and an IPS teacher.

There are two sources of inequality here.  First, assessed values of homes are going up in an unequal way, and so the 1% maximum property tax is being applied much differently depending on the neighborhood. Secondly: until recently, I believed as most people do that because our property taxes are capped in the state constitution, everyone pays roughly the same amount in their property taxes. This is untrue.  A constituent of mine presented me with this compelling but dense discussion from the University of Chicago  titled “An Evaluation of Property Tax Regressivity in Marion County, Indiana.”* This is similar to how low-income people see a much higher percentage of their income go to the government in taxes due to the more “flat taxes” of social security and medicare, which cap the amount an individual has to pay and thus let the wealthy pay lower percentages of their income. 

*Editors’ note: This is the study referenced.

Affordable housing is a major issue in Indianapolis. What measures should the council take to address this?
What the council SHOULD do is tax the rich and use the proceeds to pay for large, luxurious public housing projects like the Sargfabrik housing project in Vienna which was featured in the New York Times in May 2023. Reasonably speaking, as one of twenty-five councilors I can’t guarantee we do anything like that. One change I’d like to see overnight is an increase in affordable housing projects that are actually affordable. Too many reserve a few units for those making 80% of the poverty line* and claim they are affordable, when that leaves huge numbers of Indianapolis residents unable to afford the rent. I’m also in favor of tenants’ unions and rent control, though those have similarly bleak prospects with our current council composition.  When we have the second-highest rate of evictions in the entire country** and metro Indy rents have gone up 30% year over year, I think we need to embrace any and every method of keeping people in their homes while we create new housing and fix up that which is in terrible disrepair.

*Editors’ note: The Indiana Affordable Housing and Community Development Fund Manual states that 80% of Development-Fund assisted units must be designated for households at or below 80% of the area median income.

**According to data from the Eviction Research Network, Indianapolis had one of the highest national eviction rates before and during the pandemic. 

What is your top concern regarding public safety in Indianapolis? What steps will you take as a council member to address it?
My top concern is the way we treat some communities as though they have less of a right to exist in public and have a guarantee to health, peace and happiness. In my neighborhood in the 46218 zip code, the sidewalks are nonexistent, the streetlights are few and far between, there are no safe places to ride a bike, the busses come infrequently, the parks are poorly maintained, we have lead in our water and in the paint of our homes, and there are huge brownfield sites nearby.  Violent crime is a large problem in my district, but my neighbors and I understand that crime is a downstream effect of the lack of care we show our neighborhoods.  Besides infrastructure and transportation, we need a good jobs guarantee, a union and a living wage with every job that is subsidized by tax dollars, early childhood education and free community college. I’d love to see more programs connecting kids from neighborhoods like mine with apprenticeship programs in the unionized trades, who are hurting for workers right now. I think our police officers currently have an impossible job in front of them, as our society forces them to deal with mental health calls, alcoholism and substance abuse, despair and poverty, as well as the occasions where there are “bad guys” that need to be confronted. I think we should limit our usage of police officers to truly violent crimes and offer more unarmed, trained city resources to respond to non-life-threatening or nonviolent emergencies.

What specific steps will you take to address environmental concerns in your district that affect your constituents’ quality of life and life expectancy?
The reason I decided to run for office is because my nephews growing up in my zip code have ten years less expected life to live than they did when I moved into my house 15 years ago based on a 2015 joint study from IUPUI and SAVI. In the richest country that has ever existed on earth, it is shameful and inexcusable to allow children to be poisoned and our people to die young simply because of the economics of the area where they are raised. I would push for the city to find new revenue streams to devote to helping combat addiction, despair and violence that are significant factors in the drop in life expectancy. But I would also push to hold those profiting from the inequality in our society accountable and demand they pay their fair share.  

What specific steps will you take to connect minority-owned businesses in Indianapolis with contracts for city projects? How else will you support growth opportunities for minority-owned businesses?
I think the city should be much more transparent in publicizing how it awards contracts, what the bids looked like and how many contracts the contractor has received previously. I fully support awarding contracts for minority-owned businesses, but I think occasionally a small handful of these businesses are the only ones applying for contracts. The city should do more to make it clear what options are available and even help young people build business plans to start collectives or companies to bid on these contracts. As I mentioned above, I’d love to see more programs connecting young people with the unionized trades. I would also like to see the city sponsor entrepreneurship programs and small business incubators. Right now you can drive down Mass Ave and see empty storefront after empty storefront, but the rent is so expensive that new entrepreneurs, especially from families with less inherited wealth, can’t possibly open up shop there successfully. The city should help people with good ideas come up with business plans and occupy some of this prime real estate for a year or two at a time to jumpstart the business.

What would you like to see happen for K-12 education in Indianapolis, and how would you work as a city-county councilor to achieve that?
As a former high school teacher in a charter school myself, I am very opposed to charters and think the right solution is massively increased funding for early childhood education and our public school system. Teachers’ unions are important ways to keep education rooted in working class communities, and I’m a strong supporter of ISTA. My former school did do a few things right: I’d love to see more job training and apprenticeship programs as part of high school education. I’d love to see more formal mentorship programs where students meet and make friends with adults in the community to give them more people with a vested interest in seeing them succeed. I’d like to see more city resources devoted to student-led projects like urban farms, newspapers and online media and cooperatives.

ELIZABETH “LIBBY” GLASS

What are the top concerns that your district’s constituents have shared with you, and what are the issues that you foresee affecting them most in the next 2-3 years? 
The top concerns of my constituents while I have been canvassing are public safety and residential street/ally quality improvement.

For public safety: Focus on protecting individual rights. I believe that the primary role of government is to protect individual rights, including the right to life, liberty and property. This means that the government should focus on preventing and punishing actions that violate these rights, such as murder, theft, and fraud. I would focus on those crimes over minor non-violent crimes. 

For residential street and ally improvement: I would support policies that focus on solving existing issues. Too many politicians focus on wanting to create a better world. I want to focus on making a better community. If each community focused on that, then it would compound into a better world. Hundreds of small steps become a mile of beauty and improvement. If the drainage and pothole issue in residential streets and allies are focused on, it will make a vast improvement in individual lives and in response will improve the lives of the whole community.

Affordable housing is a major issue in Indianapolis. What measures should the council take to address this?
Reduce government regulation: I believe that excessive government regulations hinder the housing market’s ability to provide affordable options. I will advocate for reducing zoning restrictions, building codes and other regulations that increase the cost of construction and limit housing supply. I argue that increasing competition among housing providers would lead to lower prices. Removing barriers to entry for new developers and encouraging a diverse range of housing options.

What is your top concern regarding public safety in Indianapolis? What steps will you take as a council member to address it?
Focus on protecting individual rights: I believe that the primary role of government is to protect individual rights, including the right to life, liberty and property. This means that the government should focus on preventing and punishing actions that violate these rights, such as murder, theft and fraud. I would focus on those crimes over minor non-violent crimes.

What specific steps will you take to address environmental concerns in your district that affect your constituents’ quality of life and life expectancy?
Communities should care for their environment. I want to encourage the free market to create solutions. I do not believe in compulsory recycling. If a citizen is likely to comply with recycling, then there is already a recycling option. Also, there are studies that show that some recycling processes create a larger carbon footprint. I personally recycle cans and glass. I have drastically reduced my plastic usage, but the culture should be the spearhead for that issue, not the government. Recycling plastics is a higher cost than simply throwing it away according to a 2019 report from the Center for International Environmental Law.* And only some plastics can be recycled and usually only once. It is better for the environment to utilize less plastic than to recycle them. Aluminum and glass can be recycled endlessly. And you don’t have to mine the metal/glass again which is better for the environment. 

*Editors’ note: Here is the study referenced. It finds “plastic recycling is rarely profitable and requires considerable government subsidies.” Its main argument is to decrease the use of plastics. 

I would also focus on improving our sewer system. Combined sewers (storm and sanitary) create a higher burden on wastewater treatment and, during wet weather, can decrease the water quality when CSOs (Combined Sewer Overflows) are used. We could either work on separating sewer and/or build more HRC (High-Rate Clarification) facilities to improve our drainage and water quality issues.

What specific steps will you take to connect minority-owned businesses in Indianapolis with contracts for city projects? How else will you support growth opportunities for minority-owned businesses?
I would propose reducing regulations and bureaucracy. I argue for reducing the burden of regulations on small businesses. I believe that excessive (or conflicting) regulations stifle entrepreneurship, innovation and economic growth. I advocate for streamlining licensing requirements, simplifying tax codes and eliminating unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles that hinder small business development. I would remove barriers to entry for new businesses and encourage a diverse range of viewpoints.

What would you like to see happen for K-12 education in Indianapolis, and how would you work as a city-county councilor to achieve that? 

Decentralization and local control: I argue for decentralizing education decision-making, giving more control to local communities, parents and educators. I believe that decisions about curriculum, teaching methods and school policies should be made at the local level, rather than by a centralized government authority.

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