Friday, July 22, 2011

Nora Community Council Forum Takeaways

I sat in the front row of the room at the Nora Northside Community Council Candidates' Forum last night. Besides the Mayor's decision to skip the forum, I found a number of things interesting.

Kennedy Scores Solid Points
Democratic candidate for Mayor Melina Kennedy thanked the Nora Community for welcoming her and her husband Bob in as small business owners. Kennedy spoke passionately about her vision for the city, and that vision includes making Indianapolis a city "where all children can achieve their dreams." She talked about making the climate even better for small businesses and the jobs that they provide. Kennedy, an avid runner, mentioned that she wants to try to make Indianapolis a more healthy city and improve our "F" grade in air quality. She said that she would not only support but advocate for a comprehensive smoking ban.

Kennedy also seems to be just about the only candidate who voices vocal support for traditional public schools in Marion County while also advocating for reform and change.

Chris Bowen=Serious Candidate
In the past, the Marion County Libertarians have been spotty with the quality candidates they have put up for Mayor, but Chris Bowen is definitely more Andy Horning than Fred Peterson (who may have been a good candidate but a bad campaigner). Bowen aimed a great deal of criticism at Mayor Ballard and seemed to agree with Melina Kennedy that the status quo in public safety and education in this city is not acceptable. He was very critical of the water deal. Bowen said, "Every city that has done a deal like this has had water rates go up and water quality go down."

Bowen said that, as Mayor, he would be the an education-focused Mayor and be in charter schools personally monitoring progress. His solution to reforming education, apparently, would be to make all public schools charter schools. Bowen cited his past service in the U.S. Army, charter school bookkeeper and small business owner as reasons he thinks he's qualified for Mayor. He also highlighted his father's service as a retired police officer as giving him a different perspective on public safety.

Democrats Democrats Everywhere
All the Democrats invited to attend the forum were in attendance. Kennedy was there along with John Barth, Zach Adamson, Leroy Robinson, Pam Hickman, Len Farber, Kostas Poulakidas, and Angela Mansfield. Also in attendance were Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry, Marion County Clerk Beth White, and outgoing At-Large Councillor Joanne Sanders. In fact, Sanders was the only incumbent At-Large Councillor in attendance...and she is no longer running for reelection.

At-Large Candidates
This was a one sided affair. Each At-Large candidate for the Democrats got a shot to hit on his/her pet issues. Adamson spoke out clearly and strongly with his experiences as a small business owner and the parking deal. He said that it's been bad for business downtown. Hickman called the selling off of city assets, "Madness!" Barth highlighted his experience as a neighborhood leader and education was Robinson's issue along with his previous elected experience as an IPS Board of Education member. Jackie Cissell, the lone Republican running for At-Large that showed, talked about her background and some of her community work as IPL's neighborhood liaison, but she was also tasked with defending the Mayor for not showing up at the forum. She spent most of the time on the defensive, and that was unfair. She should have had some friends there to help her. I will cover Bill Levin later.

Mansfield vs. Simons
No real fireworks between these two candidates who were physically seated as far apart on the panel as possible. Mansfield was two seats from the right, and Simons was the last seat on the left. Mansfield's opening statement was right on citing her extensive Council experience and record of service for her constituents. Anthony Simons gave a speech that really focused on big ideas and less on details. There appears to be division over the comprehensive smoking ban which Mansfield sponsored last time around and that she says she will get passed in 2012. Mansfield also was critical of the water deal and the parking meter deal saying that the city should have captured that money and done any updates or upgrades on its own without selling off assets.

Farber vs. Vaughn
Democratic candidate for Council in District 3, Len Farber, had the best line of the night. When the topic of the now-controversial Broad Ripple proposed parking garage came up, Farber cited his research into the proposal. Farber said that he has found that it will take 20 to 25 years for taxpayers to recoup their investment in the garage. "I don't think we (as taxpayers) should be the sugar daddy for some rich developer," said Farber. The crowd heartily applauded his comments.

Vaughn was right on message all night spitting out all sorts of statistics, numbers, and exaggerations. Vaughn highlighted emphatically, to some snickers and chuckles, that the city can buy back the Broad Ripple garage for $1 when it becomes profitable. That when is a big if, I'm told. He also claimed that the Mayor has lowered income taxes in town and has balanced the budget. Vaughn said that the water deal will lower water rates in the future. I wonder how that is true because my rates seem to be going up even though I'm using the same amount of water as always.

Poulakidas vs. Scales
Kostas Poulakidas and Christine Scales didn't get much of a chance to mix it up in a large forum such as this one. Scales highlighted her experience as a Councillor and as a hard worker saying that she has made serving her constituents a "full time" job. Poulakidas seemed to take subtle exception to that saying that he decided to run for Council when he was helping out a neighbor with a zoning case. "We received no help from anyone," said Poulakidas.

The Curious Case of Bill Levin Redux
Well, Libertarian At-Large candidate Bill Levin is one of a kind. Sitting between the business casually dressed Barth and the perfectly coiffed and proper Scales, Levin's spiked hair, shirt and tie, handkerchief in sportscoat pocket, jeans, and socks/sandals look stood out. Levin also stood out in his opening statement, "I'm not a blue. I'm not a red. I'm a gold," said the Indy pop culture legend. Levin then sat down saying he loved everybody and, "I'm going to let the others do their thing." Some of the looks on Christine Scales face as Levin riffed on the issues were PRICELESS.

Few. I was shocked at how smooth Ryan Vaughn is. He knows the party line, and he rarely deviates. That's probably why he has persisted as the President of the Council when others have been deposed. He did step out of line and joined the Democrats in a show of hands as someone that would support a comprehensive smoking ban in Marion County.

It was impressive to see all the Democrats on the panel and in the room. I've been told that the Nora Northside Community Council typically leans a little right, but the room seemed to be about 60-40 Democrat. Jackie Cissell even made note of the fact, "Even though this seems to be a Democratic crowd, I hope you will consider me."

The absence of Mayor Ballard and the other Republicans was certainly noted.


IndyDem said...

The biggest surprise was Vaughn telling us all that the city could buy the garage back once it be comes profitable for one dollar! Anyone heard this before? Where did this come from?

Anonymous said...

*Anthony Simons

William said...

I too was at the fourm, altough I might disagree with Jon on the percentages I would say it may have even been closer to 70 Dem and 30 GOP.

Although thats obviously just a guees and gut feeling based on the crowd and reactions.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jon, I was there last night and knew most of the people there. There were more republicans than democrats in attendence. They had voted for Ballard but are very disappointed with him. Most of them did not like Goldsmith's actions and now see the same with Ballard. They did not support the selling of the water/sewer assets, the parking meter deal, the vast sums to sports teams, the Broad Ripple garage, the removal of trees and vegation along the Monon Trail for Kroger, etc. Ballard has snubbed them more than once. Last night was one more example. They have had enough of Ballard.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Jackie Cissell is a class individual. It's a shame she's stuck defending the Ballard corporate welfare agenda.

Paul K. Ogden said...

That Nora group is historically mostly Republican. I think Anon 2:18's comments ar right on point. Republicans who are really up on what's going on are furious with the Mayor's actions over the past 3 1/2 years. The question is whether Melina Kennedy can connect with those conservative leaning voters.