A teenage girl sporting a Chatard t-shirt opens the screen door to a Sherman Dr. ranch home, gamely taking a flyer from Carey Hamilton, Democratic candidate for City-County Council District Four. For a second time this year, Hamilton is attempting to walk every street of her Northside district, knocking on the doors of registered voters — at least those of Democrats and moderate Republicans — before Election Day on Nov. 6.
Taking a look at Hamilton’s literature (hamiltonforindy.org), the teen explains that while she volunteered for the Republican primaries earlier in the year, it was just to help a friend’s mom — she will be 18 in a few weeks, and she plans to vote Democratic. Hamilton may have met some entrenched Republicans on her walk — one friendly but unconvinced fifty-something man informs her, “You know this is a Republican street, right” — but for this neophyte, a knock on the door from a candidate can make a difference. She and Hamilton chat for a few minutes, as she nods along to some ideas the candidate throws out — more sidewalks in and between neighborhoods, free curb-side recycling.
Hamilton, 35, believes that the fourth district (from 38th St. to 96th St. north to south, and roughly Keystone Ave. to Emerson Ave. east to west) is getting younger and more progressive, something that bodes well for a Democrat trying to win in an area that has voted Republican for over three decades.
Republican Scott Schneider has chosen not to run, making this year the first without a Schneider in the fourth district in 35 years: William G. Schneider held the seat until his son succeeded him in 1999. Schneider voted against domestic partner benefits and a living wage for city employees, arguing that a “‘Living wage’ ultimately means no wage” on campaign materials. Hamilton knocked off a challenger in the primary — jeweler Pam Hickman — and she now faces Republican candidate Christine Scales.
Property taxes vex most
Not unexpectedly, most homeowners on Sherman Dr. are upset about increases in their property tax bill — one man threatens to split town if his house isn’t fairly reappraised. Asked by several residents how she might alleviate their tax burden, she puts forward this proposal:
“I feel that we really have to move forward on full consolidation. We’ve seen in Washington Township that the fire merger has saved millions of dollars. I believe we really need to consolidate the township government, not just fire. I went to a township board meeting recently, and I commend the public servants on the board, but I don’t necessarily think there needs to be that level of government in our city anymore. And if we don’t have that, we’ll clearly save tens of millions of dollars for Marion County taxpayers. And I think that’s something we have to do to reduce that overall property tax burden. It’s not OK for people to fear losing their homes, or potentially lose their homes, because of taxes.”
Public safety takes a close second to taxes when Hamilton speaks to residents in her district. She can draw from experience: “My home was broken into in June. Not my home actually — my garage — but that’s close to home.” Hamilton lives in the Rolling Ridge subdivision near Kessler Blvd. and Allisonville Rd., with her husband Derek and children Aden, 4, and Leo, 2. “Many neighborhoods have been hit this summer. There was an armed robbery not far from here. So I will work to make sure there are plentiful police officers patrolling our neighborhoods. It’s really important to be aware of what’s going on around you and to communicate with neighbors. It’s also important to make sure that neighborhood leaders are communicating with police officers who patrol this area.”
Farther down the road, Hamilton chats with an elderly man whom she first met during a walk through the area before the primaries. He’s concerned about his property tax bill — it went up about 75 percent, consistent with other increases on the street. He’s also worried about government waste — a nearby road project has gone over-budget, according to his sources, but he hasn’t seen anything in the media about it. Hamilton plans to keep her ear to the ground if elected, collecting other stories that aren’t fit to print, holding regular meetings where she will urge residents to ask her tough questions.
Leveraging human capital
A few blocks north in the district, Hamilton cites Binford Redevelopment And Growth (BRAG, binford71.org) as “a beautiful example of people working together to leverage their human capital, their assets, to have a voice to redevelop an area that was once blighted.” BRAG lobbied successfully for a major commercial tenant at 71st and Binford, where a mega-Kroger will be replacing a deserted strip mall. They have also been supportive of a new police substation at 71st and Binford, currently calling for donations of bottled water, granola bars and Gatorade for the police kitchenette. “They came together two years ago, then were able to get a Great Indy Neighborhoods grant (greatindyneighborhoods.org/), using private dollars, so there’s almost no public dollars in volunteer re-development so far. There are other areas in this district that I would love to help work with to recreate that model in whatever form would make sense.”
What would make sense in all neighborhoods in the district, according to Hamilton, are more sidewalks and multi-use paths (something a sidewalk-free Sherman Dr. could use). “Multi-use paths are one way to get more people out into their environments, and to connect over to the greenway system over at Fall Creek, and over to the Monon.”
She also hopes to push the Council beyond its ongoing planning stage on light rail. “The Northeast corridor is what is being talked about as a first possible light rail line. What I see as making the most sense at this point could be a light rail up Keystone Ave. I’m a big proponent of mass transit, I think we have to move forward…making connections to Carmel and the Northeast area, while serving our neighborhoods, making sure we have stops in our communities.”
Democratic Candidate for City-County Council in District Four City-County Council
Occupation: Environmental advocate and consultant for several nonprofit organizations.
Education: Bachelor’s degree
School: Indiana University
Family: Married with two children
Legislative goals: Consolidation of fire service and township government; investment in public transportation; encouragement of community-based policing