Why are Republican Jonathon Elrod and Democrat Faye Johnson running for Center Township board? If Mayor Bart Peterson’s Indianapolis Works Plan is successful, the current makeup of township government would drastically change. This could include a scaled back township board and elimination of the township trustee positions. The township board approves the budget for the township trustee.
Elrod, who is — along with Johnson — vying for a seat left open by a Democrat board member’s retirement, said the trustees have important work to do in the meantime. “This position is the closest you can get to the people. The [township] board members are a voice for voters,” said the Fountain Square resident.
Johnson agreed. “I live in a neighborhood that has a lot of poor people and I want to help them,” she said. Johnson has had contact with the Trustee’s Office, calling it to refer people in her neighborhood for poor relief. “The Trustee’s Office has helped those people, and I want to be a part of that,” she said.
According to Elrod, even though the board would probably relinquish control over the budget, they may still have responsibility over distribution of poor relief. “And until that plan is passed in some form,” Elrod said, “there is still work to be done.”
Currently, one Republican serves on the seven-member township board. “It’s unlikely I will be able to make the changes I think are necessary; however, my promise is to bring as much attention to the board and trustee as possible,” Elrod said.
He’s also interested in going to work on what he sees as wasteful spending by Center Township. He points to statistics provided by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. These note that Center Township spends approximately $2.35 in administrative costs for every $1 spent on poor relief. By comparison, Washington, Pike and Warren townships spend more than a dollar less on administration than Center Township.
“This naturally raises questions about the prudence with which the township board is currently managing its budget,” Elrod said. “Is it necessary to spend $8.38 million out of a $12 million budget on administration?”
But according to Center Township Trustee Carl Drummer (Democrat), the study is based on inaccurate information. Drummer said, “What we asked for from the state is not what we spent.” He said the true numbers from that year are closer to $1.74 in administration costs for every dollar spent on poor relief. Drummer also stated that the study does not take into account counselors, security officers and other important administrative staff.
Drummer, who is not running in this election, has been outspoken in his opposition to Mayor Peterson’s Indianapolis Works Plan. Johnson, Elrod’s Democratic opponent who lives on South Alabama Street, voiced her support of Drummer: “Of course there are administrative costs, and we have to face those. But I think Carl Drummer is doing a good job and I want to help him in his job.”
Elrod cites a number of issues he wishes to bring up, including his concerns with the purchase and renovation of the Julia Carson Government Center, which cost over $5 million, as well as the proposed purchase of the Fall Creek YMCA, which he understands will be purchased for $1.5 million. No poor relief operations are currently run out of the Julia Carson building; instead, operations are run out of an office on Massachusetts Avenue — a site Elrod states is not convenient for poor-relief recipients.
Drummer said the Carson building has been a catalyst for economic development, including Fall Creek Proper. “This building helped preserve a declining neighborhood, and it hasn’t raised the tax rate,” he said. Drummer added the center has also provided meeting space for a number of neighborhood groups, including the NAACP, the Concerned Clergy and One-Hundred Black Men.
According to Johnson, “My Democratic women’s group meets there.” She said the group talks about community issues and finds ways to help children in the community. “These buildings are important to the neighborhood,” Johnson added.
According to Drummer, the YMCA purchase would keep an important building in the community that provides services Marion County needs. “It would house people that we are already providing shelter for to begin with,” he said.
Elrod also stated the current Center Township budget showed a $500,000 surplus. Elrod asked, “How is a surplus possible after two years of recession? Are there really so few people in Center Township that have lost jobs?”
Drummer said, “We provide counseling and job placement to help individuals understand that if they are here today, they don’t have to be here tomorrow. Before, the trustee just handed out money. Now we do outreach and community building.”