"The 2007 NUVO Candidates’ Questionnaire
by David Hoppe, Laura McPhee and Scott Shoger
Our political wheel of fortune called the election cycle has turned once again, and here we are, getting ready to go to the polls to vote on local office holders. But if our larger voting cycle remains familiar, the circumstances of this particular round are, by any measure, extraordinary.
Things started heating up last spring. That’s when it began to look as if the previous year’s spike in homicides was less an aberration than a trend. Crime was on a lot of peoples’ minds, and so Mayor Peterson came forward with a proposal to do something about it: an increase in the Marion County income tax designed to put 100 more cops on the street and deal with the fiscal time bomb of unfunded police and fire pensions.
Peterson announced his tax proposal to a house packed with city employees at the Boner Center on East Washington Street in June. As he concluded his remarks, the mayor mentioned that he knew this was a bad time for an income tax increase because property tax bills were in the mail.
Within days, those bills were landing on dining room tables and the city found itself in the midst of a civic storm the likes of which even old timers here say has rarely, if ever, been seen before.
Enter the 2007 NUVO Candidates’ Questionnaire. There’s a lot at stake in this election. Not only are we voting for mayor, we’ll also be determining the balance of power in the City-County Council. At the moment, Democrats hold a slim majority. But, when it comes to local politics, what do designations like Democrat, Republican or, for that matter, Libertarian really mean? We wanted to find out.
So NUVO developed a set of 10 questions covering a range of issues and sent them to the candidates running for seats in the CCC. These questions deal with many of the issues we often hear people talking about — and that could easily arise in one form or another over the next four years — but have been drowned out of this year’s race by the uproar over taxes. We tried to get the candidates on the record regarding urban sprawl, recycling, pollution, schools, urban design and the arts — oh, and since we’re only human, we couldn’t resist asking about crime and taxes, too.
We tried to make the questions as direct as possible so that a simple “yes” or “no” response sufficed, although candidates were allowed to expand upon their answers if they chose to do so.
While not all the candidates got back to us, most did, and we thank them for being forthcoming. By answering these questions they have helped all of us who choose to vote get a better sense of what we might expect once the dust of our current fiscal predicament settles and we find ourselves taking another turn on that political wheel.
The poor Democrats of Indianapolis
After last election giving them control of the City-County Council, and then winning control of the Marion County Election Board, plus the predicted shoo-in of Mayor Bart Peterson for another term in this year’s election, Democrats had some legitimate reasons to feel good about themselves.
Then came the primary elections last May.
After years of complaining about election fraud, voting irregularities and political shenanigans, in November of 2006 the Democrats finally elected one of their own to oversee the Marion County Election Board, after nearly four decades of Republican control. Beth White took office as county clerk in January.
On the day of the primary, Tuesday, May 8, five of Marion County’s 917 precinct polls never opened to voters. An additional 135 more polling places opened late. This did not reflect well on White, on the City-County Council, the mayor or any other Democrat.
Without the Republicans to blame, both White’s office and an Election Investigation Committee appointed by the Democratic-controlled City-County Council spent the summer investigating the problems that denied voters in Indianapolis the ability to cast their ballots and determining how to prevent such problems from occurring again. According to their press releases, a much smoother, and fairer, voting process is predicted for Nov. 6.
Democrats aren’t just holding their collective breath waiting to see if voters can actually cast ballots next week, however. They are also waiting to find out who those votes will be cast for — with more anxiety than anyone would have anticipated at the beginning of this year.
Despite the fact that Mayor Peterson and the City-County Council have very little actual control over property taxes in Marion County, all politicians were vilified when homeowners received property tax bills this spring that reflected as much as a 300 percent increase. An “anti-incumbent” movement has gained tremendous momentum since then.
Suddenly “Bart lies!” yard signs began popping up with more frequency, as did his previously unheard of Republican opponent in the mayoral race, Greg Ballard. And while very few political observers believe the incumbent won’t win next week, Peterson has been exposed as vulnerable at a time when other Democrats in city office are also on the chopping block.
With only a one-vote majority in the City-County Council, Democrats don’t have room for over-confidence regarding the upcoming election. But the antics of the candidates themselves might be their undoing.
Andre Carson, grandson of the ailing Congresswoman Julia Carson, who isn’t exactly a great spokesperson for the future of the Democratic Party, took over the seat of Councilor Patrice Abdullah, who resigned this past summer after it was learned he wasn’t living in the district he’d been elected to represent.
Democrats were further worried about criminal charges filed against Councilor-at-large Ron Gibson stemming from a year-old case in which he allegedly shoved an off-duty police officer outside a club during last year’s Black Expo. Three misdemeanor charges against Gibson were dropped just a few weeks ago.
Council President Monroe Gray has also been the subject of much political scrutiny recently as questions continue to arise about his failure to report potential conflicts of interest with a city contractor and a job with the Indianapolis Fire Department.
Last Monday the City-County Council voted unanimously to form a bipartisan committee that will investigate ethical questions surrounding Gray. Although the charges against Gray have been the topic of public conversation for months, they came to a head this week when Republican County Chairman Tom John posted a Web site that detailed the allegations against Gray.
The incidents involving Abdullah, Gibson and Gray have been an embarrassment for Democrats who now face one of the most controversial and watched council races in recent memory.
And the Republicans?
The best they can come up with as candidates for just about every race is their assertion that at least they’re not Democrats.
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