"Republican Benjamin Hunter seeks City-County Council seat
One of the reasons that Republican Benjamin Hunter decided to run for City-County Council in District 21 is zoning.
No, that’s not an issue that necessarily draws people to the polls. And it’s not something you’ll see explicitly in his campaign materials anytime soon.
But Hunter’s informed advocacy of zoning plans could be crucial to sustainable economic growth in Warren Township and specifically District 21 (which runs from Irvington to Cumberland, and north to south from 10th Street to Raymond Street), and is as crucial to his commitment to run for public office as his career in law enforcement.
On a crisp Saturday morning, from a smart new Starbucks at Washington Street and Audubon Avenue in one of Irvington’s most prosperous and well-maintained neighborhoods, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Sgt. Benjamin Hunter explains his position on economic growth vs. urban sprawl.
“If you want to develop on the Eastside, you should have to do it within the Comprehensive Plan and within existing neighborhood structures,” he says. “Don’t come in and just inundate the market with homes with price points that are going to attract individuals who foreclose in three or four years. And don’t come to the Eastside to be a predatory lender.”
Hunter could go on and on about density requirements (referring to the number of residential units per acre) or the Comprehensive Plan (a non-binding collection of zoning guidelines drawn up by the city in 2005), but it will suffice to say that he’s done his homework in the issue, and he plans to do what he can to facilitate “smart growth” if he is elected councilor.
Part of Hunter’s desire to run for office is the frustration he felt as an average citizen when he recently joined his neighbors to fight a development along Prospect Street near German Church Road that violated density requirements.
The City-County Council refused to hear their argument in full council, a disappointment that has fuelled his desire to hew closer to design plans and listen to the needs and opinions of neighborhood groups. The development went forward, against the wishes of many residents, including Hunter.
An insider’s view
Hunter also has opinions about the city’s recent handling of the merger between the Indianapolis Police Department and the Marion County Sheriff Department. According to Hunter, there aren’t enough districts for a city the size of Indianapolis; park and airport police should be folded into the merged police force, taking advantage of existing officers instead of paying new salaries; and fire and police stations could be housed in the same building to save on operations costs.
“We’re great as one department, but the districts don’t often communicate,” Hunter says of the new police structure. “So you take a strong neighborhood in Irvington and you split it right down the middle. I was walking down the 21st block of Arlington, passing literature out, and a guy came up to me and said he saw someone steal a purse at the drug store just across the street. So he finds a police car coming north on Arlington, flags the guy down, and the IMPD officer says, ‘Well, that’s not my district. I’ll radio that in.’
“Community policing is hard to do when you split neighborhoods up,” he continues. “So I’m more for redrawing these beats by existing neighborhood standards. That’s what Goldsmith did, it was successful and it worked. Why we didn’t do it was an oversight; why we didn’t do it was because we only had a year to plan this thing.”
A commitment to bi-partisanship and peace
Hunter’s mention of Steven Goldsmith hearkens back to days when there was strong Republican leadership downtown. He’s fed up with the way Democrats have conducted themselves as the majority party, and as his first act on the City-County Council, he plans to propose an ordinance to require stronger ethical guidelines for councilors.
“It has to be a bipartisan approach to solve the city’s problems,” Hunter says. “The bickering and the procedural stuff needs to end, but to do that you need to have higher ethical and moral standards.”
And whether or not Hunter will work a bi-partisan approach as a legislator, he has a record of working with peaceniks in his spare time. He sits on the board of the Peace Learning Center, a nonprofit that teaches conflict resolution skills to fourth- and fifth-graders from Indianapolis Public Schools and Warren Township. Hunter was chair of the board before he stepped down this year to devote himself to the City-County Council race.
“The running joke was that I was the token Republican on the PLC board, but they elected me to chair. Whether you’re Republican or Democrat, how do you not agree with conflict resolution? Anything that PLC does is going to be icing on the cake to help reduce violence in the city.”
While Hunter is dedicated to being a public servant, he is also a firm believer in what he sees as the appropriate role of government.
“It’s not my role to be your social worker; it’s not my role to be your pastor. It is my role to foster those private-public partnerships that can assist us in having a more viable city and a city that works.”
Hunter’s opponent in District 21 is Democrat Joe Billerman; Republican Lance Langsford currently represents the district and is not running for re-election.
Find more information about Hunter at www.benjaminhunter.org.
Editor’s note: Our election coverage begins this week and continues until the week before the Nov. 6 elections with profiles of candidates, both Republican and Democrat, seeking to be members of the City-County Council. On Oct. 31, NUVO’s news coverage will be devoted entirely to the election, including responses to our candidate questionnaire and a complete list of polling places in Marion County. For more information, contact Laura McPhee, news editor, at email@example.com.