District 5 of the Indianapolis City-County Council covers the north western-most side of the city. Incumbent Republican Jeff Coats is not seeking re-election. In the running to take his seat are Republican Adam Cox and Democrats Alison (Ali) Brown, Sherron Wellington Franklin, and Crystal Puckett.
Alison (Ali) Brown
Alison Brown is a small business owner and former nonprofit executive. After a lifetime of standing tall for others, Ali is running for Indianapolis City-County Council to make real change in her community. From her activist work with organizations like Freedom Indiana to her efforts connecting people with new careers as a workforce development nonprofit executive, Ali has dedicated her life to empowering people and lifting up her community. In her professional life, Ali has first-hand workforce development experience as the Executive Director of a large construction workforce development nonprofit, helping to connect people to apprenticeship programs in the building trades. Ali has helped hundreds of Indianapolis residents find jobs by leading the planning and execution of career fairs in the Circle City. As the previous Executive Director of the Indiana Transportation Association, the leading nonprofit representing mass transit in our state, Ali believes that an interconnected community benefits everyone and leads to a better Indianapolis. Ali has been married to her husband, Zach, for more than three years and in January their son, Dylan, celebrated his second birthday. Time and time again, she has proven her ability to lead our community to a better future. Now, Ali is ready to stand tall for Indy.
Crystal Puckett never wanted to be a small business owner. She had dreams of becoming an artist or entertainer. The ability to influence and create large scale change was in her DNA. Turns out, her ability to entertain has helped others get comfortable with uncomfortable conversations. “I find the greatest joy when I bring people out of their comfort zone,” she said. “Celebrating with people makes me happy and being with family.” And that is how the small business owner is able to openly talk about issues that have impacted her life, and her hopes of coming alongside community in her district. Her family was impacted by our city’s unjust bail system in 2011. Shame almost kept the Lawrence resident from sharing this story. But that all changed in 2016. This gross injustice led to Crystal seeking out reform for other families who have had their lives unjustly altered from our flawed bail system.
Her voice led to sweeping reform in Indianapolis’ no cash bail reform. She didn’t stop there. “As a volunteer and as a community organizer I’ve helped to make equity attainable for the marginalized and disenfranchised.” She is most proud when she can unearth untold stories that encourage empathy and bring ignored or silenced voices to light. “I put a real face to people who feel like politics isn’t for them,” she said. “I’d like to use my experiences…to help my community and city advance.” Puckett, has been a business professional for over 15 years, and is currently in the 5th year of running her own small business. Her ability to connect with people extends beyond the clients she serves. She is also an active member of Eastern Star Church. She also serves locally in her community schools, and works alongside Faith In Indiana where she was a part of the Transit initiative which helped expand transit and created over 10,000-plus jobs, the no cash bail and voting initiative. She is also involved in the current plan for violence reduction in our city. Crystal and her IBEW union proud husband are active parents to five amazing kiddos. Puckett’s love for people and heart for serving the community is her guiding compass.
[Editor’s note: The following questions were the top six most popular questions submitted by and voted upon by NUVO readers. Cox and Franklin did not return their answers before the primary election.]
NUVO: How will you address quality of life issues for Indianapolis residents — affordable housing, food deserts, transportation options for those without cars, air quality, water quality, schools, green space, sustainability, recycling, lack of park funding, etc.?
Brown: In 100 words, I can’t tell you how I am going to do all these things. But what I can tell you, is that these issues are a priority for me. I want to see ALL of Indianapolis flourish. Parts of this city are doing great, but too often, lower income communities, communities of color, and those of us outside of 465 are left behind. I have the experience as a community organizer to understand what it takes to empower communities and address these issues. I want to go to the City-County Building to lift families up and be your voice.
Puckett: In 2016 I began working alongside Faith in Indiana to talk to voters usually left out of campaigns and encouraged them to vote. Through working with Faith in Indiana I have seen the importance of every vote. I now see construction, funded by the ballot measure we passed by 19 points. In just two years, we tripled transit access for the city’s most vulnerable, got on track to generate 10,000+ jobs, and walkable affordable housing. That’s why I’m running for city council, because it’s time to elect new leaders that work for all of us, not just the wealthy few.
NUVO: I want to know how they are going to support the public-school system.
Brown: I am a strong supporter of public education. I will do whatever I can to support and protect our school systems. We are limited on what we can do as City-County Councilors, however I will use my platform and influence to support MSD of Lawrence Township Schools and all of the other public-school districts in the county.
Puckett: Every child, no matter where they come from or what they look like deserves to pursue their dreams and live their lives as God intended. Certain politicians want to privatize our schools. As a mother to 5 children who attend public school, I’m committed to doing what is right for all Indianapolis children. If elected, I will pursue expanded access to high quality pre-K for all and investing in public schools.
NUVO: What are your plans to help Indianapolis have a more equitable distribution of resources to help marginalized communities without contributing to gentrification?”
Brown: I believe in community building from the ground up. This means that any work done needs to be needed and approved by the residents. To be a good ally to communities means to work to empower the people who live there, help them get the resources they need, and then let them build their own power. We must be vigilant of the development creep that can happen as different parts of the city become the new “it” neighborhood. Businesses who land in residential communities need to respectful of the neighborhood, their values, and their priorities.
Puckett: I believe a families first city is one where every community has what they need to thrive. Marion County residents deserve affordable housing, economic development, and restorative justice to ensure accountability to the well-being of all our communities. I have and will continue to partner with people currently being overlooked to make sure we are all included in shaping our cities future.
NUVO: How will you address the pothole problem?
Brown: My district has major Indiana, Indianapolis, and Lawrence roads running through. The first thing I will do is work to bridge the gap between the three levels of government. Far too often, they push the blame off on the other entities. I’m tired of the blame game. It’s time to get things done. Indianapolis needs to build roads with stronger, more sustainable road materials. Many of the roads where quick paved for the Super Bowl with cheap materials and we are now, just 7 years later, watching them crumble. We need to do things right instead of doing them cheaply.
Puckett: Our cities strength is grounded in our ability to work together. Like many residents I’ve changed at least two tires, from a gaping pothole. Investing in safe roads, accessible transit, and strong infrastructure is an investment in each other and our common good. I look forward to working with Mayor Hogsett to strengthen the plan already underway.
NUVO: What will you do to encourage the increased use of alternate (non-motor vehicle) forms of transportation in the city?
Brown: I am a giant fan of alternate forms of transportation. In District 5, we have very few bike lanes, trails, or any other protected space for someone to travel on. I am hesitant to encourage people to use nonmotorized vehicles until they are safe. That being said, I would like to see the Indianapolis and Lawrence bikeways expand. When we work on our infrastructure, that should include bike lanes, sidewalks, curbs and other drainage systems, and protected bus stops. Connectivity is key to growing our community and making sure that people have access to all areas of our city is essential to lifting up marginalized areas and the people who live in them.
Puckett: For some residents, non-motor vehicle transportation is the main form of transportation to work and home. I support the added bike lanes and would support implementing more of them on our city streets. We deserve a city accessible through many forms of transportation. If elected, I will work to ensure that the city is accessible by all.
NUVO: How do you feel about decriminalizing possession of personal amounts of cannabis, as other large cities have done?
Brown: I support decriminalizing cannabis. I used to work with people with HIV and I saw first-hand how cannabis can help patients with AIDS related wasting syndrome, cancer, or side effects from another lifesaving medication. We need to give people the option to improve their quality of life. We must, however, make the conversation about those who are incarcerated, have been incarcerated, or have had their future plans destroyed because of procession of small amounts of cannabis. Before we move forward with decriminalization or legalization, we must have a plan to support those who impacted the most in our justice system.
Puckett: Families come first. Currently, our jails are filled with people who are mentally ill, addicted, or just too poor to post bail. My focus is on redemption not retribution. As a volunteer with Faith in Indiana, I’ve fought for nationally proven strategies to end gun violence and if elected, I will continue to fight to make sure Indy stays on the path to divest from incarceration and invest in what families need to thrive. I will consider and evaluate each and every plan put forth that is supportive of families and encourages redemption.