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2019 Primary Voters Guide: District 17

Incumbent Zach Adamson (D) running for re-election against Joseph Denney (D) and Paula J. Barnett (R)

District 17

Zach Adamson (D), Joseph Denney (D), Paula J. Barnett (R)

District 17 of the Indianapolis City-County Council covers the north side of downtown. Incumbent Zach Adamson is running for re-election against fellow Democrat Joseph Denney and Republican Paula J. Barnett.

Zach Adamson

Zach Adamson has been District 17’s councillor since 2011. He is currently Council Vice President. Adamson has worked in both the business and community development sectors. In addition to running a small business, he sat on the board of directors for his neighborhood association, founded and led the Willard Park of Holy Cross-Westminster Civic Alliance, and served as NESCO Vice President. This experience gives Adamson a unique perspective into many issues that face his district. Adamson lives in the historic Willard Park neighborhood on the near eastside of Indianapolis. He is an active member of Life Journey Church. In his spare time, he volunteers for several civic associations and enjoys playing with the family dogs.

[Editor’s note: The following questions were the top six most popular questions submitted by and voted upon by NUVO readers. Barnett and Denney 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.?

Adamson: Quality of life issues will continue to be a driving force for how livable (and loveable) our city is. Sadly, many quality of life issues have a direct correlation to expenditures of tax revenue. Most people don’t know the city can’t just increase revenue. The state has to allow us to do it. I do think one of the most neglected QOL issues is the noise ordinance. Noise Ord violations are a major contributor to reduced quality of life and are often precursors to more elevated maladjusted behavior, and it’s something we CAN address, if we could afford to hire more enforcement officer/inspectors.

NUVO: I want to know how they are going to support the public school system.

Adamson: Public schools are an essential part of our city. The city, and specifically the City Council, has very little oversight over the school systems, compared to the school boards elected to work on public education issues. The one exception to this rule is regarding the Council oversight on TIF districts which pull resources from all taxing units from public safety to schools. As city councilor, I will continue to scrutinize any tool that pulls resources from schools, and vote against them. Even if I’m the only no vote, as I’ve done on many occasions. The IN legislature removed Council oversight from the Mayor’s Charter Schools six years ago.

NUVO: What are your plans to help Indianapolis have a more equitable distribution of resources to help marginalized communities without contributing to gentrification?”

Adamson: President Osili and I have spent a great deal on this issue as much of our districts have seen massive investments. We’ve urged the State Legislature to ALLOW us to identify long term residents in a community where the city is investing for redevelopment, and target those, what I call “Anchor Residents”, for a reduced rate of growth on their property taxes. It is a travesty that long term residents in communities that have struggled with crime and crumbling infrastructure to be forced out when things finally start to improve. To date, the legislature has refused to give this bill a proper hearing.

NUVO: How will you address the pothole problem?

Adamson: 95 percent of city funding for roads comes from the State. The State collects revenue from taxes paid at the pump for gas, and from the tax and fees for renewing license plates. The state determines the rate of collection and they determine the formula for distribution to cities. The City has 8400 lane miles to care for, which represents about 30% of the states responsibility for all state roads/highways, yet, they only allocate 8% of their budget to us. I will continue to advocate for the City to receive an equitable share of the road funding and an update to the formula the state uses that funds 3 lane streets the same way they do 12 lane streets like Keystone. The formula works great for small towns, but terrible for larger cities with bigger streets and, like Indy, has 250,000 commuters into our city five days a week.

NUVO: What will you do to encourage the increased use of alternate (non motor vehicle) forms of transportation in the city?”

Adamson: I have been and remain a huge supporter of non personal motor vehicles, mass transit, bike trails, and increased investment in sidewalks and walkability. Additionally, I support and advocate for better local laws regarding prioritization of pedestrians over cars and trucks.

NUVO: How do you feel about decriminalizing possession of personal amounts of cannabis, as other large cities have done?

Adamson: This question is hard to answer. The city cannot decriminalize anything. Criminal law is established at the state level. However, I do support decriminalization at the state level for personal amounts and favor an addiction treatment model over incarceration at the least. At the city level, and this is happening at city levels around the country, is a process called de-prioritization. This means the criminal enforcement of cannabis possession offenses be law enforcement’s “lowest priority.” I also support de-prioritization.

Rob Burgess, News Editor at NUVO, can be reached by email at, by phone at 317-808-4614 or on Twitter @robaburg.

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