October 22, 2019

Mayoral Candidates Debate On African American Issues

Mayoral candidates incumbent Democrat Joe Hogsett and Republican State Sen. Jim Merritt debated on issues that affect the city's black community. - Darian Benson/WFYI

Mayoral candidates incumbent Democrat Joe Hogsett and Republican State Sen. Jim Merritt debated on issues that affect the city's black community.

Darian Benson/WFYI

Indianapolis mayoral candidates incumbent Democrat Joe Hogsett and Republican State Sen. Jim Merritt presented plans to address the black community at a debate Monday night. 

The African American Coalition of Indianapolis held a debate on issues that affect the black community. Prevention of black homicides was a major concern.

Hogsett says all homicide needs to be stopped.

“The most important and profound way you can affect and reduce black victims of homicides is to reduce homicides," Hogsett says. "And that’s precisely what we’re about the business of doing.”

He says he has confidence in his current programs, including the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department’s shift to a community beat patrol system and 150 new police officers.

Merritt's proposal includes a commission of black males and a change in leadership.

"First of all we need to create an Indianapolis commission on the social status of African American males," Merritt says. "I think it that is very important, it has been successful at the state level. We can make it successful here."

He also says the city needs have a deputy mayor of public safety.

The candidates were also asked how they would decrease black unemployment.

Hogsett says his inclusive growth strategy will bridge the workforce development gap.

“While we help all businesses grow, we want to focus on the quality of jobs offered as well as the quantity of jobs,” he says.

Merritt wants to incentivize small black-owned businesses.

“We need to lessen the low bid contracts," he says. "Lessen the amount, so more people can get to the table.”

The final question of the debate asked the candidates if they believed black lives matter, or if all lives mattered. Hogsett and Merritt had the same answer -- both.

In August, the candidates were asked if their adminstrations would include a black agenda. Merritt immediately answered yes. He released his black agenda last week. Hogsett says his administration's agenda is already inclusive to minorities, although he did present his plans to address systemic racism in the city earlier Monday. 

The final mayoral debate will be held Oct. 28.

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