March 12, 2023

Seven mayoral candidates talk public safety, housing and economy at forum

Seven of the candidates running for Indianapolis Mayor attended the event at First Trinity Church. (Jill Sheridan/WFYI)

Seven of the candidates running for Indianapolis Mayor attended the event at First Trinity Church. (Jill Sheridan/WFYI)

The crowded field of candidates running for Indianapolis Mayor attended a forum Sunday night.  Seven mayoral candidates – Republicans and Democrats- lined up to address a crowd of more than 50.

The town hall-type event at a northeast side church covered a variety of topics and started with public safety.

Republican candidates Abdul-Hakim Shabazz, a lawyer and journalist, and pastor James Jackson each said they would reinstate a public safety director. 

Republican businessman and former city-county councilor Jefferson Shreve said the issue impacts every other sector. 

“If I’m lifted into this position public safety is job number one,” Shreve said.

Indianapolis has experienced record homicides in recent years.

Republican John Couch said the city needs to be tougher on murder, rape and crimes against children. 

“Crimes we need to come down harder on,” Couch said.

Democrat and activist Clif Marsiglio comes from a mental health background.  He said the root causes of issues like violent crime must be addressed.

“I’m proposing that we hire 200 unarmed civilian respondents, to go out into the community focusing on mental health issues, substance abuse issues, homelessness issues,” Marsiglio said.

Democrat Bob Kern, a perennial candidate, said public safety starts with policy.

“Strong laws that protect our city,” Kern said.

Other issues discussed included housing, the economy and education.

Democrat candidate Larry Vaughn, also a perennial candidate, said past mayors have harmed the city economically.  He referred to the pandemic shutdown.

“If I’m mayor our city will never be closed down,” Vaughn said.

Republican Jefferson Shreve said the city needs to find long-term solutions to issues like housing.

“We can’t build a sustainable program on American Rescue Plan money,” Shreve said.

Jackson said he believes faith-based organizations are an untapped resource in the housing issue.

Shabazz said the city’s housing crisis should be addressed through landlord-tenant mediation and other solutions.

“What we need to do is incentivize, remodel, rehab these abandoned properties, ‘cause if we do that gets people in a home,” Shabazz said, “and I also agree with Pastor Jackson, we’ve got to teach people finance.”

Absent from the event was  Democrat State Representative Robin Shackleford, the only female running for mayor. Incumbent Mayor Joe Hogsett, a Democrat, was also not in attendance.

The event was organized by local nonprofit Ladies Under Construction.

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