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Marshawn Wolley: Candidates for county offices owe voters more

May 11, 2018

Wolley
Let’s deal with the reality that we aren’t likely to see a debate between most of the candidates for county offices, but that won’t stop me from attempting to frame some issues.

The Marion County Assessor’s office has intimate knowledge of property values. This office assigns values to homes whether they are in poor communities, rich communities or communities in transition. Do the candidates seeking this office see escalating property values in Marion County? Is this a problem? If it is a problem, what legislative fixes do they support? If it is not a problem—explain why it isn’t. I’d like to see the candidates educate the community on this issue.

The candidates for Marion County prosecutor should discuss the office’s role within the criminal justice system and how the incredible amount of discretion the prosecutor has can be used to embrace reform. Since 2010, there have been several reform-minded programs developed or strengthened under the incumbent, but the community needs to know about them, how they work and whether they are effective. This race should be about locking up people who are dangerous and figuring out the best way to handle people we are mad at without the use of the criminal justice system.

The Marion County sheriff’s candidates need to talk about the office and the new jail. New programs are nice, but what really matters is the candidate’s ability to implement the core functions of the office—running a jail and serving warrants. I think the candidates should also address the fact that the jail is the largest mental health facility in the county. I don’t think we have to take for granted that this should be the case. If the current reality is accepted, then what will the candidates do to make this the best possible outcome for individuals in need of services? If they are going to embrace the role of being the largest mental health provider in the county, then what should happen for this vulnerable population?

The auditor and recorder both run technical bureaucracies and the reader will be forgiven for not recalling their respective core functions. I think both sets of candidates need to explain the offices. I’d like to see some innovation out of the offices. I think the auditor can lead on transparency of the impact of tax-increment financing on communities. I think the recorder might have a role to play in assisting with tracking down absentee landlords.

The incumbent Marion County clerk led the effort to increase satellite voting and has established a legacy in winning expansion of that voting for the county. That’s a major accomplishment. My question for the candidates for this office is: Why are we still registering people to vote in 2018? Why aren’t people just automatically registered? I think the Marion County clerk should engage the Indiana General Assembly on this issue.

Indianapolis government is experiencing a quiet period of much-needed reform, particularly in the criminal justice space, at a time when cities are asked to lead on a variety of policy issues. I want to see our county elected officials be intentional about swinging for the fences when pursuing policy on behalf of constituents. We don’t have to practice business as usual, and government can actually help people.

Candidly, I want a reason to show up to the polls and to vote for something instead of against something. I’ll be at the polls in November, even if it is to turn in a blank ballot. Give me something.•

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Wolley is a lecturer at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IUPUI.Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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