Editorial: Mayoral candidates owe voters robust discussion of key issues, including poverty and education

Keywords Opinion

Like most people in Indiana—at least most drivers—we care about potholes. We want Mayor Joe Hogsett’s administration to fill them and fix the roads in a way that discourages the holes from reopening in the future. And we certainly understand why Hogsett’s Republican challenger, state Sen. Jim Merritt, would talk about potholes as he tries to prevent Hogsett from winning a second term.

But as the mayor’s race moves forward, IBJ urges the candidates to focus on a range of substantive issues—not just the stuff that works well in a soundbite, but the difficult questions about poverty, education, mental health and crime that affect the city of Indianapolis now and will do so well into its future.

Between now and the general election in November, IBJ will use this space to identify problems in the city and challenge Hogsett and Merritt to develop meaningful plans to address them.

Most of these issues won’t be new to our regular readers.

Indianapolis needs to tackle the widening gap between the city’s haves and have-nots, as outlined in IBJ’s series “One City, Worlds Apart” by reporter Hayleigh Colombo. Many parts of the Indianapolis economy are thriving—think the biosciences and technology sectors—but that will not continue if much of the rest of the city is struggling.

To make a dent in the city’s alarming poverty rate, the next mayor must take the lead in developing stronger strategies for public education and workforce training, economic development in all areas of the city, mental health and addiction treatment, homelessness, mass transit and violent crime.

We need to know whether Hogsett and Merritt are willing to take the lead in a regional revenue-sharing plan that will help shore up the city’s finances. We’d like to know where the candidates stand on a proposal from Rethink 65/70 to rebuild parts of the downtown interstate system below grade.

And we want to know how the candidates plan to address the challenges at Circle Centre mall, most notably the former Carson’s space that has been empty for more than a year.

We’re not suggesting Hogsett has failed to address all these issues. It’s his Criminal Justice Center plan that includes a new facility to address mental health and addiction. His administration earlier this year helped secure record federal funding to help address homelessness in the city. And he urged state officials to rethink some of their plans for the downtown interstates.

But Hogsett also declined to take positions on key questions about funding for mass transit and Indianapolis Public Schools during his first term.

We challenge Hogsett and Merritt to take positions on all the key issues. We believe voters want—and they certainly deserve—a robust discussion about criminal justice, homelessness, economic development and education. Let’s have debates that thoroughly vet those positions.

And let’s avoid ridiculous attack ads and negative campaigning that do nothing to further a civil discussion about the city’s future. As voters, we must demand more from our candidates and expect them to deliver.•

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