Editorial: IBJ, Indy Chamber to host Hogsett, Merritt conversation

Keywords Editorials / Opinion

Indiana’s municipal elections are just more than two months away and, still, next year’s presidential race is generating more discussion than this year’s mayoral contest in Indianapolis. Maybe that’s understandable. As the website The Conversation put it in 2012, presidential politics are our country’s true national pastime.

But at IBJ, we’d like to turn some attention to the mayor’s race, in which Republican state Sen. Jim Merritt and Libertarian Douglas McNaughton are seeking to unseat incumbent Democrat Joe Hogsett. And so IBJ is co-hosting Indy Chamber’s annual HobNob, which will feature the season’s first Indianapolis mayoral debate.

The HobNob will take place Aug. 29 at the Crowne Plaza, with festivities kicking off at 5:30 p.m. with the debate at 6:30 p.m. IBJ will live stream the conversation (watch IBJ.com for details on how to watch).

You might notice that we use the word “conversation” to describe the debate. That’s intentional. Our goal is to go beyond the typical debate setup in which a moderator or panel poses questions that candidates have one minute to answer with 30 seconds of rebuttal. Those events have their place, especially in a presidential primary in which there are 20-some candidates.

But those debates rarely produce anything more than sound bites.

IBJ is seeking instead to host a true discussion with the major-party candidates about the significant issues facing the city and the current and next administrations. So there will be no traditional time limits. No podiums. No props.

Instead, IBJ city government reporter Hayleigh Colombo will sit between Hogsett and Merritt on stage and lead what we expect to be a thoughtful, in-depth exchange about infrastructure, economic incentives and neighborhood development.

If you’ve been reading IBJ, you can guess what a number of the questions will cover: Circle Centre, homelessness, inclusive growth, mass transit and workforce training.

We will ask how these candidates will ensure that Indianapolis remains competitive with peer cities, some of which are growing more quickly than Indy, both in terms of population and wages. We will seek details about the candidates’ plans to close the gap between those who are achieving in Indianapolis and those who are falling behind. And we will talk about ways to improve neighborhoods without making the city unaffordable for the workers who serve as the backbone of key industries, including tourism, manufacturing and distribution.

We are confident Merritt and Hogsett will be sincere participants in this conversation and that they will come prepared not for the personal attacks and misleading statements that mark too many debates but for a thorough and fair discussion about what can make Indianapolis a better, stronger place to live and work.

Have an idea for a question? Email us at [email protected] and include “debate question” in the subject line. You can also tweet us at @IBJnews and let us know what you’re thinking about.

Hope to see you at the debate.•

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To comment on this editorial, write to [email protected]

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