Indianapolis mayoral candidates talk neighborhood issues in first face-to-face forum

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Joe Hogsett, left, and Jefferson Shreve

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and Republican opponent Jefferson Shreve shared a stage Thursday for the first time in the campaign, sparring most pointedly over how to address violent crime in the city.

Other topics at the forum hosted by the Historic Urban Neighborhoods of Indianapolis and Indiana Landmarks ranged from affordable housing and road funding to the future of the interstates in Indianapolis and diversity within city leadership.

Here’s what they had to say.

On roads, the funding formula

Several questions from attendees were on how the mayoral candidates plan to fix Indianapolis’ streets.

Both candidates said there is a need to fundamentally change the state’s road funding formula, which gives Indianapolis the least amount of road funding per lane mile and favors rural areas.

Shreve criticized the length of time road projects take. He said the city needs to become more efficient and equitable in repairs.

“It’s in the lower-income areas where potted roads can inflict the most damage to people that don’t have the resources to replace a bent rim or a tire,” he said. “Or if they can’t get to work, they lose their job.”

Both candidates also said they would support the work of the Rethink Coalition, which has called for considering the rebuilding of the south split of Interstates 65 and 70 at least partially underground to help reconnect neighborhoods.

Shreve was once on the board of directors for the organization but resigned when he filed to run for mayor. “I’ll be a big advocate for it,” he said.

Hogsett noted a recent visit from U.S. Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg and the $2 million federal grant given to Rethink and the Indy Chamber to study the possibility of  recessed segments of Interstates 65 and 70 in the inner loop, near the Fletcher Place and Fountain Square neighborhoods.

Pedestrian safety

An attendee also asked the candidates, “when are we going to take [pedestrian and cyclist deaths] seriously?”

Shreve said city officials need to be taking these crashes seriously now. He called it “an acute problem.”

He said decisions about traffic controls and safety improvements, like no-turn-on-red signs at intersections, should be made by individual councilors who hear about these issues from their constituents, rather than state legislators. A Republican state legislator attempted this year to thwart a City-County Council decision to put no-turn-on-red restrictions through downtown.

Hogsett said his administration is “dedicated to improving pedestrian safety.”

He said the city has added 20 miles of new trails, reimagined roadways to make them safer for pedestrians and cyclists and started the process of converting several roads from one-way to two-way.

He also pointed to a recent measure that gave Park Indy a profit share for ticketing vehicles in bike lanes or otherwise obstructing the right-of-way.

Diversity in leadership

Hogsett asserted that his was the “most diverse administration that the city of Indianapolis has ever seen.” Over half  of the leaders are women and 44% are people of color. The city has three female deputy mayors, two of whom are women of color.

Shreve said the city government is “hungry for talent” and that he would be “colorblind” in searching for cabinet members in a Shreve administration.

Crime, public safety

Shreve hit Hogsett on the city’s number of homicides, which he said would hit over 200 by the end of 2023.

The city had seen 167 homicides as of Sept. 26 and 164 at the same date in 2023.

He also mentioned the police shortage in IMPD, which is about 300 officers shy of full staffing.

“Yes, we’re hiring. We’re always hiring, but we are not retaining,” he said.

The crowd cheered when the candidate ended his answer with: “We’ve got to do better.”

Hogsett noted his administration’s infusion of $150 million over three years from American Rescue Plan Act funds to public safety and violence prevention efforts. He noted a 17% decrease in criminal homicides.

The city did see a drop of homicides last year, to 226, after a record-breaking 272 the previous year and 221 in 2020.

“We’re heading in the right direction and we’re heading in the right direction because this administration made this commitment during the course of the pandemic,” he said.

Future of Monument Circle

Hogsett defended Spark on the Circle, a temporary pop-up park that offers games and food and has has closed a portion of Monument Circle to vehicular traffic.

He said he believes open public spaces are critical to downtown’s resiliency. It may give city officials a “roadmap” to deciding if Monument Circle should be closed to traffic, he added.

Shreve said the Spark is “novel” and “pretty” but that if it is a precursor to closing Monument Circle, “I do not favor it.”

He said the roundabout is necessary to have a connected downtown. Owners of the Indianapolis Symphony and the Columbia Club are opposed to such a closure, he added.

Housing diversity, short-term rentals

The candidates addressed housing diversity and how to prevent property tax increases from driving out homeowners.

Shreve said housing affordability will vary across the city. More housing, though, will increase the supply.

These housing options are needed to attract more residents who will add to the tax base, he added.

Hogsett touted recent property tax relief efforts from his administration to help residents afford to stay in their homes. They includie a tax break for certain residents in the 2023 budget and a pilot program for the Riverside neighorhood in the 2024 budget.

The city will also is working to reorganize the troubled Indianapolis Housing Agency, he said. 

Shreve agreed that the increasing property tax bills were an issue.

“We don’t want to tax people who don’t want to move out of their homes,” Shreve said.

The city cannot cap tax increases, Shreve said, but claimed he would be “lobbyist-in-chief” at the Statehouse for these issues.

Candidates were asked what they would do to decrease issues caused by short-term rentals like Airbnb or Vrbo.

Hogsett said these short-term rentals have started to host local parties rather than bring in out-of-town visitors, which is a cause for concern.

State law preempts local governments from regulating these short-term rentals, he said. But he said his the administration is working to implement a registration and permitting program that is allowed under state law.

Shreve said he would work to curb the proliferation of short-term rentals in neighborhoods.

Working with the Indiana Statehouse

Hogsett said his Democratic administration was more successful at the Republican-dominated Legislature this year than in his previous seven years in office. He noted a grant program for a low-barrier homeless shelter. The city on Monday announced that it had bought three parcels for the 30,000 square-foot facility.

Seven unanimously passed budgets by the City-County Council  also show he is willing to work in a bipartisan manner, Hogsett said.

Shreve said he would “lean heavily into those relationships” with Republican leaders at the Indiana General Assembly as well as with leaders of the surrounding counties to get things done..

IUPUI realignment

The candidates agreed that the upcoming split of IUPUI into separate Indiana University and Purdue University opearations in Indianapolis will spur economic growth.

Hogsett said it would be “transformational” to Indianapolis, and especially downtown.

“Economic development in the 21st century for cities like Indianapolis and others, it really comes down to talent, attraction, talent, recruitment, and talent retention,” he said.

Shreve compared it to what Ohio State University has been for Columbus, Ohio, which recently passed Indianapolis in population.

“Purdue will be … released in a way to up their investment in Indianapolis,” he said. “…It’s going to, over the next 10 or 20 years, prove out to be our next big thing.”

Election Day is Nov. 7. Early voting begins at the City-County Building on  Oct. 11.

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6 thoughts on “Indianapolis mayoral candidates talk neighborhood issues in first face-to-face forum

  1. Both candidates are high as a kite if they think the splitting of IUPUI is going to amount to anything. What’s needed is a third university, distinct and equal to IU and Purdue. (Which, I admit, will never happen.)

    1. Joe B.
      + 1

      I don’t understand what our state leadership doesn’t understand about that.
      Indianapolis will never be a flagship University for either I.U. or Purdue.

      Indianapolis must develop I.U.PU.I. Into an independent university.

  2. So this is the flip a coin election. You will end up with the same person whoever wins. Very few new ideas for a city this size. Crime and poverty go hand in hand. Work to solve that and crime might fall. And as crazy as it sounds maybe it’s time to undo unigov. The city size is too large to be managed properly. Roads aren’t maintained, snow isn’t removed. Companies just get up and move north without any pushback.

  3. Glad to have two qualified candidates in a competitive race. It was good to see them engage with the public – and with one another. Kudos to HUNI and Indiana Landmarks for putting on this event.

  4. Shreve’s entire pitch is to agree with most of Hogsett’s positions and programs but that he can do it better. If he really cared that much about Indianapolis he would have “leaned into” (whatever that means) his relationships at the Statehouse when he was on the City-County Council to get some things done. Rather, his Retrumplican cohorts there just continue to screw Indianapolis for political reasons. Just this year , his good buddies over there banned the city from prohibiting no-turn-on red and, while finding a way to get Indy more road funding also required the city to match that funding from matching that funding with other local funds, thereby simply robbing Peter to pay Paul.

  5. Yeah, sure, we’ve got to keep the Circle open for the Columbia Club and symphony goers. Oh, and let’s not forget the heliport. It’s quite obvious that Shreve is mostly concerned with the welfare of the wealthy.

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