GREENFIELD – The three candidates running to become Greenfield’s next mayor addressed a packed room of voters Wednesday, Sept. 20 at a debate at the Hancock County Public Library in Greenfield.
The Hancock County League of Women Voters hosted the event, and Daily Reporter Editor Aaron Kennedy was the moderator.
The candidates answered a number of questions that were submitted by audience members, sharing their hopes for the future of the city and what sets them apart from their opponents.
Roughly 80 voters attended the debate, which took place just three weeks before the Oct. 11 start of early voting.
Each candidate started with a 30-second introduction.
Republic candidate Guy Titus said he felt he was the best candidate because he was the most qualified, based on his nearly 44 years experience working for Greenfield Power & Light.
“I feel like I would be your best mayor because I have been in the trenches with the city for over four decades. We’ve raised our daughters here, we’ve coached ball, we’ve been involved with many different organizations around town … I want to be your mayor because I’m the best qualified,” he said.
Libertarian candidate Larry Silver Jr. touted his 13 years experience working in the nonprofit sector.
“I want to bring that experience to the city. I truly believe the city would be run as a nonprofit entity instead as for-profit,” he said.
The Democratic candidate, Nate Anderson, said his experience as a longtime first responder and military veteran have equipped him with the skills to lead the city.
He encouraged voters to visit his website, Nate4Mayor.com, to check out his plan for leading the city into the future.
Kennedy then asked the candidates a series of questions.
He first asked that, if elected, what would be their first official act of business and why.
Titus said his first priority would be setting up meetings with the city’s department heads, utility board members and other local officials.
“We have good employees with the city, but I want to make sure we’re all on the same page and make sure we’re all heading in the same direction,” he said. “Greenfield has a lot going on, and we’re going to address the issues. If you don’t have a plan, then you have a plan to fail.”
Silver said his first order of business would be to analyze budgets and get the city’s spending in order.
“The more we reach the budget the more we can give back at the end of the year to residents,” he said. “We’re going to stop the surplus and give it back on the residents because it is your money, not the city’s.”
Anderson said he would spend his first three months in office getting a good feel for how the city is run.
“That means having those meetings with our department heads and trying to conduct analyses so we can start streamlining the process,” he said. “With any good CEO or military commander, their first 90 days is just observing, trying to find those weaknesses and those strengths to find out what we can we sustain and what we need to do to to improve.”
Anderson also said he’d like to create a student mayoral council to gain young people’s input on the city’s future.
“Getting those kids’ perspective is going to be really crucial,” he said.
Kennedy then asked each candidate what their top three goals as mayor would be.
Titus said he would focus on revitalizing the downtown district.
“The current administration has a lot of growth going on down there, which everybody is excited to see, and I want to continue that,” he said.
Titus said he would also focus on making local businesses accountable for tax abatements, and improving the quality of life in Greenfield.
Silver said his top priority would be improving the city’s traffic and roads.
“For a city our size we have some of the worst roads. We’re too much into building new things, which I call the ‘shiny new syndrome,’” he said. “Just because something is new and shiny does not mean we have to have it.”
Silver said he’d also restore property rights to property owners.
“A lot of people want backyard chickens. If you own property and pay taxes on that property, you should be able to do what you want. The city has no right to tell you how to live on your property. That’s part of the American dream,” he said.
Silver said he’d also work to reduce the city’s budget and stop wasteful spending to put money back into residents’ pockets.
Anderson said responsible growth was his number one priority, along with revitalizing the downtown and focusing on mental health.
He referred back to his “2050 and beyond plan,” which he said outlines his overall goals for the city.
“It guides the decision-making process ,” Anderson said.
“I have a 2050 and beyond plan I published in February. We have to start thinking long-term planning for this city, not just two or four years down the road. You have to think in terms of 10, 20, 30 years down the road,” he added.
Kennedy then asked the candidates how they each feel about using TIF (tax increment financing) and tax abatements to attract business to Greenfield.
Anderson said the issue should be judged on a “case-by-case basis” based on what each business has to offer the city.
“One of the drawbacks is that it’s challenging for cities to enforce penalties on those businesses who break the rules,” he said. “What we want is businesses who want to be productive members of this community. We can do that in several different ways.” Thanks to affordable housing and proximity to Indianapolis, “We are a premier destination right here in central Indiana,” he said.
Titus agreed that the city needs to work diligently to attract quality business “but we don’t have to give them the farm.”
Titus did point out the benefits of TIF monies.
“In last five years, $50 million in revenue from TIF money has come back to the city and saved taxpayers’ money. Thirty-three million has helped build infrastructure to the roads and all the avenues the people use to get around. It’s helped pay off $18 million in bonds towards utilities,” he said. “It’s a way to get money back to save the taxpayer money.”
Silver, on the other hand, said he is “100 % against all tax abatements.”
Such abatements “just put taxpayers on the hook,” he said, pointing out that Elanco had recently pulled up stakes and moved its headquarters to Indianapolis.
Kennedy then asked each candidate if he felt that the current city leaders have been transparent, or if there were ways to be more transparent.
Titus said he feels they have been.
“I will continue that transparency,” he said. “My door is always open. I’m a good listener, and I think a good leader has to be a good listener,” he continued.
Silver said he thought transparency was lacking in the current administration.
“There is a lot that takes place within city government that goes on behind closed doors,” Silver said. “One thing I’ve been advocating for is transparency. I think we need to do a better job with our city council (online video) streaming, and streaming of (city meetings) in general. We’ve got to do a better job to get all the information to all the residents.”
Anderson said he feels the city can always do better.
“There is some transparency taking place, but the fact of the matter is we have to reach people where they’re at. Most folks get their information from social media … working class folks don’t have time to go down and speak to people at city hall. The website the city has is outdated My plan to to re-brand it and make it a lot more user friendly, and to create a library for all our city organizations so residents can search for anything they want to find. Our residents should be able to find this information without digging and trying to figure it out,” said Anderson, adding that all city government meetings should be broadcast live.
Kennedy then asked the candidates about the main thing that sets them apart from their fellow candidates.
“I will go with reducing the budget,” said Silver. “Working with nonprofits the past 13 years, I know how to work within budget and still keep operations going. The city is currently being run as a for-profit entity. Unused money (left over at the end of the year) needs to be returned back to the taxpayers.
“As President Calvin Coolidge said, collecting more taxes than necessary is legalized robbery, and I 100% believe that,” he added.
Anderson said his two decades of service to his country, as both a military member and police officer, set him apart from the rest.
“I have a lot of training in operations and strategic tactics, and those skill sets come in hugely at play. My 2050 plan is the summation of those skill sets I bring to the table,” he said.
Greenfield is estimated to grow by 14,000 people over the next decade, Anderson said, adding that he has the skills to lead the city forward responsibility. That includes making sure local police and fire departments have the resources they need to adequately serve the city.
“We need to make sure we’re squared away with that potential growth, and I have that plan outlined and ready to execute on Day 1 if I’m honored enough to be elected,” he said.
Titus said his four-and-a-half decades of serving the city is the biggest difference between him and his opponents.
“I worked for the city for 44 years. I’ve been in the trenches. I’ve been in your backyards to read your meters. I climbed poles and kept the electricity on on many icy, stormy nights. I’ve lived in this city, worked with other departments, and have worked for six or seven different mayors now,” he said.
“Many of the mayors have done great things and left us with some great legacies,” but we can always learn from our mistakes, Titus said.
“This current administration didn’t want to build a new water plant, or sewer plant, or animal control facility, but we had our backs against the wall,” he added. “By cutting corners, we drug our feet too long and now we’re having to do these kinds of things, where we should have went in bits and pieces.”
The candidates went on to cover a variety of topics, such as affordably housing, what business they’d like to attract, and how they plan to enhance the quality of life in Greenfield.
Each of the candidates said they have been canvassing neighborhoods and making phone calls to gauge what issues voters care most about.
They encouraged those attending Thursday’s debate to visit their websites or social media pages to learn more about where they stand on the issues, or to reach out to them directly with questions or concerns.
Ellen Manolopoulos, president of the Hancock County League of Women Voters, thanked the audience for taking the time to come out and hear what the candidates had to say.
“”We wanted to host a non-partisan forum where candidates address questions that voters want answered … With candidates representing three political parties, voters have an ideal opportunity to compare views on priorities and challenges,” she said ahead of the debate. “One of our main goals as the League of Women Voters for Hancock County is community education,” she said, adding that Election Day was quickly approaching on Nov. 7.
Voter registration for this year’s election ends Oct. 10. Early voting starts Oct. 11.
For more information on when and where to vote, or how to register, visit HancockIN.gov.