After listening to the questions asked at recent candidate events – such as the League of Women Voters forum and the Constitutional Patriots meet and greet – I have tried to compile what I think are the five top issues in the upcoming municipal election on May 5, featuring competitive races for mayor, city council and clerk-treasurer.
Finances/Debt – There exists a divide between some candidates about the size of Carmel’s debt and whether Carmel faces any financial risk in the future. Some, such as Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard, say the financial outlook is strong and some, such as his opponent Rick Sharp, say Carmel is teetering on the edge of financial risk. Other issues that tie into this include decisions made by the Carmel Redevelopment Commission, how tax increment financing is used to encourage development and ways to attract new businesses.
Transportation – It’s an issue that everyone can relate to because most people drive on the roads. People hate being stuck in traffic and there’s a debate about how to resolve traffic congestion, whether it’s to spend money on new roundabouts, such as Grey Road or 96th/Keystone, or whether the best way to resolve traffic congestion is to prevent overly dense new housing developments. Other issues that tie into transportation include the 126th and Auman stop sign, snow removal and handlings construction on U.S. 31.
Leadership/Transparency – Besides the positions on the issues, each candidate has different ideas on low to lead a city and put their ideas into action. If you are mayor, how do you handle a city council that disagrees with you on an issue? If you’re a city councilor and you think there’s a problem in Carmel, how do you raise your concerns? Some have called it being unnecessarily negative while others say it’s being a needed watchdog. Trying into the leadership issue is how to be transparent when sharing information with the voting public. Which meetings should be open and how should documents be released?
Infrastructure – Some have argued that Carmel hasn’t spent enough money on certain infrastructure improvements, such as improving drainage and fixing potholes, but others say that just isn’t true, especially when you compare Carmel to its neighbor to the south. Candidates have debated how much has been actually spent (they disagree on the numbers) and whether that’s sufficient and then it sometimes turns into a debate of specificity, talking about certain neighborhoods and roads and what should be done in each circumstance.
Old versus New Carmel – Trying into infrastructure and transportation issues, there’s a debate among some about which parts of town deserve the most attention. Should Carmel’s emerging downtown, with its new developments such as Carmel City Center and the recently approved Midtown plan, take center stage? Or should Carmel’s older neighborhoods with older homes be the focus since they are responsible for starting Carmel on its path to what it is today? Some say it’s not an either/or situation. Some debate about where the current administration’s priorities lie. But it’s certainly an issue and one punctuated by the mayor’s recent announcement of several new projects on Carmel’s eastside.