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‘All INdiana Politics’: Carmel candidates address growth, debt concerns

"All INdiana Politics" airs at 9:30 a.m. Sundays on WISH-TV. (WISH Image)

CARMEL, Ind. (WISH) — The winner of next month’s primary will have big shoes to fill.

Republican James Brainard is retiring after a record seven terms as mayor of Carmel. During his time in office, Carmel grew from more than 30,000 people to more than 100,000, placing it among the state’s 10 largest cities. Three Republicans are running to succeed him: Fred Glynn, Kevin Rider and Sue Finkam.

Fred Glynn

Fred Glynn is a Hamilton County Council member. He said he is running for mayor because it’s time to focus on neighborhoods and fiscal responsibility rather than growth.

Glynn said he blames much of the city’s roughly $1.5 billion in debt on the heavy use of tax increment financing. He said he would leave TIF districts in place if they can generate revenue to help pay down the debt but he also would bring in outside consultants to look for ways to eliminate inefficiencies that lead to high debt.

“I’ve done that when I was in county government, brought in a consulting firm to do an efficiency study of county departments,” he said. “We would need to do that same thing in Carmel to figure out a good fiscal plan going forward to get that paid down so that we can protect taxpayers in the city.”

Glynn said he wants to eliminate the use of tax incentives to fund Carmel’s growth. He said it’s time for city officials to focus on the needs of neighborhoods rather than encouraging high-density growth in the city’s core. Related to that, he said to limit gentrification, he would like to impose a requirement that any developer who tears down a house builds one of similar value in its place.

The retiring Brainard has drawn national attention for his work on environmental issues, including taking part in the national Climate Mayors initiative. This has at times put him at odds with national Republicans. Asked how he plans to build on Brainard’s environmental legacy, Glynn said he wants to ensure future development incorporates more green spaces, particularly among apartment complexes.

Kevin Rider

Kevin Rider is a restaurant owner and Carmel City Council member. He said he is running for mayor as a way to continue to give back and to continue Brainard’s tradition of leadership.

Rider said he would prioritize involving the public in any policymaking. He said people are more likely to buy into the decisions their elected leaders make if they understand what officials are doing and why.

Rider said he wasn’t worried about the city paying off its debt. He said Carmel officials already have committed to a schedule to pay it down and the debt only accounts for 17% of the city’s annual budget.

“I think it’s been made more of a political football in the last few elections,” he said. “It’s an investment in taxpayers. Without the amount of money that we’ve spent, we wouldn’t have the infrastructure that we have. We wouldn’t have the companies that want to come.”

On the city’s growth, Rider said his goal would be to focus on drawing businesses that fit the city’s needs. He said he would especially prioritize empty-nester housing and affordable senior housing. As for the environment, Rider said he would continue Brainard’s work connecting bike and walking trails and expanding the city’s use of electric vehicles and renewable energy sources.

Sue Finkam

Sue Finkam owns a marketing firm and is a Carmel City Council member. She said she is running for mayor because she wants Carmel to be the best place it can be for its residents.

Finkam’s website includes engaging residents and protecting Carmel’s quality of life among her goals. She told News 8 she means funding public safety and actively recruiting the kind of businesses Carmel needs most.

On the city’s debt, she said the $1.5 billion figure is a little misleading because about half of it actually was incurred by developers. As for the rest, she said the city already has a repayment schedule for paying off a mortgage. Still, she said the next mayor will have to be smart about spending, such as setting up sinking funds for the explicit purpose of paying off debt.

Finkam said city officials need to focus on smart development that preserves Carmel’s neighborhoods. She said the U.S. 31 and Pennsylvania Avenue corridors are good options for redevelopment and infill. Finkam said the next mayor should be strategic with growth and make sure dollars from tax increment financing districts come back into the city’s budget when the authorizations for those districts expire.

“We don’t have to say yes to everything that comes our way and make sure that we are really, truly delivering value to our residents with this development,” she said.

On the environmental front, Finkam said she would continue to follow the city’s climate action plan. She noted the public was heavily involved in the development of that plan and she would continue that tradition with any future environmental policies.

The winner of the May 2 primary will face Democrat Miles Nelson in November. Nelson is unopposed in his primary.