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Quick review: Indianapolis Mayoral Debate on WISH-TV

Indianapolis Mayoral Debate on WISH-TV on Oct. 23, 2023

Above is a replay of the entire mayoral debate.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Democrat mayor of Indianapolis and a Republican hopeful for the job answered questions, many provided by WISH-TV viewers, during a live, hourlong debate aired Monday night.

Hogsett is seeking a third four-year term as mayor of Indianapolis. Shreve, a businessman who has previously served on the City-County Council, won the Republican primary in May.

Monday night’s presentation was the first one-hour televised debate in an Indianapolis mayoral campaign in nearly 20 years.

Is downtown safe?

Indianapolis has been confronting huge questions about crime, the murder rate, public safety, jobs, health and neighborhoods. However, crime and public safety were the top topics of the questions WISH-TV received from viewers. For the past three years, Indianapolis has heard about record homicide rates in the city, growing fears about crime in neighborhoods, and watched the downtown riots in 2020. So, News 8 asked the candidates: Do the candidates believe Indianapolis is a safe city? Do the candidates believe downtown is safe?

Hogsett gives answer. Is Indianapolis a safe city?

Hogsett says downtown is “extraordinarily safe,” but unfortunate events of gun violence have brought “perception problems.” He cited a need to better limit the availability of guns, something that changed when Indiana lawmakers changed the law in 2022 and allowed people to carry firearms without permits.

Shreeve gives answer. Is Indianapolis a safe city?

Shreve says too much of downtown is not safe or doesn’t not feel safe, and does not feel inviting, and perception is reality.

Hire more police officers?

Both candidates have talked about getting more Indianapolis police officers on the force and on the street to help address crime. How exactly do the candidates plan to hire more officers when nearly every major city in the country has the same problem?

Shreve said says Indianapolis has lost 880 officers to other departments or early retirements, most going to other departments where they feel better supported. He wants to increase the age at which someone can go into the policing profession, to age 40 instead of 35. He wants to address the leadership of Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department as well. Shreve also cited concerns about starting pay for officers.

Hogsett says the city has hired over 700 officers in the last eight years, and about 45% of them were hired during his time as mayor. He noted that the previous Republican mayor hired no officers at all. Hogsett says the first-year and second-year pay has increased, and he plans to continue to address pay concerns.

Addressing how officers do their jobs

For many communities in Indianapolis, simply putting more officers on the street does not address the issue of how officers do their jobs. What do the candidates say to those communities, especially communities of color, who worry about “overpolicing” in certain neighborhoods?

Hogsett says, in 2024, IMPD will be adding dashcams, after already adding bodycams for all officers. He notes that his administration has improved accountability and transparency through a number of measures.

Shreve: Current administration slow to adopt technology

Shreve responded police officers are hungry for added technology. “This administration has been, in my view, slow to adopt the technology that the mayor launched. We were one of the last departments to adopt body cameras. … We were very slow to roll that out.”

‘Revolving door’ of Marion County justice

In the past couple of years, critics have noted a “revolving door” in the Marion County criminal justice system, with criminals arrested only to be quickly released and commit other crimes. News 8 even heard that criticism recently from Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter. Is that criticism fair? What changes, if any, do the candidates want to see made in the Marion County judicial system?

Shreve says the criticism is fair. He agrees with Carter in his call for a complete review of the criminal justice ecosystem in Marion County. If elected, Shreve says he will use his voice to close the “revolving door” and take violence offenders off the streets of Indianapolis.

Hogsett says he respects Carter’s comments. Hogsett says he believes added enforcement is needed, and he has been working to add with three special assistant attorneys to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in pursuit of violent crime in Marion County. The federal prosecutor has more tools available to address violent crime, Hogsett says.

Time to repeal permitless carry in Indiana?

State lawmakers eliminated Indiana’s requirement for licenses to carry a handgun. Do the candidates believe permitless carry of handguns has made the crime situation better or worse in Indianapolis?

Hogsett: Impact of permitless carry in Indianapolis

Hogsett says permitless carry has been “disastrous,” particularly for Indianapolis, and needs to be repealed. “Permitless carry has done really nothing more than put guns in the hands of the people who have absolutely no business possessing a handgun or any other type of weapon of that nature. And I want to be clear about that, because responsible gun owners have nothing to fear. It is those who are misusing the availability of guns that, I think, we need to focus our attention on.”

Shreve: Impact of permitless carry in Indianapolis

Shreve says he believes in the right of people to possess handguns. He supports bringing back a permit process to be able to have a firearm.

Assessing response to 2020 downtown riots

In regard to the May-June 2020 riots in downtown Indianapolis, an independent review blamed, among other things, a lack of planning, coordination and communication by IMPD and the city. It also found that police actions escalated the tensions.

Amid lingering questions about Hogsett’s role during the riots, does he agree with the report findings that there was a lack of planning, coordination and communication. Also, where was he on the nights of the riots?

Hogsett: I was working from home during riots

Hogsett says he embraced the report because he’d created the review committee that looked into the protest that came after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. On the night of the riots, he says he worked from his home and was in contact with his representatives and with IMPD to have the protests end. He notes Indianapolis has had 300 protests without any incidents since the May-June 2020 riots.

Jefferson says “Mayor Shreve” would have been on scene during riots

Shreve says Hogsett’s response is inconsistent with what he’s heard from IMPD and other public safety representatives who were at the riots. Those representatives have told him that they had a mess on their hands during the protests — being told to “stand aside” and let the riots happen — and the mayor wasn’t on the scene. Shreve says, as mayor, he would have been on the scene or working from the mayor’s office in the City-County Building.

Reviving downtown after COVID

Parts of downtown have struggled to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Many downtown offices remain empty for remote work, and many of the businesses have faced difficulties. What needs to be done to fully revive downtown?

Shreve says fully staffed offices downtown are not likely to return, and people need to accept that reality. He does not want to tax Marion County people to create incentives to bring employees back downtown. He says we need to repurpose the downtown buildings for other needs. However, Shreve says, the perception of downtown safety needed to be address, and the residential growth has been in a limited section of the city.

Hogsett agrees the five-day workweek with commuters will probably never return to how it worked before the pandemic. But, 25,000 new residents now call downtown home as part of a Downtown Indy Inc. program, and the city government provided a $3.5 million grant to that effort. He believes more people will continue to move to homes downtown. Hogsett says people who live downtown know it’s safe, and Shreve hears the complaints about safety who don’t live downtown.

Keep Spark at the Circle

The city has experimented with Spark on the Circle, closing down part of downtown’s Monument Circle to vehicular traffic and hosting what amounts to a green space. Should that continue in 2024? Should the entire circle be closed to traffic?

Hogsett: Future for Spark on the Circle

Hogsett says closing a quarter of the Circle was a good pilot program. It should end in mid-November, but he believes it’s been popular. He says the Spark on the Circle was just one part of the larger Downtown Indy Inc. program to revitalize downtown.

Shreve: Future for Spark on the Circle

Shreve says Spark on the Circle was an interesting experiment. He says he opposes closing the Circle to vehicular, pedestrian and bicycling traffic.

Housing prices

A study by the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana found outside investors are buying, often with cash, entire blocks of the city. Critics believe the buying drives up home purchase prices and rents in neighborhoods. What do the candidates think can be done, or should be done, to limit outside investor purchase power?

Shreve says outside investors should be discouraged from buying up big swaths of housing stock, and he also wants to encourage the lending community to support programs for local home ownership. The costs of housing, rents, in particular, have increased 8% per year, Shreve says, and the city needs to add to the housing supply to catch up with demand and help prices come down.

Hogsett says he agrees with Shreve on the need to increase the housing supply, and it why he’s opened opportunities for more affordable housing. Hogsett also notes how local landlords have been held accountable for bad practices.

Eviction rate

Indiana has some of the worst eviction rates in the nation, with people of color being impacted at higher rates. Aside from the housing task force, what would the candidates do to address housing equity in the city over the next four years?

Hogsett response to eviction rates in Indianapolis

Hogsett says, several years ago, the Indianapolis City-County Council passed relief for renters being manipulated by unscrupulous landlords. However, Indiana legislators eliminated that effort. He notes federally funded IndyRents over $200 million during the COVID pandemic.

Shreve: Eviction rates in Indianapolis

Shreve notes the IndyRents program won’t be around much longer. He says the city has toothless initiatives that are understaffed and not truly protecting renters. Minority homeownership also needs to be improved, he says.

Improving health equity

An IU Health study says someone living in a neighborhood, which is majority Black and Hispanic, along Meridian Street just north of the WISH-TV station has a life expectancy of 66 years. But travel just a few miles up the road to Carmel, a neighborhood that’s 75% white, and the life expectancy is 91 years. Is Indianapolis doing enough to support underprivileged communities, and what do the candidates specifically plan to do over the next four years to help improve those numbers?

Shreve calls it an “extraordinary disparity” and a “societal injustice.” He noted he’d been working on health equity with groups before stepping down to run for mayor. “We have to do a better job in Marion County toward harmonizing those life expectancies with Hamilton County and our other doughnut counties.”

Hogsett says the disparities come from many issues, including home ownership, health access, employment, and education. “This disparity over the long run will be addressed in meaningful ways by providing better jobs and more jobs to more people with better wages, and that’s what we have fought for.”

Addressing food deserts

The most recent numbers from Indy Food Policy show, as of 2022, that more than 208,000 Indianapolis residents live in a food desert, an area where access to fresh and nutritious food is severely limited. The deserts have a tremendous impact on health, especially that of children. What is the plan to help get more people access to fresh, nutritious food over the next four years?

Neither candidate believes building new bricks-and-mortar stores is the sole answer.

Hogsett: Addressing food deserts in Indianapolis

Hogsett says his administration has been “nimble and creative” in addressing the food deserts with new locations, transportation and other initiatives.

Shreve: Addressing food deserts in Indianapolis

Shreve says the challenge is broad, and should also include “pharmacy deserts.” He supports repurposing many former retail sites, such as abandoned drugstores, with redevelopment incentives for underserved areas.

Stopping spinning, street takeovers

How do the candidates plans to tackle large groups of people taking over the streets and parking lots, and doing spinouts with their cars and blocking traffic?

Shreve: Groups taking over streets is unacceptable

Shreve says he spent time recently at a former Sears parking lot with IMPD officers addressing the recurring problem. He says many officers have to be deployed to address the crowds and their chaos. “We just need more police on the streets to be forward facing.”

Hogsett: Spinouts creating problems

Hogsett says Indiana State Police and IMPD have been working together on “spinouts” with neighborhoods, and he believes the problem is being adequately addressed. “I think, at last count, at least a dozen or so arrests have been made.”

Lack of mental health care

A report released by Indiana University earlier this month estimated that, in 2022, about 26,000 adults in Marion County had serious mental illness but did not get treatment. That’s 2 out of 3 people with a serious mental illness, and 55,000 did not get treatment for substance abuse disorder. The report also cited transportation, housing, and minoritized populations as challenges to access care. What do the candidates plan to do over the next four years to improve mental health care treatment and access in Indianapolis?

Hogsett says he’s proud of the increases in mental health care and access during his administration. He noted the city began clinician-led response teams began in July in downtown, and soon expand to the IMPD East District. He says in 2024 the assessment and intervention center at the Community Justice Campus will increase from 30 to 60 beds.

Shreve says dollars spent on addressing mental health save the city money on “the other end of the equation.” As a result, he would invest more in mental health.

Future for Animal Care Services

Both candidates have highlighted plans to improve Indianapolis Animal Care Services, including the plans for a new shelter. What do they want to do, and how big of a priority is it compared to other issues?

Shreve: future of Animal Care Services

Shreve says what the city doesn’t do through Animal Care Services is “shameful.” He calls the conditions of the city’s shelter “disastrous.” He says the size of the facility, and the process of how animals are dropped off are inadequate. Shreve says he’d donate his salary to Animal Care Services.

Hogsett: Future for Animal Care Services

Hogsett says funding is available for a new shelter, and he’s frustrated it’s not done. He says problems with the initial site selected for the shelter were problematic. He also notes that live release rates have improved during his administration from about 60% to up to 90%.

During the debate, candidates had 60 seconds to answer a question, and the opponent could request a 30-second rebuttal. Candidates had 30 seconds to answers any follow-up questions from reporters. The debate did not have opening statements, but did include closing statements up to 90 seconds.

Final remarks from Hogsett

Hogsett final remaks

Final remarks from Shreve

Shreve gives final remarks