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Southport mayoral candidates back police spending, apartment development

Southport mayoral candidates talk goals

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The two candidates for mayor of Southport said they will work around the city’s small size to diversify its tax base.

Southport is one of the four municipalities not included in the consolidated government of Indianapolis and Marion County. It is by far the smallest both in terms of land area, with about 400 acres, and population, roughly 2,700.

Republican Jim Cooney is running for a second four-year term as mayor. He faces Heather Newport, a member of the city’s redevelopment commission running as an independent candidate. No Democrats or third-party candidates are running.

Jim Cooney

Cooney said he wants to continue projects he began in his current term. He said a planned four-story apartment building can serve as a catalyst for further economic development. He said he also wants to continue building relationships with businesses in town and expand the programs and services provided by the city’s parks and recreation department.

Cooney said the city’s redevelopment commission is key to growing the city’s economy, especially given Southport’s landlocked status. He said the city should focus on its location in attracting new businesses. Cooney said the city’s housing stock, which includes a number of small postwar homes, makes it an attractive option for people looking to relocate.

The Southport Police Department has drawn attention in recent years for the large number of radio frequencies and amount of equipment assigned to it relative to its size. It currently consists of three full-time officers and 36 reserve officers. Cooney defended those decisions, saying Southport’s officers need to be able to communicate with Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.

“We’re going to send our officers out into harm’s way and we believe in providing them with the equipment they need that’s appropriate,” he said.

He said Southport Police Department does a good job of providing community service, not just handing out citations, and he would not support getting rid of it and turning its duties over to IMPD. Asked whether the department’s current ratio of reserve officers to full-time officers is sustainable, he said it is.

Cooney said he also would like to work on communication with residents if he is reelected. He said he wants more Southport residents to attend meetings of the city’s boards and commissions. He has already launched a quarterly, hand-delivered newsletter and plans to revamp the city’s website.

Heather Newport

Newport is one of 21 people across the state running for mayor as an independent. She said she chose to do so because it best reflects her political views, which don’t neatly fit either of the major parties. She also said she believes a mayor should represent the views of all of a city’s residents, not just those of one party.

Newport has called for city leaders to develop a community-first mindset. Asked what she means by that, she said she believes the city’s current leaders cater too much to one subset of Southport’s population. She said she wants to improve diversity on the city’s boards and commissions, such as drawing more participation from its Burmese community.

“I think there has been a target of talking to the five or six families that are actively involved in the community and not a lot of outreach to other individuals,” she said.

Newport said growing Southport’s economy is vital to supporting other services, especially its police force. As an example, she pointed to the her work, along with the other members of the redevelopment commission, to bring an apartment complex to a vacant lot. The building is expected to include retail space.

As for the police department itself, Newport said she would not support getting rid of it and turning its duties over to IMPD. She said Southport’s police chief does an excellent job of working with not only the city’s residents but also surrounding law enforcement agencies to keep the city safe.

Early voting begins on Oct. 11. Election Day is Nov. 7.