April 19, 1998
Candidates face offBy Scott Tibbs
Candidates for State Representative, County Commissioner, and County Council faced off April 13 in the Monroe County Public Library as part of Grassroots United's second candidate forum for the 1998 primary elections.
State Representative candidatesJerry Bales, Republican (Incumbent) -- Bales noted in his opening statement there were two major tax increases since 1983, both supported by Republican Governor Bob Orr. He agreed the property tax system is in need of reform, but claimed the Indiana Chamber of Commerce desires to reverse the way the property tax burden is distributed. Currently, 38% of property taxes in Indiana are paid by individuals and 62% by business.
Jeff Ellington, Republican -- Ellington said property taxes are too high, and is campaigning on three issues: Indiana needs a permanent property tax cut, the job-killing inventory tax needs to be reduced, and the family needs to be strengthened. Ellington said he will never support a graduated income tax for Indiana while expressing disagreement with Bales' support for such a tax. Liberals want a tax shift from one tax to another, as opposed to a tax cut, and Ellington also criticized Bales for supporting the Democrat's "gimmick" $100 refund to taxpayers as opposed to a tax cut.
The audience had several questions for the candidates. On the proposed "sunshine law" making closed door legislative meetings open to the public, Bales and Ellington agreed that any meetings which affect the taxpayer should be open to the public. Both also expressed support for the Thompson bill, but Ellington criticized Bloomington Mayor John Fernandez for saying he may not use the bill to create jobs.
With regard to the lottery, Bales claimed the lottery brings projects to Bloomington, while Ellington criticized the State Legislature for not sending Bloomington its "fair share" of the lottery money.
Bales and Ellington disagreed on other issues as well. On whether tax dollars from areas other than the gas tax should pay for roads, Ellington said they should, but Bales said gas tax dollars should be the main source for highway money to force out-of-state drivers to pay for the roads as well. In addition, while Bales supports creating a graduated income tax, Ellington favors staying with the current flat tax rather than complicating the tax code. Bales said it is "not fair" for the rich to pay the same rate as the poor.
County Commissioner candidatesGene Crum, Democrat -- Crum said the county needs to focus on social services and explained his experience in dealing with the county budget. Crum favored attracting small business in the wake of the Thompson closing so as not to put Bloomington in the position of relying on one single employer. Crum also said he favors regulation of development when that development affects the property or quality of life of the neighbors.
Brian O'Neil, Democrat -- O'Neil has three issues he wishes to address if he is elected County Commissioner, that being jobs with a living wage, education, and environmental protection. He urged the county commissioners to follow the master plan with regards to development in Monroe County.
County Council candidatesDistrict 4: Mark Stoops -- Stoops said he has respect for the natural beauty of Monroe County, but that it is threatened by short range planning. He urged a re-commitment to social services , and agreed with fellow Democrat Scott Wells' suggestion that impact fees be enacted to pay for new development. Stoops said the community has a right to limit private property rights if the proposed development costs the community money. Stoops also proposed Monroe county rely more on its environmental beauty to attract business.
District 4: Scott Wells -- Wells explained the need to bring sustainability to development, and pushed his idea of impact fees throughout the debate. Wells was "on message" most of the night with regard to the impact fees question. Wells also said the social service budget needs to be restored, and more money needs to be spent on roads. He claimed he is not against development per se, but is for development "in the right places".
District 3: Ray Freetage -- Freetage noted 23 years experience as an air traffic controller, and experience on the Elletsville planing commission. He said property owners should have the right to do with their property as they see fit. Massive applause greeted Freetage when he said county government does not need more revenue because "when you ask the government if it needs more money, the government always says yes."
District 3: Martha Hawk -- Hawk expressed strong disagreement with Wells' proposed impact fees, saying the county would actually get less money if they were implemented. Hawk also expressed concern about the proportionality of the proposed fees, saying nonproportional implementation could lead to a lawsuit. Hawk explained more jobs need to be brought into Monroe County, and that would reduce the need for social services.
Additional articles in this issue:A report on a Women's Student Association town meeting by Scott Tibbs
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