Good evening!! Thank you to the Goshen Chamber of Commerce and The Goshen News for hosting this forum tonight. I am Mary Cripe and I am running for mayor. I am a Christian. I am a daughter. I am a wife. I am a mother to three stepsons and our adopted Hispanic daughter who has provided us with insight into the rich Latino culture. I am a grandmother, I am an engineer, and I am one really aggressive Euchre player!! I would be honored to continue to serve this community in a new role as mayor.
I have had the honor of serving alongside Mayor Allan Kauffman for the last 14 years. I have firsthand knowledge of what it means to be mayor and the very difficult decisions that come along with this significant leadership role.
I have been in the trenches working shoulder to shoulder with the department heads and city employees on a daily basis. I have a solid understanding of what is required for the efficient operations of our city.
Question 1: What are the most prominent challenges facing the city as whole that you’d like to make a priority as a first-term mayor, and how would you do it?
In order to have a vibrant community, we must keep working on all aspects of community development. With that being said, one of the areas with much need is improved transportation. We have all experienced traffic congestion in Goshen.
Many of the transportation improvement projects have been in the works for many years, such as the US 33 North Connector with an overpass over the railroad will be under construction in 2016. And on the south side of Goshen, the South Link Road (or the road typically known as the road to nowhere) will actually be going somewhere, it will go up and over the railroad and have a signalized intersection at SR 15 along with improvements along SR 15. This project will be under construction in 2016. Also, Kercher Road/CR 38 will also be improved from CR 17 to Dierdorff Road in 2017 through 2018. I have worked long and hard to get these projects moving forward.
A second priority of mine will be housing. I will tackle this challenge by making Goshen “developer friendly” and by enforcing the city’s existing ordinances that protect neighborhood property values, as well as sitting down face to face with homeowners who are having problems keeping their properties up and working on a plan to overcome the challenges.
Question 2: Do you feel Goshen should amend its civil rights ordinance to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity?” Why or why not?
I believe that everyone should be treated equally and fairly. Discrimination of any kind is completely unacceptable. In 2012 and 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruled that the word “sex” in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 included “sexual orientation” and “gender identity”, which means the LGBT community is protected. If it is determined that the LGBT community is not protected by the Civil Rights Act, I will be the woman to lead the charge.
Question 3: With significant reductions in property tax income in past years, what, if anything, should Goshen do to increase revenue for the city? Should new taxes or fees, such as a trash fee, be considered?
From the most recent analysis by Umbaugh & Associates just last week, it is predicted that our property tax revenue should increase by approximately $700K in 2016. This does not include the Public Safety LOIT and the Property Tax Relief Option Tax enacted by the County. Those two revenue streams account for an additional $1.5 million and $650K respectfully.
Again per Umbaugh, the 2016 assessed valuation, although not yet certified, is trending upward. As this continues to occur, the tax rate will decline, and therefore we will have less property tax revenue lost to the property tax caps. We need to diligently replenish both operating cash balances and the Rainy Day fund. This should not occur at the expense of city services like trash removal.
As far as new fees or taxes, the County has passed two Optional Income taxes. If needed, I would be in favor of a food and beverage tax, capped at a maximum of 1%. Which means that a meal costing $50 would cost a family $0.50 more.
Question 4: What do you see as the top redevelopment priorities for Goshen over the next decade?
The City Redevelopment Commission has been very proactive in acquiring brownfield properties and abandoned properties, and they have the capabilities to market many of these properties in a fashion that ensures that the property can be redeveloped for the betterment of the community. A few significant examples recently are the sale of the Hawks building to LaCasa, the upcoming residential properties on the east side of the canal, the redevelopment of both the old Street Department property and the Western Rubber property into green space. The Redevelopment Commission hopes to find new uses for these properties, but want to remain selective in what will go into these places.
A few of the top redevelopment initiatives for the future could be the old Holiday Inn property, the Johnson Controls site and the salvage yard along Lincoln Avenue. This last example is vitally important as the location falls within the 5-year capture zone for our drinking water wells.
Question 5: How important is increasing the availability of executive-level housing within the city limits and what steps, if any, should be taken by the City Council to encourage such development?
I don’t know if executive housing is the correct term. It seems we have a shortage of affordable housing, especially if people are working here and living in Granger, which you hear of quite often.
More importantly, we need a portfolio of diverse housing. We need to be an affordable city, a welcoming city and a city with mixed housing opportunities. A community that offers families housing opportunities at affordable costs while still leaving room in cost of living for families to enjoy a quality life.
Many developers have expressed concerns with the site development process. We need to look into ways to improve efficiencies to streamline the application and permitting process, including providing online submission of required documents, and tracking of the applications so that developers can have instant access to the standing of their projects.
Question 6: Goshen has seen its Latino population grow considerably the past two decades. How would you propose improving racial and cultural relations in Goshen?
The Latino population has definitely grown significantly in the City. Latinos have made our community socially, economically and culturally stronger.
We need to continue efforts with outreach similar to what has been initiated by Police Chief Wade Branson and the Latino community leaders. They have joined forces and met with Latino residents to better understand one another’s concerns.
The Community Relations Commission (CRC) needs to be restructured with measurable objectives to specifically include the Latino community. The city should have translators on staff, all forms in bi-lingual and have an active working relationship with Latino community groups. Adding yet another commission, as my opponent suggests, is not the answer as the city already has the CRC.
Question 7: What do you consider to be the greatest public safety challenges for Goshen and how would you address them as mayor?
Across the State of Indiana, Goshen included, property vandalism crimes are on the rise. Public safety problems are commonly addressed through a combination of responses; seldom is a single type of response sufficient. Of course, many public safety problems are adequately addressed by the police in the exercise of their normal authority and expertise. With that being said, the police have come to depend upon others to aid them in responding effectively to crime and disorder.
There is growing evidence that by addressing the conditions that underlie crime and disorder problems, rather than merely looking to arrest offenders, police can more effectively prevent and control such problems. Neighborhood Outreach by Police, the Resource Officer at the schools, community service efforts offer opportunities to reach the offenders so they have a better appreciation of community. The neighborhood watch program is one of the most effective and successful means to prevent, inform and identify problems and crimes in a neighborhood.
Question 8: As either a City Civil Engineer, or a two-term At-Large City Councilman, what would you consider to be your greatest achievements in enhancing Goshen’s “quality of place?”
Quality of place encompasses infrastructure, parks, trails, quality jobs, vibrant downtown and public safety. It takes a proper balance of all of these elements to have a vibrant community. My greatest achievement is collaborating with the Indiana Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration and Norfolk Southern to re-route US 33 around the Downtown Historic District instead down through the heart of our City. Once the construction of the US 33 North Connector project with a railroad overpass is complete and State Road 15 is re-routed onto Third Street, Main Street will then be under the City’s jurisdiction and then we can make some of the long awaited changes to our downtown area, and continue to attract more people and businesses to our downtown area.
The commitment I made to run for mayor and accept lower pay along with greater responsibility is proof of my love and dedication to this community. I promise to be a decision maker and not just a policy creator. The We Are Goshen team of candidates encourages each one of you to vote on or before November 3, because together we are Goshen………no matter whether you are Republican, Democrat or Libertarian. We must all work together to move our community forward.