I am writing you with eager anticipation at the opportunity to become your mayor - now just 8 days away. I want to help our town move toward the common vision of becoming a city with the highest quality of life and lowest cost of living in the Midwest. I believe this can be accomplished with the right people - in the right seats.
A recent news source endorsed my opponent while inaccurately reporting I lacked a lot of things needed in order to be a good mayor. Their 4-member editorial board, who spent one hour getting to know me, is certainly entitled to their opinion.
However, media have tremendous power in setting cultural guidelines and in shaping political discourse. It is essential that news media are challenged to be fair and accurate - thus this letter to you to clear up some inaccuracies.
There are a lot of similarities between my opponent and me: our passion for Goshen, acknowledging the importance of continuing to improve transportation, reducing blight, keeping fire, police, clean water and city services available to all residents and ensuring positive community relations with our increasing Latino community and schools, to name a few.
What the news source failed to report were the areas where I am clearly more experienced and competent than my opponent:
- Ability to manage millions of dollars well;
- Proven success bringing diverse groups of people together to work toward a common goal; and,
- In-depth experience forming public-private partnerships.
My opponent has been a policymaker for two city council terms. I have been a public servant making difficult decisions on your behalf every day for the past 14 years as your civil engineer. It’s for these reasons, I am best choice for your next mayor.
That being said, I would like to clear up some inaccuracies that were reported, allowing you to make an informed decision.
Claim: The newspaper said I lacked ideas.
Fact: As Goshen’s engineer, I have implemented many successful ideas because that’s what engineers do - they solve problems by implementing ideas.
In this campaign, I have shared multiple ideas for the coming years - and, don’t worry, as your mayor, I will have plenty more ideas. I have shared with you my plan to engage residents online and move our city into the 21st century, my plan to make our town developer-friendly while increasing our tax base, my plan to reduce blight by enforcing our existing neighborhood preservation codes, my plan to improve our multi-modal transportation system, my plan to improve Latino relations by refocusing our Community Relations Commission and my plan to save the city money by moving traditional processes and procedures online, to name a few.
As a voter, I imagine you get tired of hearing about plans. And you must wonder, “will they even implement these plans once they are in office?” I understand, and this is why instead of creating more commissions and committees and multi-point increased government plans, as my opponent is suggesting, I’m proposing we instead improve our existing structures - ones that are in place to reduce blight and improve neighbor relations, for example.
Claim: The newspaper said I lacked energy.
Fact: I have a wealth of energy. My day starts at 5 a.m. with my family and continues through a 10 hour work day. And, yet I still make time with my extended family, friends, volunteer organizations and church.
Ask any of my colleagues and they will tell you I regularly work 10 - 12 hour days while staying active with my husband and 9-year-old daughter and extended family, volunteering as a greeter at Grace Community Church, with the Goshen Parks & Recreation department and humanitarian aide trips overseas. To say I lack energy is far from the truth.
I acknowledge that being mayor is a lifestyle, not a 9-to-5 job with no evening and weekend work. As your mayor, I pledge to keep this same work ethic.
Claim: The newspaper said I lacked leadership skills to address key issues the city is facing in the coming years.
Fact: I currently lead the city’s engineering department, and have successfully implemented millions of dollars worth of plans that have moved the city forward - this takes leadership skills.
Many of the roads you drive on today, or trails you walk or bike on, is thanks to my leadership skills. Infrastructure is a huge issue facing the city in coming years, and I am more than qualified to lead this effort.
There has been a lot of talk from my opponent about using creative ways to get much needed projects completed in the city, when, in fact, it’s something that is part of my everyday job. During my time as your public servant, I have applied for and/or managed $28 million for the city from state and federal grants. In fact, all the projects that my opponent likes to tout as a policymaker were actually completed because of my hard work at securing outside funds.
Without these dollars, the safe routes to schools, bike trails connecting Goshen to Elkhart, the Monroe Street trail to the 4-H fairgrounds and upcoming railroad quiet zones, to name a few, would not have been completed.
Nearly every public forum throughout this campaign has focused on the importance of infrastructure and development in the coming years. I am by far the most qualified candidate in this area.
Another key issue is housing - both in terms of blight reduction and ensuring our city becomes developer-friendly. I have heard building developers say, “If the project’s in Goshen, we won’t touch it.”
This must change for a variety of reasons: 1) We want people to live and work here - currently 17% of our workforce commutes from outside our city, in part due to lack of preferred housing, 2) We want to increase revenue for the city - increasing our tax base will do this, and 3) More development means more jobs.
Read below to learn more about my plan to “fight blight.”
Claim: The newspaper said I lacked public private sector experience.
Fact: I came to Goshen from working in the private sector, and I work daily with the private sector ensuring positive public-private partnerships.
For the past 14 years, as your city engineer, I have worked regularly with building contractors such as DJ Construction, Ancon Construction, Schrock Homes, Culver Construction, Zehr Construction, Rieth-Riley Construction, Nuway Construction, Niblock Excavating, Kibby Excavating and Selge Construction, to name a few. Along with engineering firms such as DLZ, JPR, CHA, Lawson-Fisher & Associates, American Structurepoint and Abonmarche.
I have also formed partnerships with organizations such as Goshen Community Schools, Goshen College, IU Health Goshen Hospital, LaCasa and Matthews, LLC.
For example, when I.U. Health Goshen Hospital had need for extra parking and pedestrian routes, I worked with Goshen College and the hospital to connect the Winona Trail to the hospital and over to the Millrace Trail.
To say I lack public private sector experience is a bald faced lie, or an extremely uninformed statement.
Claim: The newspaper said I lacked a working knowledge of all city departments.
Fact: For the past 14 years, I have worked side-by-side with the 15 other city departments. I have a positive working relationship with each of them.
I work closely with every single city department and have an intricate working knowledge of each and every one of them. As the city engineer, I work with the Building, Planning, Legal, Community Development, Police, Fire, Water, Wastewater, Utility Billing, Parks, Cemetery, Street, Central Garage, Courts and Clerk Treasurer.
In fact, I have written a whole blog series [How Mary Helped] that gives detailed stories of how I have worked inter-departmentally. I encourage you to check it out here.
To say my opponent has worked with the departments means perhaps he has met with them a handful of times while making policies, or had an hour tour of their facility. I have worked more than 5,000 days alongside these departments. It’s absurd to say I lack a working knowledge of them.
Claim: The newspaper said I lacked plans to work with the Latino community.
Fact: I have stated my plans publicly, online and here again, below. In short, we have the CRC, and it needs to be restructured.
I believe the Latino community has added a great depth to our culture in Goshen. I have served the Latino community - and everyone in our city - for the past 14 years. I have plans to reduce the language and cultural barriers that exist in Goshen by ensuring all our forms are bilingual, by having a translator on staff and by ensuring our existing Community Relations Commission (CRC) is making in-roads to the various Latino groups in Goshen.
The city created the CRC in 2004 with a mission to “foster a climate of non-discrimination and equal opportunity.” It is group of 9 volunteer residents appointed by City Council and the Mayor to focus on the “people issues” of our town and to guide the work of a staff director. They were given $24,000 of the city budget in 2014 and have been given similar amounts each year.
So, I ask myself, why when the CRC is already in place and being funded and has been tasked with positive community relations, should we stretch the city even more thin by implementing yet another commission that would have overlapping purposes with our existing CRC? This is what my opponent is suggesting. It’s obviously what this particular newspaper likes to hear, but then again, they won’t be tasked with balancing the budget or dealing with multiple commissions that have overlapping services. Read my full plan here.
Claim: The newspaper said I lacked a plan to fight blight.
Fact: Our city has an 85-page Land Use & Development Code that dates back to 2002. As your mayor, I will ensure these codes are enforced effectively.
Title 6 of the City of Goshen Code, “Land Use & Development,” lists in detail the codes for Neighborhood Preservation, Beautification and Restoration and Rank Vegetation and Noxious Weeds, to name a few.
There are 22 pages of “Neighborhood Preservation Minimum Standards” listed which include safety and security, responsibilities of owner and occupant, inspection, enforcement and penalties.
As mayor, I will work with our code enforcers to implement these actions, which in turn will reduce blight. I will also look at revitalizing our Beautification and Restoration Committee which was put in place to “create for future generations a legacy of an even greater, better, and more beautiful City than was given to us.”
This committee, it states is 1) a need-based assistance for homeowners in making appearance enhancements and other necessary structural improvements to their properties. 2) Assistance in acquiring blighted properties for the purpose of restoring such properties, or redeveloping such properties in a fashion that promotes the well-being of the City and its citizens. 3) To make grants to organizations, operating within the City of Goshen, which promote programs that focus on improving the appearance of the City, and the well-being of its citizens from a property maintenance perspective.
My opponent has suggested an aggressive five-point neighborhood blight reduction plan which expands government beyond our current codes listed above, which are not effectively enforced to begin with. He suggests using a court-appointed receiver, performance bonds and transferring titles to the city among other measures.
As stated on multiple occasions, I believe a better first approach is improved communication with homeowners rather than digging our heels in and going straight to litigation, like my opponent has suggested, which is very costly.
Instead, it could be as simple as developing a plan for the homeowner, as opposed to trying to take their property away. And, as your mayor, I will make sure we do a better job at code enforcement which will reduce blight in the first place. Let’s get it right the first time around. Read my full plan here.
Claim: The newspaper said I lacked ways to improve our economic development.
Fact: I currently work daily to improve economic development in town, and that won’t change as mayor.
As your engineer, I have worked tirelessly to improve our city’s quality of life. I have spent countless hours on bike and pedestrian trail development, road structures, brownfield cleanups and creative ways to improve our existing structures or develop new ones.
Goshen’s ability to be competitive in the marketplace is going to come by embracing change, being creative and bold and investing in primacy of place. Talent is the single most important element in local economic development and we must invest in existing talent to keep them here.
Economic reports consistently show a shrinking percentage of workforce employed in manufacturing (currently below 14% trend) with all net growth coming from the service sector. This among with many other facts have caused challenges with the traditional approach to economic development (ED).
The traditional ED approach buzzwords are existing business expansion, new business attraction and new business start ups. News sources love to hear things like “tax abatements, phase-ins, business expansion” - or otherwise chasing a few companies in an extremely competitive environment.
The fact of the matter is, there has been a paradigm shift in ED whether we want to accept it or not. Balance is still important, but Goshen must commit to a strategic approach to primacy of place in order to be a place people want to live, work and play.
In order for Goshen to attract and retain talent, we must commit to best practices for quality of place. Ball State’s Center for Community Economic Development has an Indiana Communities Institute. As mayor, I plan to work closely with them, as they are on the cutting edge of policy, research and practice in the Midwest.
Their best practices approach includes: Community design, community collaboration for educational excellence, community well-being, municipal governance, community readiness for change and an integration of culture, heritage and arts.
It should also not go unnoticed that the Goshen Chamber of Commerce, Elkhart County Convention & Visitors Bureau, LaCasa and Downtown Goshen, Inc. are some of the groups who have been doing quality of place for a long time. As mayor, I will work with them to continue our progress. Read my full plan here.
Claim: The newspaper said I lacked the ability to interact with constituents, other officials and the business community.
Fact: I have spent 14 years working with you - my constituent - elected officials and the business community to improve our multi-modal transportation system.
Am I the most outgoing individual in town? No. I can tend to be shy. But, that in no way means I lack the ability to interact with others. If I was unable to do so, our city would not be embarking on its most aggressive year of engineering projects: $41 million worth to be exact, $28 million of which I secured from state and federal grants.
Have you ever applied for a federal grant? Then, you understand the time and energy it takes to not only write it succesfully, but to be awarded it and then to follow through with reporting. I am the “employee responsible for charge” which comes with a lot of responsibility - and a lot of interaction with employees, elected officials and government agencies.
Working on infrastructure means interacting with all those who may be affected by it: the neighborhood residents, the business community, the schools and public bus systems, for example. It also involves working with contractors, architects, colleagues and the media (gulp).
When I talk about overcoming huge obstacles - like landlord/city relations when dealing with blight - I am not speaking from vague ideas or plans - I’m speaking from 14 years of experience of bringing together groups with varying goals to get the job done.
For example, the U.S. 33 overpass project has been “on the books” since 1992 but plans were stalled due to conflicts between the city administration and neighborhood groups, county government, state government and the business community.
When I came on board, many felt the 33 project was hopeless. But, through hours of meetings and face-to-face conversations with the varying interest groups, I am proud to say the project is moving into construction next year. My two-way communications strategy has proven itself.
My ability to interact with the stakeholders around me has benefitted the city a great deal; and, this will be no different when I am mayor.
Claim: The newspaper said I lacked the ability to be a decisive leader who can think on their feet.
Fact: To be honest with you, I had to laugh out loud when I read this one.
To best illustrate this fact, it would probably be easiest for me to replay a recent day I had. I arrived at the office around 7 a.m. hoping to get through my voicemails and emails before the rest of the office staff came in. The first voicemail was from INDOT asking for clarification on a report I had recently submitted for the Southlink Road Project, the second voicemail was from Denny over at the street department wondering where things were with the 3rd Street repaving and, then, the next voicemail came from a resident who lives along 9th Street...and my heart immediately sank.
This gentleman was in tears wondering what was going to happen to him when the city took his house for the 33 overpass project. I immediately knew this needed to be a one-on-one meeting to listen to his concerns and walk him through the complicated process. And, that’s exactly what I did.
He and I had multiple meetings to make sure he knew his rights and our responsibilities in relocating him to a safe and secure location. I cried with him and listened to him share the many memories he and his family had made in his home. Today, I am glad to say he has successfully been relocated to a new home.
No two days are alike for me and each day requires me to think on my feet with decisive decision making. You never know when we may hit a water main, or when 100-year-old infrastructure is going to give way. And, that’s what makes me a good leader - my ability to plan for the very best and then solve problems as they arise - and, as mayor, problems are bound to arise.
Claim: The newspaper said I lacked the ability to be a cheerleader for the community.
Fact: I am one of Goshen’s biggest cheerleaders.
In fact, my passion for this community was made even more prevalent when I made the decision to run for mayor. This decision means taking a pay cut while increasing my responsibilities. If I wasn’t passionate about this community, I wouldn’t have made that decision.
Claim: The newspaper said I lacked a clear vision for the future of Goshen and the ability to articulate this vision to a variety of stakeholders.
Fact: From the onset of my campaign, I have recited the vision and mission of my team:
"we envision a city with the highest quality of life and lowest cost of living in the Midwest. I believe this can be accomplished with the right people - in the right seats."
As your city government, I understand that we exist to ensure the hierarchy of human needs is fulfilled for every individual in Goshen. My team lives and works in Goshen and understand great cities are built on this hierarchy of needs:
- Safety and security
- Economic opportunity
- Ability to be engaged with equality
My team’s four promises address each of the above needs:
- Efficient, effective and accountable government
- Improved transportation
- Talent Recruitment and retention
News sources are entitled to their opinions, and are able to frame things however they desire. But, now that I’ve given you all the facts, I hope you feel you are able to make an informed decision on election day.
Mary Cripe for Mayor
Your civil engineer/public servant for the past 14 years
I’m a Christian, wife, mom, daughter, grandma, aunt, volunteer, leader and friend
READ THE LATEST BLOG POST
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