Q: What do you think is the biggest challenge the City of Madison is facing? Why? What would you propose the city do to address this issue?

A: Without a doubt, the biggest challenge for Madison is the substance abuse issue. The substance abuse crisis is the main reason behind many of the other big issues facing our community: crime, child abuse and neglect, overcrowded jails, lack of employable workers, overburdened social services, poverty, homelessness, and more. To most effectively combat the issue, we need to attack it from four directions: prevention/education, enforcement, justice, and treatment. On prevention/education, we need to be working more closely with our schools, churches, and social organizations to ensure that people know about the dangers of some of these substances. I think we all assume that everyone knows the dangers of substance abuse, but I don’t think that’s always the case. For enforcement, I know our law enforcement agencies are working diligently to get drugs off the streets. The Madison Police Department officers are doing a wonderful job, but they’re hampered by high turnover and a lack of tools to help them do their job safely and effectively. I think by increasing compensation and training, we can empower our law enforcement even more. On the justice side of things, the City doesn’t have much control, but I will ensure that our police officers are getting the assistance, equipment, and training they need to help Prosecutor Sutter and Judge Mote be even more effective in doing their jobs. Finally, we must attack this through treatment. Madison has over 30 people in Salvation Army treatment facilities in Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati. We have no treatment facility here, and I think we should. We have halfway houses that are doing an amazing job, but we need a more wholistic approach to treatment by adding inpatient and “three quarter houses” to complete the “treatment train” that we’ve been working toward for years. One important note on treatment: I am not in favor of a suboxone clinic. If we have a medical drug treatment facility, I would only be in favor of a clinic that requires shots or liquid medication that can’t be put on the streets. I know there are a number of groups and organizations that are working to tackle the substance abuse issue and I have been part of a number of their meetings over the last seven years: JCJTAP, Coalition for Teens and Young Adults, Healthy Communities Initiative, and even more. As Mayor, I would work to focus all of those community efforts in one direction through a Substance Abuse Task Force focused on real change. The substance abuse challenge is not unique to Madison; almost every community (large and small) is dealing with the effects of this crisis and it will not be solved overnight. But I believe that we can fight back against this substance abuse issue by working together as a community.This issue is not just the Mayor’s issue. It is not just the Judge’s issue. It is not just a police or health issue. This is a community issue and we all should be asking ourselves what WE can do to help.

Q: If there was any city policy that you could change on your own at this moment, which would it be and why?

A: Although this is not a specific city policy, I would institute a Planning Department with a City Planner that would oversee all major projects, the planning/zoning/historic boards, as well as the building inspector, nuisance officer, and preservation coordinator positions. Although this is a different idea for Madison, most other cities are organized in this way and it allows better coordination on large projects, infrastructure, and the implementation of our Comprehensive Plan. This kind of effort would better serve residents by promoting policy that works with residents rather than against, to enact rules and regulations that promote our long-term vision rather than hinder it, allow the City to be proactive rather than reactive, and coordinated rather than disjointed. I would require this department and department head to work with all of our departments to put together a 5 Year Capital Improvements Plan that takes the guesswork out of funding major infrastructure or capital costs.

Q: If you are elected, in what order would you address the following issues? Order them by which needs to most immediate action to least immediate action.

A: Substance Abuse, crime, homelessness, suicide, transportation/mobility, hilltop enhancement, downtown parking, job creation, small business assistance

Q: As your Mayor, it would be my goal to work on all of these. All of these topics (and many that aren’t listed here) are important. I think we are currently taking action on most of them and can always continue to do more with some others. The first priority for any government should be the safety and security of the residents. So my first priorities would relate to substance abuse, crime, and homelessness. I think quality of life items such as transportation/mobility, hilltop enhancement, and downtown parking fit into a secondary tier that are important in order to make our community more desirable to live, but don’t rise to the level of public safety. Finally, economic development topics such as job creation and small business assistance should and will be addressed on an ongoing basis for the long term viability of our community.

I want to be clear that a higher priority doesn’t mean others will be ignored. I think we can and should address all of them simultaneously. These are all very important and sometimes interrelated but very different topics; some will be more easily managed by City government, while others are large social issues that won’t be solved by a single Mayor or City Council.

Q: Can you provide a brief plan for how you might address each of your top 3 issues?

A: Public safety: Public safety is priority number one for a Mayor. If you don’t have a safe community, the rest won’t matter much. I think increasing compensation, training, and giving our police officers the tools they need to be successful would come first and foremost. I would also put together a Substance Abuse Task Force that would focus our substance abuse prevention efforts and work on attracting a treatment facility and additional mental health counselors. I also want to start thinking through the future of the Madison Fire Department, because recruiting volunteers is becoming increasingly difficult.

• Efficient and Effective Government: The first thing I would like to do is reorganize our efforts in building/planning/zoning/preservation to ensure that all of our boards and commissions are helping Madison achieve our goals, not work against them. I think we should also implement a 5-Year Capital Improvement Plan that would cover all City departments to assist us with financial planning for streets, sidewalks, and underground utilities.

• Quality of Life: Increasingly, quality of life *is* our most important economic development tool. If we build a place where people want to live, then the jobs will follow. In order to attract more people to our community, I want to upgrade and invest in our parks, including Rucker Sports Complex to allow us to host regional youth tournaments. I also want to follow through on our Stellar projects, which include finishing the Madison Connector trail loop, adding sidewalks on Clifty Drive, reimagining Main Street, finishing the Cotton Mill and Tower Tack factory projects on the riverfront, and revamping the Playground for All Children on Madison’s hilltop.

Q: How would you incentivize and assist small businesses and first entrepreneurs in Madison?

A: My first goal is to have a marketable incentive package. Right now we have great incentives for large businesses based on their investment and job creation, but don’t have many for our small businesses and entrepreneurs. When small businesses currently look to come to Madison, we can normally assist them with a low interest revolving loan, a micro-loan, and some infrastructure assistance (example: new sidewalks). More recently, we’ve been able to offer Preservation and Community Enhancement (PACE) funds toward fixing up a building downtown, and now Riverfront Liquor Licenses for restaurants downtown. But those incentives really don’t cover start-ups, entrepreneurs, high tech companies, or retail we may need to attract such as a grocery or bakery. I’ve been part of National Main Street conferences as well as Indiana Economic and Community development courses, and have taken note of a number of different incentives that we can put into place, such as façade grants, low to no cost co-working space, upper story rehabilitation grants, new business grants, an angel investor program, or even housing or student loan assistance. Some of those incentives might be a good fit here, some may not. As Mayor, I would work with the Main Street Program, Chamber of Commerce, Visit Madison Tourism office, Hanover College, JCIDC, and Madison Schools to decide which of those incentives would be most advantageous and enticing for the kinds of businesses and entrepreneurs we are hoping to attract.