1. In recent health rankings, Howard County ranked 80th out of Indiana’s 92 counties in health outcomes, which measure how long people live and how healthy they feel, and 81st in health factors, based on behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment.
The rankings also highlighted a sharp disparity in childhood poverty, with 56 percent of black children living in poverty in Howard County, compared to 27 percent of Hispanic children and 19 percent of white children. Other disparities were seen in low birthweight, child mortality and additional areas.
How can the mayor’s office move the needle toward a more healthy community? And how would you begin to bridge the gap between white and minority groups?
2. Law enforcement staffing has become a controversial topic during this election season. Kokomo currently has 80 sworn police officers. Do you believe this is an adequate amount?
If not, how many additional officers do you believe should be hired? What benefits would city taxpayers see with an increased police force?
3. Bumpouts, medians, bike lanes and other construction methods that fall under the road diet umbrella have become love-it-or-hate-it developments for many city residents. Do you believe the road diet philosophy has been good for Kokomo? Why or why not?
If yes, would you continue these road construction methods in other parts of the city? If not, what action would you take to reverse course?
4. Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight said during this year’s State of the City address: “We can choose growth or we can choose decline. It all hinges on the decisions our leaders make.”
In the face of predictions that anticipate significant population decline in coming decades and concerns about an over-reliance on the auto industry, how would you bring growth to Kokomo?
Democratic mayoral candidates
Work/elected experience: Kokomo Street Department, eight years; Kokomo Police officer, 20 years; two-term Kokomo city councilman; former Kokomo School Board member
Family: Wife, Tammy; three children; three grandchildren
1. These findings are a major concern for me as a candidate for mayor, as it impacts the future of our community. This report lists Howard County being ranked 80th out of 92 counties in health outcomes that pertain to life expectancy and health. In addition to our ranking I find other health factors like access to health care, social-economic factors and physical environment important.
My plan is to appoint a health committee to investigate this report, and make recommendations to my administration. This committee will include representatives from both hospitals, mental health agencies, schools, employers, YMCA, Carver Center, Bona Vista and other related agencies. We must provide early intervention through education and programs to encourage better health practices. We need to collaborate with local physicians making sure prenatal care and resources are not only available, but recommended. Connecting pregnant woman with these resources could help combat the increase in the infant mortality rate. Identifying at risk mothers and children early is key. I believe with the help of key professionals and agencies we can overcome many of these problems.
2. The current level of 80 officers is absolutely not adequate. It makes no sense that we were staffed at 105 officers pre-annexation and down to 80 officers today. The quality of policing has no choice but to decline. This is no fault of the officers on KPD. Officers are under pressure to free themselves up from calls quickly, so they can back up officers that are on more volatile calls. This sort of pressure on officers diminishes the quality and personal touch that should be given to citizen complaints.
More importantly, it severely jeopardizes officer safety! Citizens are waiting long periods for officer response and sometimes being told “no officer is available.” This is not acceptable! According to the FBI, a city Kokomo’s size should have an average of 96 officers. I believe this would be a good start. We will be assessing along the way and making adjustments as necessary. The advantage to this seems obvious. What may not be so obvious, is the citizens of Kokomo already pay for this. It’s time our citizens get what they pay for.
3. The number one complaint I hear from taxpayers is the horrible condition of our roads. Citizens are expressing pure frustration trying to navigate around Kokomo. Many accidents and damage to vehicles are the result of this road diet plan. We are spending money on bump outs/medians instead of repairing or replacing existing roads. It would not be fiscally responsible to taxpayers to take out ALL bump outs/medians.
I see the following areas as most problematic at this time: Markland (west of roundabout) is backed up due to postal and local deliveries. Jefferson and Washington – unable to turn south until vehicles turning north clear the intersection. Apperson Way and Home Avenue (south of Markland) citizens are unable to access their properties or businesses due to delivery vehicles creating backup conditions. The median and bumpout in front of Second Baptist Church on Apperson Way causes drivers to swerve left then a quick right. The church objected to this reconstruction, but their complaints fell on deaf ears. The cost of fixing these areas is less expensive than continuing to repair them after accidents.
4. I believe we must take every measure possible to retain our current employers and employees. I will work with my economic development team, Howard County elected officials, and Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance to establish a strategy for shovel ready properties to be available when companies call. We will work as a collective group to make incentives available to attract new businesses and people to live and work in Kokomo.
Over 8,900 commuters leave Kokomo daily to call somewhere else home. We must build on the idea that businesses and families want to live and work in a safe and clean environment. Families want access to quality child care, activities and sports complexes. We will work with Kokomo Visitors Bureau, Kokomo Downtown Association, and Kokomo Parks Department on a master plan to expand Carver Center, special events at Foster Park, downtown festivals, a “usable” skateboard and bike park, and plans to build a youth sports complex. Together we can make Kokomo a place that is happening for the future!
Work/elected experience: CEO - United Way Howard County, Indiana Work-Based Learning Academy, Kokomo Comprehensive Plan, Partners in Education, Indiana United Ways Strategic Planning, 2016 Tornado Recovery, Chamber - 20 Under 40 Young Professionals (2x), Women’s Business Council Maverick Award, 2013 Tornado Recovery, Kokomo Advisory Committee - Transportation, 2013 Flood Recovery, Purdue University - BA Political Science
Family: Husband, Nate; two children
1. Education, financial stability and health are the building blocks of a good life. Access to education, from early childhood to beyond high school leads to good jobs, retirement savings, healthy behavioral choices, decreased chronic illness and longer life expectancy.
During my annual review of our health rankings, one clear, key ranking is our childhood poverty rate. By focusing on, and organizing around this single leverage point, the mayor’s office can absolutely move the needle toward a healthier community.
In the past, we have approached the issue of childhood poverty through individual programs. We’ve applied those programs as if everyone’s needs are the same; they are not. Every family has a different set of barriers to making ends meet. I would begin by facing the reality that there is not a singular solution; allowing us the space to explore and implement multifaceted approaches to address childhood poverty. Approaches that are nimble enough to meet each family’s needs and utilize our human services network in an effective way.
2. There are several methods of determining appropriate staffing levels - per capita, crime rates, budgeting; however, none of those dig deep enough to be effective. When patrol officers spend close to or over 60 percent of their time responding to calls for service, they spend the rest of their time in a “response” mindset regardless of their other duties leaving our officers feeling burnt out. Increasing patrol levels, and patrol ratios relative to all sworn officers will directly benefit city taxpayers with more proactive community policing which can directly reduce crime when combined with other successful interventions.
Finally, 80 sworn officers with approximately 40 percent eligible to retire in the next year, a competitive market, a waiting list at the police academy, and extended onboarding time for the industry is not an adequate amount. We need to invest in leadership training, talent attraction and retention, an equitable hiring process, fostering an authentic connection between officers and our community, a genuine value of the work our officers do every day by holding ourselves accountable for our community role as citizens.
3. Roads, bike lanes, trails, trolleys, and sidewalks are simply transportation tools for citizens to get to the places they need to go. The more options we have, the better. For the most part, I believe the road diet philosophy has been good for Kokomo allowing for safer alternative transportation options. However, I believe the work itself has frustrated citizens and left them feeling out of the loop.
Going forward, I plan to implement a pavement management system focused on resurfacing existing roads. Aside from targeted adjustments, I do not plan to reverse the work previously finished as I feel strongly about spending taxpayer dollars in the most effective, future-focused way possible.
Our future success is dependent upon increased connectivity to parks, schools, and amenities throughout our community. Ensuring children have safe pathways to school, families have easy access to parks and trails, and our seniors are able to safely navigate their neighborhoods, allowing them to stay in their homes longer, makes our community one that is economically attractive where people of all ages can thrive.
4. Kokomo is absolutely poised to transform the way automotive towns transition into the future. We have a strong workforce, people willing to learn new skills, inventive engineering talent, lush parks, innovative schools, quality health care and savvy business leaders who have what it takes to work together to reimagine where our collective future will take us.
The time is now to dig in. Plainly speaking, we simply cannot return to what was. It no longer exists. We must look forward. We must cultivate homegrown innovation and support local entrepreneurs as they strike out on their own. We must recruit outside businesses to invest in our community who value the potential we see and create good paying jobs. We must develop a transformative job training program paired with an accessible and affordable network of early learning centers for adults to skill up for the jobs of tomorrow. We must closely align ourselves with our major metropolitan neighbor to the south, Indianapolis, while maintaining and capitalizing on our unique strengths and identity for sustainability and future success.
Republican mayoral candidates
Work/elected experience: Escrow manager at Moore Title & Escrow, Inc. for 21 years; Howard County commissioner for 10 years
Family: Wife, Ann; five children
1. In order to help Kokomo’s (and thus Howard County as a whole) desire to be a healthier community, the mayor and his administration should participate actively in efforts led by local businesses, institutions and organizations. Kokomo has been blessed year after year with amazing individuals whose mission in life is to better the lives of those around them. Our schools, hospitals, non-profits, service organizations and churches all offer resources and opportunities to our community that improve the physical, mental and spiritual health of many. The City must lead by example by not only participating at the table when discussions are held and plans are made but also play a major role in assisting the acquisition of funds available to municipalities and these organizations.
The same approach must be taken by city administration when attempting to bridge the gap between races. Focusing on diversity in staffing within the city’s administration will demonstrate – and hopefully encourage others to recognize--the importance of constantly addressing this issue. Likewise, the mayor’s active participation with certain initiatives would speak volumes.
2. With the current size of the City of Kokomo, I believe the current number of police officers is not adequate to properly serve our community. Kokomo needs at least 6-10 more officers. Currently staffing on all Watches are dangerously low for both the community and for officers. As I understand, many times officers are being reactive--not proactive to prevent potential situations--because of the absence of adequate backup. This puts both the officers and the community at risk. My desire is to work with police leadership and Council to formulate 1, 5 and 10-year plans to address staffing and adequately equip the force with the resources they need, while creating an aggressive recruitment effort to improve the applicant pool from which Kokomo selects. All this would benefit the KPD and city taxpayers by sending a message that the city administration is serious about crime in our community and is committed to improve the morale within the KPD. Respect from within and from without will be the key to addressing the crime levels in Kokomo.
3. The road diet philosophy in recent has had its benefits and its detriments. In either case though, the design of much of the work appears the most concerning. Some re-designs have been mostly appropriate, yet certain spots are a little too restrictive. Our society is a blend of foot traffic and vehicular traffic, so the designs of streets and roads should always find a healthy blend. Areas that can be identified as the most troubled areas should be scaled back or modified to better ensure the safety of pedestrians and drivers. Obviously emergency personnel and commercial traffic must always play a factor in these designs as well. Another concern with the current designs are the negative impact they have had on local businesses and the traffic they draw. Any plans for a “reverse course” should be thought out carefully. It is not my intent to undo all or most of what has been established, but I do plan on drastically scaling back on any plans in process in order to assure that the designs are in the best interest of walkers, drivers, businesses and neighborhoods. Financially neither city government nor city taxpayers can afford to continue at the pace of recent plans and alterations.
Work/elected experience: Did not answer
Family: Wife, Wanda; four children
1. Have more things for the youth in the community to do. Like concerts in the park. Have functions for both white and minority groups.
2. We need at least 15 more (officers) to be trained. [Taxpayers] would be safer.
3. In the winter it is harder for snow plows and fire trucks. Those medians in the center of roads are hazardous.
4. Bring in more jobs that have good benefits.