In April of this year, Urban Indy put together a list of questions for the Republican and Democrat candidates for Mayor in the 2011 election here in Indianapolis. Our questions are more than you would see in the usual media sources and are focused on issues that our readers find important. Topics such as transit, neighborhood development, environment, education, food and jobs were all given focused consideration. The Q & A below is how Democratic candidate Melina Kennedy answered. For her campagn website, please click here.
Q: How do you envision purposing RebuildIndy funds in coming years to invest in the neighborhoods of Indianapolis?
A: A Kennedy administration would implement a substantive re-definition of how the City plans projects, provide services, and spends taxpayer dollars. It would involve comprehensive community development strategy and individual neighborhood-based planning. This would be a switch from top-down (Mayor/City directed) “one size fits all” model of Rebuild Indy spending to a bottom-up, neighborhood-directed model. It starts from the premise that Indy is comprised of units called neighborhoods that have physical, social, and economic assets which need to be leveraged. I also want to be sure projects are not rushed for arbitrary deadlines, like elections, that have resulted in some improvements being made over a short period of time on the same roads, thereby wasting one time public dollars. In short, efficiency of the use of proceeds by better coordination and planning would also be a key component.
Q: Would you be willing to support options that allow neighborhoods to levy taxes on themselves to invest in specific infrastructure projects? (ie: sidewalks, transit stops, bike trails, etc)
A: I would consider supporting these options if pursued under the current law. If it would require new laws, I would likely be supportive but would want to see the language proposed.
Q: How important is it to invest in redeveloping areas such as the Lafayette Square neighborhood and what level of commitment to changing the built form to create a friendly space should the city take upon itself?
A: Very important. Comprehensive Community-based and neighborhood-driven redevelopment is the key to adding real jobs and solving a myriad of other issues including crime, education, transportation, and housing. While Deputy Mayor for Economic Development I oversaw numerous community development initiatives, including setting up the CRED District in the Lafayette Square area, as well as the Certified Technology Park near the old Bush Stadium.
Q: Do you support changes to zoning codes to reduce parking requirements, increase options for mixed use, and create a more dense urban core? (ie: Form Based Codes)
A: Yes. I support a flexible approach to zoning codes and land use planning that would allow particular communities to realize their shared vision of the future of their community.
Q: Do you support enforcement of existing penalties for residents who do not shovel their sidewalks of snow in the winter where sidewalks do exist?
A: Existing laws should be followed.
Q: Does IndyConnect sufficiently address the issues of investing in the city core versus transferring investment to the suburban areas?
A: Indyconnect still has not come out with a final plan, but we need to ensure that any mass transit plan addresses the needs of residents in all parts of our city. Nationally, about 40 percent of transit riders have incomes of less than $25,000 a year. But in Indianapolis, that number is upwards of 70 percent. More than 50 percent of IndyGo riders are ‘transit-dependent,’ meaning they have no other transportation choice to get to work, to shopping, to school, to day care. Of those riders, 78 percent do not have a vehicle available to them. And, sixty percent of IndyGO riders don’t even have a driver’s license. Improving transit option in the city core and connecting our neighbors with all parts of our city is essential quality of life. And, providing more transportation options is good for all citizens, not just the transit dependent.
Q: Are you supportive of more urban based rail projects that address local transportation options for city residents versus the concerns for regional mobility? (ie: light rail, modern streetcars, BRT dedicated guideways, etc)
A: Yes and as mayor, my long-term vision is of a multi-modal transportation system that is fiscally sustainable and integrates rail, roads, bus, air, pedestrian and bicycle facilities into a fully interconnected network. Affordable, reliable and accessible, our transportation system must provide viable choices to residents and visitors. Integrated with responsible land use planning, our transportation system will drive economic growth and a development pattern that enhances our quality of life, by creating complete communities with ready, safe and convenient access to jobs, shopping, school, services or recreation.
Q: Should an Indianapolis Mayor champion a cause to reduce local spending on roads and devote more of it to transit?
A: Infrastructure is important and so is an appropriate transit system. But, we also have many other critical issues facing our city like jobs, fighting crime and improving educational outcomes. And again, my long-term vision is of a multi-modal transportation system that is fiscally sustainable and integrates rail, roads, bus, air, pedestrian and bicycle facilities into a fully interconnected network. Affordable, reliable and accessible, our transportation system must provide viable choices to residents and visitors. Integrated with responsible land use planning, our transportation system will drive economic growth and a development pattern that enhances our quality of life, by creating complete communities with ready, safe and convenient access to jobs, shopping, school, services or recreation.
Q: How important is it to employ local workers for local infrastructure? At what point do we look at out of town/state laborers?
A: Very important. We should be working to put Indianapolis back to work and ensure that our residents have the skills required of the jobs that are available.
Q: What is your point of view on privatization of public assets? (ie: parking meters, utilities, etc)
A: Selling off our assets is not, in and of itself, leadership. I am not against privatization, per se, but it should be evaluated on a case by case situation. Each deal should be done in a way that protects and serves taxpayers and our City. Some of the deals that this Mayor has put together have not been done with the interest of the tax payer, like the parking meter deal.
Q: What is your opinion on “green” infrastructure?
A: Encouraging green infrastructure such as green roofs, rain gardens and other green infrastructure is a positive way to protect the environment and enhance a city.
Q: What is the right mix of “green” vs status quo? (ie: rain gardens, Cultural Trail, pervious concrete, etc)
A: Choosing green is almost always a plus. It is particularly appropriate for new development when new materials and ways to incorporate green aspects can be done throughout. Retrofitting existing buildings and infrastructure is also important. Either way, it should be encouraged whenever possible.
Q: How might you support access to green space and recreational activities, especially among underserved communities like young people, seniors and those with limited proximity to parks?
A: The city can play a role by supporting its existing parks and recreational facilities, as well as partnering with businesses and other facilities to connect recreational places and initiatives to underserved families throughout the city.
Q: How do you see Indianapolis’ school systems contributing to community redevelopment efforts?
A: Indianapolis’s long-term success depends on the performance of our public schools. When families are deciding where to live, and businesses are choosing where to locate, the quality of the schools is a big factor. If our public schools are serving children and families well, we will be able to offer a better quality of life, be more attractive to families, and have a competitive advantage in recruiting and retaining employers to the city. If we don’t have strong public schools, we will fall behind.
Q: What, if any, additional efforts would you champion to improve local schools?
A: Improving educational outcomes will require sustained engagement from the mayor’s office. This includes working to improve access to high-quality early childhood education. To do this, I will make an initial investment from the Vision 2021 fund, which I’ve proposed be created from the proceeds of the water utility sale, to help pre-k providers improve their services and offer tuition credits so more families can gain access to those high-quality providers. Plus, because not all children learn in the same way, I will work to increase the variety of schools and teaching models so families can find the school that is the best fit for their child. Finally, in a Kennedy Administration, I will work to connect our schools with organizations, business leaders, and volunteers who want to work with us to improve our schools.
Q: What would you do, as mayor, to increase access to high-quality foods throughout our community?
A: I would support urban gardens, farmers markets, and other ways to promote healthy and high quality foods throughout the community. I would also promote education among families about the importance of healthy foods and availability of such.
Q: Specifically, what ideas do you have to address “food deserts” and food insecurity in Indianapolis?
A: Specifically, I would start with a comprehensive high quality food asset mapping initiative to best understand where food deserts exist. A combination of organizing efforts to recruit grocery stores or food co-ops, develop urban gardens and identify options to access high quality foods would comprise a strategy to address the areas identified as most in need of high quality food options.