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 Candidates Answer Questions at COC Town Council Forum

October 24, 2007 - Six of the seven candidates running for seats on the Knightstown Town Council took part in a candidates forum at the Hoosier Gym last Thursday evening, giving about 50 local voters a chance to learn more about the choices they'll have when they go to the polls November 6.

Those participating in last week's forum, which was sponsored by the Knightstown Chamber of Commerce, included Republican incumbents David Glenn (Ward 4) and Nate Hamilton (Ward 1); independent challengers Terry Guerin (Ward 4), Clyde South (Ward 1) and Robert Weber (Ward 3); and Libertarian Bryan J. Miller (Ward 3). Cort Swincher, the Republican Ward 3 incumbent, did not attend the forum due to a work commitment.

Candidates were given two minutes at the beginning of the nearly 80-minute forum to make an opening statement, and then another two minutes at the end to make closing remarks. In between those two points, moderator Robb Matt, a vice president at Hancock Regional Hospital, asked candidates questions that had been submitted by forum attendees prior to the event's start.

Of the 22 questions Matt asked, two were directed specifically to the two incumbents who participated, Glenn and Hamilton; one was directed specifically to the three independent challengers; and one asking about who will count the votes on November 6 was answered by Clerk-Treasurer Judy Haines, who sits on the town election board. Excluding the question Haines answered from the count, incumbents Glenn and Hamilton had a chance to answer 20 of the questions asked, while Guerin, South and Weber could have answered as many as 19; Miller could have responded to 18.

Looking at individual candidates, the two vying for the Ward 4 seat posted the highest response rates, registering nearly identical numbers. Glenn, the incumbent council president, answered 18 of 20 questions for a 90-percent response rate, while his challenger, Guerin, was just below that at 89.5 percent, having answered 17 of 19 questions. The next three highest response rates were posted by South (78.9 percent), Miller (27.8 percent) and Weber (21.1 percent).

Hamilton, the council's current vice president, answered only one question during last week's forum, resulting in the evening's lowest response rate, five percent. Three days before the forum, the Ward 1 incumbent had told The Banner he had not responded to its two-page candidates questionnaire because the newspaper was "asking too many damn questions."

The very first question of the night was one directed specifically to Glenn and Hamilton. They were asked if they thought anything should have been done differently with respect to the town's decision to fight The Banner's efforts to learn the terms of a confidential $75,000 settlement that ended a former police dispatcher's civil rights lawsuit against the town and police department.

"We were kind of drug into that," Glenn said. "We kind of got into it at the end of it." He said he wished it had not happened, adding, "I think the whole board just wanted to stop."

Unlike Glenn, who was appointed to the council after The Banner had already begun its efforts to learn terms of the settlement, Hamilton had been a council member even before the dispatcher filed her lawsuit in 2003. However, as would be the case with 18 other questions asked that night, he offered no response.

The remaining questions asked during the forum covered a number of issues. Here's what candidates had to say about some of the topics addressed in the questions.

 

*Guerin said he had contacted state lawmakers to talk to them about property taxes. While he said he didn't think it was reasonable to expect them to eliminate property taxes altogether, he said he believed a person's primary residence should be exempt, and that he would urge lawmakers to make that happen. Guerin said he supported the local plan commission's efforts to plan for future growth and development, which would include annexation, but said it is likely to be a long, drawn-out process.

*Glenn noted that the town's plan commission has been drafting a comprehensive development plan that would eventually call for annexation of areas to the north, east and west of town. He said, "That is the first step in what we have to do."

*South said he thought changes need to be made in the way property taxes are distributed. As president of the town's plan commission, South also confirmed Glenn's remarks about the direction in which annexation is likely to occur.

*"I'd just like to say that I'm for annexation," Miller said. He said that would be one way to ensure that Wayne Township property tax dollars go to the Knightstown Public Library as opposed to the New Castle-Henry County Public Library.

 

*"I feel that I have that kind of background," Guerin said. He referred to a biographical handout he had prepared and made available for attendees, which showed his professional experiences in private, public and nonprofit organizations.

*Weber pointed to his background as an officer in the U.S. Airforce, as well as his 30 years as a self-employed farmer. As a department manager at Home Depot in Greenfield, he said he is still putting these skills to work.

*South was a drill instructor in the military and served as a union collective bargaining representative for 31 years. "I've been in leadership positions my whole life," he said.

* Glenn said he had learned a lot from his prior employers, and that when he worked for the state, he had been a supervisor over 16 people.

 

*"I truly am an independent," Guerin answered. "Sitting on the town council of Knightstown should not be a political position." He said all council members, regardless of political affiliation, should be concerned with the welfare of the town.

*Weber said that like the three incumbents seeking reelection, he is also a Republican. However, because he figured the county Republican Party would be likely to select the incumbent over him when it came time to choose their party's candidate, he decided to run as an independent.

*Like Guerin, South also said he didn't think personal politics should have a whole lot to with governing the town. He said he believes reasonable people can get past partisan politics and work together for the betterment of the community.

 

*"This town has all the potential, all the resources to be like Madison," Guerin said. "It's things like antique shops that bring people into town." Guerin said local economic development often requires looking for assistance at the regional, state and federal levels, and that he thinks groups like the Knightstown Chamber of Commerce and Make a Difference Knightstown, Inc., should try to work together for the town's improvement. "If this town is going to move, everyone needs to move forward in a uniform direction," he said.

*South said Knightstown's location on U.S. Hwy. 40 and near Interstate 70 is great. He also said the town boasts "solid citizens" who make good neighbors. He said he views economic development as the number one objective for the town and its residents. If more jobs can be created in town, he said that will bring more people to town.

*"I think that we're doing everything we possibly can," Glenn said. Pointing to two new businesses that have come to town in the past year, he said "We're trying every way we possibly can to get more businesses in Knightstown.

 

*Geurin said his primary motivation for running was what he saw as a need for more openness in local government.

* Weber said he was prompted to run by what he saw as a unnecessary micromanagement of the police department.

*South said there was no one specific issue that caused him to run. He said he just wanted to give something back to the community. "Young kids don't have that same opportunity I had 40 years ago," he said with respect to diminished employment and recreational options for local youth. "We could do this if we all get to working together."

 

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