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Mayoral candidates have differing viewpoints but same goal


The phrase “Details Matter” was spoken several times during Tuesday night’s Candidates Forum at Shelbyville Middle School – to the point it almost became the theme of the mayoral portion of the event.

How about a new slogan for Shelbyville? 

“Details Matter.”

Two words, one strong statement about how business should be conducted – now, in the future, forever.

Both incumbent mayor Tom DeBaun and challenger Brad Ridgeway understand that fact. Both used the phrase Tuesday when talking about recent decisions affecting the city, and those that lie ahead over the next four years.

DeBaun’s details are in his success stories – improving educational opportunities, creating more jobs which, in turn, should create additional housing and population that would lead to a spike in retail services in the city, and making the city fiscally sound.

“In the last eight years we’ve seen local government accomplish a lot of great things,” said DeBaun in his opening statement. “First and foremost, we’ve seen the city transition from dire financial straits to a position of fiscal strength and forward thinking in its budgeting and planning processes. Because of the spirit of teamwork, collaboration and some key decision making, the City of Shelbyville is stronger and more vibrant than it may have ever been.”

Ridgeway does not deny the successes of DeBaun’s tenure, but he believes more can be accomplished and at less cost to the city.

“This campaign is about citizens that want their voices heard,” said Ridgeway in his opening statement. “This campaign is about citizens who want elected officials to be good stewards of their tax money. This campaign is about citizens who want clean, safe neighborhoods. This campaign is about citizens seeking solutions to everyday problems.”

The candidates disagree over how downtown redevelopment should look – or cost. 

Citing cities like Franklin that have overhauled their downtown area and had successful businesses grow around it, DeBaun is all-in on what plans to be a major reshaping of the Public Square in 2020. The goal is to create a vibrant gathering place that will feature shopping, dining and entertainment. 

“The reason that we do this is because the downtown is the heart of our community,” explained DeBaun. “And when we talk about things that we want, we think about places like Franklin and we think about places like Lebanon. We saw Martinsville announced a $20 million project two weeks ago. We see this happening all over the world. This is not a unique concept to the city of Shelbyville. We do this because we need to be an attractive place to live. We need to grow the community. Our heart of our downtown has not been positively impacted in the last several years, but now we are starting to see activity.”

Ridgeway counters that the East Washington Street redevelopment, which is currently underway, is too expensive. And another $19 million to reset downtown is too much.

“Costs matter. The reason it was nearly $3 million on East Washington Street is because the mayor wanted it done in a hurry,” countered Ridgeway. “We could have saved almost $400,000 but it’s an election year and you have to open it up, I get it.”

Ridgeway wants more responsible fiscal spending so money is available for other projects such as neighborhood and gateway beautification and other causes such as opioid addiction, of which he says he has a program to roll out dealing with drugs once he is elected.

“For four years I have had town halls and the No. 1 topic in every one of those is the drug epidemic,” said Ridgeway. “I have a plan and will announce it if elected in the first week of January.”

DeBaun countered that if this drug epidemic is as important as he made it out to be, maybe his plan should already have been announced. 

Prior to Ridgeway’s first three-minute span to discuss opioids, DeBaun talked of city councilman Nathan Willis’ project to pull together several organizations to “render assistance to those battling addiction.”

DeBaun spoke of a program soon to be announced that will work through the fire department called “Citizen Advocate.”

“That person will be a first point of contact from first responders to help find the resources for treatment needed for those battling addiction,” said DeBaun.

Willis, a republican, has sat on the council for approximately eight months as a replacement selection for David Carmony, who moved out of the community in early 2019. Willis is seeking to be elected to the Second Ward seat in November, squaring off against democratic challenger Angela Matney.

Government transparency and the use of social media also were topics, especially concerning the live streaming of government meetings which started earlier this year. But there have been snafus along the way and the microphones in the main chambers of City Hall are not always effective, even for those sitting in on the meetings.

The city installed video and audio capabilities but has not followed through well enough to eliminate the concern it does not care about reaching the people who cannot, or chose not to, attend government meetings.

Again, “Details Matter.”

DeBaun admitted the city needs to do better. Ridgeway countered that it should already have been done.

There were and are more pointed topics to be discussed but the time constraints of Tuesday’s event kept them from being asked. So that is up to you ... the voter.

Both DeBaun and Ridgeway are accessible – it goes with campaigning. It continues because of the nature of the job. Don’t shy away from seeking them out if you have questions. And don’t be argumentative if their answer does not fit your narrative. You may be ill-informed on the topic or learn that simple solutions are not always available.

Seeking knowledge makes you a smarter voter, though. 

No matter what happens on Nov. 5, the City of Shelbyville will be left in good hands. 

DeBaun will continue to push to make Shelbyville stronger for the long term. 

Ridgeway will make sure the city remains in a strong financial position.

And both will care deeply about OUR community. That ... I can guarantee.