I'm writing to respond to the back and forth debate between Mayor Tom DeBaun and Attorney General Todd Rokita that's been going on in this paper, on Aug. 17, Aug. 21 and Aug. 31.
Mr. Rokita's been urging the mayor to join with 580 other Indiana towns to share in the $507 million Indiana is due to get from the national opioid settlement between the U.S. and several drug manufacturers found responsible for contributing to the nation's drug epidemic.
Shelbyville and about 80 other Indiana towns have opted out of the settlement to pursue their own lawsuits against the drug makers.
According to a WBIW article dated July 22, 2021, Indiana stands to lose up to $238 million of settlement funds if those communities don't opt back in.
Mayor DeBaun argues he opted out because the state would control who gets what from the national settlement money, plus the city's already filed its own lawsuit, as other cities have, and joining the state settlement would limit what we can receive.
Without going into all the numbers the mayor and attorney general tossed around, I'll just point to that old saying about a bird in the hand being worth two in the bush.
Old sayings are old for a reason, because they're usually right.
The settlement offer from the state is a sure thing; the mayor's lawsuit isn't, and I noticed Mayor DeBaun didn't say how much the lawyers in the city's lawsuit are costing us, which would cut into any settlement we may, or may not, get.
I'd also ask, while we're waiting on whatever money we might get, what else has the mayor done about our drug crisis?
He proposed funding in next year's budget for a part-time counseling position, but we have the resources to do much more, especially with the racino money we get.
My worst fear is that Mayor DeBaun doesn't want to do anything high-profile about our drug epidemic because it would take away from the upscale image he's trying to create with his downtown project that's going to wind up costing us somewhere around $40 million.
The total failure of his executive housing development at the old Major Hospital site – two public auctions and only one lot sold, at cost, and supposedly bought by one of his big campaign donors – should have been enough for the mayor to rethink his downtown plan.
We have a serious drug problem here that's hurt so many families, my own among them. We have the means to do something now, not wait for a lawsuit victory that may never come.
Opting into the state settlement is money in the bank. Waiting on a lawsuit that may take years, if ever, to settle is like spending $40 million on a downtown, then hoping some new residents will show up to live there and help us pay for it.
Former Shelbyville City Councilman
2019 Republican candidate for mayor