The candidates for Greencastle city offices, including the top position of mayor, faced off Wednesday night before a packed Watson Forum on the campus of DePauw University.
Those who took to the podium included mayoral candidates Steve Butts and Sue Murray; city clerk-treasurer candidates Rhonda Chaney and Teresa Glenn; city council first ward candidates Adam Cohen and Jeremy Carver; city council third ward candidates Eric Birt and Jinsie Bingham; and city council fourth ward candidates Terry Smith and Russ Evans.
City council at-large candidates Karen Ambler and John Lanie could not attend the debates.
A list of panelists, including BannerGraphic Editor Lisa Trigg, Karen Martoglio (representing the Greencastle League of Women Voters) and Elizabeth Elliott (representing WGRE radio) asked the candidates a variety of questions ranging from their views on the city’s recently instituted smoking ban to economic growth.
The two mayoral candidates stand opposed in their opinions of the smoking ban, which disallows smoking in all public places in the city with the exception of private clubs.
Murray, a native of Chicago, said she supports the ban because she feels it protects workers, while Butts says he is opposed and feels private businesses should be able to make their own decision regarding the issue.
The pair also opposes each other in their views on the city’s need, or lack of need, for a community center.
A committee has been studying the idea of a standalone facility composed of recreation and meeting space, in addition to many other options.
Butts said he believes there are currently facilities in town, such as the city pool and parks, that are being underutilized and could fill the need.
However, Murray commented that while there are facilities available, there are not enough to go around.
She suggested that a new facility could provide much needed services such as meeting spaces and places for exercise and fitness.
The two did agree, when asked that the city should do all it can to seek out new and small businesses to the community and nurture existing ones.
Murray said she believes Greencastle has become a “Wal-Mart community.”
Another issue that was brought to the table on more than one instance Wednesday night, and to more than one set of candidates, was the relationship between the city and DePauw University.
Most candidates, when asked, agreed that they believe the relationship could be improved and they suggested opening the lines of communication.
Candidate Cohen suggested block parties as a means of getting people together to talk about ideas and keep the lines of communication open.
He said he thought the relations between the two have been deteriorating noticeably in recent years.
Carver said, in his opening remarks, that he supports limited government and is a conservative candidate. Among his comments, he said he opposes the city’s smoking ban and believes it is a private issue.
Mayoral candidate Murray expressed concern that an African American student, who she has become acquainted with through her employment at Putnam County Hospital, reported having been the victim of harassment by members of the community at large.
She said she would work to open the dialogue between city residents and DePauw students, through education, in an effort to address these issues.
Meanwhile, the city’s infrastructure was called into question several times during the debate.
Candidates of the opposite side, Bingham and Birt, seemed to agree on the need for good streets and sidewalks and support of the expansion of the city’s fitness trail system People Pathways.
Both said they feel it is in the best interest of the city to invest funds in seeing these efforts move forward in the future.
Council candidates Smith and Evans stood opposed to their views on the city skate park.
Smith said he felt that adult supervision was appropriate for keeping the site free of undesirable activities and to protect against injuries.
But Evans said that once the city takes a supervisory role, it becomes liable for any injuries that do occur. He said the prospects are too expensive and would oppose such a plan.
One set of candidates who didn’t get a chance to face off Wednesday night were clerk-treasurer candidates Chaney and Glenn.
The questioning of the two had barely gotten under way when Chaney appeared to be overcome by the situation and asked to sit down before she answered her first question.
Seconds later she was assisted off the platform and did not complete the debate. She was said to be in good condition after the debates.
Tuesday night’s debates were taped and, presumably, will be aired on the local public access channel for anyone who didn’t have a chance to watch them live or listen on the radio broadcast.
Readers of the BannerGraphic are also reminded that two full pages of the newspaper were dedicated to the candidates and their answers to the questions posed by the League of Women voters, which appeared on pages 8A and 9A of Tuesday’s issue.