Candidates face tough questions
All-day kindergarten. The environment. Alternative energy sources.
These issues and many others were addressed Thursday by District 44 State Rep. candidates Nancy Michael, D-Greencastle and Amos Thomas, R-Brazil at a luncheon hosted by the Greater Greencastle Chamber of Commerce.
Thomas, who has been an attorney for more than 50 years, cited the procurement of better paying jobs, energy independence and amending the Indiana Constitution to include permanent property tax caps as three of his main legislative goals.
Michael, a former three-term Greencastle mayor, said her main focus would be adequate funding for transportation, the institution of full-day kindergarten throughout the district and repairing the state's Family and Social Services Administration -- which she described as "a disaster."
Thomas said he agreed with Michael about full-day kindergarten, and that he would take the issue one step further.
"I would like to make it mandatory," he said. "If you don't, the ones who need it the most won't get it."
When asked what she would do to make it easier for small school districts to operate on tight budgets, Michael said she would make getting tax money to the schools on time a priority.
"Also, there is little flexibility in how schools can spend their money," she said. "We wonder why tracks and football fields are priorities, and sometimes it's because the schools aren't allowed to spend the money anywhere else. Maybe that's something that needs to be looked at."
Thomas, an incumbent candidate who has been the District 44 representative since 2006, said that idea was good in theory but may be difficult to bring to fruition.
"Most times, it ends up being the urban schools against the rural schools," he said. "When we try to get more money for the smaller school districts, we usually end up getting voted down. But I would continue to do what I can for our schools."
On environmental issues, Thomas said the key was balance.
"Businesses and corporations don't want strict environmental standards, and in many cases what the environmental groups want is too strict and would put a damper on business," he said. "There needs to be a reasonable balance on environmental issues, and that's a very delicate line to draw."
Michael said she would like to see the state spend more money on research and development with regard to alternate energy sources.
"It's not just a state issue, it's a global issue," she said. "Slowly but surely, we have to change the way we do construction. We have to look into things like mass transit and environmental incentives."
As the luncheon came to a close, Thomas complimented Michael -- then called her to the carpet.
"Nancy and I are both very honorable people," he said. "We like each other; we just disagree on some things."
Thomas then called into question Michael's portrayal of how much involvement she had in Greencastle's successes during her tenure as mayor.
"I'm sure there were other people involved," he said.
Michael answered that comment by saying she and her staff moved Greencastle forward "together."
"I know I can't solve all the district's problems by myself," she said. ""I couldn't do it by myself as a mayor ad I won't be able to do it myself as a legislator."