Democrats vie for at-large council
Just three of the five Democratic Party candidates for Fort Wayne City Council at-large seats will move on to the Nov. 5 general election.
The Democratic Party primary ballot is a mix of new and returning candidates, including a sitting City Council member, a longtime member of the Fort Wayne Community Schools board, the head of the Allen County Drug and Alcohol Consortium, a university professor and a small-business owner.
The primary election is May 7.
Steve Corona, 70, is the longest-serving member on the Fort Wayne Community Schools board. He’s running for City Council because he wants to be part of a council that supports economic development. Corona has been a member of the FWCS board since 1981.
“I sense some reluctance on the part of some (council) members to work with the mayor and the administration,” Corona said. “My belief is that the role of an elected official is to grow the overall value of the community.”
However, Corona said that doesn’t mean he’ll “be some pushover for any project that comes before council.”
The creation of an online public scorecard and dashboard for essential city services is also something Corona said he’s passionate about, noting that he’s explored methods used by Baltimore and Boston for tracking services such as pothole repair and garbage collection.
“I’d love to see us become more public with that kind of scorecard and dashboard with essential city services,” he said. “It shows our residents how fast we can fill that pothole, replace that burned-out light on your block and how fast we are responding to other services. It also tells us where we need to improve.”
Corona also said he’d like to help start a program to name fire stations after worthy people. The first station, Corona said, should be named after Richard Ridley, the city’s first black firefighter.
“It’s a great story about Ridley and what he went through,” Corona said. “He was the Jackie Robinson of the Fort Wayne Fire Department. I would love to see us begin to name our fire stations after people who deserve that honor.”
As a social worker, MaryClare Akers said she has a different perspective on the issues facing the city of Fort Wayne.
“I feel like there’s not a good representation of women and people who are really well connected with the people we serve,” she said.
Akers said she believes Fort Wayne “can do good things, has done good things and can continue to do good things.”
“I will work with the community to get their voice heard. That’s the most important thing,” said Akers, 37. “I can give the council my social work perspective. We meet people where they are and we persist on people’s strengths.”
Akers is director of the Allen County Drug and Alcohol Consortium. She’s lived in Fort Wayne for almost her entire life.
Inclusiveness is paramount for the city’s future, Akers added, noting that her code of ethics as a social worker stands for all people.
“A lot of development decisions are big decisions that need to be put in front of our community to figure out what’s important,” she said.
″(The council) is doing a great job as far as deciding how to build up Fort Wayne, but I’ve not heard a lot recently about going into the suburban areas. I think there’s a need for representation other than for downtown, even though I live and work there. I want to make sure everybody’s heard.”
Akers said she loves Fort Wayne, wants it to do well and wants people to stay here.
As a mother, she said she can bring a perspective not necessarily found at the table currently.
“I have a kid in first grade who goes to FWCS. I think I have a different look at how I want my city to grow for my child,” she said.
For 20 years, City Councilman Glynn Hines has represented Fort Wayne’s 6th District south of downtown. Now, he’s seeking the nomination for an at-large seat instead.
Hines, 68, announced last year he would retire from public life because he needed a new kidney and did not feel healthy enough for the job. After receiving a new kidney later in the year, he surprised many by announcing he would give up his district seat for an at-large position.
In an interview Thursday, Hines said he chose the at-large position because he had already committed to helping County Councilwoman Sharon Tucker in her 6th District campaign.
Hines said his experience on council for the past 20 years will lend itself well to a citywide council position. If elected, Hines said he will continue to focus on the needs of the entire city “and find opportunities and make a positive impact throughout the community.”
“If you look at my voting record, I’ve always supported the big projects that impact the entire city: Ash Brokerage, The Landing, Southtown, Electric Works, all of those projects I have supported are major projects.”
Hines is currently City Council vice president.
“I have a very successful track record in doing the job, so there’s no startup, no learning curve that needs to take place,” he said. “I look to provide the kind of leadership that’s needed in the position at large, because the entire city is near and dear to my heart.”
The most important thing, Hines said, is to “continue to be a consensus builder for bipartisan solution-based processes.” He used his work on a recent zoning ordinance change limiting locations where new gas stations can open as an example. That measure passed in an 8-1 vote last month.
Hines also said he wants to continue to support local and regional businesses in their efforts to attract and retain community jobs, specifically jobs that pay a living wage.
Those efforts, Hines said, will improve quality of life.
“What’s been successful is we’ve been able to use all the arrows in our quiver in terms of abatements, community revitalization enhancement district tax credits, and working with Greater Fort Wayne Inc., because they’re kind of the marketing engine for the area,” Hines said.
A 2018 and 2016 candidate for the Indiana House of Representatives, Curtis Nash is running for City Council because many of the issues he was concerned with during his state legislature campaign were things addressed at the local level.
Nash’s agenda focuses on the city’s unsolved homicide rate, transportation and low-cost housing, as well as eliminating food deserts and reassessing how the city awards contracts. Nash is an adjunct professor at Ivy Tech and a limited term lecturer at Purdue Fort Wayne.
Nash also wants to increase the frequency and length of Citilink routes, increase affordable housing and encourage more street markets to open daily in the city’s neighborhoods.
As for the unsolved homicide rate, Nash said the Fort Wayne Police Department needs more resources, such as forensics, to solve murders. Nash described homicides as his most urgent concern.
“City Council can enable police to have more resources, as they need to cast a wider evidentiary net,” Nash said. “They need more forensic evidence.”
Some options, Nash said, would be to install CCTV cameras in certain areas of the city to help identify criminals. City Councilman John Crawford, who is running for mayor, has also proposed this as a possible solution to address crime. Nash also said he would explore options for more forensic investigative techniques.
“I know (FWPD) shares the crime lab with the state police and sometimes have to wait on things,” Nash said. “Maybe if we had our own forensics people and our own lab, that wouldn’t be so much of an issue.”
Michelle Chambers wants to see a City Council that is more inclusive and better reflects Fort Wayne’s demographics.
“I look forward to working across party lines. With growth comes hard decisions that need to be made,” Chambers said. “I am confident that with my practical skills and ability and passion, I am the best candidate to make those difficult decisions that lie ahead.”
Chambers, 51, previously ran for Fort Wayne City Council at large in 2015. She also served as interim city clerk in 2015, replacing long-time City Clerk Sandy Kennedy.
Chambers owns Signing Closers LLC, a mobile notary service.
If elected, Chambers said the first priority would be crafting legislation addressing workforce and the local minimum wage.
“I want to commission a study on what our workforce looks like and if cities can make a requirement to raise the local minimum wage,” Chambers said. “If we can’t do it locally, can we work with the state to really push that?”
Chambers also said she wants to ensure that the city’s commissions, boards and committees reflect the city’s constituency.
“I think it would be good to have the opportunity for other people to make those decisions in economic development, public works, those committees that oversee and help pass things that come to council,” she said.
Another item on Chambers’ list is the creation of a nondenominational clergy council, made up of representatives of every faith in Fort Wayne.
“I know politics and religion shouldn’t cross, but I think we have a strong clergy. A board could bring back the concerns of their members,” Chambers said. “They’re with our people every weekend, whatever their faith is.”
Chambers said her experience, which includes membership on numerous local boards, has prepared her for the work of a city council member.
“I’ll be ready to work on Jan. 1,” she said. “My learning curve is not really there, having managed multimillion-dollar budgets and having knowledge of local ordinances.”