Forum reveals little difference between candidates

by Kinsey Bak and Zach James

With elections coming next week, Simpson College hosted an Indianola City Council Candidate Forum Tuesday night sponsored by the Culver Public Policy Center.

Six candidates are vying for spots on the council and shared their views on various topics, including the closing of C Street.

The six candidates who are running for city council are Ward One incumbent Randy Gathers, Ward One challenger John Parker Jr., Ward Three incumbent Shirley Clark, Ward Three challenger Eric Mathieu, At Large incumbent Mark Vickroy and at-large challenger Greg Marchant.

Simpson Students and residents of Indianola were curious to find out what the candidates would say about closing C Street, a main artery of Indianola.

The council mentioned that there are three different approaches that could be taken regarding C Street.

One option, which was discussed by Clark, would be to resurface the road and bring it up to date. It was argued, however, that this was not being done because the closing of C Street has been a topic of discussion for about a year.

The second option would be to create “tables” or speed bumps on the road to slow traffic down or to take out the parking on C Street so students can see the vehicles more easily making it safer while keeping the street open.

The third option Clark discussed would be to completely shut it down. If the city were to close C Street, it would be open to the police and emergency vehicles only.

“I think we need to define a visible plan for how it might look if we did do a vehicle-pedestrian-friendly path through there,” Clark said. “Simpson has their plan, and I know they’ve presented it out.”

All six candidates agreed that changing C Street was necessary, even if it was partial closing.

“We need to get all the information in order to come up with the best decision,” Marchant said. “It really comes down to Simpson students and we need to hear what their opinions are.”

Some Simpson students were pleased to hear the candidates’ plans, including student body president Joe Sorenson.

“I’m glad they finally gave the attention to the partial closing,” Sorenson said. “It’s tough right now because Simpson students want it to be closed and we want to be able to do what our plans are.”

Sorenson is optimistic that cooperation between the Simpson community and Indianola residents can result in a beneficial outcome for everyone.

“In the grand scheme of things, we want what’s best for the community,” Sorenson said. “Hopefully the discussion stays open and find what’s best for both parties.”

The issue of C Street wasn’t the only hot topic discussed during the forum. The first topic was what role the city played in promoting economic development.

The six incumbents agreed that attracting businesses to Indianola would be a force similar to a magnet.

“We need an environment for businesses to come in and thrive,” Parker said. “We must have a place to grow.”

However, Marchant said that while growing economic status is a good thing, Indianola does not need to become a Des Moines suburb.

“We don’t need the town to become an Ankeny or Waukee,” Marchant said.

The next question posed for the council candidates was to rank the priority for additional facilities.

All six agreed that public safety needed to be the main focus.

“Getting a public safety building is definitely on top,” Vickroy said. “Having a recreation center and a new library are efforts we need to look into, but public safety needs to be our next goal.”

Vickroy also said that finding out what finances the town has is a factor that needs to be considered.

“We need to figure out what money we can have and spend,” Vickroy said. “The library always seems to come in third.”

Next, the candidates discussed whether there was a balance between maintaining low taxes versus the desire for services and amenities.

“Obviously, no one wants to pay taxes, but everyone wants the best of the best,” Mathieu said.

Marchant believes taxes are needed to run the city.

“We need taxes,” Marchant said. “It comes down to having to decide what you and do and make people somewhat happy.”

The other candidates had similar views regarding tax issues.

Finally, the topic of paying for streets and sidewalks came up, and the candidates realized that increasing property values was a major roadblock.

Gathers believes it’s a sore subject, but one that needs to be addressed.

“This can become a touchy subject when it’s time for someone’s street to be repaved or resurfaced,” Gathers said. “The solution is not simple, but I believe we need to raise taxes and it comes out of that fund.”

Mathieu points out that he has personally seen people burdened by additional costs.

“We have some street that won’t be surfaced for 20 or 30 years,” Mathieu said. “We have to come up with a plan as we go forward that benefits everyone.”

Voting for the city council will be 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 8. Poll locations depend on the ward in which voters live. A ward map and the poll locations can be found on Indianola’s website