District 24 of the Indianapolis City-County Council covers part of the south central side of the city. Incumbent Republican John D. Wesseler is not running for election after filling the vacant spot left by the newly elected State Senator Jack Sandlin. Looking to fill the vacant seat are Democrat Ben Brown and Republicans Thomas L. Vaughn and Doug Wood.
Thomas L. Vaughn
Tom is the current Chief of the Southport Police Department and the acting Public Works Supervisor for Southport. After graduating Perry Meridian High School, Tom married his high school sweetheart, Jane. Over the past thirty-plus years of marriage, they’ve raised three children and spoiled two grandchildren along the way. During their time off, they are both actively involved in working alongside various multicultural organizations, including a strong presence with the Burmese community within Perry Township. Tom has also coached youth sports for several years as a way to instill important life values in our youth. Tom is also involved in several other organizations within Perry Township, including winning the “Lions Club Citizen of the Year” award, and he currently serves as an active member of the Lions Club-International.
[Editor’s note: The following questions were the top six most popular questions submitted by and voted upon by NUVO readers. On Wednesday, May 1, Brown responded by saying: "My apologies for not getting back on this. At this time, I am going to pass on submitting answers. If you are going to submit questions after the primary, I would interested." Wood did not return his answers before the primary election.]
NUVO: How will you address quality of life issues for Indianapolis residents — affordable housing, food deserts, transportation options for those without cars, air quality, water quality, schools, green space, sustainability, recycling, lack of park funding, etc.?
Vaughn: I understand that these issues are areas of concern for our citizens, and feel that we as a city can do better. Unfortunately, I cannot address each concern with the space allotted for this publication. I do feel that there has been very wasteful spending in the city, spending money on “pet projects” that don’t benefit our entire city. I feel that the concerns you listed have suffered by that mismanagement of money. If we can get spending under control, we can appropriate those funds into quality of life projects that benefit the entire city.
NUVO: I want to know how they are going to support the public school system.
Vaughn: I feel that it all starts with Teachers. Our Teachers are the life blood of a school system, and tasked with educating our future leaders. Teacher pay needs to be increased, and we need to seek their input on ways to improve, as they are on the front lines. We need to offer or increase individual classroom budgets, so that the teachers can purchase items they need without spending their own money. I feel that if you empower the teachers, our education system will be world class. We also need to support programs in the arts, as a school system with involved students creates a successful atmosphere. Again, there is mismanagement of funds within the schools, we need to cut waste and appropriate those funds to proper projects.
NUVO: What are your plans to help Indianapolis have a more equitable distribution of resources to help marginalized communities without contributing to gentrification?
Vaughn: I feel that we need to empower our communities, which will lead to success. The problem when our government is leading a program is that there is wasteful spending, red tape, and back room deals. These things take resources from those who need it most. I feel that public/private partnerships could be very successful in offering a lot of resources to marginalized communities. This also puts control of those communities in the citizens hands, which would stop outside influence and curb gentrification.
NUVO: How will you address the pothole problem?
Vaughn: We need a multi-pronged approach to truly tackle our crumbling infrastructure. First, we need to fix the potholes plaguing our city, NOW! We need an all hands on deck approach to quickly resolve these issues, so we need to utilize all manpower into getting this under control. We also need to determine the best method to repair these potholes. What new products or technology might exist that will offer a longer-term repair? We also need an infrastructure plan to identify areas that are in need of complete road paving, and do those first. Then move through the list. There are streets in my district that haven’t been touched for years, that is unacceptable. Unfortunately pot hole repair is just a bandaid, so we need a comprehensive plan.
NUVO: What will you do to encourage the increased use of alternate (non motor vehicle) forms of transportation in the city?
Vaughn: Indianapolis has a great network of bike trails and lanes, however outside of the downtown areas, it doesn’t appear that they are being utilized as much as intended. I think we need to research why the current lanes aren’t being utilized in certain areas and come up with a plan to encourage usage. An active community is a healthy community, which is an important factor in quality of life.
NUVO: How do you feel about decriminalizing possession of personal amounts of cannabis, as other large cities have done?
Vaughn: I have done very little research on this topic, but I have thoughts based on what I do know. Medically, there is irrefutable evidence on the benefits of cannabis. I think that legalization for medicinal purposes is a no-brainer, and I feel that we are close in doing that. As far as total decriminalization, I’d have to see the studies on how it affects the crime rate. If it shows it reduces crime, I think we have to take a long hard look at it. With our soaring crime rate, we need to look at all options.