The two men vying to lead Elkhart for the next four years met in a televised debate.
A room full of voters were invited to watch Elkhart's two-term incumbent Dick Moore face off against Tim Neese, the republican challenger vying for his job.
“This really is a race where people can choose from two very experienced choices,” WNIT’s “Politically Speaking” host Elizabeth Bennion said. Bennion also teaches political science at IUSB.
Moore and Neese squared off for a one-hour moderated live debate sharing ideas on some very real problems the city continues to face.
“What are two specific things you can do as mayor to reduce crime and promote public safety?” IUSB student Stuart Settle asked.
“Looking at more police officers. We'll be putting three police officers in our schools,” mayor Moore answered.
“That when the police officers know the residents, crime is going to be reduced,” Neese said.
The candidates recognize that Elkhart's crime isn't the only problem, but also jobs. Unemployment is no longer above 20 percent, now it's a shortage of available workers.
“A minimum wage clause that might be hypothetically nothing under $13 per hour,” Neese said.
“At one time, a job was a job, it looked very good. $10 an hour looked pretty good,” Moore said.
“I'm not sure if there was a clear winner either way. I think both sides gave interesting views on what they'd like to do and I guess that's what I came here for, to see what they had in mind,” Elkhart resident Sam Rodino said.
“We've had the mayor now for several years. And I think it's maybe about time for somebody else to step in with new ideas and take the city forward,” Elkhart resident Craig Jerina said.
While both candidates found common ground, they were on opposite sides relating to tearing abandoned homes, which the mayor has supported.
“We don't need people sleeping there. We don't need people walking in there. We need them in better places than that. And so we needed to get rid of them,” Moore said.
“It costs between $6,000 and $22,000 per individual structure that's going to be demolished. That's taxpayer money,” Neese said.
“It sometimes can make it a little more difficult for voters to decide who to vote for when both people seem to be pleasant and well-mannered because sometimes they look at the fireworks and see whose personality do I like better?” Bennion said.
Mayor Moore and Neese have already met for informal debates twice in the last month.
Moore is a long-time Elkhart firefighter, while Neese has served as an Indiana state representative for 12 years and on Elkhart's common council.