City councilman criticized for race remarks on Tolson Center

Truth file photo Elkhart City Councilman Brent Curry, D-5, and Mayor Tim Neese, R, criticized Councilman Richard Shively, R-1, for his May 6 comments about race and the fairness of reopening the Tolson Center at this week’s City Council meeting.

ELKHART — An Elkhart city councilman’s comments about race and sharing community facilities between city districts continues to receive attention two weeks after they were made.

At a May 6 meeting, City Council decided in two 8-1 votes to reopen the Tolson Center by moving the Parks & Recreation Department’s administration to the center.

Richard Shively, R-1, voted against the plan, arguing that a long-term plan had not been presented.

He also expressed concern that the center would only really be open to some segments of the city’s population, no matter where they reside.

“We’ve heard the comments about how, ‘We don’t want white people.’ That white people can’t understand black children,” Shively said on May 6.

That appeared to get the attention of the audience and some elected officials. 

At the council meeting this week, Brent Curry, D-5, took up the topic, saying he had been asked to do so by people living in Shively’s district.

“They were very offended by your comments at the last meeting, about Tolson and what one district has versus another district, and they wanted me to make sure I let you know they were offended by your comments,” Curry said Monday. “So now you know.”

At the May 6 meeting, Shively had complained that too much attention is given to the Tolson Center and south Elkhart. He asked why some efforts that are now set to take place at Tolson won’t also happen at High Dive Pavilion and other city facilities around town.

“We have poor people, we have disadvantaged people as well. Why is it that the south side gets so much attention? Why is so much focus there? What about us?” Shively said.

Mayor Tim Neese also spoke at this week’s meeting, thanking City Council for approving the plan for the Tolson Center.

He specifically pointed to Brian Dickerson, R-at large, and David Henke, R-3, for speaking “very eloquently” about the future of the Tolson Center.

“Councilmember Curry spoke about the diversity of the city, specifically your district,” Neese said, speaking to Curry. “And your words reflected much wisdom.”

The mayor then switched his attention to Shively.

“Sir Shively, you apparently didn’t get the memo that there are some things you just don’t say, because they’re counterproductive. You seem to possess an inner anger that, I think, if it were modified and redirected, there could be a great deal of positive influence and constructive accomplishments,” Neese said.

He specifically addressed Shively’s concern about the south side of the city getting too much attention.

“You were correct May 6, in the meeting, when you said that your district does not have a facility like the Tolson Center. But your district does have the Boys & Girls Club, the Lerner Theatre, most of the RiverWalk, the River District, the Aquatics Center and also the Flaherty & Collins apartments. These are all, in my opinion, very impressive features of this city,” Neese said.

Henke encouraged Curry to direct Shively’s constituents to call Shively and speak with their city councilman when they have concerns.

“I would hope that all of us, which have the opportunity to either be misrepresented or otherwise, would have that same opportunity. Lord knows there was plenty of name-calling on both sides through the two years of discussion,” Henke said.

He pointed out that he has been called things he didn’t like, but that he doesn’t want to spend time talking about that.

“We’re trying to get past this, we’re trying to move on, we’re trying not to offend and keep a wound open, so I would hope that people will do the responsible thing and call Dr. Shively personally, meet with him personally,” Henke said.

Shively after the meeting said he did not want to comment on the exchange. 

Follow Rasmus S. Jorgensen on Twitter @ReadRasmus

(7) comments


He’s not wrong. This city is like a broken record with Tolsen. How many times does it take them to fail with handout upon handout. The previous management ran it in the ground with”misplaced funds” and folks are upset with the city?? I think the parents sending there children there or at least the ones that know their children are at Tolson, should pay a monthly fee. It’s not free.

Old Girl

"Previous management" WAS the city lol

Joe King

one GOP member says racist things, another GOP member drives drunk and gets a dui....nice.....that's your party.....own it....


Still waiting for the collusion with Russia Joe. Typical Lib, try to paint the whole GOP based on 2 people. Why are you so angry? I guess time will tell if Mr Shively was right in his assessment but I do agree it was a stupid comment.

Joe King

own it sidearm...own it well.....


What is the over/under on how many MAGA hats Shively has?


That comment seems negative. Why don't you censor it?

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