ELKHART — An attorney and a life coach are hoping to represent the residents of Elkhart’s District 1 on the City Council come 2020.
The life coach, incumbent Republican Richard Shively, said he wants to continue on the path that the current council has set out.
“We’ve got a lot of good stuff coming into the district. Jackson, River District, all that. We need to take care of what we have,” he said.
Shively, 72, wants to guard the money contributed by taxpayers by only approving plans with specific details that correspond to an actual need or benefit, he said.
His Democratic challenger, Gerry Roberts, said he is running to put values into action.
“Any effective government requires everyone to be on the same page and to have a common core set of values. Values like service, transparency, accountability and respect,” Roberts said.
He is not happy with the direction set by City Council.
“I think Elkhart, and District 1, deserves better leadership than it’s been getting,” he said.
The 32-year-old Democrat decided to run for office after seeing City Council close the Tolson Center despite what he described as an outpour of support for keeping the center open. That showed that not enough council members listen to the public, according to Roberts.
District 1 covers the city’s downtown and River District, which has received much political attention in recent years. According to Roberts, that has come at the expense of all the other districts and the non-downtown parts of District 1.
“They’ve had problems with sidewalks or streets or drainage or, just other things that these people care about and that impacts them most on a day-to-day basis that haven’t been taken care of for four years or longer because the focus has been elsewhere,” he said.
Shively, who is on his first term on the City Council, said that term has been a successful one.
“With the conservative, Republican control, we’ve been able to stop the crisis to crisis spending that was in effect previously. We’ve been able to manage the money, save, and therefore we had money to revest in the revitalization rather than having to sell bonds and go further in debt,” he said.
The incumbent said the current City Council, of which all members are seeking re-election, is working together well. But that doesn’t mean they are soft on each other.
“We question each other on ideas. There was no rubber stamp. We gave it thought all the way through, and I believe we’ve done well,” Shively said.
He believes voters should re-elect him, in part, because he has the most experience.
“I have the experience and I have a conservative viewpoint that safeguards our investments,” he said. “It’s not the progressive ‘let’s throw money at every problem.’”
Roberts said experience shows that Shively is not always attuned to the people of Elkhart, pointing to examples of the Republican suggesting that Latinos should have their own association to give recommendations to the city administration or that white children are not welcome at the Tolson Center.
“He has multiple times excluded or said derogatory or hurtful things to entire groups of the community,” Roberts said.
Shively said that his comments about the Tolson Center earlier this year were just repeating what he had heard from African-American people in the city, whom he claimed had said they did not want Lifeline Youth & Family Services involved at the center because that was too white.
“I don’t know how much more racist you can get than that kind of a statement,” Shively said.
However, the councilman said the issue is old, that the Tolson Center has been reopened, and that he would prefer to move forward.
Roberts, who is a legal counsel Bloomington-based Envisage Technologies, has never before held public office. He said that City Council members often make wrong statements about legal issues and that his experience as an attorney for a business that works with governments gives him an advantage.
“Having somebody who is on the council, who, when an issue comes up in a hearing, can sort of present the issue, help people understand, I think that’s very important and would be a nice addition,” Roberts said.
Follow Rasmus S. Jorgensen on Twitter at @ReadRasmus