Terre Haute City Common Council, District 5
Term length: 4 yearsDuties: The legislative body (City Common Council) may pass ordinances, orders, resolutions, and motions for the government of the city, the control of the city’s property and finances, and the appropriation of money. The legislative body may, by ordinance, make loans of money and issue bonds for the purpose of refunding those loans. The loans may be made only for the purpose of procuring money to be used in the exercise of the powers of the city or for the payment of city debts. The legislative body may investigate the departments, officers, and employees of the city; and hire or contract attorneys and legal research assistants. The city legislative body shall, by ordinance, fix the annual compensation of all elected city offices and approve the compensation set by the city executive (the mayor) for each appointive officer, deputy, and other employee of the city. After reviewing the budget report from the fiscal officer, the legislative body shall prepare an ordinance fixing the rate of taxation for the ensuing budget year and an ordinance making appropriations for the estimated department budgets and other city purposes during the ensuing budget year. The legislative body, in the appropriation ordinance, may reduce any estimated item from the figure submitted in the report of the fiscal officer, but it may increase an item only if the executive recommends an increase.Salary: $14,165.84Incumbent: Neil Garrison
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What, in your view, is the next necessary step for the city’s finances and why?
Various projects have been proposed related to local economic development (including but not limited to a casino, convention center, downtown planning, riverfront development). Please describe your vision for economic development in Terre Haute, including how any or all of these projects fit into your plan.
What measures, if any, would you propose to increase the quality of life in our community and/or to ensure that quality of life reaches all community members?
What do you see as the order of priorities for new and improved infrastructure in our community, and how do you propose each of those be funded?
What is your philosophy as to subsidizing business and industry, e.g. tax increment districts, tax abatements, public/private partnerships, development bonding, etc.?
Occupational history and current position
I have over 30 years of marketing experience and currently work as a marketing specialist within the healthcare field.
The 2015 municipal election brought finances to the front of city challenges. Consequently, all elected officials at the time voiced support to improve city finances and I am elated that improvements were made. I hope that this concern will stay near the top of every elected officials list because there is more work to do.
Here are a few hopes I have for the next 4 years:
1). Reduce short-term borrowing
2). Within the next year commit to no longer using redevelopment funds for operational expenses. Those funds can do much more to improve infrastructure needs and reducing unsafe structures that create safety risks in our neighborhoods.
3). Re-commit to using Econ Dev(EDIT) funds for what it was intended. These income tax dollars were initially taken from our workforce for econ dev; not operational expenses.
4). And lastly, re-routing $5 million dollars annually from our waste water treatment fees to the city general fund is not sustainable and will only lead to increase future fees
I believe the new Convention Center will allow us to attract new visitors and potential investors in Terre Haute and Vigo County. Now is the time to prepare for this new audience. The Convention Center will increase activity in our downtown and we need to continue the infrastructure needs that will encourage additional economic development.
We should also follow the vision to expand the western borders of Downtown Terre haute through our government campus and connect to our riverfront. We are behind what other communities have done along their waterways and need to push harder to accomplish what could be another crown jewel in Terre Haute. I look forward to more interest and economic development opportunities along our waterways.
Grant opportunities along with state and federal dollars should be pursued to offset the availability of Downtown TIF and EDIT funds to continue these improvements.
Quality of life issues have become a popular topic nationally, which should be a concern to all of us if we aren’t doing our part in making QOL improvements. My on-line search shows most quality of life issues include low cost of living, affordable housing, healthcare, recreation, air quality, traffic, crime and good schools. I would add to this by compiling a list of wishes by Terre Haute and Vigo County residents. Once the list is refined and funding mechanisms have been included, I would implement a 2-5 year plan to improve as many on the list as possible. I would have the mayor and county commissioners include annual updates on those improvements. The more we can improve; the quicker our community will move up the lists of quality of life rankings, which will benefit our existing residents and attract new residents.
Infrastructure projects that include state and federal funds should be our first priority. When we have an 80% state funding match combined with 20% city funding match we can stretch our dollars much further (recent overpass example). Designate one person in city government to pursue those dollars and hold them accountable. The remaining infrastructure projects that do not qualify for matching money would be fully funded by the city and those needs should be prioritized based on what is best for our community. I would first look at TIF dollars for projects that qualify. Remaining funding sources could include EDIT funds. I would also like to see city council members have a say in what priorities they have in each of our 6 districts. The northern areas of Terre Haute are not getting enough attention. Completing Lafayette Avenue with functional sidewalks that encompasses three city council districts would be a great place to start.
Tax abatements have been a popular topic of discussion and criticism for many years. Often the public gets upset when a new or expanding business is granted reduced taxes for a limited span of time. My position has remained the same for many years. I would love to forgo any reduced taxes, but if our community stopped those incentives while other cities and towns continued we would have very few expanded business opportunities in Terre Haute. That would mean fewer job opportunities, fewer local construction projects and less tax revenue in the long run that would benefit our community.
As far as private partnerships it depends on the partnership, the tax dollars saved and the local government service we would give up. On the surface any time we can use private dollars as opposed to tax dollars all offers and opportunities deserve consideration. If I was involved, I would want to look at other communities our size to see what successes they have had regarding private partnerships.
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