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District 3 Candidate: Len Farber, Democrat

Len Farber, District 3 Democratic Candidate - SUBMITTED PHOTO

Len Farber

Democratic candidate for District 3

1) What do you offer as a candidate?

I am not your typical candidate; I will bring a different perspective to the Council. While I have nothing against lawyers, or lobbyists, I am neither of those as my background is in biomedical research, having earned my master's degree in chemistry and my PhD in pharmacology. More recently I have been working in the information technology industry and at various points of my career I have been involved in adult education. These are all areas of great importance to a city moving into the 21st century. Additionally, I co-founded and am co-chair of Greater Indianapolis for Change (GIfC), a multi-partisan, grassroots organization that we started in the closing days of the Obama campaign. My background in analysis and work with community organizations makes me uniquely qualified to serve on the City-County Council.

2) What does your district most need from the City Council?

District 3 has a variety of challenges facing it. To overcome the challenges we face we need three things from the City-County Council: responsiveness, advocacy, and action. Time and again, the most pressing issues of certain neighborhoods carry on year after year while only lip service is paid to them. First, when an issue arises that affects the citizens of our neighborhoods and is brought to the attention of the council we need a response. This will tell us that we have been heard. Second, when that issue negatively affects the quality of life of the citizens of District 3, we need a leader who will reliably remind city government and the council of the issue we are facing letting us know that someone is working on our behalf. Finally, whether or not a problem can be solved, it may not always happen quickly. In this case, the citizens of District 3 need to be regularly updated on the status of ongoing work being done on their behalf. This way we know that something is being done. Responsiveness, advocacy, and action are what we need from the council.

3) What's your opinion of the 2012 budget proposed by the mayor?

I think that the 2012 budget proposed by the mayor is not sufficiently understood by most people, including those who helped craft it, those who will help pass it, and those who are forced to live with its effects. In the past, there have been workshops on understanding the city budget and these workshops should continue annually. Furthermore, there should be a mechanism for explaining the budget to the constituency. Whether that is a town hall meeting on the budget or an opportunity for neighborhood associations to comment on its review, the budget is critical to functioning of this city and should be understood by its citizenry. One major problem that I see with this budget is the use of "across the board" budget cuts. In my opinion, these cuts are simply a lazy way of closing short-term budget gaps without examining their root cause. This method punishes efficiency and avoids openly setting priorities. We may have dire needs from an agency one year and completely separate ones the next. This practice of "across the board" cuts needs to end and be replaced by sound examination and judgment.

4) What is your position on a comprehensive smoking ban?

I support a complete smoking ban throughout the city. While I believe that everyone should have the freedom to choose whether or not to smoke, it is clear that smoking in public buildings amounts to imposing the will of the smoker onto the non-smoker. It also is a known health risk. The only possible exception to this rule would be an establishment that derives at least 50% of its revenue from the sale of tobacco and tobacco-related products. A restaurant that buys a hookah would not qualify and a cigar bar would only qualify if it were truly a tobacco store that obtained a license to serve alcohol, and not a bar that sells cigars.

5) Do you think the city needs more police officers?

In these times of tight budgets, the city needs to be clear on its priorities and public safety is primary among them. I would look into streamlining the bureaucracy and seeing whether other parts of the budget might be able to spare more. I will not make promises that I cannot keep, so I do not know how much we can do. Melina Kennedy believes that money can be found to add 100 officers, and I would support her in those efforts.

6) Do you support increased funding for public transit?

I believe that mass transit can greatly improve the quality of life in a city such as ours. The exact form it will take will vary on the existing infrastructure and conditions in each part of the city. This will also affect the potential costs involved. We should remember that neither problems nor their solutions respect political boundaries. Therefore, I support a regional effort and strongly favor cooperation rather than animosity between the city and its surrounding areas.

I support increased funding for public transit, but given the current financial situation in the City of Indianapolis, we may be limited in how much we can achieve and how quickly we can achieve it. We can initiate our plans and set up a process of incremental improvements and projects that can be executed once funding is available. We can seek government funds, if and when they are available, and we can explore the possibility of public-private partnerships. In this latter case, it is essential that this be a true partnership and not a scheme to enrich a private entity at the public's expense. However we go about increasing the funding for public transit, I believe it is critical to get input from the public and get buy-in from the various stakeholders before we commit to any large scale increases.

7) Do you think the streets and sidewalks in your district are in good shape?

Some parts of my district have streets and sidewalks that are in great shape, but there are many that are greatly in need of repair. There are other places where sidewalks need to be installed for the first time. It is critical that we monitor the process of installing, replacing and repairing these structures. I have heard complaints from citizens about a section of sidewalk being replaced and adjacent sections being badly damaged at the same time. We have potholes that are filled with temporary patches ("hot patches") that never receive a more permanent fix. We have the case of the resurfacing of Broad Ripple Avenue from College to Keystone that left the crosswalk west of Keystone unchanged. This was the site of massive potholes last winter (really, craters). We need to set up a schedule of repair and replacement based on need and not political clout. We also need to be certain that contractors are reliable and do quality work. We should not concern ourselves with their political connections or donations. Unfortunately, we cannot overcome years of neglect in a short period of time, especially with limited resources. We must dedicate ourselves to ending the neglect and commit ourselves to a steady process of repair.

8) Name one project that would most benefit your district.

The project that would most benefit our district would be a district-wide public safety plan. A comprehensive plan of this nature would be based in "beat" policing and would be responsive to the people of District 3. Combined with a pro-active community policing program, our approach to public safety would be flexible to specific areas and respond to specific needs. For instance, the vandalism and property damaged faced by the Warfleigh neighborhood every weekend requires a different approach than the response to the criminals that prey upon our senior citizens in Nora Commons.

This approach to public safety would be one where all citizens who are directly involved have a voice and where accountability would rest with the people being policed, not the bureaucrats seeking political favor.

9) What question do you wish we'd asked?

The question that you should have asked is where is our city going in the next 15-20 years? What is our vision? We used to envision ourselves as the Amateur Sports Capitol of the World. We need a new vision. We need a vision that addresses where we as the citizens of this great city want to go. That vision needs to answer how do we expect to get there while we continue to lease or outright sell our most precious community assets. How will we be on the cutting edge of urban planning when we don't control our curbside real estate? How do we ensure that our children will pay reasonable rates for basic utilities when we don't know if WE will? And how will we solve short- and long-term budget problems by giving away tax dollars to private interests to build things that we don't need? Is this our vision? I don't believe it is.


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