INDIANAPOLIS — In the last debate before November’s election, current Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett (D) and challenger Jefferson Shreve (R) spoke about many topics during Thursday evening’s debate, including Hogsett’s whereabouts during the 2020 riots, the shortage of Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers and the reinvention of downtown Indianapolis.

According to previous reports, Hogsett is seeking his third term as the mayor of Indianapolis and won the Democratic primary in May. Shreve, a former City-County councilor, won the Republican primary in May. Both have raised millions of dollars for their respective campaigns, a record amount for an Indianapolis mayoral race.

This comes as early voting for the 2023 election is occurring throughout the city of Indianapolis. Voters can also vote at various locations throughout the city on Election Day on Nov. 7.

To begin the debate, both candidates were asked about what makes them qualified to lead the city of Indianapolis.

In response to this question, Hogsett said he should be elected to finish the job he began eight years ago. Hogsett also stressed that the city has had seven consecutive budgets that have been balanced, with multi-million dollar investments into public safety, infrastructure and parks.

In response to Hogsett’s approach to the position, Shreve said he does not believe the city has moved in the right direction over the last eight years, highlighting the current public safety issues that IMPD has faced.

Public Safety

The first set of questions surrounded how crime and public safety have impacted the city of Indianapolis. This came in the wake of an IMPD officer-involved shooting Thursday evening.

Thursday’s shooting was the 10th involving IMPD since Aug. 1. According to previous reports, the shooting was reported near the intersection of E. 21st Street and N. Shadeland Avenue just before Thursday night’s debate began.

When asked if he supports calls to reform IMPD in the wake of the shootings, Hogsett said that various accountability and transparency measures have been implemented at the department during his tenure as mayor. Hogsett highlighted the increased investigation capabilities into police action shootings, which he believes has made the department as a whole the most accountable in the history of the city, an accomplishment he said he is proud of.

However, Shreve said he continues to be alarmed to see police action shootings happen so frequently. Shreve said that transparency tools are important for the protection of Indianapolis citizens and IMPD officers, ultimately stressing he believes that public safety change has been slow and that Indianapolis is “behind the times” on implementing these changes.

Both candidates have been vocal about the shortage of IMPD officers, saying that they promise to put more IMPD officers on the street. When asked about how he would solve the staffing shortage in his administration, Shreve said he believes that IMPD is losing veteran talent to other departments throughout the area.

In response, Hogsett said he wants the city to continue to be aggressive in filling positions by recruiting across the city, the state and the country. Hogsett said the city has raised the salaries for the first- and second-year officers and has given retention bonuses for veteran officers.

The conversation then turned specifically to gun violence and how it can be controlled in Indianapolis. Hogsett said that through his tenure, the city has implemented an anti-crime, anti-violence effort through the American Rescue Plan. Hogsett also highlighted how he believes the city is leading the country in prospective firearm legislation, in which he believes crime and gun violence can be reduced.

Shreve said he believes there are too many illegal guns in Indianapolis. Shreve stressed those firearms are in the hands of individuals who should not have them, stressing there is a “revolving door” of individuals who are arrested and ultimately not prosecuted for violent crimes.

“The system is broken,” Shreve said.

One highlight during Thursday’s debate was when Hogsett was asked about his whereabouts during the 2020 riots, a topic that has generated much discussion throughout the span of the campaign.

Hogsett said he worked all weekend long during that time, some of which was at home and other times in his office. Hogsett stressed he met with protestors and law enforcement officials and press conferences were hosted.

“It was a difficult and busy weekend,” he said.

Shreve criticized Hogsett’s response during the 2020 riots, saying his response would have been different if he was mayor. Shreve said he would have been more visible and more communicative with IMPD, stressing he would have been downtown with police, where the destruction was.

“Mayor Shreve would be on the scene,” he said.

In response to Shreve’s criticisms, Hogsett said he did exactly what a mayor could and should do during the 2020 riots.

Downtown Indianapolis

After the public safety-related questions, topics shifted to the status of downtown Indianapolis.

The first question surrounded what the candidates would do to bring downtown Indianapolis back to its former glory. Shreve said downtown has not returned to the vibrancy it had when he started working there.

After the COVID-19 pandemic impacted downtown centers across the country, Shreve said Indianapolis’s downtown core will have to be “reinvented,” challenges that most cities face.

In response to that, Hogsett said he believes downtown Indianapolis is in the midst of doing that, with millions of dollars of investment going downtown. Hogsett also highlighted the residential growth of downtown, something he said was “off the charts” because people see the potential of what downtown Indianapolis could be.

After discussions surrounding the homeless population specifically downtown, the conversation shifted to traffic and pedestrian safety. Hogsett said he believes pedestrian safety is important downtown and throughout the city. He believes that city officials have listened to the people’s concerns and have looked at the data to make investments in safe streets, as well as alternative crosswalks and trails for pedestrians.

Shreve challenged Hogsett on this, stating there is “no enforcement” of the speed limit requirements and the right turn on red ordinances recently enacted by the city. Shreve linked that to a lack of staffing, stressing that ordinances are being passed “without meaning.”

Economic Development

The economic development portion of the debate was conducted with Lesley Weidenbener, the editor of the Indianapolis Business Journal.

The first set of questions centered around the city’s funding of the Pan Am Plaza project, something that Hogsett believes the city needed to do with private funding not being available. Hogsett stressed this would increase the hospitality industry in downtown Indianapolis and that the city would have been “negligent” in not picking up the project.

While he initially supported the project, Shreve challenged the city’s recent approach to the plaza’s development, stating that the city let the developer squander the opportunity to build the hotel. Shreve believes that tighter constraints should have been made to the developer in the project.

Questions surrounding the renovations for the City Market were also posed to the two candidates, with the renovations causing the temporary closure of the market and impacting its vendors. While Hogsett said he understands, and empathizes, with the vendors, he stressed the closure will be “as short as possible,” and that the vendors are being helped through the closure.

Hogsett stressed that the renovations to the City Market will be a “transformable project,” not only for the facility but the surrounding area.

Shreve said the city does not do anything quickly, especially if it’s infrastructure-related. If elected, Shreve said his administration will be more communicative surrounding projects, keeping impacted individuals in the loop on the respective projects’ status.

Shreve said the city of Indianapolis has not been communicative with the vendors impacted by the changes and renovations to the City Market.

“It’s not the way to do business,” he said.

Lastly, when asked about the city’s need for affordable housing, Hogsett said affordable housing is needed for everyone. Hogsett touted the city’s accomplishments of establishing 5,000 new units of affordable, below-market-rate housing for those with a lower median income. Hogsett stressed the city has aimed to balance affordability and equity with a commitment to keeping homeowners in their respective neighborhoods.

In response to this approach, Shreve said the city is too short-sighted, and said housing can be built faster in the city. Shreve stressed that household incomes are not growing as rents are growing, making the city’s program “unpredictable and too slow.”

Other Topics

At the end of the debate, the FOX59/CBS4 news team brought together a number of questions from viewers that did not fall under the three categories previously covered.

The first question centered around the Indianapolis Animal Care Services, a topic covered by both candidates extensively, with it being underfunded and overcrowded.

Hogsett announced Thursday the new location of an animal shelter. According to previous reports, the new facility will be located at 5001 E. Raymond St. while original plans had called for the facility to be built on the Sherman Park campus.

During the debate, Hogsett said the announcement of the new facility is “humane politics,” helping IACS provide care to the animals that need it. Hogsett stressed that while the city tried to make the Sherman Park location work, the new location makes sense.

In response to this, Shreve responded by saying that Hogsett’s handling of the IACS situation has been disastrous. Shreve stressed that the condition of the current shelter is abysmal and there is not enough staffing to handle the care the animals need.

“We just have to do better,” he said.

Both candidates also briefly spoke about roads and potholes. Hogsett said the city of Indianapolis has implemented a new infrastructure plan, putting billions of dollars into the city for various projects, including road improvements. However, Shreve responded that the city’s investment was not enough to fix the city’s overall infrastructure and road issues.

Closing Statements

At the end of the debate, both candidates provided their closing statements.

In his closing statement, Shreve said he believes the city is not in better shape than it was when Hogsett started. Shreve highlighted the public safety crisis, stating there is an overall deficit of leadership.

During his closing statement, Hogsett once again highlighted the city’s seven balanced bipartisan budgets, as well as a reduction in murder rates. Hogsett also highlighted the city’s investments in infrastructure and parks. Hogsett believes that Indianapolis has seen significant growth, coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Responses after the debate

After the debate, Hogsett’s campaign declared “victory” in Thursday’s FOX59/CBS4 debate, saying that he provided a “positive vision” compared with Shreve’s “negative outlook and lack of plan” for the city’s future.

“Mayor Joe Hogsett was the clear winner in tonight’s debate, providing a positive vision for what Indianapolis can accomplish by working together as one city. Under the Mayor’s leadership, Indianapolis has seen a projected $9 billion in downtown investment, hundreds of new officers on our streets, and the successful implementation of a $1.2 billion infrastructure plan that improves our roads, bridges, and trails,” Blake Hesch, Hogsett’s campaign manager, said in the statement. “The contrast between the two candidates is clear: Mayor Joe is offering a positive vision that unites Indianapolis. Jefferson Shreve has spent the last 10 months trashing the city we call home.”

Marion County Republican Party Chairman Joe Elsener said after Thursday’s debate that Shreve is the “clear choice” for the position.

“Tonight Jefferson Shreve once again showed us that he is the clear choice to lead our capital city for the next 4 years,” he said. “Indianapolis is at a crossroads. Joe Hogsett has had eight years to tackle violent crime, infrastructure funding, neighborhood services, an Indianapolis Animal Care Services in disarray, and more. Joe Hogsett has failed; we can’t afford to give him another chance. Jefferson is a leader with a vision and plan for our city and we hope voters give him the chance to implement it on November 7.”

According to previous reports, registered voters are required to bring a valid photo ID to participate in the election. For a list of Election Day voting locations, click here.

For a look at the live blog from Thursday’s debate, click here.