Screen Shot 2018-11-09 at 1.39.29 PMTransparency is a major part of my platform. I do not expect of our government anything more than I’m willing to provide.

Recently on social media there has been much interest in candidates’ campaign finance reports. This is a good thing!

Campaign Finance Reports are public records that anyone can request via the Clerk’s office. Every active candidate campaign must submit three reports each year: Annual Report, Pre-Primary Report, and Pre-Election Report. In addition, if a candidate receives a donation of $1,000+ in between the reporting period and the actual election he or she must provide additional documentation to the Clerk’s office within 48 hours of receiving the large donation.

This week my campaign filed an amended 2018 Annual Report and Pre-Primary Report. We did this to correct a slight accounting error in reference to a loan that was documented received and paid but not recorded as an expenditure, and to provide additional descriptive information on some of the expenditures listed on the original reports. In the spirit of transparency I have attached copies of my amended reports. If nothing else, this will save folks a trip to the courthouse.

Hodges CFA-4 Annual Report 2018 (Amended)

Hodges CFA-4 PrePrimary Report 2019 (Amended)

Charlestown water customers received our first full month service bill from Indiana American Water this weekend. I was contacted by a person who was shocked by the drastic increase in their bill. Where previously this family paid $10.61 for 2,900 gallons of water use, their current bill is $35.25 for 2,500 gallons – a 232% increase for 400 gallons less use. Since they live on a fixed income this family is concerned about how they will compensate for this increase once the subsidies offered by the city stop. 

If you aren’t mad about the sale of the water utility you should be. 

For years over 3,000 of us have dealt with dirty, unusable water. 

Take a look. These pictures were taken on April 24 of this year. The picture on the left shows a local business’s water filter after about one month of use next to a brand new filter. The picture on the right shows that brand new filter after it had been installed for about 30 seconds. 

THIS is Charlestown water.

THIS is what over 3,000 of us now pay over 200% more for.

THIS is a major factor in deterring development in our city.


And here’s the rub…the city could have fixed it.


From 2008 to 2018, the city spent $6,438,491 from the TIF fund.

TIF funds are intended for infrastructure improvements that will encourage development. These improvements include roads, drainage systems, and yes, water systems. 

Instead of spending TIF funds to provide citizens with healthy, safe, clean water, Mayor Bob Hall rejected a grant that would have helped build a filtration system and spent TIF money on a variety of other projects instead of repairing our aging pipes. He chose a cheap chemical solution instead – a “solution” that didn’t work. 

I have included as an attachment the evidence to show you how we have all been neglected in the past decade. Here’s what you’ll see: 

  • A summary of all TIF expenditures from 2008 to 2018 broken into broad categories.
  • A more detailed categorical analysis of the “miscellaneous” category in the full summary. 

I could not ask the city to provide me with a total of how much they’ve spent in that time broken into these categories because such information isn’t available. Instead, this data had to be mined from detailed TIF appropriation reports acquired through a public records request. This summary represents hundreds of pages of data analyzed over the last few months and tested for accuracy against financial reports provided to the state by the city. 

Take a look at the summary. What do you see? Do you think the TIF money intended for infrastructure improvements and designed to foster redevelopment has been well spent?

Remember this when you go to the polls: 

The $6.4+ million spent from the TIF fund on things that were NOT water improvements was spent between 2008 – 2018. We’ve had ONE mayor during that 11 year period – and that mayor holds office today and wants us to reelect him. 

If you have Charlestown Water, vote to show how you feel about this betrayal. 

If you do not have Charlestown Water, vote to show you care about those of us who do. 

The water is sold. The increases are here. The subsidies will decline and stop soon. And Indiana American Water will continue to increase rates. 

The only power you have at this point is your vote.


See where your TIF money went here: 2008-2018 TIF Spending Summary

See more detail of the “miscellaneous” category in the summary here: 2008-2018 TIF Misc. Category Summary

 

choice-signThis year as you go to the polls on election day you’re not just casting a ballot for a particular political party or person. When you mark your ballot for Mayor of Charlestown you’re electing the decision maker you want leading Charlestown for the next four years.

It is impossible for people to avoid being political today. We either decide to weigh the merits of our candidates and cast our vote accordingly, or we decide not to vote and accept other people’s choices – either way we make a decision.


Inaction is as much a choice as action.


The decision-making ethic of the person who serves as mayor of Charlestown is important because it drives public policy, the usefulness of which depends upon the needs of the community – your needs – OUR needs. If leaders are removed from the public whom they serve then the effectiveness of their decision making is difficult to measure. Successful policies depend upon establishing the widest possible consensus among community members.

Consensus-building is an essential characteristic of a good leader because many Americans, and a large number of Charlestown voters, identify themselves as “moderate,” “independent,” or admit that they don’t think it wise to vote political party over PERSON. A leader who will not consider the opinions, experience, or knowledge of others is ineffective. Seeking consensus is only possible through healthy civic debate and inquiry. Good decisions cannot be made in isolation.


At the heart of every political campaign is the central question:

Should the candidate be elected?


In order to answer that question voters must seek the measure of the candidate’s character by assessing his or her record and position on issues affecting the community. 

As we move toward this year’s mayoral election voters might consider the decision-making strategy of the candidates. Do you prefer a mayor who makes decisions in private or seeks public input? Do you think major projects should begin at the personal whims of the executive or after a careful analysis of need? Do you think that growth should be measured in quantity or quality? 

My decision-making style is rooted in collaboration. I do not take lightly the responsibility of serving as city executive. I do not think that decisions that involve your tax dollars or that affect your daily lives should be made without full due diligence. I do not make decisions in isolation based on what I think is best, but rather in full cooperation with others.

I’ll leave you with an example to demonstrate how my decision-making process differs from our current leadership. 

Screen Shot 2019-04-22 at 10.08.49 PMOn April 15, the City of Charlestown announced that we are the recipients of a Community Crossings Grant for street paving in the amount of $941,000. The announcement credits the Mayor and City Council for receiving the grant and lists the streets that will be paved.

On the surface, this announcement seems like a great thing. “Free money for Charlestown!” some might think. 

But before you celebrate, look closely at the decision-making process that this project represents.

I attend every public meeting the city offers – Board of Public Works, Redevelopment Commission, Common Council, and Planning and Zoning.

  • At no point has there ever been public involvement in the decision to apply for this grant.
  • At no point was an analysis presented to show which streets need paving and which are fine as they stand.
  • At no point was there mention of an agreement with Indiana American Water that paving should take place now rather than wait until our water lines are repaired.
  • At no point was there mention that this is a matching grant and we must provide additional funding.

As Mayor of Charlestown I will not make decisions that affect citizens in the solitude of my office in City Hall. You have my promise that I will work in collaboration with qualified experts, residents, and the Common Council to Keep Charlestown First. 

Green-VOTE-website-slider-807x449Primary Election Day approaches! 

Much of the information voters need can be found at the following two sites: 

Remember that for the primary voters MUST select either a Democrat OR Republican ballot. Indiana doesn’t officially “register” voters in advance, so you’ll make your choice at the polling location or on your absentee application.

Charlestown Democrats are unopposed in the primary but all of their names will still appear on the Democrat ballot. Charlestown Republicans have primary selections in four of the positions this year. Links to view the ballots are below…just scroll until you see your precinct at the top of the ballot: 

Voters who have physical limitations, work or travel conflicts, or who will not be able to go to the polls in person also still have time to submit an Absentee Ballot Application by mail – DEADLINE IS APRIL 29! – Absentee Ballot Application HERE

Early absentee voting in person, and the travel board are also available: – Ways to Vote

Your voice and your vote matter!

Most property owners received their tax bills yesterday. As we muddle through assessed values and tax rates to understand the changes in our bills it’s important to have a full picture of what’s happening.

Although the corporate rate for Charlestown experienced a slight decrease, something Mayor Hall will be quick to celebrate as a success of his administration, you’ll notice an explosive increase in the school tax rate which went from 0.8536 to 1.1363. You’ll also notice an increase in the fire district tax rate from 0.1202 to 0.1392.

Mayor Hall’s abuse and overuse of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) has created a shortfall in other taxing units that depend on property tax revenue to fund their budgets. 

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Screen Shot 2019-02-03 at 10.47.21 AMEvery time Charlestown’s Redevelopment Commission, a non-elected board of which Mayor Hall is the self appointed president, purchases property it removes an important revenue source from the formula that determines our tax rates. The City might have decreased its budget in order to create a false sense of relief this election year, but our schools and fire protection district had no choice but to raise their rates in order to make up the differences created by the financial vacuum of the Redevelopment Commission’s actions. 

Mayor Bob Hall has said in numerous public meetings and in posts on social media that his use of TIF does not take money away from schools and fire departments. In a way he is right…it takes money away from YOU.

Schools must be funded. Fire departments must be funded. Mayor Hall just wants YOU to fill in the gaps of his out-of-control TIF practices.

Read more about my thoughts on TIF here: End TIF Abuse! 

 

Did you know that Indiana law (IC 36-4-13) allows a municipality to appoint a Legislative Youth Advisor to help represent the interests of young people in the community? Although they have no voting power, the Youth Advisor, chosen from young people under the age of 18, can be an ambassador and share the unique concerns and ideas of their peers. What a great way to engage our Charlestown youth in the health of our city! A Youth Advisor would be an excellent resource in fostering Community Cohesion and in improving Transparency in our government.

This year vote for a candidate who has a plan to improve programs for our youth! Remember Treva in November!

Screen Shot 2019-03-29 at 7.49.37 PMA friend of mine shared a link on social media today (posted below) about the importance of knowing and interacting with your neighbors. The concept is simple. Neighbors who are unashamed to borrow from each other are more likely to engage in small talk that strengthens the social bond between them. I’m fortunate to enjoy such relationships in Charlestown. 

My first home on Oriole Drive gave me some of the best relationships I’ve ever had. One of my neighbors kept a vegetable garden every year and welcomed any of us to come pick our share. In return we’d invite him over to Sunday supper. Another family next door helped us tend our grass and kept an eye on things when we went out of town. We, in turn, took care of their pets for them when they vacationed. There was never a shortage of people stopping by to chat or just waving if they were in a hurry. 

We also watched out for one another. One warm day while Ed and I were working on school projects at the dining table I heard our neighbor who was a single mom scream in terror. I immediately jumped up, grabbed a walking stick on my way out the door, and ran to defend her from what turned out to be a grandaddy longlegs spider. (We shared a long laugh over that one.)

Now that we’ve moved to Main Street Ed and I are fortunate to be building those same relationships here. People who watched out for Ed’s aging mother before her passing now receive reciprocal care from us.

Neighborliness is one of the things I love most about Charlestown.

In addition to being avid lenders and borrowers, Ed and I are also porch sitters. When the weather is nice you’ll usually find us sitting on the side porch during our slower moments of the day or in the evenings to wind down.

So when you’re on Main Street and you see us out, feel free to pop by and share a cold drink and casual conversation.

And never be afraid to ask for that cup of sugar.   

View the web comic hereBorrow the Sugar