Endorsement: Beth A. Messner


Jeff has demonstrated a strong commitment to Muncie’s neighborhoods. As a member of City Council, he attends our neighborhood meetings and participates in our projects. When we have questions or concerns about issues such as parking or lighting, Jeff has helped us get answers. He shows up with a shovel for our annual tree planting events and rides the trucks during our annual spring clean up. When Tuhey Park was threatened with private development, he made sure that our concerns were heard by City Council. This is why my vote for Mayor goes to Jeff.

– Beth A. Messner

Endorsement: Sally Jo Vasicko

Throughout my term on the Beech Grove Cemetery Board of Trustees, Jeff’s follow through on questions asked by board members and his consistent willingness to assist us provided us the information we needed to do our job responsibly. Jeff is mindful of the concerns of others and if he doesn’t know an answer, he will make every effort to find one. I think his leadership skills will help Muncie meet the needs of the community and its residents.

I’m supporting Jeff Robinson to become Muncie’s next mayor and I am hopeful that you will give him careful consideration when voting on November 7th.

– Sally Jo Vasicko

Jeff Robinson’s Neighborhoods Plan

After spending the past four years on City Council, three of those years now as President of City Council, I knew that it was time for a change in how our citizens are served. To do my part, I decided to run to serve as your mayor.

My campaign’s slogan, Putting Muncie First, is a declaration of what I believe needs accomplished based on what I’ve heard from so many of our neighbors and individuals who contribute to make Muncie a safer, healthier, and more prosperous community. Getting back to basics and taking care of first things first has been the prevailing message conveyed to me by thousands of residents.

Putting Muncie First is a four-part plan based on People-Focused Policies, Restoring Infrastructure, Championing Local Businesses and Integrity through Ethical Governance.


Within this plan, focused on my People-Focused Policies, is a framework that my team and I, along with members of our community, will utilize to preserve and improve our neighborhoods. Through practical plans of action, we can increase our quality of life and start to secure our best future possible by doing basic things well, especially for people and families who experience day-to-day struggles.

Muncie Mayor Debate, 09/13/23

The League of Women Voters of Muncie-Delaware County, the Greater Muncie Chamber of Commerce, and the Bowen Center for Public Affairs holding these city-wide Candidate Forums before this November’s election. The goal is not to endorse any party, but to help inform and engage the citizens of Muncie. The moderator for the Forums was Dr. Chad Kinsella, Director of the Bowen Center for Public Affairs.

Transcript Below: (Transcribed by AI so complete accuracy cannot be guaranteed.)


Dr. Kinsella: Good evening and welcome. Thank you all for coming tonight. So welcome to the mayoral debate forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Muncie, Delaware County and the Greater Muncie Chamber of Commerce, the Bowen Center for Public Affairs, and WMUN Radio.

We would like to thank our volunteers, and again, they’ve done a fantastic job in setting this all up, so we really appreciate them, as well as Muncie Community Schools for allowing us to hold the forum here. So our format this evening will be the following, and here in a moment I will be briefly introducing the candidates with their bios.

The candidates will then give a two minute opening statement. Volunteers in the audience have cards, so if you have any questions that you would like to ask. We have volunteers going around with cards and pencils and you can write down questions. Um, these questions will be reviewed by, uh, some of our volunteers with the League of Women Voters and member of the Greater Muncie Chamber of Commerce before being passed to me for me to read and, and [00:01:00] try to take a look at and, and pass on.

Candidates, after they give their two minute opening, candidates will have one minute to answer each question, rotating and responding. Time keepers will indicate, time keepers are right down here in front, there they are. They will indicate when there’s 15 seconds left and when time is up. And when time is up, they will, they may be little, but they can be ferocious and shutting things down.

So, do be aware of that. Please do not, you know, no photographs will be taken except for by the media. Each candidate will have one minute for closing statements and, um, I will, I can make, I will make brief closing statements once we’re all finished and wrapped up here. Um, we do ask that you hold your reactions during the forum and hold your applause, except for now when we greet to candidates.

So please go ahead and give them a warm reception.

Steve Lindell: Again, W M U N Radio coverage live from Muncie Central High School. The voice is Chad Kinsella. He is the [00:02:00] moderator for the night’s Muncie Mayor Debate. 

Dr. Kinsella: We flip a coin and we, we had that so it went through. There’s no, uh, political, I guess, from my point of view, it’s, it’s, maybe it’s politically correct, maybe from yours it’s, it’s flipped, but anyway, trying it, see why I’m not in comedy, I do, I do academics.

Anyway, so introductions, I’ll go ahead and start with, uh, Jeff Robinson. So Jeff Robinson is a Muncie native and alumnus of Ball State University. He spent nearly his entire career working for non profit organizations and services. the community currently holding the role of development director for Schaefer Leadership Academy.

His eagerness to work with everyone no matter their political affiliation and his ability to find compromise and consensus got him elected by a Republican majority city council to be president in 2021, a position he still holds for the third consecutive year. Council President Robinson has also served as finance committee chair and chair of the council land and traffic committee.

Dan Ridenour has the privilege of [00:03:00] serving as the mayor of Muncie since being elected in 2019. Ridenour previously served four years on the Muncie City Council. Professionally, he comes from 30 years in the banking and finance field where he served as the regional manager for three different institutions over his career.

Mayor Ridenour is active in the community, a volunteer for many organizations ranging from helping low income seniors with home repairs to preparing students for kindergarten and Muncie community schools. Dan and his wife Sherry have four children. and four grandchildren. So again, happy to have them with that in mind, we will go ahead and we’ll start on the far left and we’ll and then hopefully I don’t mess up the rotation.

You all have to keep me honest. Um, we’ll go ahead with, uh, Jeff, Jeff Robinson and we’ll I think they did.[00:04:00] 

Jeff Robinson: Yeah. Well, thank you, Dr. Kinsella for moderating this evening. I also want to thank the League of Women Voters, uh, the Greater Muncie Chamber of Commerce, uh, Ball State’s Bowen Center for Public Affairs and WMUN for sponsoring this event this evening. But most importantly, I want to thank each of you. For being here tonight, you know, voting in a municipal election is one of the most important elections that you can vote in So I thank you for your interest and I hope you’ll vote this November It’s quite simple why I’m running for mayor.

I’ve become very frustrated It’s the same reason I became involved in 2019 when I ran for City Council the first time I’m tired of seeing folks lead In the best interests of themselves and not in the community, you know, every year we spend millions of dollars trying to lure people to our community while we overlook the people who choose to live here.

Now, we have to change it. We have to get our priorities [00:05:00] straight infrastructure, public safety. We have a drug addiction and mental health crisis in this community that has been going on for a very long time. It is not the priorities to purchase buildings, to be a developer as a city. The priority is to take care of our basic responsibilities.

And that’s why I’ve chosen to run for mayor. I want to flip what has been happening for far too long on its face. And I want to begin putting Muncie first. This election isn’t about me. It is not about me. This election is about you and about what your priorities are. We’ve learned. Infrastructure, public safety, code enforcement, the list goes on and on of issues that we do very little to address as we watch our mayors, not just this mayor, but mayors of the past.

Make decisions that will benefit their own re election. We have to get our priorities [00:06:00] straight, and the time is now. Mayor

Dr. Kinsella: Reidenhower, go ahead and you can have your two minute opening statement. 

Dan Ridenour: Good evening, and thank you for being here. My name is Dan Reidenhower, for those of you who don’t know me. I am married to my wife, Sherry. We’ve lived here over 20 years. We are one that was recruited here. Um, I have four children, four grandchildren, we have a dog.

We have a cat and we are homeowners in this community that we love. Um, I’m a professionally, I have had a successful career in private industry. I decided to run for the city council in 2015 because I wanted to give back. Uh, once on the council, I could see that our city was in disarray. Uh, there was high debt each and every year, more debt.

There was a dysfunction. There was corruption, there were investigations, and I decided to run for mayor. As mayor, I feel like I have [00:07:00] fixed that challenge. And that we have, are now moving forward in a direction that’s very positive, has momentum, has people wanting to be here. I’m very proud of what our team has accomplished.

Um, it has not been me, it has been a whole team, uh, I re, I appointed both Republicans and Democrats to my board, uh, and to my appointees, and I’m very, very proud of what we’ve done. We have fixed the finances, we paid back the money that was owed to the state out of the street department, we’ve put in houses for affordable, for market.

And for workforce housing, uh, we have, uh, revamped our police department to where we’re now fully staffed. And next year, we’re even adding three more police officers to our budget. I’m very proud of what we’ve done, but I’m not finished. There is far more to do. There were a lot of things that I had to do to overcome.

The direction that we were going in the past, and now I’m wanting to move us [00:08:00] forward even further. So thank you so much for being here and look forward to tonight’s conversation. 

Dr. Kinsella: Thank you, gentlemen. I’m going to go ahead and I’ve got some questions here and we’ll start with mayor right now and we’ll, I’m going to try to keep up with that and remember, um, so starting with the first question, what is your vision for the former Borg Warner site?

Dan Ridenour: Yeah, that’s, uh, hello? Okay. Uh, that has been a challenge. We, uh, It is for sale by the owners of that property. I think they’re a little frustrated. Um, and, and it’s for well, I think it’s over a million dollars still. Uh, my vision, we’ve talked with Yorktown. We have a monthly meeting where we’ve invited, uh, county officials.

city officials and Yorktown officials to work on economic development. That’s one that we need, I believe, even though it’s in the city limits, we need to collaborate with Yorktown. So we’re in discussions on what some of the options can be, but right now the price is so expensive. that getting property [00:09:00] control is, uh, is not an easy thing.

And without property control, it’s a challenge. I will say that it has some advantages because of the highway to the front, railroad to the back, and it’s very expansive. And so, uh, I would love to see something there and we’re continuing to work with Yorktown and Delaware County to see that that happens.

Jeff Robinson: Thank you, Mr. Robinson. Yeah, well, it’s clear we do need a broad coalition of individuals that come to the table to address and assess that property. Uh, you know, the mayor mentioned, uh, Yorktown. Of course we need to include Yorktown. It’s part of a major gateway into both of our communities. Delaware County Government, uh, also East Central Regional Planning District, you know, they’ve recently received funds.

To, uh, look into and investigate brownfield sites, and certainly the BorgWarner site is one of those. The interesting thing, in 2019, when the Whale Sustainable Products, uh, project, uh, of which my opponent voted in favor of, was pushed back on. [00:10:00] Part of the agreement that the city made at that time was to purchase that property.

That is an issue that this mayor has fallen back on. If he had executed that original agreement we would own it and would have that site control now and we could begin to be more aggressive in our approach. It’s a major gateway and he is correct. This is a perfect space for any industry with rail behind it and with a highway in front of it.

Dr. Kinsella: Thank you, Mr. Robbins. We’re going to come right back to you again. So the next question is, uh, thinking about walkability of Muncie. Do you have any plans on improving sidewalks and other such 

Jeff Robinson: walkways in the city of Muncie? Oh, absolutely. Yeah, just yesterday at 3 p. m. I announced my infrastructure plan for the city of Muncie moving forward.

It’s a bold plan. Taking out a 25 million revenue bond, with 20 million going towards 82 lane miles of road, but 5 million is earmarked for sidewalks. Uh, look, we have sidewalks throughout this community, and I’ve seen them as I [00:11:00] walk neighborhoods canvassing and talking to folks door to door. Sidewalks that are in absolute disrepair.

Some sidewalks, you can’t even tell if it’s a sidewalk or what used to be a big rock. We have to do better. Additionally, when you consider ADA accessibility, drive down Tillotson Avenue on your way home this evening, some of those who live that direction. There are telephone poles in the middle of the sidewalk.

We have to do better for folks, especially for wheelchair users. How can folks using a wheelchair navigate this city? That is part of our basic responsibility. And again, this speaks to getting our priorities straight and taking care of the folks who choose to live here right now. 

Dan Ridenour: Absolutely, a walkable city is important.

In fact, my wife and I walk each and every day. Um, and we post some of those pictures on our personal sites, um, because we have such a beautiful city. You know, I will say that, uh, [00:12:00] that we did, uh, 226.

We have a total of 36 ADA compliant sidewalk ramps throughout the city in 2021 and 2022. We have more money budgeted for this year. That’s something with our own concrete crew that we’ve created that we will be handling. So we’ve got some more that will be done this particular year. But in the middle of paving season is not when you want your concrete crew out working.

They can do concrete in temperatures below what you can do paving. So we will be out there. some areas picked. I know that, um, Centennial is one of those. And then, uh, because the sidewalks on Centennial are pretty good, but there’s no ADA compliant. 

Dr. Kinsella: All right, that is, uh, time. So, Mayor Ridenour, we’re going to come back to you.

So, we have, yes, going back and forth a little bit. But anyway, so what are your [00:13:00] specific plans regarding light elimination, especially when it comes to Uh, trying to encourage the, the county, um, and to use the land bank to, um, offset tax commissioner, uh, uh, certificate sale cycle. So ultimately, what’s your, kind of summarizing that maybe a little bit better, what’s your plan for, for tackling blight in the city?

Dan Ridenour: Well, one of the things that we’ve done in, in my administration that’s been extremely effective is we’ve taken the properties that were torn down years ago. And we have come up with a way to find a developer who is now currently building 61 rental housing units that will ultimately be homeowner units in challenged neighborhoods throughout our city.

61 of them. They’re going up all over the city. Uh, primarily in South Central. There’s nine going up in the Thomas Park neighborhood. But this is a way to build up our neighborhoods. What we’re, what we’re working at doing is we’ve continued to chip, [00:14:00] to demolish roughly 75 a year. Uh, in the past when there was a federal HUD grant, we were allowed, they were able to do a lot more.

But we take those. We turn them into a positive for the neighborhoods and we’re very happy for that investment in those five neighborhoods that have the 61 houses. 

Jeff Robinson: Thank you, Mr. Robinson. Yeah. So, excuse me, obviously we need to continue with blight elimination, excuse me, uh, tearing down dilapidated homes, things like that.

But you know what we also need to do is we need to identify some of those blighted homes that could potentially be saved. You know, and, and so the question that we have about the Muncie Land Bank, you know, the Muncie Land Bank, we can convey those properties to the Muncie Land Bank and the Muncie Land Bank can work with existing nonprofit organizations who are working in that space as it is in rehabilitating some of those homes and making them livable.

EcoRehab is one of those organizations that comes to mind. Of course, Habitat for Humanity. Uh, there are [00:15:00] other organizations that are working in that space. So not only do we need to provide an easy pathway for those organizations to, to, to own those properties, but we also need to come in with some supplemental funding to help assist.

In that process because it’s it does it builds up our neighborhoods. The infrastructure already exists Okay, so building up these homes that already exist saves us a tremendous amount that is done. 

Dr. Kinsella: Thank you So coming right back to you Catch your breath for a second Do you have any plans homebuyers?

Jeff Robinson: Can you repeat that one more time before my time 

Dr. Kinsella: starts? Sure. Do you have any plans to expand affordable housing for new and current first time homebuyers? 

Jeff Robinson: Staying with that, uh, Well, that’s kind of a tricky question because affordable housing would lend itself to government programs that does, that makes the rent Uh, income contingent on those low, [00:16:00] those, uh, you know, affordable housing.

Uh, certainly, we do need to work to, uh, to advance homeownership in our community. Uh, one way we could do that is to provide, uh, some assistance in terms of down payments. You know, that’s one of the biggest hurdles. And when I was on the ARP nonprofit committee that I steered, we gave money to Pathstone, a local nonprofit organization that did just that.

They acquired, they, they attracted and spoke to first time home buyers, helped them with their down payment, and now they’re on track to have five first time homebuyers in the city of Muncie, a program that was paid for through my initiative with nonprofit organizations through the American Rescue Plan.

We need to enhance that. Look, homeownership is vitally important. Not just in our city, but in our country, and we need to make sure that it is as easily accessible and easily attainable for anyone who wants to do it. 

Dr. Kinsella: Thank you. Hey, right now. [00:17:00] 

Dan Ridenour: So, this is my background. I’ve written three books on credit scores.

I actually helped train some of the people at Pathstone on how to develop the credit. I’ve worked with first time homebuyers. And so one of the things that we did, early on, Richard and I, the Deputy Mayor Ivey and I, we got together with the banks. We now have two programs that are ready to go, uh, that are for first time homebuyers.

One of them even allows for income 120 percent of the AMI. And I will also say we do support, each and every year, the city supports, uh, PathStone and the great work that they do to help people get ready for home ownership. I think it’s a vital piece of what we should be working on and we will continue to work on.

And so we, we have some homeowner opportunities. And we’ve got some programs that some of that two of the local banks have now are ready to make available and it should be announced very, very soon as soon as there’s one other piece that has to happen, [00:18:00] but we’ve coordinated the banks together to come in and invest in our community and they are they are all for it.

So it’s exciting. 

Steve Lindell: Thank you. So coming in Muncie mayor debate 2023. 

Dr. Kinsella: Do you have any plans on addressing crime in Muncie and including juvenile 

crime? Oh, 

Dan Ridenour: absolutely. One of the things, when, when I came in, there were 86 police officers on the street. This is what my chief told me. 86 officers. Now, that may sound like a lot, but there’s supposed to be 110 in our police department.

Now, they had not been, because of morale issues and other challenges in, in the police department, recruiting had become a challenge for them. and very difficult. So they weren’t able to increase the number of officers. We have increased the pay for the officers, uh, in our first negotiation. We increased the pay starting in 2024.

We’re actually increasing the number of officers from 105 to 108 in 2024. We completely [00:19:00] revamped all the standard operating procedures of our police department with the help of Chief Sloan, Deputy Chief Melissa Peace. Uh, and I will also say that the number of claims, liability claims against police officers has gone from 1.

9 million to 55, 000. 1. 9 million to 55, 000. 

Jeff Robinson: Thank you. Yeah, you know, public, public safety is an important part of any mayor’s responsibilities. So of course I plan on addressing crime, uh, you know, especially youth crime. You know, when you look at the issues that we’re having, a lot of it is with youth. We have kids carrying guns in our community, which is frightening on a number of levels.

You know, the mayor did put together a task force to address the issues after the mass shooting that took place in July. What I didn’t notice around the table were some of those youth. We need to have a [00:20:00] youth task force that can help address so we can know what the youth are going through today. Uh, the mayor mentioned, you know, in the contract negotiations, if the council, by ordinance, had been involved in those contract negotiations, I would have pushed for an opportunity to add more officers.

What he failed to mention, in 2020, with the contract negotiations, they actually decreased the amount of minimum staffing for our police officers. It was 110. Now it’s 105. 

Dr. Kinsella: Thank you. Jeff, we’re going to come right back to you. So another question from from the audience. Um, what do you feel is the biggest problem facing Muncie right now?

Jeff Robinson: Well, it’s a pretty subjective question. Uh, what we have found, you know, in in my opinion, I think the most pressing issue, the most critical issue that we have is the drug addiction and mental health crisis we have. Uh, we’ve got to get serious about addressing this major issue. The last question about crime.

[00:21:00] You know, anything we do with the police department is, is addressing the symptoms. Not addressing the disease. And the disease that we have in this community is drug addiction, mental health. We have generational 30 percent in this community. Second in the state, only behind Gary. The 47302 Area Code. Which is Southeast Muncie has a 10 year less life expectancy than the 47304 area code and they touch downtown Muncie.

We have real issues here, folks. And we have to start addressing them. We have to start addressing them. Right now. Thank you. Mayor, I know, uh, we 

Dan Ridenour: do have a number of issues, but quite frankly, I think the most important thing we need to do is to keep financially stable because you can’t address those issues if you are not financially stable.[00:22:00] 

When I took office in 2019, the accounts were out of balance 3. 3 million and the street department was down 1. 9 million. That caused us to not be able, per the state, we were unable to pave any streets in 2020 out of the street department funds. We paid that back because it was the right thing to do. But financial stability is what creates all the answers.

Because everything that anyone who is in the mayor position wants to do is gonna take resources. If you look at how I’ve done the economic development, we have purposely not put things in TIF districts so that we can increase revenues. And we have a 1. 4 million dollar increased general fund revenue this year.

Uh, and part of that is because of that economic development. I think the number one issue is having a mayor that understands finances and keeps us good, Chip.

Dr. Kinsella: Thank you. That is all the time. So, we’ll come right back to you again. Got it. Um, what steps can be [00:23:00] taken to ensure, continue to ensure that there is, um, ethical, um, ethics and, and ethical, um, Behavior in the city and in city departments.

Dan Ridenour: So, uh, when I was on the city council, I put forward a, uh, I put forward an ordinance that was voted down at first reading. And it called for, uh, an extra step. for a certain dollar figure. So, currently, the law allows a department head to make decisions without any type of, uh, second look. It created a second look.

It was voted down. When I became mayor, we put that back out in front, and I will admit my opponent here voted for that as well. That is one thing that we’ve done. The other thing is we’ve had all department heads attend, uh, ethics trainings. Uh, we’ve had employees attend ethic trainings, [00:24:00] and we continue to move forward.

It’s very important. And I voted, I, uh, signed the ethics committee, I’m, or commission. I’m looking forward to the time when that gets resolved and we can get it into play. And anything we can do to take the corruption Out of our government is a good thing. 

Dr. Kinsella: Thank you. Mr. Robinson?

Jeff Robinson: Yeah, well, I’m certainly glad my opponent mentioned the Ethics Advisory Council.

That was my resolution and a promise that I made in 2019 while running for council. The Ethics Advisory Council will spend the next 18 months, 12 to 18 months, Developing a citywide code of ethics. It’s not enough to just have a mayor and department heads who are trustworthy. You know, and I, look, I’m not going to claim that Dan Ridenour is corrupt.

I don’t believe he is. Okay, but that’s not enough. We can’t speak to mayors 20 years from now. This has been a systemic problem in our community for far too long. And [00:25:00] I will remind you that it is not just the prior administration. Those of us who grew up in Muncie, those of us who have been around here a long time know that this has been a problem for many, many, many years.

We need systems in place that not only Oversee elected officials, but also systems in place that can hold appointed department heads accountable. And I’m happy to have sponsored that resolution. 

Dr. Kinsella: Thank you, Mr. Robinson. We’re going to come again right back to you. Yeah, no, it’s good. No breaks. But anyway, so, What are your plans to attract businesses and residents to Muncie?

Jeff Robinson: Yeah, well, and this is where I think my opponent and I fundamentally disagree. Because I think we have economic development backwards. in this community. I mentioned in my opening statement that we have to put Muncie first. We have to first build a desirable community for folks to live in. When the manufacturers left 25 [00:26:00] years ago, it took us 15 years as a community to recognize that they were not going to come back.

And by that time it was too late. So what we’ve done since then is provide taxpayer dollars for, uh, high end condos.

We’ve provided taxpayer dollars to build high rise apartment buildings or four or five level apartment buildings. What we need to be doing is focusing on our roads, our sidewalks. We need to make sure that we’re preserving and maintaining the current parks that we have. If we don’t make this, if we don’t focus as a city government on the basic responsibilities of a city government, We will never attract residents.

We’re throwing good money after bad, okay? We have to take care of the basics and make this a desirable place to live. That is time. 

Dr. Kinsella: Mayor Reidenhower, go ahead. 

Dan Ridenour: Yeah, we do disagree on this. I, I think that we have proven, as one of the leaders, and the subject of an LA Times article, we have [00:27:00] proven people want to move here.

Um, they want to move here because we have a good, accepting community. That’s why they want to be here. That’s why I moved here. The people were friendly. The people were nice. And it has great amenities. Economic development, economic development is about encouraging people to invest. Now I, let me give you an example.

We’ve got a coffee shop that’s coming in on Tillotson. It’s an out of state, it’s a chain. Uh, but I will tell you, I talked to all three coffee shops in town. All three. None of them wanted to expand. One now wants to expand, but wants a certain type of thing and doesn’t want to build new. But I did talk to them before.

It is important to work with our existing companies, which we’re doing. And it’s important to work with new companies, as I’m doing. Thank 

Dr. Kinsella: you. That is time. Coming back to [00:28:00] you again. All right. And kind of on the same topic. What should the relationship between the city and local business look like? 

Dan Ridenour: Oh, it should be a partnership.

It should be, they should be able to ask, uh, for, uh, guidance, for assistance. I’ll, uh, just to give you an example. Chipotle’s. We didn’t put any money into Chipotle’s, but I did help, I helped them work through the zoning variances, which were a challenge. The same thing with Raising Cane’s. We didn’t put any money into Raising Cane’s.

Now we’re gonna benefit by the building being there and the tax revenue, but we didn’t put any money into it, but they needed help. In fact, they were here and backed out because the zoning regu they couldn’t get through the zoning variance discussion. They said it’s not worth the effort. We talked them back into the effort.

We helped them through that process. It’s the same thing that we did with, um, with, uh, um, [00:29:00] oh, gosh, darn it. Uh, let’s see, it was Cain’s. Uh, Dunkin Donuts was the other one. We helped them through that. They were struggling and we talked to them about a second location. They were thrilled to be here. 

Dr. Kinsella: Thank you.

So again, staying with economic development, um, 

Jeff Robinson: I need to answer that. Yeah. Okay. 

Dr. Kinsella: So got ahead of myself looking at the questions. Yes. Go ahead. Thank you. 

Jeff Robinson: Keep me honest. Yeah. So, uh, you know, of course, a partnership between city and bus and local businesses was the question is important. You know, the examples that my opponent gave were Chipotle, Raising Cane’s, and Dunkin Donuts, none of which are local businesses.

Uh, in terms of economic development, you know, and this speaks again to my point I made at the opening. You know, we give, we gave 750, 000 to one of the top 10 fastest growing software companies in the country. We spent 500, 000 to purchase a downtown albatross of a building from a nonprofit [00:30:00] organization.

Imagine, for one second, if we took that 750, 000 and we invested 10, 000. into 75 local businesses, or 75, 000 to 10 local businesses. What would that do? The multiplier effect speaks volumes. The multiplier effect says that 66 cents of every dollar spent at a local business stays local. Versus a national chain where only 33 cents stays locally.

Dr. Kinsella: Thank you. So, now, staying on the same subject, and we’ll stay with you as well, please. Let’s see, what are your plans for continuing to improve downtown? 

Jeff Robinson: Well, look, I mean, the Together DM plan, the comprehensive Together DM plan, really speaks to what we need to be doing. What our next steps are, and that’s densification.

We need more residences downtown. Uh, the current occupancy rate downtown, last I heard, was in the [00:31:00] 90%. Okay, so it’s clear that the demand is there. So we need to provide opportunities for developers to come in and, and to provide that infill, that densification. A healthy core of a city is vitally important to that city’s economic viability.

So we have to continue the path that we have been continuing and we need to be laser focused and committed. So the Together DM plan, which calls for that densification downtown. 

Dan Ridenour: So I would talk about an existing business that was here when I was mayor. That was Accutech.

They wanted to expand. We did provide them 750, 000 in reimbursement dollars. And it was reimbursement because they wanted to buy the building next door, which they did on their own dime. We helped them 750, 000 with the construction to open up that building and add employees. And you know [00:32:00] what the end result was?

Year one, last year, they added 46 employees with an average income of over 60 some thousand dollars. Added 46 employees. And that was an existing business. Locally owned existing business, I will say. That’s the type of thing that we have to do. And you cannot give money to businesses. you can help pay infrastructure.

It’s against code. You can’t give money to businesses, but you can help with infrastructure. And that’s what we did. We helped with the infrastructure for Accutech. 

Dr. Kinsella: Thank you. Again, sticking with you, what are your plans to invest in quality of life, life initiatives such as parks? 

Dan Ridenour: Well, I think I’ve shown what we’re going to do with parks.

In fact, one of my proudest moments is when we opened up the Cooley Park splash pad. Uh, the kids were playing, the, the parents were in the water, I was in the water, lots of us were in the [00:33:00] water, and, and what we did is we looked at these neighborhood parks like Cooley that had been abandoned for years. We made them ADA compliant, we put in walking paths, which is a great health component.

Uh, we put in new, a new basketball court, we put in a splash pad, we made it a great neighborhood park that recently the Southside Neighborhood Association recently held another one of their annual meetings there. That’s one of my proudest moments in my, I was the most proud when that opened up, but we’ve also added splash pads to neighborhood parks in other areas of the city as well.

I’ve invested. In fact, our city part participation in parks has gone from 802,000 in 2017 to 1.2 million visitors. 

Jeff Robinson: Thank you. In 2023, although we have, or can you repeat the question? Was this specifically about parks? Absolutely. 

Dr. Kinsella: It just, or it doesn’t have to be about parks, it just [00:34:00] Any quality of life initiatives that you would like planned?

Jeff Robinson: Sure. So obviously parks are vital. To a city’s, uh, a city’s infrastructure and quality of life, right? But what we first need to do is we need to be able to maintain what we currently have, you know, my opponent is correct. He’s added several splash pads at parks throughout the city, and those parks are in neighborhood parks, and that’s a good thing.

That is a good thing. But I would challenge you to drive around. Drive around and look at parks. In my district, Guthrie Park, which is just west of the hospital, every summer, without fail, I need to call several times to get it mowed. Okay, and I don’t blame the Parks Department. The Parks Department is stretched too thin.

They are stretched too thin. We need to be focused on taking care of the existing inventory of parks that we have rather than growing parks. Until those parks, and again, this goes back to putting Muncie first, this goes back to what I initially said, we have to take care of the [00:35:00] basics before we look to grow, and currently, it’s tough to keep up with what the current administration is trying to grow.

Dr. Kinsella: So we will again, we’ll stick with you. Question that I have some bias, I guess, with. How would you coordinate with Ball State for the betterment of Muncie? 

Jeff Robinson: Oh, well, near and dear to my heart too, Dr. Kinsella, because I’m a Ball State alum myself. Uh, You know, it is important and we’re very fortunate in the Muncie community to have President Mearns at the helm at Ball State.

President Mearns has committed to becoming more involved and more of a part of our community. Uh, there’s immersive learning that takes place where Ball State faculty and students go out into our community. and do immersive learning projects with various non profits and other community organizations.

We need to not only continue that, but we need to continue to foster that. We need to strengthen that relationship with Ball [00:36:00] State. We absolutely have to. And it’s about those students getting off. Of campus and exploring the city for what it is. Muncie is a beautiful place to live. The people of Muncie are among the greatest people in the state of Indiana and beyond.

We need to encourage those students and we need to work together with Ball State to find new ways. To engage that student population as well as faculty and staff to get off of campus and into Muncie. 

Dr. Kinsella: thank you unity It’s time mayor right now same question. Yeah, 

Dan Ridenour: we’ve I’ve worked extensively with President Mearns at meet with him on a monthly basis We’ve collaborated on a number of projects including the eSports Uh, and a committee that we were on with that, uh, the Gainbridge Field, uh, renovation, that was brought to me by President Mearns due to our relationship, uh, and that is 100 percent his idea and it came from a Ball State [00:37:00] graduate, but the city got behind it and I’m appreciative of that.

And it has been a beautiful field. We continue to work with Ball State on the Lilly Grant. Uh, this was already, has now been submitted, uh, but this is a program where cities and towns work together. It has to be a project that is outside of the Ball State campus and, uh, I said to President Mearns, it has to be a project that is not in Ball State’s hands.

There has to be tax revenue for it. And we will, we will love to participate. So President Mearns and I meet on a monthly basis as it is now. Thank 

Dr. Kinsella: you. So again, we’ll stay, stay with you again. So thinking about the current YMCA property in, in, in downtown, what are the plans for, for using that particular property moving forward?

Dan Ridenour: Well, they have adjusted a little bit because, uh, the Y is no longer occupying that property. We had, uh, they were going to keep it for a period of time until their [00:38:00] construction was finished, but they adjusted that. We are planning on putting out an RFP. Uh, we weren’t planning on doing that for a couple of years.

I know what’s several local businesses and local business owners asked to do, um, and we have, in fact I met with a developer today, uh, that’s very involved, that is from the Fort Wayne area that’s very involved in the, um, some development in the Fort Wayne market and that’s one that they’re looking at.

Richard and I also had talked with somebody about that before Ball State had, um, made their decision about, uh, an R& D company was interested. it. And they are one of those that actually liked the fact that it didn’t have windows. Most people don’t like that, but they liked it. So we’ve got all kinds of options.

It’s a great location downtown and I’m very excited about what we will find for that property. 

Dr. Kinsella: Thank you, Mr. Robinson. 

Jeff Robinson: Yeah. So number one, and again, look, I don’t think the city [00:39:00] needs to be involved in the real estate business. Uh, the city purchased the YMCA building downtown for 500, 000. 500, 000. Why couldn’t we have purchased an option for a first right of refusal?

For far less than that if we truly wanted site control. We could have done that. Uh, I am somebody that thinks that, again, It’s a complete waste of money. Okay, if it’s such a desirable location in our downtown, which it is. It’s a very desirable location in our downtown, right adjacent from Cannon Commons, close to the hotel.

That’s where we should let the free market determine what happens with that property. 500, 000 of taxpayer dollars without knowing what we’re going to do with it. It’s common sense. 

Dr. Kinsella: Thank you. So again, we will stick with you again. And what ideas do [00:40:00] you have to increase the homeowner renter ratio in Muncie?

Jeff Robinson: Well, that’s difficult because again, that’s, that’s market forces. That’s beyond really, uh, most people’s control. There are things certainly you can do to help. Uh, something that we need to do is first and foremost, work with the county. To streamline and make it better when it comes to tax sales, you know, right now we have a number of California, Colorado folks from all over the country that purchase these properties at tax sales.

Why can’t we try to figure out a way to work with the county to where we can have that option? Okay, so we can keep home ownership local. But as long as the system is set up that way, these out of town investors will purchase these properties, and they purchase them like a box of goods. Sight unseen in a lot of instances.

Which is driving up, not only driving up rent costs, but driving down homeownership in our [00:41:00] community. And we have to find a way to turn that around. And then for some of the reasons we mentioned earlier, providing assistance. to first time homebuyers and beyond. 

Dr. Kinsella: Thank you. 

Dan Ridenour: So, this is not a difficult answer. Uh, the way you do that is through education. And the way you do that is by helping people understand how they become homeowners. A lot of people don’t know the process. And I did that for years when I was at Mutual Bank and before that, uh, with other companies. It’s not a difficult process, but you have to lead people through it.

We can increase the amount of home ownership, and we will increase the amount of home ownership. That’s why we’ve started working with the banks to come up with a program that does help with down payments. Uh, and buying properties off of tax sale are, tend to be properties that are in great disrepair and that doesn’t make it easy for first time homebuyers.

And that’s really where we need to get our foot in is with the first time homebuyers and so education will make it [00:42:00] happen and we can have more homeowners in Muncie. It’s a very simple answer. 

Dr. Kinsella: Thank you. And again, my apologies. We’ll come right back to you. So, um, what are your plans to address addiction in the community, drug addiction?

Dan Ridenour: Yeah, absolutely. So, uh, one of the things that we’ve done is we started a, uh, a committee that, that started meeting, All the interested parties inside that industry, the treatment industry, uh, the addictions industry. We, uh, got together and they decided as a group that the crisis center was the best way to go.

So we have bought, uh, we bought a building, uh, it has been now renovated inside. So it’s ready for construction. And in fact, I was just on the phone today, uh, with IU health, who is going to run that facility and that will help us in that area, it’s only the first step. And we said that when we first started this, that is the first step.

So we’ve got money set aside through the [00:43:00] ARP, which, uh, this, my opponent did a vote for as well, but that is one step, other steps. Uh, in, I’m running out of time, there are a lot of other steps, but that’s the first step and it will be coming, looks like in March it should be ready to go. 

Dr. Kinsella: Thank you. Mr. Robinson. 

Jeff Robinson: Yeah, and not only did I vote for that 2 million for drug addiction at the ARP money, but I ushered that money through at the recommendation of Councilman Troy Ingram. Who is very passionate about this process of which I had asked the mayor to include Councilman Ingram in those discussions and Councilman Ingram was unfortunately unceremoniously excluded from those conversations.

But there are things we can do that don’t require a lot of money. Number one, we need to de stigmatize addiction in our community. Addiction is a disease. It is a brain disease. These folks don’t choose to be [00:44:00] addicts. They are suffering and rather than poke fun, which I see on social media all the time, we need to be more empathetic and more caring to our neighbors who suffer.

We also need to lean on existing local organizations like IU Health Meridian Health Services and others to enhance and expand the services they provide in this space.

Dr. Kinsella: Thank you. Again, coming back to you. What are your plans for continuing to work with non profits that cater to arts and culture in the city? 

Jeff Robinson: Well, that’s easy. You know, I have spent my entire career, nearly my entire career, working in non profits in this community, so I’ve developed quite the network.

Before my time in my Schaefer Leadership Academy, I spent six years working for Cornerstone Center for the Arts. as their Associate Executive Director for four of those six years. I understand the importance of the [00:45:00] arts, and through the ARP process, I ushered in 500, 000 for public art, some of which you may have already seen, particularly on South Walnut.

There’s some on, uh, on Hoyt Avenue, and in Dave’s Alley downtown, and a lot more to come. The arts provide an identity for a community. They set us apart, they make us unique, the arts do, and Muncie has a robust arts collaborator, excuse me, an arts collaboration and an arts infrastructure. We have great organizations, civic theater, among others.

that are already working in this space. We need to be cultivating that and helping to expand that and usher that along. Thank you. Mayor Ridenour? 

Dan Ridenour: Yes, there is a committee that has been started and it wasn’t by me, but it was a committee started within the arts industry that is now meeting on a monthly basis.

Uh, that is trying to help them coordinate [00:46:00] together, uh, so that they can have better results for our community as well. The other thing that we do on the city’s level, we do provide annual support to all many of these organizations. Uh, we’re about ready to pay for the new lift elevator, um, a d a, uh, ramp, a lift for Cornerstone.

Um, we have the, um, the Mayor’s Arts Awards, which we continue to support, uh, are coming up and, uh, we continue to provide funding. And as I say, funding is an important piece. I will admit I’m not an artist. Um, I can barely draw, other than I can play cello and piano. But I am, I am not an artist, uh, and so I don’t try and pretend to be a part of that.

I just, uh, try and help support it financially. 

Dr. Kinsella: Thank you. And again, sticking with you, um, what are your plans as far as paving city streets moving forward? 

Dan Ridenour: Yeah, so we’ve done a couple of things. One of the things [00:47:00] that we did, we realized in 2020 we weren’t going to be able to pave. We knew that put us even further behind.

Um, but we also knew we wanted to do it right. So I hired a city engineer and a city engineer, because they have that engineer seal, will not do things that maybe others might. Uh, so there’s a, there’s an education level and a responsibility there as a city engineer. We, uh, started paving in 21. We could see, we already could see that this wasn’t going to go the full direction we wanted.

So that’s when we bought our own paving equipment. We trained our own crew, uh, and they have now been paving across the city. In fact, if we get rid of this crew, They have now paved, well they, 16 of them are done, 16, they’re going to pave 20 streets, 20 neighborhood streets. In challenged neighborhoods that would get missed, uh, that’s what that paving crew is doing and it’s doing it at 60 percent of the cost, 60 percent savings over [00:48:00] using contractors.

It’s not going to get rid of contractors, it’s in addition to.

Dr. Kinsella: Thank you. And again, kind of, Mr. Robinson, did I, did I skip you again? 

Jeff Robinson: That’s okay. Bipartisan skipping. Yeah, well, just yesterday. I announced my bold infrastructure plan. We have found, anecdotally, by knocking on doors throughout this community, over 6, 000 doors on folks doorsteps, that paving and infrastructure is the number one issue on the tops of minds of all of our citizens.

So it’s vitally important. My plan takes out a 25 million revenue bond, paid for with a primary pledge and added funds with a mix of local road and street as well as wheel tax distributions and backed up by consolidated TIF revenue. 20 million will go to paving roads, main roads. Under the current plan, we’re seeing blocks at a time done inside neighborhoods.

[00:49:00] In fact, one of the more egregious. Is a dead end street with four houses on it. We paved, we just paved the, the, the mayor just paved a couple of weeks ago, a Northwest side neighborhood, the entire neighborhood with 24 homes. This does not get us where we need to be. If we truly want to take the politics out of paving, we need to focus on the roads that every single one of us use.

And my plan does that. 

Dr. Kinsella: Thank you. So we’ll come back to you again, running short on time. I think we’ve got maybe time for about two more questions. So this one may be a little bit outside of the purview of what cities can do, but what are, what plans could you put in place to help educational attainment in Muncie?

Jeff Robinson: Well, that is a challenge. Uh, you know, I’m a part of a post secondary educational, uh, CAN, which is Community Activation Network through the George and Francis Ball Foundation. Uh, the George and Frances Ball Foundation is addressing a number of issues in our community, but [00:50:00] what we first need to do, and we’re on the right track with Muncie Community Schools.

Muncie Community Schools has been improving a great deal. Okay, but what we need to do in post secondary education isn’t just a university setting. It’s skilled trades, it’s Ivy Tech, it’s other areas that we can be encouraging folks and lifting those folks up. We have to, have to do that because our workforce dictates that we need to do that.

Uh, again, very difficult to do, especially in a community where you have the poverty level at 30%, or over 30%. But we are working on ways, and the non profit organizations in this community are currently working in that space. We need to provide support while they lead that effort. 

Dr. Kinsella: Thank you. Mayor Ridenour.

Dan Ridenour: So one of the things that I’ve done is I’ve done a, I’ve been paying for some additional staffing at Muncie Community Schools out of the edit funds. I don’t know that if everybody knows that or not, but Muncie Community Schools had a program. They didn’t have enough [00:51:00] funding. This was a few years ago. I committed to a multi year assistance to them for that.

Uh, and I’m very proud of that and I, it probably would continue. I also serve on one of the CAN committees. I’m on the, uh, middle school math committee, uh, and we’re looking for ways to improve. And so there are lots of different people in different organizations who are all across the city attempting to make a difference.

Uh, it is a, it is a long term challenge. It’s generational in that we’re gonna make a difference with kindergartners, but you’re not gonna see that for a long time and, and that, that can be frustrating, but I know that there are people making a difference and, and, um, and I feel like I’m one of those on the committee that I serve on and I’m very, very happy to do that.

Dr. Kinsella: Thank you. We’ll go right back to you. Thank you. Um. Thank you. Moving forward, will you, do you plan to [00:52:00] continue to have perhaps again, according to the question, maybe political opponents or people you may not totally agree with, uh, be a part of an administration and meetings 

Dan Ridenour: moving forward?

Absolutely. Uh, when I was, uh, when I was voted in as mayor in 2019, um, I started interviewing and four of my 12 appointees were Democrat. Uh, five of them, I did not even know before I had the interview. I intended to put people in, to run it like a business, I intended, and did, put people into play who were skilled in their sets, or had a passion for what they were doing, uh, and so I will continue to do that, and, um, I’m, and I’m very proud of that fact, so, yes, I will continue to work with anyone who will communicate back with me, I am 100 percent in favor of working together, it’s the only way we’re gonna get anything done as a community, and it’s, it’s, Uh, and it’s an easy [00:53:00] thing to do.

So yes, I will commit to that. 

Jeff Robinson: Yeah, I mean, you know, my commitment is evident by what I’ve done the last four years on council. I will work with anyone who is willing to work together to solve issues that are most important in our community. Now when it comes to department heads. Uh, you know, I hear rumors all the time about who I’m putting as my police chief or who I’m putting as my building commissioner and so on and so forth.

I can tell you right here today, on the record, I have not made any of those decisions. It’s probably hurt me politically because I’ve got fewer folks that are out there helping me to win this election, but you know what? It’s the right thing to do because you want to put the right people in the right positions.

No matter their political affiliation. I don’t plan on asking anybody what their political affiliation is before I hire them. We need the right people doing the jobs. That’s it. 

Dr. Kinsella: Thank you very much. So, we are about at time. So, we’re going to go [00:54:00] ahead and move to moving, uh, closing statements. And, uh, so I guess in the tradition that we’ve been going, I guess, Mr.

Robinson, would you like to go first with closing statements? I assume that he would do the, since I did the opening statement. That’s fine. Okay, you go ahead with closing statements. Yes, please. One minute for closing statements.

Dan Ridenour: Thank you all for being here. This has been very enjoyable and I hope you got a lot of good information tonight.

I will tell you that being mayor of Muncie is the honor of my life. I am so thrilled to have been able to serve thus far. And I will tell you, I do not want us to go back as a city. We have some momentum. We have, we have opportunities. And it’s very important that we don’t go back as a community, uh, to what we had before.

And I, again, I want to thank everybody for being here. And I’ll also say for all of you, I ask for your vote on November 7th. Thank you so much. Thank you, 

Jeff Robinson: Mr Robinson. [00:55:00] Yeah, so again, thank you all for being here. Thank you to the League of Women Voters, the Ball State Center, uh, excuse me, the Bowen Center at Ball State University, the Greater Muncie Chamber, WMUN for your support in executing this event this evening.

You know, being on City Council and serving my community, my hometown, has also been the thrill of my life. I, this is a responsibility that I take very seriously. And as I mentioned in the beginning, I’m doing this because I know we can do better. We can do better. You know, and, and quite honestly, and I’m going to go off script a little here.

I am tired of the, the veiled comments that say we can’t go back. I know what that means. Okay. And I am not the Democrats of the past. This party is not the Democrat party of the [00:56:00] past. Each one of these candidates running on the ticket with me, myself included, are here to serve you. And I would encourage you to go to RobinsonforMuncie.com 

Endorsement: Sue Errington

Jeff Robinson is the leader Muncie needs. I’ve seen him work across the aisle to unite City Council for the greater good of the community and I’ve seen him take visionary stands that set him apart. Qualities I see in Jeff are courage, intelligence and the ability to relate to Muncie’s diverse citizens.

– Sue Errington, Representative
   Indiana House District 34

Endorsement: Andrew Dale

Jeff’s our advocate for a shared table, where open book budgeting and responsible spending plans will put us in a far better position to tackle first-things-first so that efforts of community-supported significance can be achieved for the people of Muncie. Putting Muncie First starts with electing Jeff Robinson as our mayor.

– Andrew Dale