Dan Ridenour (R), candidate for mayor of Muncie, speaks as other candidates Terry Bailey (D) and Steve Smith (L) listen Sept. 28, 2019, at Pruis Hall during the mayoral debate. The debate was hosted by Westridge Neighborhood Association and Ball State's Bowen Center for Public Affairs. Rohith Rao, DN
Mayoral candidates discuss Ball State's vision for Muncie at debate
The three candidates for mayor of Muncie, met once again for a debate, this time on Ball State’s campus.
Terry Bailey (D), Dan Ridenour (R) and Steve Smith (L) participated in the mayoral debate held Saturday at Pruis Hall. This debate was held by the Westridge Neighborhood Association and the Ball State’s Bowen Center for Public Affairs, and moderated by Cecil Bohanon, professor of economics at Ball State.
The debate was divided into three segments — questions from the moderator, one question each candidate could ask both candidates, and questions from the audience. While Ridenour and Smith did ask a question to their opponents, Bailey passed on the opportunity to ask them a question.
One of the questions raised in the third and final segment by an audience member was how the candidates planned to work with Ball State, Ivy Tech Community College and Indiana University Health Ball Memorial Hospital to “redevelop downtown and bring more residents to Muncie.”
“We can work more toward downtown, but I’d like to see Ball State, Ivy Tech and other organizations be more involved in the entire city,” Ridenour said.
He said Ball State owns some properties that aren’t around its campus and that he’d like to see them developed, similar to the work Ball State did with the former Mitchell Elementary School which now serves as an early childhood and family center.
“The way we would do it is by … continuing to develop those relationships sharing our vision, finding out what their vision is,” Ridenour said. “I’m all about trying to figure out what is everybody trying to accomplish and finding the common ground in the middle, and then I think we can take that common ground and move things forward, but I’d like for it to be more than just downtown.”
He said by the city and the organizations sharing their respective visions for the city, “we can come up with something that matches and puts us all in a good light, and helps make Muncie a better place.”
Smith said he believes “it starts with a vision and making sure that our vision is lining up with those that are in part within our structure, within the city limits of Muncie.”
While he said Ivy Tech was doing “a good job” when it comes to downtown development, Smith said Muncie citizens “need to find out” what Ball State’s vision is.
“We have to bridge those gaps to make sure the vision is the same since we are growing together. Well, actually, Ball State is growing and Muncie is decreasing,” he said. “We have to make sure that our visions line up, that way, we are going the same direction.”
While he has seen “a lot of things that’s redeveloping” in Muncie, Smith said he wasn’t sure whether everybody has the same vision.
“That would be the next leader coming in and making sure who those key players are, are sitting at the table and then we have to bring the citizens of Muncie,” he said. “There also, the vision is everyone and not just Ball State, Ivy Tech and the city government. The citizens have to be part of that.”
Bailey said she already has a relationship with Jeff Bird, president of IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital, Geoffrey Mearns, president of Ball State, and Jeff Scott, chancellor of Ivy Tech’s Muncie campus.
“Yes, they are working very hard to figure out what Next Muncie will look like and it’s very important that the next mayor works with those individuals to try to figure out what Next Muncie will look like,” she said.
Bailey said she met with a builder who shared with her the vision for Ball State, which included “building around the university, as well as into the neighborhoods,” so that Ball State is “not only working on bringing residents to Muncie, but keeping residents in Muncie.”
“One of the things as mayor that we want to make sure that we do, is that we think about the people that are already here, to retain them, as well as bringing new residents to our community.”
Other topics discussed included the FBI investigations into governmental agencies in Muncie, candidates’ thoughts on the Waelz Sustainable Products plant protests, Muncie emergency medical services’ and the fire department’s new ambulances, community engagement, financial stability of the city and more.
WIPB-TV, which broadcast the debate live, will once again broadcast the debate 8 p.m. Oct. 26.