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Recapping Muncie’s 2023 mayoral forum

Economic development, infrastructure, public safety and education were at the forefront.

Democratic hopeful Jeff Robinson (left) and Republican incumbent Dan Ridenour (right) talk to a crowd at Muncie Central High School. Democratic hopeful Jeff Robinson (left) and Republican incumbent Dan Ridenour (right) talk to a crowd at Muncie Central High School Alex Almanza, NewsLink Indiana
Democratic hopeful Jeff Robinson (left) and Republican incumbent Dan Ridenour (right) talk to a crowd at Muncie Central High School. Democratic hopeful Jeff Robinson (left) and Republican incumbent Dan Ridenour (right) talk to a crowd at Muncie Central High School Alex Almanza, NewsLink Indiana

MUNCIE, Ind. (NewsLink Indiana) — In the first public forum between two candidates running for the office of Muncie mayor, multiple topics were at the forefront concerning the future of the city.

These topics included infrastructure, economic development, public safety, ethics and education.

Democratic City Council President Jeff Robinson and Republican incumbent Dan Ridenour took center stage in front of a crowd of dozens of community members at Muncie Central High School.

Audience members were able to participate by writing questions down on cards for both candidates.

What’s covered in this article

1.) Infrastructure Focus – Both candidates discussed differing approaches to city infrastructure including repaving and funding.
2.) Economic Development – In attracting businesses and residents to Muncie, the candidates talked about working with existing companies or honing in on road infrastructure to support resident retention.
3.) Public Safety – The candidates discuss police staffing and youth engagement in community conversations.
4.) Education Support – Plans are discussed to keep resources allocated to local schools and supporting trade programs.


Both Ridenour and Robinson discussed their views and plans on upkeep of roads. Both candidates agreed that work on infrastructure needs to continue, however, there were differences in each candidate’s focus areas.

Ridenour’s administration has focused on paving smaller neighborhood roads. 

“We realized in 2020, we weren't going to be able to pave…We started paving in [2021],” Ridenour said. “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 and they have now been paving across the city.”

One of Robinson’s key campaign plans is to take out $25 million of revenue bonds, with $20 million paying for repaving main roads. His proposed plan would be funded usingestablished state funds such as primary pledge, EDIT (Economic Development Income Tax), TIFF (Tax Increment Financing), Wheel Tax, local Motor Vehicle Highway distributions and LRS (Local Road and Street) funds.

“Under the current plan, we're seeing blocks at a time done inside neighborhoods,” Robinson said. “In fact, one of the more egregious is a dead-end street with four houses on it being paved.”

​In a Tuesday press conference, Robinson laid out his plan to repave 82 miles of city roads to be more accessible, prioritizing more high traffic areas.

“The mayor just paved a couple of weeks ago, a Northwest side neighborhood, the entire neighborhood with 24 homes,” Robinson said. “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.”

Attracting businesses and residents to Muncie

​On the topic of keeping residents and businesses in Muncie, both Ridenour and Robinson disagreed on what priorities should be put first.

​Robinson said that road infrastructure should be put as a top priority.

“What we need to be doing is focusing on our roads, our sidewalks,” Robinson said. “We need to make sure that we're preserving and maintaining the current parks that we have.”

​Ridenour then added to Robinson’s remarks saying that encouraging people to invest is what economic development is about.

​“We've got a coffee shop that's coming in on Tillotson,” said Ridenour. “It's an out-of-state. It's a chain, 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.”

Public Safety

​On addressing crime within Muncie, both candidates addressed the issue of crime within the city and the youth.

​Ridenour began by saying that his administration had increased staffing for the police department. He also added that negotiations have raised the pay for officers beginning in 2024. 

“When I came [into office], there were 86 police officers on the street,” Ridenour said.“That may sound like a lot, but there are supposed to be 110 in our police department.”

Ridenour added that because of morale issues, there had been a struggle with recruiting. He then said that the department is increasing their officers from 105 to 108 in 2024.

We completely revamped all the standard operating procedures of our police department with the help of Chief Sloan, Deputy Chief Melissa Pease,” said Ridenour. “I will also say that the number of claims, liability claims against police officers has gone from $1.9 million to $55,000.”

After Ridenour’s response to the issue, Robinson brought up the mayor’s multi-agency task force, a group of community members representing multiple city departments and organizations. The task force was created on the heels of a mass shooting that left one person dead and 17 people injured. He noted that among the members, there was one demographic missing.

“What I didn't notice around the table were some of those youth,” said Robinson. “We need to have a youth task force that can help address so we can know what the youth are going through today.”

Robinson added that if by ordinance, the council had been involved in any contract negotiations, he would have pushed for an opportunity to increase the number of 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,” Robinson said.


​When the candidates were asked about their plans to support local schools, Robinson stated that he wanted to provide funding and resources to organizations that focus on education and job skills training. 

​“Post -secondary education isn't just a university setup. It's skilled trades, it's Ivy Tech, it's other areas that we can be encouraging folks and lifting those folks up,” Robinson said. “…very difficult to do, especially in a community where you have the poverty level at 30%, or over 30%.”

Ridenour mentioned some of the efforts he and his administration have made to support schools during his term as mayor such as using EDIT funds to help pay for additional staffing at Muncie Community Schools.

“It is a long -term challenge,” Ridenour said. “It's generational in that we're going to make a difference with kindergartners, but you're not going to see that for a long time. And that can be frustrating, but I know that there are people who are not in the community.”

Upcoming Events

​Another public forum will be held at the Muncie Central High School auditorium on September 20. It will include candidates for at-large city council, city clerk and city judge. The event begins at 7 p.m. and will be moderated by Ball State professor of political science Dr. Chad Kinsella.

Contact Alex Almanza with comments at aalmanza@bsu.edu.