Republicans voting in the May 7 city primary will have to choose between a longtime city councilman and a businessman who says residents should expect more from local government.
John Crawford, 70, was first elected to the Fort Wayne City Council in 1995. According to his campaign website, Crawford, a physician, is a fiscal conservative who supports economic development, solving the opioid crisis and collaborative leadership.
Crawford is likely best known for his role in passing the city’s smoking ban and for supporting Parkview Field and the Harrison Square development.
“I think one thing I can make note of is I’m never afraid to take an unpopular stand if I think it’s the best thing for the city in the long run. I’m willing to take the political heat if I think in the long run it will work out,” Crawford said. “Most all of the decisions I’ve made have turned out to be good for the city.”
Tim Smith, 50, has not held political office, but did volunteer for several campaigns and served as an intern under former Vice President Dan Quayle. He favors a return to Six Sigma, which is a set of tools for process improvement in business, for city employees. In Fort Wayne, former Mayor Graham Richard first implemented the policy among city employees.
“There is a dearth of business acumen in today’s city leadership,” Smith said.
Perennial candidate David Roach is also running in the Republican primary.
Budgeting and regulations
Both Crawford and Smith support a concept called zero-based budgeting, which starts every city department budget at zero and seeks to justify every dollar spent.
Smith said he’d also like to implement a practice he calls zero-based regulations. Over the first 12 months of his administration, Smith said he will call in every department head and ask them to justify city regulations in front of affected residents and businesses.
Crawford said he also supports the concept of zero-based regulation, noting that’s something he’s tried to do his entire career in public service.
“I’ve done that my whole career, basically. I’ve never passed anything that I didn’t think was good on its face,” Crawford said. “Reviewing the old ones is not a bad idea.”
Continuing economic development, particularly along the riverfront and at the Electric Works site south of downtown, is of particular importance to Crawford. If elected, Crawford said he will strive to complete those initiatives.
“The whole strategy and theory of the downtown was to create quality of place, and that has worked,” Crawford said. “At this point, jobs follow people, rather than the other way around. All cities, all states have a talent gap. In order to close that gap, you have to have some things going on in your city.”
However, Crawford said he plans to tap the brakes on public spending downtown and focus more on neighborhood improvements.
“Public money, I’m going to cut way back as far as downtown, because I think we’ve primed the pump for private development to come in now,” Crawford said. “And they need to come in now.”
Smith said he will implement a 20-year capital improvement plan to help guide future development in Fort Wayne’s downtown area and neighborhoods.
“No capital improvement plan should be assembled without entwining the goals of the capital improvement plan with the goals of our neighborhoods,” Smith said on his campaign website. “Fort Wayne is largely a composite of its neighborhoods. The stronger and more livable our neighborhoods are, the stronger and more livable our city is.”
The capital improvement plan will be designed to accommodate change and will be evaluated and updated regularly, Smith said.
Crawford said he plans to go after city crime by attacking the opioid crisis. Opioids and other illegal drugs lead to the majority of crime in Fort Wayne, he said.
“We need more homicide officers, more narcotics officers and better police pay. We’re way behind the curve on that,” Crawford said.
Placing more surveillance cameras in some areas is something Crawford plans to explore, based on the success of similar programs in other cities.
“I don’t have a problem harassing drug dealers,” Crawford said. “Putting a camera outside that house with a big sign: ‘Police surveillance camera. Smile.’”
Crawford said he’d also like to add residential units to the city’s chronic problem property ordinance, which gives the city recourse against nuisance properties with high volumes of police calls. The ordinance now only applies to commercial properties.
“They didn’t do it before because there was resistance, but that doesn’t mean we can’t go back and do it,” Crawford said.
When looking at the area’s opioid crisis, problems with homelessness and other community issues, Smith said he would focus on bringing Fort Wayne’s sizable nonprofit community to the table.
Much of the nonprofit agencies’ efforts, Smith said, are not coordinated.
“What if it was coordinated? What if we had the complete continuum of housing care available to every man, woman or child,” Smith asked, referencing homelessness efforts. “What if the continuum is locked tight and comprehensive? How much better would our community be?”
Smith also said he is in favor of returning to more community-oriented policing.
Part of that, Smith said, is encouraging officers to walk their beats, meet homeowners and business owners and build a strong relationship with the part of the community they serve. Smith said he would also work with his police chief to provide incentives for officers to live in their districts, particularly areas with higher crime rates.
Smith said if the idea is feasible, he would be willing “to spend real money” to make sure it happens.
Smith is also calling for increases in salary for police officers and firefighters. Those increases could be found, Smith said, by negotiating better city contracts and streamlining the city budget. Smith said he would also strive to place resource officers in every school in the city. Crawford also supports placing more resource officers in area schools.
“We will have every school staffed from the moment the first light switch is turned on to when the last light switch is turned off,” Smith said.
Transparency and communication
Communication between the mayor’s office and other governing bodies is poor, Crawford said. If elected, he would make it a point to attend the first City Council meeting of the year and meet with the council president every month. He also said he would come to the table any time there was a big issue facing the city.
“All of the people I know already, many of the elected officials not just at council, but at other levels are endorsing me because they know I will collaborate with them,” Crawford said.
Smith is in favor of a redesign of the city’s website to foster better transparency. That means inclusion of charts and graphs reflecting aspects of government like city revenue and spending, taxation and more.
It wouldn’t take long, Smith said, and would be beneficial for city taxpayers.
“We are going to be transparent about which vendors are getting the deals and whether they’ve given money to candidates,” Smith said. “That should be readily available. I’m begging you, if Tim Smith gets elected, hold me accountable on this.”
Smith also said he’s going to be proactive when communicating with the City Council, pulling them in for all discussions ranging from budgeting to staffing to organization.
“I’m going to invite the city council’s input into how the administration should be organized. I’m going to ask local businesses how it should be organized,” Smith said.
Smith said he’s also considering placing a City Council member as a de-facto leader of each major department.
That way, Smith said, an elected official has oversight to ensure that each department runs at maximum efficiency all year.
“Not only are we going to collaborate with the budget, they’re going to be involved real time … in the day-to-day affairs of that department,” Smith said. “That’s maximum integration.”