eDebate: Friend vs. Grafton (repost)


We are re-posting this eDebate because our traffic has more than doubled since the original publishing, and we wanted to give our new readers a chance to view this exchange between our 5th Ward City Council candidates.

“eDebate” is a platform which we have engineered to allow candidates of an election to voice their goals of the future for the city of Evansville and allow readers to compare their answers to their electoral opponent.

-Each candidate is given the same 5 questions, and the same amount of time to prepare their answers.
-Neither candidate may read their opponents’ response, and all responses are kept hidden until the scheduled release date.
-300 word maximum per response.
-This eDebate is between the two candidates for the City Council 5th Ward election. The purpose of this eDebate is to educate, and to inform our readers about the major dividing issues facing our city today.
-Comments are currently enabled to encourage discussion. Please be civil and constructive.

2/28/2011 eDebate
City Council 5th Ward

John Friend (D)

Brent Grafton (R)

Question #1: What is your opinion of the proposed Evansville – Vanderburgh County consolidation?

     Efficiencies in local government must be improved, if we are to stay competitive in attracting and maintaining commerce. As has been illustrated in the census data over the past two decades, we have been not only declined in population but have not kept pace with improving household incomes. In 1995, the average household income was $28,800, now it is approximately $37,000. Cities like Lexington, KY, Nashville, TN, Jacksonville, FL upon adopting combined city/county governments saw their population and average household incomes dramatically increase. As vice-chair of the NFIB Leadership Council (National Federation of Independent Business), I have had the opportunity to discuss these issues amoung local councils, concluding that the current system of divided local government is not user friendly and has it’s array of inefficiencies. For this reason, I supported the ordinance to let the people choice what form of local government in the upcoming referendum. In my opinion, the most important issues in the consolidation debate is public safety, taxing districts, and codification of city/county ordinances. Whatever form that is chosen, it must provide adequate safety for our citizens; those who receive services are fairly charged, and commerce that will be enhanced. As I have always proclaimed, “Evansville needs the World, but, the World probably will get along without Evansville”

     As the last census shows, the demographics of our area have changed rather dramatically. It is essential that we adjust our way of governing to reflect our community’s needs today. I do not believe that our present form of government is up to the task presented by our shift in population and the incredible advances in technology.

     The structure of law enforcement in our community should not be changed by the stroke of a politician’s pen. The mission of the Sheriffs department and the EPD are very different and over the years have developed their own method of both dealing with crime and rewarding those who put their lives on the line to keep that crime from hurting us. We as a community have made different promises related to advancement, training, promotions, retirement, to these dedicated Officers and above everything else we must keep those promises.

     Once consolidation is in place, it would then be appropriate for our law enforcement agencies to work out how to tackle the new challenges brought on by the change in demographics and a change in government structure. If the mission changes, it is appropriate that those who are responsible to fulfill that mission have the opportunity to plan, together or separately, how to best fulfill their common goal of keeping us safe from crime. If there are any changes in opportunity or reward, they should be offered to new officers and not to those who have already committed to giving us their dedicated service.

     If I were on City Council today, I would propose removing the Law Enforcement clause from the current plan.


  1. As a 5th Ward resident and voter, I have followed this particular campaign more closely than the other district races. Both candidates have a strong background in business which I think is critical when selecting a mayor and council members. Grafton seems sincere in his rather extreme rightwing beliefs which may appeal to some voters, but for me the edge goes to John Friend who has accumulated working knowledge as an incumbent councilman.

    Whoever wins this 5th Ward race should concentrate on repairing Lloyd Pool, and revitalizing the North Park commercial district, and I’m not saying that just because I live in the Meadows. North Park is dying a slow death, and the city needs to help bolster it up again.

      • I get the impression from many of your previous statements that you hold “Tea Party” political beliefs. If I have gotten the wrong impression, then I’m sorry. John Friend is pretty conservative for a Democrat, but not quite what I would call a Tea Party Democrat.

        • apology accepted, I do believe that it is dangerous to have the same answer to every question, liberal or conservative, there are times when the conservative view works best and other times when the liberal view works best. The answer is to have a more balanced system that allows both voices to be heard and a full and lively debate to be had and then an answer given that actually fits the problem. Not an answer that reflects an ideology or an agenda detached from the problem at hand. My professional training and experience is to focus on the task and let the task dictate the answer. It does not matter what I want to manufacture, if the market will not buy it I am out of business.

          • “It does not matter what I want to manufacture, if the market will not buy it I am out of business.”

            That is shows good business sense, and is directly applicable to successful marketing. However, when it is applied to politics, what results is a politician who will say whatever it takes to draw votes from the audience to whom he is marketing himself. In other words: retail politics.

            I think both you and John Friend are doing this, so now I have to decide my vote based on which one of you I think will represent my interests four years at a time rather than just the duration of the campaign.

          • Teapartyfriend
            At the present time my opponent is “in business” politically and if you are happy with the way he has represented your interest for this last term then by all means vote for him, if you are looking for a different product then consider voting for me. I do appreciate your effort to make a good decision, our forefathers would be proud.

  2. Why not ask these gentlemen to do a round 2 ? Since they are both business owners (and I don’t think any of the other races can say that), how about Q’s like these ?

    1) What transparency issues will you be recommending going forward re: regular financial information of the City ? re: Public Works projects ?

    2) What ideas do you have re: job creation in the 5th Ward ? Beyond 5th Ward ?

    3) What efficiencies can you bring to the employees at the Civic Center,to enable them to truly be “servants of the public” ? What physical changes would you make at the Civic Center to improve the service experience of the public ?

  3. 4) In what manner should the City take the numerous studies which have indicated infrastructure deficiencies (e.g., no high speed internet, no jetways, no venture capital funds, no move-in ready large scale office space, etc.)and develop plans/obtain funding to solve these limitation ?

  4. 5) What steps will you take to streamline the actual City Council meetings ? For example, watching them on TV is a sure cure for insomnia. How can the nebulous, minor zoning variances and racing pigeons matters be handled “off camera”, and allow the main portion of the meeting to deal with the weighty issues facing this City ? In other words, the really good stuff (questions about Arena, Hotel) get stuck at the end of the meeting (“Miscellaneous”) after the Councilmen are already tired and want to go home. How can that be reversed such that Arena/Hotel gets “prime time” and the pigeons come home to roost in the wee hours ?

    • Although I find some of the issues of the meetings boring I do think that WNIN could do a better job, I’m not looking for editing out the dull stuff it gives views a chance to pay attention to the council-folk’s mannerisms and attention to the small stuff, but the audio levels sux they need either a sound engineer on site or go through the process of balancing the audio level before broadcasting the meetings.

      And while I’m on the subject I think the meetings should be shown more often and expanded to public meetings of important boards like ERC, it’s is a publicly supported (tax dollars) TV station and all the questions about quilts and home improvements have already been answered.


      • Do you know how much it cost the city or the county to broadcast each half hour portion of those meetings? I bet you and others would be squeeling like stuck pigs if every board meeting were broadcast.

        • I have no idea…enlighten me on the costs to the county and city to have WNIN tape and broadcast each meeting, WNIN is publicly funded (our tax dollars and federal monies) and it is part of their charter (PBS) as a broadcaster to provide this type of programming.

          To fix the mic problem….just remove the red button, they should always be recorder while in session, they do work for the public and are on the public’s dime while at the meetings unless they are now working for free? While we are at it they should remove all cell phones from the meetings also.


          • I’ll answer the second issue first. If all the mics were on at the same time, there would be mumbling, feedback, paper rustling, and other background noises interfering with the transcriber’s ability to accurately transcribe the minutes from the tape.

            It costs $200 per half hour to broadcast meetings live on WNIN. So, how many hours of board meetings do you wish broadcasts?

          • $200 per half hour….that’s cheap by today’s standards, given the thousands of dollars wasted every day I say air every min of every meeting every day. Since a very small percent of the public actually has the ability to make the meetings and the news media slants reports whichever way the political wind is blowing, it gives the public insight into just what is going on where they can draw their own conclusions based on the facts not someone’s opinion.

            Maybe the sound system needs a upgrade? ambient noise picked up by the mics is common, feedback can be controlled by using more then one audio channel and adjusting the gain on each channel, sound boards are cheap and every garage band has one, there’s little excuse in 2011 for a broadcast TV station to produce such a poorly engineered presentation. It’s almost like it is by design or on purpose that the audio is of such poor quality to discourage people from watching…or maybe no one there really cares and would rather the mics and cameras where not there at all?

            I’ve watched public meetings on TV at a lot of cities while traveling and I have to say they don’t have the issues, they are far from a professional presentation but miles ahead of Evansville in producing something that is watchable without the sound jacked up to the max and still straining to hear the person talking.


      • And it’s not always the audio system’s fault, or the audio engineer’s fault, that speakers cannot be heard. There’s little red buttons on the microphone base in front of each council member, and each council member has to remember to turn the mic on before speaking. However, that does not always happen, and it seems always to be the same couple of dumb bunnies (who ironically think of themselves as the council intelligencia) who forget to turn their mics on before speaking.

    • Those boring issues each are rezoning applications or other pertinent issues required by statute or local code to have a place on the regular agenda of the meeting. All those real juicy items that get you all hot and bothered are usually found way down low on the “other business” or “public comment” portion of the agenda because they’ve had their timely hearing higher up on a previous agenda, and are just returing for a rehash or beat down because someone cannot let the issue rest, kind of like it is here.

      • Soon2B:

        1) As the earlier poster stated, what we need are Councilmen/women who are willing to “overhaul” the way business is done. If it’s required by statute or local code, then change them. I have watched several recent City Council meetings, both live and some on WNIN. From memory, I watched a lengthy Haney’s Corner zoning debate with numerous citizens involved; a zoning issue involving one guy who wanted an easement switched on either Illinois or Indiana Avenue–it was never clear to me; and I had the good fortune to watch the racing pigeons live and in person at the last meeting ! This is no way to run a city. The nine City Councilmen sit there and try to seem important, only most of them don’t have any clue where the property on which they are voting for a zoning change is even located ! Why not just involve the Councilman whose Ward contains the subject property, and that Councilman, the property owner, any people who object and the City Attorney just work it out before the meeting. The 9 Councilmen are treated like robots or puppets, however you like to say it, but they’ve really need to work on the important matters, not this bullshit; and

        2) I also don’t agree with your comment re: ” just returning for a rehash or beat down because someone cannot let the issue rest”. If the Council has not voted on a specific issue, and it involves City business, then it’s fair game to give someone the floor. We need more debate and pondering of the really important matters. I support changes to make the City Council a more relevant Board (and not try to limit the big ticket items which they can debate). Here’s the proof-in-the-pudding: are we, as a City, better off or worse off if our City Council publicly debates the merits and negatives of various large-scale directions the City might take in the future ?

        • Yusef, your abbreviated idea for government, beside being about the most naive and brain dead idea I have ever heard, is also dangerously simplistic. If you let the rezoning petitioner and a single council member “work out” the rezoning request, even with the assistance of the municiple lawyer, you are asking for graft and corruption of a monumental proportion. Think about it.

          Every rezoning application deserves a full hearing in front of the entire council, and all areas and constituencies within the jurisdiction deserve a voice in the decision. Think about it. It’s a matter of fairness and transparency. I cannot believe that anyone would want rezonings decided by one councilman, one lawyer, the petitioner (especially not a well-healed petitioner) out of sight of the public and full council.

          I’m sorry that government is such a burden to your and other’s ADD mentalities.

          • I don’t think its naive at all. Who better to know the “turf” than that Ward’s councilman? As it is today, 2/3 of the council folks don’t know anything about the matter, so a lot of time is wasted. If you don’t have a better idea for recapturing that wasted time, then please don’t criticize. We need solutions, not someone shooting down fresh ideas. You must not watch very many of these meetings, these rezoning deals are not rocket science !

          • Soon2B: how would one get less graft and corruption by having a zoning request go before the full council vs. just one member ? The petitioner can still bribe the member who will “carry the torch”, and the others will fall in line unless they want a variance to sell meth to children. “Every rezoning application deserves a full hearing in front of the entire council . . .” ? Can’t wait to see your post with the ‘value add’ of this being done. Do you think the City Council of Los Angeles hears each and every zoning request, or perhaps have they found a way to liberate their city leaders from this tedium so they can get down to the serious business of the City ?

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