Q&A with Carmel Mayoral Candidate Sue Finkam – Indianapolis Monthly
Like many Carmelites, you are not native to the region. What attracted you to the community when you moved here in 2007?
I was working on a project at IU Health North while living in the Lawrence and Geist area, and my son was getting ready to go to kindergarten. I was impressed with the Carmel community and just wanted him to grow up here. It reminded me a lot of home. I grew up in a small town in Michigan. A town. School. Lots of community pride.
What did outgoing mayor Jim Brainard get right? What did he do wrong?
He has done a phenomenal job of developing a community that has so much vitality and has been a magnet for people to move, both businesses and residents. I don’t think he did anything wrong, per se, but I think there’s just a lot of opportunity. In local government, you don’t have the resources to do everything you want at once. You have to make choices. It is possible to engage residents in a different conversation with local leaders. There is an opportunity to invest within the walls of City Hall.
What are some of these opportunities?
It is always called “Jim’s vision”. It should be called the vision of the community. People want to be more engaged. They want to be more involved in restaurants and street life, and have a say in where their children grow up and what kind of experience they have. It is certainly a key initiative. And we want to use data for more informed decision-making.
Does Carmel have enough affordable housing, especially as more service workers flock to an increasingly service-based economy?
Currently, they have a wide variety of housing options for anyone wanting to settle in Carmel. And that’s just a segment of what we have to provide to the community.
But have we had enough?
I think we have opportunities to expand that further. There is a building with 99 apartments [in Midtown] come in, and 20 percent of that is going to be affordable housing.
Are you concerned about the national trend playing out in Carmel of investors buying single-family homes?
I think what’s so special about Carmel is that we have really strong neighborhoods, something that I’d like to make sure we continue that way. And so when you get a neighborhood with 30% business rentals, and you don’t know your neighbors because they might be individual renters or out-of-state business owners, they’re not there to see it. The grass is six inches high or the house is missing shingles. And so there just isn’t as much maintenance of the property. And some neighbors have young children and don’t want Airbnb next to them when people come and go. I want neighbors to be in love with their community.
Do you think social media service Nextdoor has made neighborhoods closer or farther apart?
I would say a bit of both. It’s a transparency on your neighbors, that’s for sure. I think the good thing about Nextdoor is that it’s not quite as anonymous as Twitter, where it’s a nameless, faceless [entity].
In the language of Parks and Recreation, Has Carmel earned its reputation as a sort of “Eagleton,” the hoity-toity suburb that sees itself as better than an inferior Pawnee?
I think that’s probably a bit unfair, because it’s a caricature. And that doesn’t do justice to the people who live here and care about the community. Carmel is a city built on excellence, and one that should appeal to a wide range of people.
Do you identify with Leslie Knope?
No. I think I’m more stupid.
Why are you a better candidate than your Republican opponent, Kevin “Woody” Rider?
Compared to no one, just in general, I’m ready. I’ve spent the past few years working on my executive resume. I have experience in marketing and management, operations and HR. So whenever an opportunity presented itself like this, I would be ready. I have proven myself. I spent 11 years playing a senior role on City Council, learning the financial side of things inside and out, and serving my residents to the best of my abilities. No one who enters this race will have that combination of real-world experience with city council experience.
Carmel is increasingly becoming a blue island in the still red Hamilton County. As a Republican, how do you govern a city that is becoming increasingly dominated by voters who may be from a different party?
You listen a lot. I think it is essential and essential to be a good leader. And I also think that, again, you stay in your lane. This route offers very high quality services to residents.
Which mayors, here in Indiana or elsewhere, would you seek to emulate if elected?
I think from a pragmatic point of view, I really respect what [Fishers] Mayor [Scott] Fadness did next, because he tried to stay out of politics and focus more on operations, and I respect that highly.
Mayor Brainard spent a lot of time trying to make Carmel a walkable town. Is there room for improvement in public transit as you plan to potentially connect the city to Indianapolis?
This is something I get asked regularly. I think you have to assess all the opportunities and look at a cost-benefit ratio. I think my big concern is any type of large capital investment, especially at a time when public transit is changing so much. I look at the investments that Indianapolis, the state of Indiana, and the federal government have made in Indianapolis, and I fear that in five or six years, that will be completely negated by driverless cars.
Does Carmel have too much debt?
No. As a councilman who has taken a hard look at finances, everything is scheduled debt. There are no things there or a time – as some residents like to say – “when the chickens come home to roost”. I don’t know what “hens” are, but we won’t have any surprises.
Carmel, in some circles, has a negative reputation when it comes to race relations. Is Carmel sufficiently diversified?
I think what’s really interesting about Carmel is that we look at the kids who are in our schools, there are about 50 different languages spoken at home. I think it’s amazing. And we are rapidly becoming more of an international city. I look forward to seeing this diversity grow.
Carmel is somewhat famous – infamous? What is the optimal number of days to reserve your place before the morning of the parade?
I don’t think there is a limit. Dark.
The answer to this next question could be the end of your quest for mayor. What are some of your favorite Carmel restaurants?
All with a good wine list.