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Candidates go head-to-head in Elkhart mayoral debate

NOW: Candidates go head-to-head in Elkhart mayoral debate

ELKHART, Ind. --- Democrat Rod Roberson and Republican Dave Miller went head-to-head at the Lerner Theatre in Downtown Elkhart on Monday evening.

The questions tonight started off very strong with an inquiry about how both candidates felt about the state of the city's public safety.

The Elkhart Police Department has been under fire for quite some time following the release of video footage showing officers punching a restrained inmate in custody.

Both Roberson and Miller agreed that the trust between the police department and Elkhart community needs to be restored, but had differing opinions on how to make that happen.

Dave Miller, (R) Mayoral Candidate:

"One of the things we need to do in order to re-establish their credibility to the extent that it has been compromised, is to accredit the police department. You may not know but when I was mayor before, we had the department accredited."

Rod Roberson, (D) Mayoral Candidate:

"We need to make sure that we not only are fully staffed, but we are equipped appropriately. I am in favor of ensuring there's a citizen’s review board, and I am in favor of ensuring that we have an appropriate amount of accountability."

Another hot topic included where the money should be spent in the city.

Elkhart administrators have faced criticism in the past for what many feel is disproportionate spending in the downtown area and the River District.

Miller believes building up the downtown area is just the start of better things to come.

Roberson told the audience he is ready to start on those other neighborhoods by using the successful model of the downtown development.

Rod Roberson, (D) Mayoral Candidate:

"We have to start somewhere. And downtown is obviously the pinnacle of where we revolve around. So what we will end up doing is literally utilizing that model to begin a process of looking at all of our neighborhoods and investing in all of our neighborhoods."

Dave Miller, (R) Mayoral Candidate:

"It had to start somewhere. And it's appropriate that it starts downtown. And it will happen in rings moving out from there to the near south side and every neighborhood on the perimeter of there, all the way into the ends of the city. That's what a mayor does as the leader of a city."

On almost all the topics, both candidates seemed to echo each other on their planned route for success.

However, there was a clash of personal nature toward the end of the debate during which Candidate Miller made a remark geared toward a car crash Roberson was involved in back in 2018.

Roberson was sued by one of the victims in the crash, Jean Cesar. Cesar said the crash left him with permanent injuries.

Dave Miller, (R) Mayoral Candidate:

"I’ve never been sued. I've never filed bankruptcy. I've never missed a payment. I've never had anyone come after me for missed payments, as hard as those are and as understandable as they may be for some folks.

Dave Miller, (R) Mayoral Candidate:

"If somebody's crashed a car a few times, I'm not sure I want them to be behind the wheel again."

Rod Roberson, (D) Mayoral Candidate:

"Wow. Wow. Well, uh, one of the crashes that occurred during 2006 and 2007 in our city was our cash balances that occurred during the last year of his administration."

Voters in the crowd shared their take with ABC 57 on the back and forth debate and some of the most important issues as a voter.

“The economic development of the city of Elkhart for all its citizens, not just in one place, but all over the city,” said Franklin Breckinridge, Debate Attendee. “And probably the most important is that some type of police review board is established.”

“The questions were good,” said Zanzer Anderson, Debate Attendee. “They hit on a lot of concerns in the community and I think some of the concerns that they had about the candidates, that was addressed and they talked about it and they answered them quite well,” said Anderson.

Both candidates also discussed the future of the inter-urban trolley system, embattled “Tolson Center” and Elkhart Community Schools.

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