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NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Barranda, Freistroffer and Hartman best choices for at-large seats on City Council

One of the big questions in the Nov. 5 election in Fort Wayne is who will fill the void left by City Council President Dr. John Crawford’s failed run for mayor in this year’s Republican primary election. Crawford is in his fifth term on Council, having served since 1995.

Three at-large council members represent the city as a whole. Fort Wayne also elects one member to the council to represent each of six specific districts (1st through 6th).

The at-large incumbents are Republicans Michael Barranda and Tom Freistroffer. News-Sentinel.com is endorsing both for re-election this year and also supporting Republican newcomer Nathan Hartman as our choice from three other candidates in the field.

Why Hartman? We think he will be a pragmatic presence in the council debates, as was Crawford, and will fill his shoes as a fiscal conservative. And his profession as an actuarial pension consultant provides him with the background to focus on the financial side of things, which is of particular value in city matters.

A lifelong resident of Fort Wayne who says he wants to give back to his city, Hartman ran unsuccessfully for a seat on Allen County Council in 2016. He is currently president of the Allen County Economic Development Commission, was appointed by City Council to the board of Citilink and has also served as a member of the Cable Fund Access Board.

Among his priorities on City Council, Hartman told the News-Sentinel.com editorial board, will be roads and infrastructure. And while he thinks the city has done a good job in beefing up infrastructure, he said it has neglected neighborhoods for the last 10 years. If all our money is put in one area such as downtown development, he said, “it hinders something else. We need a balanced plan.”

Hartman said he also wants to bring better jobs to our community and thinks abatements, used on a case-by-case basis, can help get the kinds of jobs we need, especially to help keep our young people from leaving the area to find work.

As for public safety, Hartman said he is aware of the need for law enforcement to build trust in neighborhoods and thinks community-oriented policing is a good step.

“We need more detectives,” he said. “We need to reassure people someone is working on their case.”

Meanwhile, Barranda and Freistroffer have both proved their value to the Council in their first terms.

An attorney, Barranda, says he considers both sides of an issue, knows the law and how to read and write statutes.

He has been a voice of skepticism in two areas that needed such an approach — the Red River trash collection contract and the North River project. He doesn’t think the trash contract is well-defined because no one seems to be willing to enforce the fines for breach of contract in the much-publicized misses the new company made in pickups. Also, he said the North River property was presented to the Council as “a take-it-or-leave-it” proposal in spite of serious questions about environmental liability.

“We should have just said no and revised the contract,” Barranda said.

Freistroffer, a teacher for 15 years, said, “I have a long list of experience in a wide, varied background.”

He is one of the only business owners on council as an appraiser and real estate broker. He’s a big fan of the new Promenade Park on the river, saying the new lofts development and more private enterprise will be coming into town because of it.

“I run on businesses and public safety,” he said, explaining that he favors the downtown development because of the private developers it attracts. And he said he favors increasing the number of police and firefighters in Fort Wayne.

“I can’t say Fort Wayne is not safe,” he said, “but we do have drug, gun and homicide problems we need to work on.”

Three Democrats are also running for at-large Council seats — former 6th District Councilman Glynn Hines and first-time candidates Michelle Chambers and Steve Corona.

All three have impressive credentials, especially Hines who had served his Southeast district since 1999 before deciding he would not run again due in part to health issues. That office will go to Sharon Tucker, who won the Democratic primary and is running unopposed in the Nov. 5 election. Following a successful kidney transplant in December, Hines decided he still wanted to serve and threw his hat into the at-large ring, becoming one of the three Democrats to win in the primary.

Hines said his top issues are continued progress with development, particularly Riverfront, neighborhood infrastructure development and using local income taxes to improve alleys.

Chambers, a redevelopment projects manager in California before moving back to her home town eight years ago, would like to add momentum to what’s going on in economic development here. She serves on the Southeast Area Development Board and served as interim city clerk after Sandra Kennedy left in 2015.

Corona was appointed to the Fort Wayne Community Schools board in 1981, a job he said he likes, and currently serves as vice president. He also serves on the Fort Wayne Redevelopment Commission, the University of St. Francis Board of Trustees and the city’s Joint Funding Legacy Committee.

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