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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, October 08, 2019 10:00 pm

Public safety, infant mortality among Henry, Smith's debate topics

DAVE GONG | The Journal Gazette

For about an hour tonight at True Love Missionary Baptist Church, Mayor Tom Henry and Republican challenger Tim Smith debated issues related to public safety, diversity and economic development on Fort Wayne's southeast side.

It was the second of three debates planned before the Nov. 5 general election. The final debate will take place later this month.

When asked to identify bold initiatives he planned to implement if granted another term, Henry touched on the need for more healthcare in Fort Wayne to address obesity, diabetes, smoking and infant mortality.

"I'm going to challenge our healthcare providers because we know from recent reports that our healthcare providers have an adequate amount of financial resources," Henry said, referring to a Center for Business and Economic Research report that shows Indiana's nonprofit health care providers have a combined $27 billion in invested earnings.

"They need to step up and work with the mayor's office to begin to provide additional programs in those four areas," he said.

Henry added that he's tired of hearing about babies dying because of a lack of prenatal care.

"As far as I'm concerned, every woman in this community who is pregnant deserves free prenatal care in the city of Fort Wayne," he said. "We owe that to them."

Asked the same question, Smith said he will focus on community-oriented policing, zero-based budgeting and job creation. Smith said zero-based budgeting involves examining every expenditure to determine whether it is necessary from year to year.

The city is 41st, Smith said, in Indiana cities in terms of safety. He also challenged Henry's previous assertion that the city still practices community-oriented policing, stating that the city doesn't follow the practice the way it was done nearly 30 years ago.

Smith's version of community-oriented policing would include smaller geographic areas for officers to cover, allowing them to get out of their cars and meet community members.

"The virtue in it is the relationships built by virtue of parking and meeting the neighbors and meeting the businesses and establishing relationships. So we don't do it like we did successfully in the '90s," Smith said. "We will, starting in January."