Muncie Mayor Elections: The final vote

Staff Report

MUNCIE, IN - One word defines Tuesday' election for the next leader of free Muncie. Desperation. Local Democrats are desperate to take back city hall after 20 years of Republican rule by three different mayors. And Republican Mayor Sharon McShurley is desperate to win re-election, holding a daily news conference to show what she's done to create jobs, balance the city's budget and improve parks, infrastructure and public safety.

In the last few days, the difference between McShurley and Democratic challenger Dennis Tyler could not be more obvious than a couple of last minute campaign stops. The so-called mayor of Facebook was dedicating a new downtown park and band stand with about 100 community leaders watching while Tyler was giving away bicycles to poor youth in inner city schools. The response from those events tells even more.

Tyler thought Canan Commons was a great addition to the downtown. Republicans thought Tyler was buying votes giving away bikes, something he has done for years. That tale of two cities also is easily seen just comparing Muncie's south and east sides with its north and west sides. Old and abandoned homes and factories on old side, and Ball State University, the Muncie Mall, commercial strips and new housing on other other side. Will the haves prevail over the have nots? Both McShurley and Tyler both want to see a better community with people having a great quality of life and a good paying job. How that happens and how the lead differs in what they say.

"I decided to run for mayor because I believe we have accomplished a lot in the four years I have served," said Shurley, 49.

Those achievements include creating as many as 1,900 jobs with current and new employers like Brevini and Progress Rail, reopening Tuhey Pool and finishing Canan Commons, and balancing he city budget with a $3.8 million cash surplus.

Tyler, 68, is running to make a difference and get the community back on track to create jobs and investments amid continued high unemployment and more people on Medicaid, Food Stamps and other assistance. The key to economic development, Tyler said, is having a string public school system, park and recreation program, and rebuilt infrastructure. McShurley lauds the economic alliance among government, community and chamber leaders, while Tyler points out some people are left out, especially in low income and minority communities.

"I intend to be very inclusive of the community," said Tyler, adding he would maintain an open door. McShurley talks about being transparent and accountable about governing. And she is about representing citizens over political parties. Tyler said he never asked people heir politics before helping them as a state representative. Granted Tyler is loyal to the local Democratic Party and its leadership. McShurley did not support current Republican Party chairman Will Statom during a recent reorganization that divided the party organization.

The city hall that McShurley or Tyler leads will still have financial problems that plagued McShurley's last four years. The layoff of firefighters and closing of fire stations still could be he deciding factor in the election. Tyler, a retired fire captain, knows some in the community don't want public safety running city hall. Others believe McShurley jeopardized public safety that included the recent death of firefighter Scott Davis by reducing manpower and facilities.

And that recent budget surplus also is a double edged sword when McShurley said up until recently the city was broke, and then rolled out a $3.8 million surplus and bonuses for employees. The explantion was that a check on spending, conservative budgeting, increasing fees, obtaining grants and reducing overtime came up with the cash.

Tyler took advantage of that situation, saying money was available to reopen a south Muncie fire house and make other street improvements. Speaking of money, we the people believe that 400 of the richest people and others contributing to McShurley's campaign should win the election, but Tyler's service to those in need and working with difference groups could make him the winner.

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