Forum

Incumbent Democrat Melanie Wright answers a question as Republican candidate Bill Walters waits his turn during a debate sponsored by The Herald Bulletin at the city building on Thursday.

ANDERSON — Candidates for seats in the Indiana House representing the city of Anderson took differing stances on Mounds Lake Reservoir during a Thursday forum.

Candidates in District 35 and District 36 took part in the event sponsored by The Herald Bulletin.

Terri Austin, Jim Shelton, Bill Walters and Melanie Wright were asked their views on the reservoir project that stalled last year when the communities of Chesterfield, Daleville and Yorktown voted to not join a commission to oversee the project. The candidates were asked if they would favor the project if it were scaled back to not include the Delaware County areas.

Austin, a Democrat seeking re-election in District 36, said the reservoir could be considered for west of Anderson toward the town of Lapel.

She said by going west of Anderson it would not displace as many residential property owners.

“We need a long-term water use and needs studies statewide,” Austin said.

She said questions surrounding the project include the cost and environmental concerns.

“The process should be transparent to the public,” she said.

Her opponent, Republican Shelton, said the reservoir would have been great economically for Anderson.

Shelton said there has not been enough study done on the project and that it won’t work without including Delaware County.

“They need to come up with another plan,” he said. “I think it is dead.”

Walters, a Republican running in the 35th District, voted against the reservoir proposal as a member of the Daleville Town Council. He agreed the project won’t move forward without Delaware County.

“We need a study done on water needs in the future,” he said.

Walters said public funds should be used for the water needs study.

Wright, a Democrat seeking a second term in District 35, said she was concerned about the families that would be displaced by the reservoir project.

She said payments to displaced low-income families might not be enough for them to locate to a new residential property.

Wright said a bigger concern is how safe the water supply is in Indiana and the quality of the water.

Districts 32, 53 on RFRA issue

The forum also included five candidates for the two seats in Districts 32 and 53, which represent portions of Madison County.

As can be expected, their answers came down along party lines on a question about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Democrat Nancy Tibbett, running in District 53, said she decided to run for the seat on the morning she heard that Gov. Mike Pence signed the legislation.

“They didn’t fix it,” she said of the legislative action to make changes to the bill. “We don’t know the damage done to the state of Indiana.”

Republican Bob Cherry said the intention was not to discriminate and said the legislative fix is working.

Cherry said civil rights protections for the LGBT community are being handled by local ordinances.

“It’s working the way it is,” he said.

Cherry said that Indianapolis is busting at the seams in terms of tourism in 2016.

Libertarian Rick Brown said discrimination in any form is horrible, adding it can be handled by the free market.

Brown said social media would spread the word if a business discriminates against any group.

“People can choose whether or not to go that business,” he said.

Republican Tony Cook, seeking re-election in District 32, said there was an initial negative impact on the state but it hasn’t affected the convention business in Indianapolis.

“People were not listening on the issue,” he said. “People reacted emotionally on both sides. We were trying to respect religious freedoms while compromising on civil rights protections.”

Cook agreed with Cherry that it was a local decision.

Democrat Ryan Davis said he is 100 percent against RFRA, adding it should be overhauled or repealed.

"If you provide services, you have to provide servies to all members of the community," he said. "It did put a black eye on Indiana across the country."

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 640-4863.