Members of the community had the opportunity to ask Mayor Dan Ridenour and the department heads of the City of Muncie questions about how the city will work under his leadership.
Ridenour held his first “Dream With Dan 2.0” community forum Thursday evening at Muncie Civic Theatre, kicking off the series of forums, which will be held from 6-7 p.m. the last Thursday of every month at various locations in Muncie.
“We’re trying to build trust; we’re trying to be open and fair,” Ridenour said. “I understand that we need input. We need to know what the city wants to do in order to move forward. So, the purpose is to get the public involved, engaged and to trust the city government.”
The forums allow the community members to more easily interact with Ridenour and other city department heads, he said. The mayor and at least two department heads will be present at every meeting. These forums serve as a continuation of the forums Ridenour held during his mayoral election campaign.
“Muncie has so many great and wonderful, positive attributes, and it’s time for us to start looking forward and saying, ‘Hey, we can do this,’ and we’re going to do it,” he said. “This is a way for the public and for the leaders to hear what the public has to say and to help us move this city forward.”
All department heads were present for Thursday’s meeting. Ridenour started with a brief opening statement, and the forum continued in a Q-and-A format.
Ridenour opened by discussing 10 steps his office is already taking to improve its function, budget oversight and communication between departments and city council.
Attendees sent in their questions via text message, which Jase Crehan, public access communications director with the City of Muncie, wrote on cards and passed on Laura Williamson, executive director of the theater, who read them to the mayor and his department heads.
Whoever could best answer the question stepped up to a microphone to speak.
Crehan said he chose to have attendees submit the questions by text to show some level of innovation and change within the mayor’s office. He added this way was more efficient and gave everyone a chance to ask a question.
“We’re hoping to take things to a more modern level,” he said.
Attendees asked about topics pertaining to building and asphalt inspections, whether certain city employees are paid on contract, the new jail, the function of the Human Rights Commission, the White River Development project, hiring new police officers and firefighters and whether Muncie can save Macy’s from closing its doors at the Muncie Mall.
“I don’t see how we’re going to save Macy’s because they’ve made that decision,” Ridenour answered. “But there are many, many, many profitable stores in that mall … Do not think that just because Macy’s is gone that the mall is dead.”
Muncie resident Susan Dillon said she didn’t ask any questions but felt the forum was a good means of obtaining more information. She said she attended the forum because she is looking to get involved and make a difference in Muncie.
“Coming here to see what questions other people are asking helps me to realize what other issues they want to see addressed,” she said.
Dillon said she thought the mayor’s first forum went well.
“I think that the mayor is really working hard on his promise to provide transparency,” she said. “The open forum format, where anybody can ask questions, is very effective.”
The next forum will be held from 6-7 p.m. Feb. 27 at Union Baptist Church at 1100 N. Macedonia Ave.
Ridenour said the reason the forums are held at different places across Muncie instead of the City Hall is to allow him to reach every part of the city.
“I’m hoping that every area of the city will get engaged, and we can have some positive results,” he said.
Contact Hannah Gunnell with comments at email@example.com or on Twitter @hagunnellNEWS.