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Meeting Over a Beer? Sure, say “Ask The Mayor” Guests

President Barack Obama sat down Thursday night for a beer with two parties trying to work out a dispute. But does the tactic work if you're not the President?

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President Barack Obama sat down Thursday night for a beer with two parties trying to work out a dispute.  But  does the tactic work if you’re not the leader of the free world?  It’s accepted that compromises are reached on golf courses and in other social settings, but when you introduce alcohol into the equation, an almost Puritan worry creeps into the minds of some.  Kokomo mayor Greg Goodnight says he’s often wanted to have a drink on the job, and doesn’t necessarily think it would impair the execution of city business.

“Having been mayor for 18 months and having been on the [Kokomo Common Council] for two terms before that, I’ve sat in many, many unproductive meetings that did not involve a beer,” Goodnight said with a laugh.  “With that being said, I think it’s very possible that you could have a productive meeting over a beer, sure.”

Columbus Mayor Fred Armstrong says he’s not sure adult beverages either add or detract from productivity.

“I’m not sure it helps people come to agreement, but it does ease the pain,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong says it’s not about whether you drink, it’s about how much you drink.

“It depends if you’re both sitting there slobbering drunk,” the mayor said.  “That might make a little difference.”

Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett says he won’t imbibe while on the clock, but it’s not because he’s worried about his judgment.

“I don’t drink, so I wouldn’t be going the route of sharing a beer with anybody,” Bennett said.  “I appreciate the approach, I’m just not sure the alcohol part — that wouldn’t apply to me.”

For Goodnight, as for President Obama, the most important aspect seems not to be the circumstances of a talk, but the outcome.  Goodnight says he fields job questions wherever he gets them, though it seems food *is* frequently involved.

“I have actually taken care of city business in the grocery aisle; in the checkout lane,” Goodnight said.  “I’ve been at the ice cream stand and taken notes.  I’ve sat at school events or little league games and taken care of problems.”

The Indiana mayors with whom we spoke say they understand the President’s tactic, even if they practice it differently themselves.  And it makes sense.  After all, polls taken during recent runs for the White House have shown Americans will vote for someone they’d want to have a beer with.

Stan Jastrzebski

WFIU/WTIU News Senior Editor Stan Jastrzebski spent time as a reporter with WGN Radio in Chicago and as an editor at Network Indiana, an Indianapolis news service. Stan is the winner of awards from the Associated Press, the RTDNA, the Indiana Broadcasters Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. He hosts WFIU's Ask the Mayor and anchors WTIU's InFocus.

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