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Ask The Mayor: Terre Haute's Bennett On Casino Smoking Policy, Live PD

Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett

Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett (Joe Hren, WFIU/WTIU News)

Bennett says he's receiving positive feedback over A&E's 'Live PD' program, the city will have to address how the proposed new casino enforces the city's smoking ban, and the relationship between the city and federal prison during potential executions.

On this week’s installment of Ask The Mayor, Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett addresses these issues and more. Listen to the full conversation with Indiana Newsdesk anchor Joe Hren by clicking on the play button above, or read some of the questions and answers below. A portion of this segment airs 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. Wednesday on WFIU.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

Hren: Let's get right into the recent request from the NAACP asking the Terre Haute chamber to end participation with A&E's 'Live PD' with the city's police department. You were on board with this, what's happening now?

Bennett: I found out last week, I was at a meeting and when I got back, I got a phone call from the media asking for a comment. It just came out of the blue, we have not had any complaints from them or local complaints at all. Anything I get a complaint about are people from across the nation who watch the show and like to complain about things, like police harassment and they told us to expect that.

So I was disappointed that the NAACP didn't reach out. I'm hoping to meet with the executive board who made that decision and see where it takes us. Like everything else, you get all the information and take people's complaints and look at the pros and cons and decide how to move forward.

So far it's worked out pretty well, it's caused us to reevaluate some procedural things, these guys are out everyday working with the public. I think that transparency is really great.  

Casino map
Google Maps Casino Site

Hren: The proposed casino is moving forward, but the city's work isn't done as you want to capitalize on the visitors. What's the strategy?

Bennett: We want them to stay a night and visit one of our museums or other things that are happening here. So just as an example from our convention center, as we develop this forward, there will be a transportation service to pick people up from the hotels and convention center and be able to get them out to the casino if that's what they want to do.

READ MORE: Vigo County Casino Vote Passes Overwhelmingly

Rocksino Terre Haute exterior
Spectacle Entertainment

Hren: What's the smoking ordinance in the area where the casino will go? Will that be an issue for them?

Bennett: It's in the city but the city and county ordinance is the same. So there's an issue there that has to be resolved. We're still determining on how best to do that because now our smoking ordinance is very restrictive and would not allow that to happen. 

The casino does want to hit the smoking and non-smoking crowd, and so it does have a financial impact on anyone who operates a casino, so we're working through the intricacies of that to make sure we find a solution that works for everybody. 

terre haute prison
Terre Haute Federal Prison

Hren: I wanted to ask about all the news last month about allowing executions, does the city have some relationship with the federal prison here?

Bennett: Yeah, we meet regularly, they have a community advisory board that has the police chief, fire chief, myself on it so we have constant contact about what's going on at the prison, what programs they offer. On executions, they have already done some training and drills related to this - what's going to happen on the day of an execution, but we have to handle the protesters and the politics so we want to make sure everybody is kept safe.

Former Tribune-Star building
The city is waiting on a proposal to turn the former Tribune-Star building into the police station. (Joe Hren, WFIU/WTIU News)

Hren: Looking back at 2019, what didn't get done you really hoped would have made more progress?

Bennett: I think the only thing that didn't get done was get the police station started. So as we're looking at this option with the Tribune-Star building, we're waiting on a final proposal which I should have any day now. We got all of our construction projects completed, we started our long-term control plan along the river - about $56 million worth or work, and so we had a great 2019.

As we look toward 2020, design work continues on the overpass at 13th and 8th avenue. We have a Community Crossroads grant, so we have four major projects we're doing and paving outside of that.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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