I’d like to thank the Fayetteville Flyer for their recent article detailing my candidacy for re-election to City Council. Here are their questions and my answer about the issues that will be facing Ward 2 and the city over the next four years.
Vote Tuesday, November 6!
Why run for re-election? Is there anything in particular you want to introduce or continue working toward?
Fayetteville is at a critical juncture when it comes to things like affordable housing, smart growth, protecting our environment, and carefully shaping the future of the city. During my time on the council, we’ve launched a number of important projects, plans, services and programs, based on the input of the people of Fayetteville. These include the Fayetteville First Economic Development Plan, the Solid Waste Initiative and Master Plan, the Long Range Water Plan, the Fayetteville Energy Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gases, and our Welcoming Plan for immigrants and newcomers. Now, there’s the opportunity to build on these plans to make a better city for everyone with good jobs, clean water and a healthy environment, that meets the needs of a diverse population.
No doubt on the forefront of everyone’s mind is how we are to handle affordable and accessible housing. Some say nothing is being done. In fact, the City of Fayetteville has often been the only local government that has stepped up to keep services running and shelters open. Last year, the city helped the Seven Hills Homeless Center keep its doors open when it was in financial crisis. Through Partnership for Better Housing, which I helped found over 10 years ago, we’re seeing a mixed residential development of market rate and subsidized housing take shape in South Fayetteville at Willow Bend. This was a partnership with the Fayetteville Housing Authority. As this project takes shape more money will be generated to expand the mission. There is renewed interest in managing other partnerships with the Fayetteville Housing Authority which I see as a positive step in helping folks find safe and accessible shelter.
We must continue to work diligently with smart growth initiatives that don’t sacrifice the unique heritage of the town I love. Historic Preservation absolutely must be a key element in protecting well established neighborhoods. At the same time, as our population grows, we must keep Fayetteville affordable and mobile through things like smart infill and improved transit. Another partnership recently funded by the city and Ozark Regional Transit make free rides available throughout Fayetteville to everyone on both ORT and Razorback Transit. Routes have been coordinated to allow more frequent stops.
Water and environmental protection may be the most critical items for us manage going forward. Here in the Ozarks, we have a unique and challenging topography, hydrology and geology around our sensitive watersheds. I have dedicated a large amount of my time on City Council as Chairman of the Water, Sewer, and Solid Waste Committee to insure that our water systems are soundly managed, that we protect our environment, and that we have the capital needed to make it all happen. I spearheaded a move to save the city millions of dollars by reissuing bonds to allow better management of our enterprise funds and more long range capital for needed improvements. We have developed low impact development guidelines, streamside and hillside protections, preserved hundreds of acres of open space, and invested in restoring the streams which in turn prevent erosion and protect water quality. We are now studying a proposal to start a stormwater management utility. It is much needed and has been neglected for quite some time.
Four years ago you described Ward 2 as having a very diverse character. Has the area changed since then? Would you describe it the same way today?
Ward Two is diverse and still maintains the character much the same as four years ago. We have started to develop more respect for the Washington-Willow Historic District. City council is now moving forward with a long-needed preservation ordinance to address that. The Entertainment District is vibrant. With Theatre Squared’s new home opening soon, the recent expansion of the Walton Arts Center, and the planned Arts Corridor, our creative community will no doubt continue to grow.
I have always been a proponent of Neighborhood Preservation and there is certainly pressure on neighborhoods with the growth of the UofA. I helped establish the Town and Gown Committee to work on issues that affect both the university and the city, and we are seeing more progress in managing projects of mutual concern. This is especially true with infrastructure improvements and safety. However, there is a lot of attention that must always be in the forefront of this committee to protect neighborhood integrity.
Are there any council decisions you were especially proud of or frustrated with during your most recent term?
In 2015, I proudly co-sponsored Fayetteville’s Civil Rights Ordinance, which passed by a vote of the people. It protects everyone living, working, or visiting here from discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation, when it comes to housing, employment and public accommodations. It’s been under attack by the state government, but it was the right thing to do.