Patty Curtis posted some questions on Facebook and asked each candidate to respond. Here are my answers:
What do you believe should be proposed about any Community Center for the city, regarding affordability and usability and appropriate design? The city needs to engage the residents to determine what the residents want, need and what they can afford in a community center. This means City Council members, parks and rec directors and advisory groups actively reaching out to residents, volunteer groups and stakeholders by going to where they are (PTA meetings, sporting events, fundraisers, etc.); not just asking residents to come to town halls that are at times inconvenient for residents and have low turnout.
What is YOUR specific ideal CC? A community center that the city’s residents and stakeholders came together to design.
How would a Community Center proposal fit in with upcoming water rate increases? With a rebuilt or renovated City Hall? With sidewalk improvements that will be mandatory for residents? With all of these coming before residents sooner rather than later we need to be mindful of the overall costs and scale of these projects. We are now at the time where all the maintenance the city has postponed over the years could end up costing us more money, so leaders with more forethought are needed on City Council.
What do you believe are the biggest three financial challenges facing the city in the next 3 years, and why? The three biggest financial challenges the city is facing is underfunded pensions, sewers/ infrastructure and building maintenance.
Berkley has underfunded pension liabilities which need to be addressed more aggressively because long-term legacy costs could be crushing for future generations. We need to make sure the city meets its obligations however let’s investigate changing the pension plans to that of defined contributions plans (like a 401(k)). This will take a long time, maybe over a decade, but we need to start having that conversation.
Sewer/infrastructure continue to need work. Walking through the neighborhoods I can see firsthand how some streets and sidewalks have deteriorated. There was a millage passed last year and residents want to know why they haven’t seen any improvements. Projects from the infrastructure millage have not started because the funds must be collected before a big project can be tackled. Better communication is needed to keep residents updated on the process.
Also, will the State and County mandate we separate our combined sewers? If so, this will be very expensive. We need to start discussing what that will look like and how to raise the money for it.
The City’s buildings (aka assets) has not been maintained as well as they should have been for a variety of reasons, however, that needs to change. We need maintenance plans and work to fund them appropriately.
What can you identify as unnecessary or wasteful spending over the past three years, and what are your specific plans to reduce and control these and in the future?
There seem to be a lot of studies ordered by the city that have little or no action plans once or if they are received. If we decide to pay for a study, lets make sure it is for something sustainable; not just another study that sits on a shelf.
For items with large community impacts, lets really get community feedback before implementing. I have had many, many conversations with residents about crosswalks, Coolidge re-striping, bike lanes, chipper routes, water bills (which will be increasing again in 2020), sidewalks, water mains, sewers, parks and roads. Residents want to SEE more of their tax dollars at work where they feel they receive the benefit.
What are your beliefs about the recently proposed ethics ordinance? I am not opposed to the creation of an Ethics Board, however, to try to regulate tone and civility is too subjective and could infringe on peoples’ First Amendment rights.
Tone in written communications is almost impossible to detect. You lose the subtle inflections and nuisances when you speak to someone either face to face or on the phone.
As written this ordinance would stifle communication between city officials and the community. For a City Council who claim to want more community engagement this is the antithesis of open, honest dialog.
The other local communities that have ethics boards, they review contracts, conflicts of interest and questions of financial gains. Not civility or tone.
Would you have voted for it as it was written, prior to any discussion? No.