In the November LFUCG Council elections, District 1 Councilmember Andrea James will not be seeking re-election. Candidates Chris Ford and Marty Clifford are vying for the District 1 seat. The NoC news desk asked James to share what she’s seen during her time on Council and to give her thoughts on the next term. James graciously agreed to answer our questions.
NoC: What changes have you seen in District 1 during your time on Council? What is the upside to those changes? The downside?
AJ: The most critical change I’ve seen is the citizen involvement. When I took office, there was no existing database of District 1 residents. I utilized the contacts made during the campaign to develop a database, as well as those who I met at neighborhood meetings and those who called into the office daily. Having the contacts within the community you represent helps to insure that, as an elected [official], you are representing the interests of those you represent, instead of getting off on your own tangent. My office uses the list daily to build committees, do straw polls, and send updates.
Other changes which are significant involve planning, such as the Central Sector Small Area Plan and East End Small Area Plan. Both of these plans allowed for me to keep a campaign promise of planning for the future. Once residents understand that daily issues will be handled, it is easier for them to engage in conversations about the future of their community.
The only potential downside to planning for the future is continuing to recall it and learning to adjust it as things change. There are so many things that have changed in the area that’s its too lengthy to name them all. I will say what hasn’t changed is the community pride that has always been impressive to me.
NoC: What are the most important issues in front of Council right now? What is needed to carry them through?
AJ: The Council Restructuring issue is on the docket for approval currently. This is an issue which I’ve been working on for over two years. After reviewing the current legislative process, it was assessed that our current process is unique to our government. And not only is it unique, there is flexibility present since work sessions and committees are created by council rules. The new structure would allow for more effective legislative-led meetings and better-structured committees to reflect our divisions of government. I feel confident that the new process will make for more effective legislative action. I’ll definitely be watching as this becomes effective in 2011, if it passes Council.
The Affordable Housing Trust Fund is another issue which I’ve been engaged in for several years. The goal is to identify a source of regular funding to help to fund a very strategic plan which will work towards providing affordable housing for all segments of our community. The BUILD agency has been pivotal to the progress of this fund, at one time demanding that the mayor identify funding for it. This fund proves to be as controversial as the LexTran tax because many folks do not understand the effect of lack of affordable housing on their own lives. A strong educational campaign and a concise economic impact study is needed in order to gain the votes needed on Council so this ever so needed fund can move forward.
NoC: What issues has Council failed to whole-heartedly take up that you believe should be taken up in the next term? Why?
AJ: Affordable Housing, as mentioned above. Also, unemployment because it affects our bottomline to such a great extent.
Waste Management and going green. I have a fondness for waste management being that my father-in-law worked for the sanitation department for over 30 years. He taught me the value of that division and how invaluable the workers are. Council should pursue hazardous duty pay for the Waste Management workers.
Employee relations: we’ve got a long way to go with developing a better relationship with our city workers. They are the point of contact, many times, for our end-users (citizens). Council should work to engage them more and be sure that they have systems in place to voice grievances, concerns and ideas.
NoC: What infrastructure improvement is most needed on the north side right now? What type of work from Council, city officials, and citizens is needed to make that happen?
AJ: Completion of Loudon Avenue. Completion of the Legacy Trail (Phase III). Completion of Meadows/Northland/Arlington infrastructure plans. All of these projects must remain priority and be allocated funding. Neighborhood associations should make it a regular item on their agenda for updates. Council should continue to include it in the budget. City officials should keep these projects as priorities and keep councilmembers and neighborhood associations abreast of the status of the projects.
NoC: What advice would you give to citizens who support the creation of an Affordable Housing Trust Fund? What type of action should they take?
AJ: Educate. Educate. Educate. Maybe if we called it “workforce” housing people would support it more. There is a perception of what affordable housing is and at times some don’t relate to that terminology. Keep talking to neighbors and friends and councilmembers. It could come up for referendum.
NoC: What single issue needs more citizen energy in order to make it happen?
AJ: Affordable Housing Trust Fund or grocery store in the East. I can’t choose.
LFUCG elections are Tuesday, November 2.