Over the past month, we’ve gotten to know a little about each of the candidates running in the Fayetteville mayoral election this November. We know what kind of music they like, where they like to eat, even whether or not they call the Hogs.
Now, it’s time to dig a little deeper into where these folks stand on what we all think are some of the issues facing Fayetteville today. Just like last time, after we’ve heard from everyone, we’ll provide a separate post for you guys to discuss the interviews. Until then, the comments are turned off.
Fayetteville Flyer: A lot has been made about the city’s budget in the media in recent months. Is Fayetteville in as much trouble financially as the papers and blogs would have us believe? If so, what would/could you do about it if elected?
Lioneld Jordan: The real question is not whether we are “in trouble,” but whether we are being responsible with the taxpayers’ money. The solution for every problem is not always to raise taxes. I believe we can cut waste within some of the city departments and still maintain the services that our citizens expect and deserve, and we can adjust the salary scales to achieve a more equitable pay plan that is not so top-heavy as it is now. We can diversify the revenue stream, and we can have growth pay for itself with fair and appropriate impact fees. Another thing we can do is reduce the exorbitant number of no-bid contracts and the over-reliance on out-of-state consultants. We have a considerable and highly qualified cadre of local experts and University centers that can provide the necessary perspective and advice without send our tax dollars out of state. Related to that, I also believe that we can achieve considerable saving by reducing the unnecessary out-of-state travel by administrative personnel. I will be a responsible steward of the people’s money, and you can count on it.
FF: There is a giant mud pit on the corner of College and Mountain. From reading the papers, it would seem as though we as a city are at the mercy of some developers who don’t seem to care about what the delays are doing to our downtown area. Are our hands really tied in situations like these? If not, what gives?
LJ: I made a mistake in voting for the TIF District and the contract, and I have learned a hard lesson from that mistake. I apologize to the people for listening to the city officials and the developers who sold us a bill of goods. In trying to eliminate a blighted area, we allowed the developers to create an even worse eyesore. The city’s contract was not strong enough to protect the interests of our citizens. It should have had clause that the property would revert to the city if the project was not completed by date certain. In the future, we should require performance bonds on all large scale projects and developments, and we should not approve additional large scale projects by the same developers until they have secured financing and their past projects are substantially completed in a satisfactory manner. Otherwise, we will again be stuck with another Aspen Ridge or a big hole in the ground. That said, I think we should encourage and support innovative and appropriate development that does not create sprawl or threaten our environment.
FF: Speaking of development, we’re hearing a lot of arguments about whether Fayetteville should grow upwards or outwards. It seems that when tall buildings are proposed, some people freak out and others rejoice. What’s the best direction for Fayetteville, up or out?
LJ: That is a somewhat of a false choice. We need to adhere to the city’s 2025 Plan that encourages infill and discourages sprawl. Alderman Cook and I co-sponsored an ordinance to limit building height, but even more important is whether the buildings are compatible with the neighborhoods where they are located. Taller buildings might be appropriate in the downtown core that is zoned C3 but would not be acceptable in residential neighborhoods or certain commercial districts. It is not only a matter of aesthetics but of public safety as well. I am committed to preserving the unique character of our community, and I will resist efforts to turn it into Anywhere USA.
FF: What do you think about public transportation in Fayetteville? Do we need it right now or is there even enough demand for such a thing in a city our size?
LJ: We need an adequate system of public transportation right now. That means an expansion of Ozark Regional Transit and a stronger partnership with the UA Razorback Transit system. As chair of the Street Committee, I have been a strong supporter of including bike lanes and sidewalks on all major construction projects. In addition, I have always been a strong supporter and advocate for Fayetteville’s trails system, evidenced by my consistent voting record and public statements during my eight years on the City Council. Only budget constraints have prevented us from doing more and moving faster to complete our system, due to the slowed economy and the limited revenue options available to municipal governments that have tried to take the lead in trail construction.
FF: Condos, condos, condos. Everybody wants to build condos in Fayetteville. Doesn’t that sound kinda weird to you? It does to us but then again, we’re not running for mayor. Are condos really that cool?
LJ: Get a condo if you want one and can afford it. My emphasis will be on encouraging affordable and attainable housing for anyone who wants to live in our community and take an active role in our civic life. And that includes students and working families. As it is now, many city employees and University staff cannot afford to live in Fayetteville. We should pursue inclusive zoning, encourage alternative materials that reduce costs and save energy, and the city can also expedite approval and, in certain case, waive impact fees for affordable housing in central neighborhoods.
FF: Fayetteville High School: Should it stay or should it go?
LJ: I am on record in supporting a world class, 21st century high school at the present central location.
FF: Our music scene has gone from incredibly awesome to horribly embarrassing in the past 5 years or so. Some folks would disagree but most would second us in a heartbeat. From the closings of JR’s Lightbulb Club and The Dart Room to the end of a decade-long run that the Music Hall put forth, it seems like live music venues are dropping like flies. Now we’re even hearing that the police are cracking down on the noise on Dickson Street. Is there something that can be done or are we just experiencing some bad luck?
LJ: I have supported and continue to support creation of an Entertainment District that supports music venues as well as other cultural elements. I also opposed the most recent noise ordinance pushed by the current Mayor, both because of the low decibel levels and because of selective enforcement without adequate evidence. Dickson Street is Dickson Street, and we should promote and preserve its rich musical heritage.
FF: The fact that Fayetteville is being called “The Green Valley” was news to some of us. How is living in a sustainability capital good for us as citizens or are we currently focusing too much on being a Green model?
LJ: Sustainability has become a cliché that some politicians use without understanding. I am committed to a livable community, and that means good jobs, green jobs, that pay a living wage and allow families and individuals the opportunity to make wise choices and not be forced to poor decisions by economic hardships. If we can provide opportunities for our citizens to sustain themselves, it will be much easier to achieve our economic and environmental goals.
FF: Many folks seem to think the Walton Arts Center is leaving town. Others say at worst we’ll be sharing it with Benton County. Where did we go wrong or is this all just a bunch of hooey?
LJ: I support expansion of the Walton Arts Center at its current location, but the ultimate decision is not up to the city. What we can do, and what I have done, is unequivocally support the arts in Fayetteville. We can support the Fayetteville Arts Festival, which fosters and showcases our outstanding local artists as well as making a substantial contribution to our local economy. My record on this is clear.
FF: There is no doubt that Fayetteville is in much better shape than it was 8 years ago. Is there anything that has been established that you wouldn’t dare change about our city?
LJ: I am proud of many things that we have accomplished during my eight years on the City Council. As Chair of the Street Committee, I think the major innovation that we have established and a policy that must be maintained is an integrated system of transportation that constructs major arterial streets as boulevards, with bike lane, ten feet of green space, and six-foot sidewalks. They are safer and more attractive, and they are designed to connect with our growing system of trails. Many people are responsible for contributing to this policy, and I am grateful for the support of my fellow Aldermen and certain members of the city staff who share our commitment.
FF: This one goes to 11) We can’t cover everything in just 10 questions. What is one thing you’re just biting your nails over that we missed?
LJ: Open government and good communication. No one is more committed to open government and an administration dedicated to serving the people. This election is not about me or any other candidate. It is about the people, because it is their government, and we are here as their servants. Communication is a two way process. It is not about having press conference to get publicity for public officials, it is about Town Hall meetings where the people talk, asking questions and sharing their opinions. It is not about restricting public forums on the Government Channel, it is about encouraging citizens to discuss issues. We can do better, and when I am your Mayor I will.