Question 1: What are your ideas or plans to help the downtown strip and town square stay alive?
Answer 1: I would like to see the downtown become more of a destination for people in the area, as well as for distant visitors. I want to build a transportation hub downtown, where the train station is, with a bus depot, car rentals, and meeting spaces. I also think we should have a hotel downtown, so that visitors, if they come by train, can stay downtown without needing a car. I think we should encourage more mixed-use buildings, much like we already have around the square.
Question 2: How can the city show local business owners that Carbondale is a good place for their businesses?
Answer 2: One way to help our locally-owned businesses is to give them a fair chance at competing against national chain stores. I think that big national businesses can afford to pay their fair share of taxes. I think we should stop giving them tax incentives to move in on the outskirts of town, and instead focus on the center, and on our local businesses. We have a lot of very successful businesses, but they cannot keep competing if we keep giving our tax money away to bigger businesses.
Question 3: Do you have any ideas for the several empty lots downtown where old buildings were torn down?
Answer 3: In addition to a transportation hub and hotel (as mentioned in the first question), I would also like to see a parking garage somewhere downtown, where, in cooperation with businesses, we can offer free parking to visitors who spend money at our local businesses. I would, of course, like to see these empty lots also become successful businesses, or become central spaces for community groups, like the Varsity Center for the Arts and the old train depot.
Question 4: Do you have any ideas on how to resolve the differences between SIU’s population and our town’s population?
Answer 4: Carbondale’s population is centered around SIU, in one way or another. We need to make our town more welcoming for students and staff, as well as for community members. Many things, like having better housing, a vibrant downtown, and living wage jobs, would improve life in Carbondale for SIU and non-SIU community members alike. I think that housing remains one of the biggest issues in this city, and we need to do something about the prevalence of bad landlords. We need to make housing more affordable, for students and working professionals, as well as offer a variety of nice housing options.
Question 5: What is your stance on animal control and the city’s often ignored leash law?
Answer 5: Having recently walked around much of Carbondale, in my campaign for the Council, I have really noticed the lax leash laws! I think that the city could partner with our local animal shelters to help educate people on the dangers of letting your dog run loose. I also think that if the city had a dog park, we would benefit greatly from those who do want to let their dogs run off-leash. I would also love to see an animal advocacy group work on the issue of feral cats. Many areas have programs where if you are willing to trap a feral cat, local vets will spay or neuter them, and then you can release them back into their habitat, with guarantees that they will not lead to more feral cats.
Question 6: What is your opinion on community plastic bag bans or programs in which businesses implement a charge on plastic bags? Would you support such an effort in Carbondale? Why or why not?
Answer 6: Yes, I support an effort to curb our plastic bag use. Plastic bags often litter the streets, kill animals, and are bad for the environment. I would work with businesses and city staff to figure out the best route to take. I would explore ways to place a tax plastic bags, plastic bottles, and polystyrene (Styrofoam), with the hope that we could reduce the sales tax in exchange.
Question 7: Do you support a strong lighting ordinance? Are you familiar with research that finds that more light does not necessarily equal less crime?
Answer 7: I am familiar with lighting and crime. I would advocate that the city adhere to the principles of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design. We need to make sure that our lighting is not making crime worse, by controlling glare, making sure there are not gaps that create shadowy areas, and placing lights at pedestrian-level, rather than up high. Simple changes in our ordinances could make a big difference.
Question 8: The Northwest Carbondale Neighborhood Association board of directors has proposed creation of a Traditional Neighborhood District within our zoning code as a way to encourage reinvestment in our older neighborhoods. Would you support the creation of such a district, either as a stand-alone district or as an overlay on our existing districts? Why or why not?
Answer 8: Yes, I would support that. I think that we should do whatever we can to help the center of our town thrive. I would consult with city staff to figure out exactly how to do it, but I think it is something the city should look into. I hope that the current zoning revision process is not the last time we look at our zoning, for another 10 years.
Question 9: Is there a role for the city government to play in Carbondale’s park system, or should the parks be left entirely to the Carbondale Park District? If you believe the city government has a role, please explain what the city government’s role should be.
Answer 9: I think that the city should work with the Park District to make sure that Carbondale’s residents are being served by the park system. I think the city could lend assistance, as it currently does with some special events like the Sunset Concerts. I would collaborate with the Park District, just as I would work with our other legislators, to always make sure that Carbondale’s best interests are being considered.
Question 10: Is there a role for the city to play in improving Carbondale’s schools, or should the schools be left entirely to the school districts? If you believe the city government has a role, please explain what the city government’s role should be.
Answer 10: Similarly, the city should be open to collaborating with the school boards. I would communicate with our school districts openly, to make sure that Carbondale’s residents, including our youth, are being served by the school districts. I would love to see more open communication and collaborative projects between the city, schools, and all constituent groups.
Question 11: Many streets within the Northwest Carbondale Neighborhood Association’s boundaries lack sidewalks, or curb and gutter storm water drainage, or both. Do you think investment in this infrastructure is a priority and, if so, how would you propose funding these expensive projects?
Answer 11: Yes, I do think it’s a priority. There is a long list of community-requested repairs on the City’s Community Investment Program list. I would triage them to determine which areas need the most attention. I would look into grants that are available for these types of projects. I think they should be given more attention and financing than they are currently.
Question 12: The city recently created a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district on Oakland Avenue. How do you think the city should spend its share of the increment generated by successful redevelopment in that area? How would you approach possible rezoning within the city’s newly created Oakland Avenue TIF district, especially properties such as the old National Guard Armory, the old High School buildings, and the old Coca-Cola warehouse that now houses the Oakland Auto Shop? Please be as specific as possible.
Answer 12: The city should use some of its funding to repair the broken (or non-existent) sidewalks, repair the curbs, improve water flow and drainage, and other infrastructure repairs. I think that it could also do some basic beautification, too, like making a tree buffer between the sidewalk and road. The city could also use it to improve lighting and traffic flow. I would work with city staff and the Planning Commission, as well as the zoning consultants, to re-write our zoning code to one that makes more sense for that neighborhood. I would communicate with those property owners (or potential owners) to figure out a designation that will work for what they want to do with those buildings. I would also incorporate neighborhood feedback, from individuals as well as NCNA. I think the city could help facilitate discussion between all the parties. Obviously the Oakland Auto Shop has raised a lot of contention, but I have not heard much from the owner of that shop. I would communicate with him to see how business is going, first, because if he goes out of business, then this whole conversation is moot. I would also talk to the new Armory owner to see what he wants to use the building for, and how the city could help if he wants to use it for multiple uses, as well as to see if the city could help with renovations. As for the old high school, I would talk to any potential owner about their plans as well, including what will happen to the Boys and Girls Club and the Old School. I would hate to see an organization close because they are losing their building.