Why are you running for Davenport City Council?
I believe in public service and contributing to the community in which I live. Good government needs active citizens who care about people and the effect public policy has on their lives. I believe my background and experience as an elected official in Missouri and Wisconsin, as an assistant to the Mayor of St. Louis and my years of activism in Davenport and elsewhere gives me insight on how the City of Davenport works and how I can help people in Davenport grow and thrive.
How does your work, public service or volunteer experience translate to serving on the Davenport City Council?
I have a lot experience and training in local government to the point where my learning curve on the City Council will be rather short. I have a strong work ethic and I have a willingness to build relationships with labor and business, neighborhoods and public officials (such as police, fire and city employees).
In your estimation, what are the strengths of the city of Davenport?
Davenport’s population is known to have a strong work ethic and is considered dependable. That’s one reason why Kraft/Heinz decided to stay in Davenport when it was consolidating and closing plant operations in other part of the country. People here also tend to be friendly and hospitable.
Davenport’s location with good river and highway access in the middle of the U.S. is also a strength of the City. Davenport has well-trained police and fire departments and its city government tends to be responsive to our citizens’ needs. There is good cooperation between the Davenport Community School District and the City of Davenport.
Downtown Davenport has become a magnet of tourism, recreation, residential living and higher education. Davenport’s parks and recreation system is abundant and very attractive for residents and out-of-towners alike. There are several new housing and shopping developments in Davenport which shows the City is not stagnant but instead thriving and growing although not in all areas. Davenport is also a tolerant, welcoming community with a strong civil rights history and a tradition of acceptance of people from different races, cultures, classes and lifestyles.
What are the areas the city of Davenport can improve on?
As an older city, Davenport clearly needs attention to its streets, sidewalks, alleys and physical infrastructure. The core neighborhoods surrounding downtown are experiencing disinvestment and blight. There needs to be better cooperation between institutions like Palmer College of Chiropractic, St. Ambrose University and Genesis Health Systems and their surrounding neighborhoods as these institutions look to expand into low/moderate income areas that are nearby.
One area that Davenport definitely needs to improve on is the creation of conditions to see growth in the number of living wage jobs, especially job opportunities for medium-skilled workers. The Quad Cities economy is still reeling from plant and industry closings in the 1970s and 1980s and many of the workers who worked in the manufacturing sector back then have not recovered. The lack of living wage jobs leads to a vicious cycle of urban blight, more crime, mental health issues, homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse and the like.
Another area Davenport can improve on is ensuring our neighborhoods are safe from crime and violence. The Davenport Police Department is an excellent department with high professional standards but the police cannot fight crime alone. Engaged neighborhoods where neighbors know and help each other and where people have a stake and take pride in help reduce crime overall.
What have you identified as priorities or goals should you be elected?
I want to help foster a business climate whose first priority is to create middle-class jobs for Davenport. I want to find creative ways to improve our streets, alleys, sidewalks and other infrastructure needs without additional taxes or fees. I want to work with neighborhoods, police, the courts and others to find solutions to property and violent crime. I want to build bridges between labor and business and between the Davenport Community School District and the City of Davenport to find common ground on issues that are important to all sides.
Davenport’s riverfront is often times referred to as its greatest asset. Is Davenport on the right path to develop a “world-class riverfront?” Do you have a specific vision for what you would like to see or are there certain amenities you would like to incorporate?
Davenport is clearly on the path to have a ‘national-class riverfront’ but ‘world-class’ is a pretty tall order. Certainly the riverfront has improved in the years I’ve lived here but it has only improved in fits and starts. Losing a gambling boat recently has meant less foot traffic downtown. Some housing developments, like the old Hostess plant on East River Drive, have not taken off at all.
Davenport does have a fairly well-balanced, mixed use riverfront with industry, recreation and tourism mixed in pretty well. There are some empty pockets as well. Such a mixed use is still preferable than a single use asset, for example if the riverfront was all industry or all tourism. I would like to see more entertainment and tourism closer to the riverfront downtown and more industry and business development along the riverfront as one moves out of downtown, either east or west along the Mississippi River.
Davenport NOW was credited with spurring development at a time when construction was lacking. With the program scheduled to sunset next year, would you support continuing the program or what modifications would you like to see?
With interest rates low and housing construction booming on the outskirts of Davenport, I do not see a need to continue subsidizing suburban-type development with the Davenport NOW program. Upper-middle class homeowners and developers do not need this type of property tax relief in order to be affordable or profitable. Instead, the program should be geared specifically toward property tax relief in blighted, core neighborhoods for lower and moderate-income homeowners and developers who pledge to fix up their homes.
Crime, particularly related to juveniles, has continued to be a problem in Davenport. How would you assess the city’s response to the uptick in crime and what other strategies or measures would help in curbing recidivism?
The City’s response to the uptick in crime has been good but the problem is not the fault of the police. The uptick in crime is due to lack of economic opportunity for young adults, the decline of family support and supervision at home, a rising illegal drug culture including opioid abuse and fewer responsible role models for our youth to look up to and follow.
To reduce or curb recidivism, I believe we need to get our public schools involved to help provide vocational training for young adults for entry-level jobs to lift them out of poverty. I believe we also need continued support for after-school programs and family assistance for struggling youth who, without that support, may venture toward crime instead. We need the help of the state and federal governments to provide financial support for more police and for drug interdiction programs. Finally, I believe we need to cultivate successful role models, particularly in minority communities, who will mentor troubled youth away from crime.
Much of the crime in Davenport is concentrated in specific areas of the City. I support some of the methods already in use in those areas to prevent crime such as street cameras and increased police patrols. The NETS program has been particularly helpful and effective in increasing police presence in some neighborhoods and addressing crime. A reemphasis on investment in core Davenport neighborhoods instead of suburban-type growth on the outskirts of the City will also ultimately reduce crime in the inner city.