Thanks to Eagle Distributing for the beer, April Waren, for the wine and delicious, homemade "breads n' spreads," John Grindley, for the use of Cohabitat and other wine donations, and to Stephanie Pedro and everyone else in ABS for organizing it. But thank you, most of all, to the candidates who participated: City Council candidates Jake Toloso of District C, Deanna Candler of District D, and Deborah Allen, Jeff Everson, and Craig Lee of District B; and, mayoral candidates Dana Bruhnke, David Cox, and Tim Goeders.
What did we learn? Well, everyone is favor of the following:
- allowing hens to be raised inside the city limits, as they now are in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Austin, and other cities (though Craig Lee and Deanna Candler wanted "further study").
- bringing downtown buildings up to code so they can be sold and developed (though Tim Geoders was the candidate with the big idea on how--more on that here below).
- supporting the Master-Plan's implementation by increasing the number and quality of partnerships within the community between government and neighborhood associations, businesses, religious organizations, etc.
- creating a more bikable and walkable environment (though wanting further study about how auto traffic would be affected was Deanna Candler, and Craig Lee said his plans for growth in auto traffic would prevent "scaling back roads" [As Carolyn Manning later pointed out, though, the "complete streets" model recently adopted by the state DOTD does not increase auto traffic congestion, and in some cases actually reduces congestion.])
- creating a fee for on-demand solid waste pick-up, while still having the quarterly free pick-up of large waste.
- increasing education of the public on multiculturalism and the benefits of diversity in anticipation of our growing ethnic diversity in the city.
- improving the public transit system by posting schedules and route maps, and providing more seating and shelter.
- creating the city's first dog park, first looking to corporate donations for the relatively small amount of funding required before seeking funds from the city.
- all were against having the city own and manage the Red River District -- as it does now, but instead (remembering to the best of my recollection): either selling it immediately to a private operator (Everson? Toloso? Candler), or first contracting with DDA co-manage it, then sell it (Lee?), have the city and DDA co-manage it (Allen?)
- all were for developing a new funding formula for downtown cultural organizations that have been ravaged by budget cuts of up to 80% and were against simply holding the line on the budget cuts.
- all were for finding a way to get buildings up to code downtown, with Everson and Goeders having the most specific ideas for how to do that. Many spoke of the importance of having a strong historic preservation ordinance.
Overall, it was a great night. The atmosphere was fun, polite, civil, downright social. Heck, it was basically a cocktail party structured around purposeful civic participation. Ain't democracy grand?!