Friday, September 10, 2010

Fun and Informing Night with Candidates Thursday!

What fun that was! About 60 people Thursday night enjoyed food, drink, live music, and some very interesting responses to questions by City Council and Mayoral Candidates. Questions were projected on a screen while candidates mingled in the crowd and music played. After each song, candidates went to the front of the room to take turns answering the question.

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.
Tim Goeders' idea was received especially well: each of the following mayor candidates said they liked the idea, and members of ABetterShreveport were buzzing about it after the meeting. Essentially, the idea is that the model used by Community Renewal International to renovate its downtown building be used for many similarly below-code properties. A holding company would be developed and labor from a job-training program be used to restore the properties up to code. Right now, property owners would rather demolish these historic buildings, to then sell or develop them as empty lots, rather than bring them up to code and sell them as buildings with historic facades. The consensus among ABetterShreveporters in the discussion after the questions seemed to be that regardless of what happens with Goeder's run for office, that idea should be pursued.

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?!

1 comment:

Michael Carmody said...

Loren, I really liked your summary of the meeting.