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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Economy, Neighborhoods Top Concerns for District 8 Candidates

On Sept. 1 voters living in District 8 – a region that covers a section of downtown and large portions of east and South Phoenix, including the South Mountain Village – will take to the polls to determine who will fill the Phoenix City Council seat currently held by Michael Johnson.

Johnson, who is seeking a third term, is being challenged by Darlene Jackson and Jon Garrido.

Recently, the South Mountain District News gave each candidate an opportunity address the most important issues facing residents in District 8. Garrido declined to provide responses.

In your opinion, what are the three most critical issues facing District 8, and how would you help resolve them?

Johnson:

Protecting vital services to our most at-risk residents during this economic crisis.

· Protecting and strengthening neighborhoods by working with local leaders and guaranteeing the delivery of public safety, including fire and police to enhance public safety.

· Enhancing local small business opportunities and strengthening existing businesses to protect local jobs and neighborhood stability.

Jackson: In my opinion, the most critical issues facing District 8 are massive foreclosures/unemployment/local economy not being stimulated due to consumer purchasing down.

Along with neighborhood stimulus programs, I propose a rent-to-own agreement with banks and potential buyers, and city to invest $1 million from rainy day fund to give down payments to first-time home buyers.

Unemployment – I propose that any large developers that are paid by taxpayers’ money must have agreements in their contracts that guarantee the hiring and training of jobs to individuals who live in the community.

Stimulation of local economy – Larger tax incentives to encourage people to start new businesses/look at putting theater in new current empty commercial plazas to create business that will overflow from theater goers.

If elected, what goals do you hope to achieve?

Johnson: Protecting vital services; guaranteeing public safety to strengthen neighborhoods; increasing local jobs through the development of small, local businesses.

Jackson: Mission: To keep the community informed of changes and opportunities at the government level, provide high-quality service and excellent community support. Create and support policy that benefits residents in community.

Goal: To unify the community so that we are instrumental in bringing about changes that benefit the people living in the community.

Vision: A unified community that is safe, growth-oriented, has a competitive education system, adequate recreational areas and promote a healthy quality of life.

What are the primary reasons you want to represent District 8?

Johnson: We’ve made tremendous progress in District 8 in the last eight years. I believe that during these difficult economic times the district needs experienced, trusted leadership to protect those gains and position us to take advantage when the economy rebounds. Just as importantly, I love District 8 and the people I represent and want to keep helping both.

Jackson: I decided to run for Phoenix City Council after seeing a disconnection between the needs of the community and government plans. I am concerned that the community does not have a voice and, therefore, resolution to community issues such as quality jobs that support families, affordable housing, safety, gentrification, and poor school systems are being ignored.

In order for community issues to be resolved, the community must be empowered by a leader who is involved in building healthy individuals, which lead to healthy families, which lead to healthy neighborhoods, which lead to healthy communities. In order to build our local community, there must be open lines of communications with the leaders/residents of the community and strategic economic plans have to be developed with the people who are directly affected – and those people are the residents of District 8. Policies that support and provide direct benefits to the community residents must be created and supported.

Thanks to the real estate boom in previous year, a surge in commercial development in the South Mountain and Laveen Villages has created numerous vacancies in the area. What are some ways we can fill these commercial centers with tenants that are positive for the community, while still preserving the unique character and history of the area?

Johnson: There are a number of things we are already doing: working with businesses in commercial and storefront areas to expedite the permit process; encouraging the city to prioritize their needs to use and develop businesses in District 8; partner with private sector and non-profit organizations to fill existing commercial and retail vacancies. We also need to encourage the development of more green businesses, including the expanded development of solar. We have the space – now we must develop businesses and organizations to fill it.

Jackson: Larger incentives must be given to help people start businesses in the area. Most businesses start with major debt, which decreases the business’ chances of success. The same incentives large developers are given to build should be extended to small business. Larger developers are encouraged through tax breaks and large financial incentives to build in Phoenix. If we give a small amount of those incentives to small businesses, it would bring more business to the area and encourage people to shop more in the local area. We might want to also look at putting a movie theater with retail shops in the South Mountain/Laveen area. That would also stimulate the local economy and add jobs.

The strain on schools in the South Mountain and Laveen Villages has been well-documented. What are some of your ideas for ensuring children get the best possible education at the elementary and high school levels?

Johnson: While we cannot impact school budgets or curricula, we can continue to create an atmosphere that makes schools safe havens of learning. Neighborhood crime is down and, despite budget cuts, our after-school and summer programs are still strong. We can also develop mentoring programs, increase local job opportunities, and continue developing parks and playgrounds where our children can thrive.

Jackson: Must change the mentality of public school system. Must have public school funding with a private school agenda. Define the focus, mission and goal of the educational institution: Post the vision all around the school. Words of motivation and encouragement should be all around the school. Facility, parents and students must be oriented and buy into the goal, mission and purpose of the school. There has to be a disciplinary plan that does not tolerate the disruption of the educational process and it must be enforced. Counselor, resource center and any other family support services must be present and accessible to staff, students and parents. Set the expectation high, provide a nurturing, supportive, accountable environment and watch the students excel.

1. Cap on number of children that may attend school. Low teacher/student ratio.

2. Entry test to find out where each student is academically.

3. If student is not at grade level, special program implemented – inclusive tutoring and extra time in class. Before/after school and lunches in class – parent and students must sign plan agree to working hard to accomplish goal.

4. Must hire teachers who are creative, excited, nurturing, hopeful and motivated to educate future leaders.

5. Teachers are respected and honored by school system. They are given incentives and continuing education and development workshop. They must understand that they are core of the educational system and they motivate/teach and inspire the leaders of tomorrow.

6. Must implement activities to get parents involved.

7. Have mentors in the school who encourage the students to aim high.

8. Get the students involved in community service. This will inspire in giving and teach them that they make a difference.

9. Have the City Council and other political officials of area accountable for partnering with the school system.

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