Office sought: Harrisonburg City Council
1. Why are you seeking election/re-election; and if successful, what are your three primary goals and how do you propose to address them?
I am seeking election to Harrisonburg’s City Council based on what I believe to be an array of excellent opportunities and pressing challenges ahead of us as Harrisonburg continues to rapidly grow and evolve. I would like to bring a collaborative, hands-on approach to local government and to be sure the council continues to be reflective of the diverse community in which we live. My primary goals include education, inclusivity, and the promotion of civic engagement as a tool for smart, engaged growth.
As a resident of Harrisonburg for over 27 years and as an educator in the public school system for the last 14 years, I have had the opportunity to work side by side with students and their families representing all corners of our city. As Harrisonburg continues its growth, I want to contribute to the important decisions on the table that will have a long-term impact on our local families, and I want to be sure all voices are being heard in the process. For instance, as the Coordinator of Family and Community Engagement for HCPS, I have participated on the space study committee for the new high school and am working in the current high school daily. The overcrowding situation is putting serious stress on the quality of our academics and I am committed to building the new high school as soon as possible.
At the same time, I want the City to be thinking critically about how we are positioning ourselves as newcomers from all over the state, country, and the world relocate to Harrisonburg. We have a diverse and complex make-up, a high quality of life, a low property tax rate, and affordable cost of living that make our city a desirable place to live. In 2016, Harrisonburg became a Welcoming America City. I have been a part of the initial efforts to formalize the work of welcoming newcomers to our area, and believe there is a great opportunity to explore the economic and social aspects of welcoming work (making newcomers feel like they can invest in our community and truly flourish) as we continue to grow as a city.
Furthermore, I would like to create opportunities to encourage and promote increased civic involvement so that we are fostering the leadership capacity of our residents. We can be proud of our highly functioning community, and by encouraging people to become engaged in local solutions to our challenges, we will help ourselves in every aspect of our city, from economic growth, to educational performance, to attracting and retaining businesses and homeowners to our area.
2. The health of our area economy is always a concern to REALTORS®. What will you do to advocate for economic development and small businesses?
With Harrisonburg’s aggressive business tax rate, we are maximizing the revenue we rely on from our local businesses. This is an important area of revenue for the City, and we should continue to grow this tax bases. We can continue attracting small business start-ups by providing incentives and technical support. Once a business has opened its doors, we need to look at how to ensure their success. Continued collaborations with the Chamber of Commerce, Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development Center, Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance and JMU’s Small Business Development Center can contribute to our success in this area. With our quickly growing population and the thousands of college students attending our local universities, we can encourage our residents and students to eat and shop locally. We can also offer a great educational system, accessibility, and affordability to larger companies looking to locate their businesses in Harrisonburg. By investing in city-led marketing campaigns and promotions, we will help increase local spending. Immigrant owned businesses are an often-overlooked yet important source of economic contribution, as well. We can design specific programs offering technical advice to newcomers who have important skills to offer the local economy.
3. Affordable housing is a major concern for many area families. What do you support to help ease the housing crunch for local workforce families, and are there any steps that government can take to alleviate homelessness?
Affordable housing for local workforce families is an important issue that requires city government to work collaboratively and effectively with developers, non-profits, and residents to provide sustainable solutions. I will help promote these collaborations and will support initiatives for mixed income development projects that yield increasing numbers of affordable housing units on the market. When affordable housing is incorporated into a community, and not placed far away on the outskirts, the benefits to the entire community are shared. The result is more diverse communities where all members have access to schools, jobs and transportation. The entire community benefits. Through education and public conversations, we need to ensure that residents of Harrisonburg understand these benefits of integrated affordable housing, and are supportive of it.
Homelessness is a multi-dimensional issue that requires not only affordable, safe housing units to be available, but added support for the homeless individual or family’s financial, health, child care, and transportation needs to be addressed. This comprehensive approach ensures that the individual or family remains in their home. We need to work together to provide scaffolding to these community members to keep them housed and thriving.
4. Fair Housing programs are critical to a community because they provide an opportunity to those that face resistance to residency with an opportunity to secure a home. How can we work together to incorporate fair housing programs into the area?
The City and HRAR have an excellent opportunity to collaborate around fair housing initiatives in Harrisonburg. HRAR can work closely with Council to bring fair housing programs and to promote adherence to them. Drawing on its network of real estate professionals, HRAR can provide leadership in this effort by sharing knowledge with the City of best practices and what has worked and not worked in other communities when considering fair housing programs. Once instituted, HRAR can then ensure its own members are in alignment with the goals and outcomes of these programs, reporting any infractions to the city that take away from the program, as well as promoting those members who are successfully carrying out the program’s mission. In turn, the City can create standards to guide the program and be responsive partners, taking seriously infractions and incentivizing full participation by all those involved.
5. As an Association representing 400 REALTOR® and affiliate members who live and work in the community, what role do you see HRAR playing in housing issue discussions and how can the Association work with you to improve the community?
Positioned at the forefront of the local real estate market, HRAR can continue to leverage its relations with homeowners, local realtors and developers, just as it can also be a leading voice in the advocacy work required to ensure that we develop our city with an eye towards fair, affordable housing. Through advocacy, contributing time and efforts on local boards and in community meetings, and through formal partnerships with the City, HRAR can continue in its mission: to provide ethics and professionalism in real estate business practices and advocate for all property owners to attain the American dream.
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