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Ward 5 council candidates field questions on city issues

Ward 5 council candidates field questions on city issues

March 18th, 2018 in Local News

Jefferson City Council candidates, from left, Jon Hensley, Jim Crabtree and Ashley Jones-Kaufman answer questions Wednesday during a candidate forum hosted by the News Tribune at City Hall.

Photo by Mark Wilson /News Tribune.

Three candidates — Jon Hensley, Jim Crabtree and Ashley Jones-Kaufman — are running for one available seat in the April 3 municipal election to represent Ward 5 on the Jefferson City Council.

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The News Tribune asked the following questions of the candidates, with responses limited to 150 words.

Candidates' responses are listed in the order the candidates will appear on the ballot.

Q. New construction and logging the riparian corridor around the Moreau River contribute to stormwater issues within the 5th Ward, particularly around the Green Meadow Drive area. Do you believe improved city planning could prevent the worsening of this situation in the future?

Jon Hensley: "All areas of town affected by Jefferson City's growing stormwater problem should be included in the discussion of ways to solve it. We need to listen to the challenges faced by our neighbors whose properties are being damaged and to the engineers who will design and lead the execution of the solutions. In addition to fixing the problems that exist today, we need to reassess how we predict and plan for the impact of new development and other activities."

Jim Crabtree: "Yes, education planning and design guidelines can and will improve impacts relating to stormwater. However, land clearance permits are administered by the Department of Natural Resources and not the city. However, maintaining vegetation along a riparian corridor decreases sedimentation and erosion. Erosion and sedimentation often obstructs stormwater structures and drainage ways resulting in increased flooding. Development within a drainage basin increases impervious surfaces and diminishes percolation. This obstacle can be offset with the use of retention basins that release stormwater flows at a controlled discharge rate simulating a pre-development condition. Preserving green space will also allow peculation and decrease runoff."

Ashley Jones-Kaufman: "Yes, I believe improved city planning could prevent the worsening of the floodwater situation in the future. The engineering division of Public Works is tasked with the administrative oversight and implementation of stormwater project. Stormwater-related tasks of the division include development/inspection of stormwater capital improvements, construction-related erosion control planning/inspection, stormwater complaint resolution, collection of stormwater-related GIS data, illicit discharge detection, post construction, and operational-related inspections as well as public education and outreach efforts. We should confer with the above individuals for possible solutions when it comes to stormwater."

Q. All three of you have promoted historic preservation as important to the city. Why do you believe historic preservation is important to this city? When it comes to historic preservation, how do you think we are doing as a city? What could we do better?

Jon Hensley: "The importance of effective and committed historic preservation efforts in Jefferson City are twofold. First, the proud and impressive legacy of Jefferson City is represented beautifully in so many buildings in our city's core, and we owe it to past and future generations alike to preserve and celebrate this history. Second, Jefferson City's historic structures and districts are major attractions for visitors and are important drivers of tourism and economic activity. I think we're moving in the right direction with addressing problem properties that have become dangerous eyesores over time, as well as ensuring that historically significant properties are not demolished without a thorough review. Hopefully the city can find a way to become a stronger, more active and intentional partner to neighborhoods seeking historic designations, particularly where the Housing Authority controls property within the subject area, rather than standing in the way of progress sought by neighborhood residents."

Jim Crabtree: "Historic preservation sustains the city's 'sense of place.' Our architecture and craftsmanship reflects the ethnicity and evolution of the social, cultural and economic components that formed the City of Jefferson. Essentially, the building structures reflect our history. The City of Jefferson has been successful in preserving the downtown core and is making excellent progress in Old Munichburg. The establishment of historic neighborhoods in strategic areas of the city would further preserve our architectural heritage and enhance our sense of place. This is important as sense of place is marketable and becomes an economic benefit."

Ashley Jones-Kaufman: "Historic preservation is important because it not only helps preserve Jefferson City's rich history but it also helps Jefferson City's economy. Recent studies show that historic preservation not only attracts tourists but has positive economic impacts by creating jobs and increasing property values. When it comes to historic preservation, the city has done a good job; however, with whatever we undertake there can always be improvements. An example of something that can be improved would be to make the application process to designate historic districts within our city less complicated."

Q. How would you like to promote diversity and inclusion in the city?

Jon Hensley: "I am thrilled about the return of the Human Relations Commission, and I think that the City Council, and the city at large, need to be supportive of the commission's work and open and receptive to its findings. As a community, we should pay attention to reports indicating that we are not performing as well as we could in this area. The City Council needs to clearly communicate to staff that when it comes to hiring, our city's workforce must represent the community it serves, requiring that recruitment methods are maximized in order to meet this expectation. Finally, at a personal level, each of us needs to look for opportunities to reach beyond our regular comfort zones and engage with neighbors with whom we haven't before."

Jim Crabtree: "Diversity and inclusion are critical in our community because they generate the best discussions, which in turn yields the best solutions based on many perspectives. Diverse thinking opens the doors for innovation and progress. I will not only recruit minorities, females, disabled, various generations, veterans and others who offer unique perspectives to serve on city boards and commissions, I will encourage existing leaders to use their connections to recommend diverse candidates to serve. During meetings, I will solicit input and unique ideas to resolve issues. Respectful discussion where people are encouraged to share all ideas promotes well thought-out solutions. I have experienced project teams, boards and commissions that were not as diverse and those that welcomed unique ideas. The groups that welcomed unique ideas always returned the best results. Those experiences provided me with invaluable insight that I will bring to the City Council."

Ashley Jones-Kaufman: "I understand diversity and inclusion is lacking in Jefferson City, and in order to promote diversity and inclusion we must first address the fact that diversity and inclusion is an issue. To promote diversity and inclusion in our city, I propose the following: start a conversation with the populations that feel neglected and implement positive changes suggested by that population. Offer diversity training to all city employees, contractors, the community at large. Make conscious efforts in hiring processes to employ people of different backgrounds and ethnicities, disseminate positive information and inclusive information on all written and virtual materials from the city."

Q. From reader Ed Williams: Do you believe it is ethical for council members to vote to give tax money to an organization, such as the Chamber of Commerce, when they are a member of the organization?

Jon Hensley: "When a member of the council may benefit personally from an action of the council, that member must abstain from that deliberation and vote. Membership in an organization that may benefit from a vote of the council, without some additional personal benefit, is generally not enough to trigger a conflict, though every situation must be considered on its own merits. For instance, if there was a chance that the benefit conferred upon the chamber by the council could pass through the chamber and benefit a business owned by a council member, then a conflict requiring recusal would likely exist. The fact-specific nature of these situations illustrates the importance of full transparency, working closely with the city counselor, and constantly being on the lookout for potential conflicts. The only potential conflicts I could anticipate at this point would be any vote affecting my employer, my wife's employer or property we own."

Jim Crabtree: "A conflict of interest exists when a person is engaged in multiple interests and the prospect of personal gain clouds judgment to the extent that the individual is not working for the benefit of all concerned. This is not the case where the chamber is working with the city to strengthen the local economy — a mutually beneficial goal. It is a bit misleading to say that the city gives taxpayers' dollars to the chamber. This is not a donation. The city (and Cole County government) hire the chamber to promote economic development. Without this arrangement, the local governments would have to pursue economic development on their own, which would result in uncoordinated, inefficient and likely less successful attempts to spur economic development. This relationship has been recognized in many communities for decades as local governments work with their chambers to sustain and grow their economies."

Ashley Jones-Kaufman: "No, I do not believe it is ethical for council members to vote to give tax money to an organization they are affiliated with because this could be seen as a conflict of interest/self-serving. I would have to recuse myself from any bill/issue related to energy as I work for Missouri Department of Economic Development — Division of Energy. There are no issues at this particular time that I am aware of that I would feel the need to abstain from."

The News Tribune hosted a 5th Ward council candidate forum on March 14, 2018. Video of the forum is archived on the City of Jefferson YouTube page at https://youtu.be/QIqhM55yO1g?t=1m58s.