Candidate Q&A – Candace Jones, Avondale Estates City Commission
Decaturish sent questions to all of the candidates running for Avondale Estates City Commission ahead of the Nov. 7 elections. Early voting begins Oct. 16.
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1) Why are you running for the Avondale City Commission seat?
Our city is at an important point in its evolution. I want to serve our city as we act and plan for the next several years as well as its next century. I want to ensure that our city retains its high quality of life for current and future individuals, families, and businesses as we progress forward. We must continue to balance the needs of our current residents and residential areas, which are the core of our city, against the needs of future residents and businesses in our downtown areas.
Informed decisions based on data and information are essential for future success. We need to continue evaluating city opportunities and changes, prioritize needs, collect data, listen to residents and businesses and act to ensure that we retain our friendly, family orientated, safe, and “small town” feel. All characteristics of why most of us moved here and continue to live here.
My interest in city issues is not new. In the summer of 2014, I observed that our city’s central business district seemed stagnant and that there was no obvious coordinated plan to redevelop this area. Therefore, I started attending meetings of the Board of Mayors and Commissioners, Downtown Development Authority, Historic Preservation & Architectural Review, and Planning and Zoning. I remain actively involved today.
Being mindful of all the development around Avondale, I thought it was important to focus on our downtown. So, I began collecting information and data, asking more questions at city meetings, and offering support, opposition and/ or recommendations to our appointed and elected leaders; some of my ideas have been implemented.
2) What makes you a better candidate than your opponents?
I have been a historic district resident since 2007, and retired in 2013 from public service. I am a member of the Avon Garden Club, serving as Program Chair and Board member since 2014. I volunteer and participate in most of our city events and activities.
Since 2014, I have been a very active city resident. Attending and participating in most city meetings, work sessions, and public hearings. I am knowledgeable of the issues, plans, codes, documents, processes, responsibilities, and time commitments required to be an effective commissioner. I have renovated my home several times under a city building permit.
Most recently, I participated in the code audit stakeholder discussion, comprehensive and downtown master plan updates, and downtown development planning sessions for our city owned four acres.
In 2014, I was a founding pilot member of the citizen advocate advisory group “Second Century Avondale” whose purpose is to educate and inform our residents, elected and appointed officials on issues and questions to ask as we work on redeveloping our downtown and maintaining our “small town” feel. In late July of this year, I resigned from the pilot group, but remain an active member.
Professionally, I have over 30 years of public health management experience at the state, district and county levels. Responsibilities included:
-Planning and implementing Programs, Budgets, Policies and Procedures, plans, contracts, and grants
-Managing personnel and completing local agency performance audits
-Collecting, analyzing and evaluating Data
-Evaluating the impact of proposed legislation.
3) What do you think is Avondale’s greatest strength?
Our greatest strength and asset is our talented residents who participate and volunteer in our many city committees, clubs, functions, activities, and also look out for their neighbors. Secondly, our city staff who are skilled and dedicated to ensuring that our city is safe, secure, clean, financially viable and a pleasure to live in.
4) What do you think is Avondale’s biggest challenge?
Maintaining our small town atmosphere and quality of life while trying to meet residents’ desires for a more developed downtown area.
5) How would you address what you feel is Avondale’s biggest challenge?
I would work to develop and prioritize action plans that maintain our residential areas and tackle it’s issues, such as storm water management, preserving our lake and diverse housing options; while also invigorating our current businesses and appropriately redeveloping our downtown. Our long range strategic and master plans have set the vision and direction for how we want to move forward, but we lack annual, quarterly and monthly action plans that successfully execute these long range plans. These action plans and their progress then needs to be communicated to residents with greater frequency and clarity. Our current leaders and staff have been making great strides in this area, but we need to do even better.
6) What are the top two or three things you plan to focus on during your term as a commissioner?
If elected, I promise to:
-listen to the needs and concerns of residents and local businesses
-work to retain the historic character and “small town” feel of our city
-make decisions based on collected data and citizen input, ensuring fiscal integrity/accountability in our small city
7) Do you think Avondale should annex more neighborhood and properties into the city?
Annexation of any residential or commercial property is a question that requires lots of input, discussion, and thorough analysis using comprehensive financial, safety and quality of life data. I am not in favor of annexing properties that jeopardize our city’s safety, finances, staff resources or quality of life. I prefer that we systematically increase our residential and commercial options and tax base by focusing on redeveloping our downtown area. Secondly, we need to maintain our current varied housing options to ensure that all individuals and families have choices as they progress through life.
Our current city staff are functioning effectively and our public spaces are actively used at our current population and land mass. Annexation through legislatively negotiated maps is an unpredictable method, one that may result in unintended consequences.The legislature could and probably would change any annexation map the city submits, possibly assigning some properties while deleting others to the city’s proposed map. The legislative method does not allow city’s to annex commercial property without also annexing residential properties.
8) What is your vision for Avondale’s downtown?
A successful and viable downtown for Avondale would be walk-able, diverse, flexible and financially viable in the near future and for years to come. Our first priority is to determine the appropriate mix of public and private development, residential, retail, commercial and public spaces on the city owned four acres. Redeveloping these four acres is strategic and will set the direction for the adjacent and surrounding 100 plus acres for the next twenty to thirty years. However, we need to be cautious and not over develop this area, we have a lot of redevelopment happening around us.
In redeveloping the city owned four acres, we need to use a phased in approach, perhaps three phases over the next ten years. Our recently funded and active Downtown Development Authority is a strong partner in these redevelopment opportunities. Working together, the city can maximize public infrastructure, private development, public-private partnerships, grants, various revenue streams; and hopefully weather any market fluctuations.
I recommend that we develop and designate at least two acres of city owned land to public spaces due to the fact that up to an additional 2,000 residents could be living in our downtown area over the next ten years. We need a large gathering space for our many city events such as fall festivals, Shakespeare festival, terminus point for the Easter antique car parade or Labor Day race. Holding some of these events or parts of them in our core downtown area will support our businesses and relieve some of the pressure on residential areas.
9) There is a perception that Avondale is unwelcoming to outsiders. Do you think this is accurate? If so, what would you plan to do about it? If not, why?
I do not think our city is unwelcoming. We have a diverse city population of young children to seniors, single, partners and family households of all denominations, ethnicities and races; and we are becoming more diverse each year. We have many visitors who walk our sidewalks and paths, play at our lake and parks, visit our restaurants and businesses, and participate in city events such as the Easter egg hunt and antique car parade, Fourth of July parade and fire works, Labor Day race, fall festival, Light parade, Halloween trick or treating, Christmas Holiday markets and home tour, and the many other events.
I always greet residents and visitors as I walk our sidewalks and paths to ensure that they feel welcome. Maintaining our safe, clean and tree lined streets, developing a vibrant downtown, and preserving and expanding our varied housing options will ensure that we keep our diverse population and continue to be a welcoming city to live in.
10) If elected, do you promise to conduct yourself in an ethical and transparent manner?
Yes, I promise to do this. In addition, I promise to be available, communicate regularly, and hold monthly citizen listening sessions.
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