Four compete to represent Fayetteville’s west side

FAYETTEVILLE — Voters on the west side of town have four candidates to choose from to represent them on the City Council.

Adam Fire Cat, Holly Hertzberg, Kyle Smith and Paul Waddell are seeking the Ward 4, Position 2 seat. Smith has served in the position since 2017.

Ward 4 covers most of the city west of Interstate 49 and parts of the University of Arkansas campus south of Wedington Drive. Notable landmarks include the University Heights neighborhood, Pratt Place Inn, Bryce Davis Park, Holcomb Elementary School, Owl Creek School, Asbell Elementary School and the Boys & Girls Club.

Council members earn $1,042 per month and serve four-year terms. Council positions are nonpartisan.

The election is Nov. 3. A candidate in a municipal election with more than two challengers can win outright with a majority, which is 50% plus one vote. Or, a candidate can win with 40% of the vote by being ahead of the second-closest candidate by 20%. Otherwise, a runoff between the top two vote-getters will be Dec. 1.

The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette emailed the same questions to the candidates. Their responses are below.

QUESTION: How would you evaluate the city’s recycling program and what, if any, changes would you suggest?

Fire Cat: Single stream needs to be instituted yesterday. At no point did the pilot program fail, as indicated by the results readily available to the public on the city website for easy viewing.

The only metric it didn’t manage to succeed is that of a popularity contest, and recycling shouldn’t be about subjective opinions. If the goal is to “go green,” then the objective data needs to be the standard for which we make the judgment call.

On an additional note, the nonprofit Free Geek has done fine work in an effort to recycle electronic waste for not only Fayetteville, but the Northwest Arkansas area as a whole.

They could use both volunteer and financial assistance from our community to any that are willing.

Hertzberg: Fayetteville should continually reevaluate the recycling program to ensure we are using the most cost-efficient processes.

As the population increases, there may be a time when a single-stream recycling program may make more economic sense.

For now, I believe the decision to pursue goals related to composting and increasing recycling at small-scale apartment complexes and construction sites is appropriate. The professional opinions of those who oversee the recycling program should be given considerable deference in the implementation of the city’s goals.

Smith: Fayetteville has the cleanest, most reliable recycling program I’ve been able to locate in the nation.

Unfortunately, our residential participation has been stagnant for several years.

This may be due in part to perceptions that our collection is complicated for residents or that we don’t accept enough material types. We are often compared to single-bin programs, but people often don’t realize how much of what goes in other cities’ bins never gets recycled at all.

Our single-stream pilot study a few years back was an attempt to determine a viable alternative that would increase participation, but produced mixed results on contamination and projected facilities expenses.

I will encourage continued experimentation to see if refinements or other approaches can maintain the quality of our product while encouraging more households to participate. We have a fantastic staff of experts in their field who I trust to lead those efforts.

I would like to see efforts to expand the apartment recycling program accelerate, developing approaches to retrofit old complexes with suitable collection facilities. The fledgling food-waste compost program is an exciting opportunity to expand our diversion efforts beyond recycling, and I hope to see that grow into residential collection in coming years.

Waddell: I would evaluate Fayetteville’s curbside recycling program as effective at mitigating contamination, so that our waste does not get thrown into a landfill instead of into recycling.

I understand it can be inconvenient to have to sort through recyclables, rather than just enact streamline recycling where residents and city crews no longer have to sort through recyclables at the curb.

However, I don’t believe that streamline recycling can be as effective at making sure we don’t mix nonrecyclable materials with recyclable materials, and then end up throwing away the loads because of contamination.

I think our residents need more education and awareness of what are recyclable and nonrecyclable materials. Waste management needs to ensure that our recyclable materials are making it to the right areas and not to the landfill.

I think the best way of achieving this is by continuing our clean recycling program.

QUESTION: What should guide decisions on rezonings more: the wants of neighbors or the planning guidelines of the city, if those two are in conflict?

Hertzberg: In land use planning, the wants of the neighbors should be given great deference if zoning changes are proposed.

However, if a private property owner decides to develop their property in accordance with current zoning, the wants of the neighbors may have to yield.

Smith: The planning guidelines for how we will build our city are the synthesis of the wants of thousands of Fayetteville residents.

Public input is woven into the fabric of these documents at every step through dozens of outreach meetings designed to engage our entire community in the formation and periodic updates of long-range plans.

Zoning decisions should be the result of thoughtful leadership in the application of those plans and should resist the political temptation to grant influential neighborhoods a veto power that pushes the burdens of a growing city onto other neighborhoods with less social capital.

Most zoning questions originate with a property owner wanting to do something new on their land. Neighbor reactions are seldom unanimous, ranging from enthusiastic agreement to objection on specific conditions, or occasionally vehement opposition to any change at all.

The challenge for council members is to absorb all those differing opinions, speeches, emails and phone calls we receive — including consideration for residents without the time or resources to attend hours of meetings — and negotiate the best outcomes for each neighborhood while equitably weighing the health of the city as a whole.

Waddell: There needs to be a balance between the planning guidelines and the wants of existing neighbors.

However, the guidelines are exactly that; they are meant to guide decisions. The guidelines are not the deciding factor over the genuine and compelling objections of neighbors. I think it’s unfair to neighbors for new purchasers to assume they will automatically be rezoned.

Our residents have made big financial investments in their homes, and they should have a voice despite planning guidelines. I think each guideline should be given significant weight, but more so should the wants of neighbors. I don’t agree that every person wants a business or major apartment complex abutting their property line.

I recognize that some of our residents want to live above a restaurant or be able to walk to their work.

But, other residents would prefer to maintain neighborhood integrity and continue to have the wildlife and privacy that they currently have when they go to their back patios. The city must balance the guidelines with the wants of neighbors of where the proposed rezoning is occurring.

Fire Cat: False dichotomy. It’s easy to broad stroke brush an answer, but circumstances in such matters should be judged on a case-by-case basis.

I tend to sway toward individual property rights, as the words “eminent domain” are like cursings to yours truly.

Nevertheless, for the ease of traffic, I would prefer to stick to the road designs within the city predictions where expansion is concerned.

We’re only going to grow, and the traffic is going to become that much more constricted to the point even that things become dangerous to traffic-goers.

Contrarily, it’s easy to forget that a road plan may involve cutting into someone’s yard, and even easier to forget that when it’s not your yard. Thus, even here, I may be persuaded to take the side of the individual should the situation be compelling. Expanding into someone’s property as “part of the plan” is not always acceptable.

In such times, I may ask for an adjustment to the plan for an individual’s interests to be met. What doesn’t bend, am I right?

QUESTION: What’s your approach to the police budget?

Smith: My goal for all departmental budgets is to fund enough staff to serve the needs of the community.

Investments should be made both in personnel and in equipment or training that can help them do their jobs more productively.

This is the same for police and fire. Performance metrics are as useful for evaluating police efficacy as they are in any department, while recognizing that many of the most effective crime reduction measures may be preventative rather than enforcement-driven.

Grants should be sought intentionally and strategically to pursue our established community goals; grants should not drive our law enforcement programming simply because money is available. Law enforcement officers must stand ready to address unpredictable and often traumatic situations, and we owe it to our officers both to prepare them for and to address the consequences of that reality.

We should prioritize their positive work-life balance, perhaps more intensely than other city staff, and make full mental health services available. Finally, we should recognize the impact our rising housing costs have on our employees: police salaries should allow them to afford living here in Fayetteville, and we should encourage them to make their homes in the neighborhoods they patrol.

Waddell: I do not support defunding the Fayetteville Police Department.

I believe they need adequate funding in order to keep their facilities, equipment and training programs up to par.

I would listen to the Police Department’s needs and try to provide funding to meet their immediate safety concerns. Safety is rooted in every aspect of a city.

Fayetteville residents want to feel safe at their home, business and on the bike trails. The city needs to make sure that the police have adequate funding in order to provide that security for Fayetteville. We need to make sure that our law enforcement officers feel safe as well. They need adequate housing for their staff and equipment. Their safety is equally important as our residents’ safety.

I want to make sure that these officers feel safe while at their own facility. Officer Stephen Carr’s murder really rang close to home.

Our city needs to make sure that officer safety is a top priority, as well as our residents’ safety. I would like to see more funding toward outreach programs to allow more positive interactions between Fayetteville residents and the police, but safety is the No. 1 priority for me in terms of police budgets.

Fire Cat: Part of keeping up with the market comparable involving our police and fire departments respectively is that this is, as far as I’m concerned, part of paying the light bill.

Recalling when we passed the new budget last year, we went $1.2 million into debt, the first time we’d taken a debt to our budget since we broke even in 2013.

At that time, we had a portion of unspent money in the amount of $102,000. It was then suggested that we should spend that money on an arts and culture coordinator. This ended up voted down, and the remainder was put toward paying our oncoming debt. Good. When we have a debt, our priority is to pay it off.

Our responsibilities come first, and the other amenities take a back seat. In doing so, we then find ourselves better positioned to take care of the police and fire departments, keeping them to par in both areas of competitive pay rates and necessary equipment to perform their public services. In essence, my policy is needs before wants, and police budgets are better met when we treat them as a financial need.

Hertzberg: I oppose both defunding and dismantling the police through budgetary actions.

The police budget is a significant line item in the city’s budget, and like all significant line items, it must be constantly reviewed to ensure efficiency.

In my opinion, over the last several years, the police budgeting process has been satisfactory.

QUESTION: What makes you the best candidate to legislate a ward and city with a growing population?

Waddell: I plan to embrace smart growth and protect green space.

I know Fayetteville is growing rapidly and it continues to be named as one of the best places to live. I want to make sure that it stays as one of the best places to live. I know the city’s 2040 plan forecasts more than 500,000 by 2050 in Washington County.

I think the city’s future plans to infill Fayetteville neglect the concerns of many of our current residents. I disagree the city should give deferential treatment to those who are not yet residents of the city. I would prefer quality growth over quantity. I worry that if the city continues to make infill its top priority, that we will lose what makes Fayetteville so great.

I do not believe the city should destroy all of Fayetteville’s intact forests and ecosystems just because they are “underdeveloped,” and just to make room for a growing population.

However, I certainly recognize that a growing population creates business opportunities and revenue for Fayetteville. We should strive to maintain the integrity of Fayetteville and make sure infrastructure is keeping up, and that our future residents don’t encroach on our current neighborhoods.

We should not infill Fayetteville with the idea that more people, more tax dollars.

Fire Cat: It helps to keep legislation from being intrusive in everyone’s lives where possible. The more a population grows, the more people there are who are more than happy to give away your personal freedoms.

It’s one thing to address needed laws where personal harm may be concerned. It’s another thing entirely to legislate based on aesthetic opinions or individual preferences.

I consider it essential to be ever vigilant against this type of trend. That also means defending against the legislating of things one doesn’t like, not just the things one does. Additionally, in making decisions that impact everyone, I’m willing to tell you no, even if doing so isn’t what you want to hear.

I’m willing to be hated for telling you no. I’m willing to be hated by you … for you. The more people in a growing area, the thicker the skin will have to be.

Hertzberg: It is exciting to live in a city with a growing population. It produces vibrancy and increases economic and cultural opportunities for all.

I believe I am a good candidate for the Fayetteville City Council because I have experience in analyzing the impact of society and environments on an individual’s participation and performance in their daily occupations, as well as their health and well being. I believe this perspective offers a unique and practical contribution to the City Council because I will consider the holistic impact of each decision made on the council.

Due to the ever-growing population, it is important to address many factors to determine both needs and solutions. My experience in complex problem solving in the health care sector has provided me with a valuable skill set, which I can easily shift to apply on a municipal level.

My research is dedicated to identifying and addressing health care disparities as well as developing solutions to improve education, increase access to affordable health care and positively impact communities.

If elected, I will be able to use this knowledge and these skills to identify the ever-changing needs of the city and develop solutions to benefit all.

Smith: Ward 4 residents deserve someone who can simultaneously look at the city as a complicated system, and also see that the details matter. I am that candidate.

Very small details often make the most noticeable impact in people’s lives. Listening to residents — not just counting calls of support or opposition, but really hearing their underlying needs and wants — is the key to finding compromise among the many diverging opinions that comprise our community.

A council member should be able to understand the details of an intersection layout, anticipate nuanced policy impacts on business owners and know where the trees are on a particular parcel of land to successfully advocate for our best interests. That is precisely the analytical mindset that I bring.

Every decision we make has ripple effects — sewer expansions stimulate private housing developments that generate traffic and maintenance costs for decades.

Fire engine purchases impact street designs that go on to influence driver behavior more than a speed limit sign ever will. We will not meet the challenges of our city in isolation.

You cannot successfully run a city as a single-issue candidate. I will bring the same thoughtful leadership to every decision like I have for the past three years.

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