IN DEPTH

For those of you who don’t know me I’m Jackie Elward. For me being able to run for office and represent the people of my city is part of the American dream. I’m an immigrant and only became a citizen in the past decade. I originally come from the Democratic Republic of Congo and met my husband while he was teaching theology in my country a little over 15 years ago. I’m a mother of three children, speak six languages (no English isn’t my first language), work at a French school, and have a home for street kids in Kinshasa, Congo that I opened with some friends and a non-profit I started. I’m also a homeowner and wife of a Teamster. I can say that I don’t have any political background. I truly am an outsider. That being said when it’s time to step up to the plate I’m there. I can’t sit on the sidelines as a bystander and let things continue they way they have been. Rohnert Park is a great city and I intend to do my part to help it progress. As I like to say if you want change, then be the change.

 

Yesterday someone made a comment on my Facebook page saying that my platform is nothing but fluff and that if I get elected the community would get what they deserve because of their laziness. To that I would say that my role as an elected official is not to push some corporation’s agenda, a powerful family’s agenda, one groups agenda, or even necessarily my agenda but to push the agenda of the people of Rohnert Park. This election is not about Pam, Gerard, Susan or even Jackie no matter what great things we bring to the table. This isn’t meant to be a popularity contest. This election is about you and the best interests of our city. How is it okay that our people cannot afford to live here? How is it okay that our people are moving away because their rent keeps going up? How is it that we have to read in the Press Democrat that our police department is in turmoil because of questionable searches and seizures and no one seems to know what’s going on? Our public safety department is better than this. How is that people don’t feel safe to walk the trails in this city? How is it that we still don’t have a downtown? What are we doing about our homeless population? And as much as I truly appreciate the jobs and revenue the casino has brought what do we do about the perceived vice in the area?

 

If I get elected I promise to address all of these issues. Rohnert Park was originally a seed farm and today it’s seeds are our children. We have to pass the torch from the elders to those younger than us. What kind of legacy are we leaving to them? As your elected representative I will address things like affordable housing and price gouging. I will help set up communication with the public safety department. I will continue to push towards a downtown so that people don’t have to go to Healdsburg, Sonoma or Petaluma but can spend their time and money here before going to a SOMO Concert or the Green Center. I will try to help find solutions for the homeless on our streets instead of just pushing them up north to Santa Rosa or down south to Petaluma. I will help come up with solutions working with the casino and the public safety department to ensure that revenue continues to come in and that people feel safe so they will continue to spend their money here. I’m glad that our families have beautiful parks, new playgrounds and pools to enjoy but I want to make sure that people outside of our parks can travel throughout the city and on its trails without feeling unsafe. I want to see our SSU community, the faculty and students, be active in OUR community and even make sure they have the resources to stay here. I also want to create more community events for our families. While on the Council I will keep my lines of communication open for you to contact me, to engage with me, and to give me your input on the direction of our city. I have room for discussion and my ears are ready to listen to your concerns and to help find solutions for all of us, our local businesses, our workers, our public safety department, our SSU community, our families, our youth, our seniors, those living on the margins, and those who aren’t usually seen in the community. I brought my folding chair. Thank you. Merci beaucoup pour votre attention.

 

- Responsibilities of City Council members include setting goals for the city and overseeing what is now about a $39,000,000 budget.  What experience do you bring to the council that would aid you in overseeing a budget of that size?

 

The experience that I bring to the council is that I run a non-profit and am responsible for being a good steward of other people’s money. To be honest 39 million dollars is a big number to work with and for anybody it should be an onerous thing to have to handle that amount of money alone. This is the reason there are four other people on the panel. This allows for us to take into consideration other viewpoints and to be accountable for where the money goes. I consider a position like this to be almost sacred because of the responsibility that it entails. I believe in transparency, honesty, and making sure that the city’s money is handled properly. This is what is so special about running for local office – a businessman, a trainer, a firefighter, a house cleaner, a mother can run and they all are faced with this task. 

 

- What do you see as the most crucial issues facing the city in the next 4 years?

 

The most crucial issues facing the city in the next 4 years:

  • In 2017 Rohnert Park had the hottest real estate market of all of Sonoma County. With 4700 new housing units coming to the city (and many of those already here) traffic, water supplies and utility needs must be addressed.

  • Public Safety and the need to create a plan when it comes to the police and fire department

  • Affordable housing (areas of price gouging), and also making sure that people are being paid a living wage

  • Addressing the needs of the homeless

 

- Residents of Rohnert Park have increasingly expressed a desire for a planned city center.  How would you support movement toward that goal, including updates to the city’s strategic plan and its implementation?

 

I would definitely push for a downtown/planned city center. For many years those from out of town come here for our Walmart, Costco, In and Out, and currently for Amy’s. We need to have a city center where people can shop, socialize, and live. A mixed use of commercial and residential properties like that in Petaluma and San Rafael would benefit our local community and incoming residents. We will need to make sure that there are also affordable housing units available there and that the developer doesn’t avoid the inclusion standard of 15% by paying additional fees. We also need to make sure that it is affordable for local businesses to rent space so that the city center is full and alive as opposed to being empty and vacant.

 

- With addition of the Smart Train how do you see it affecting the adjacent area, which is now the long empty State Farm Insurance property? 

 

Well, with a functional downtown the smart train location is excellent. It will attract a lot of people to the city and help bring spending money here. I would like to see easier access to the train station from the Expressway and surrounding residential areas by developing infrastructure and roadways on or around that property. I would also encourage the construction of mutli-use residential and commercial space. Another issue I see with the addition of the smart train is safety. We recently had a death here in Rohnert Park and with the growth of the city and downtown we need to make sure people stay safe around the tracks.

 

- Traffic flow has been an increasing problem exacerbated by new building developments.  What are your ideas for improvements that could provide more safety for both foot and vehicular traffic?

 

  • Our heavily trafficked areas need pedestrian lights at the crosswalks. 

  • We need better lighting at nighttime.

  • Our trails need to be cleaned up and police need to actively patrol those areas so that people feel safe.

  • Being a College town we should also encourage the use of bicycles more. The average city makes 2% of their trips by bicycle. In Davis 20% of trips are made on bikes. Encouraging this kind of activity to those who don’t have to leave the city would put less cars on the road and increase safety as well as it would be more green.

  • If we have a central downtown area with easy access to local services and needs, that would help with traffic density in town.

 

- Growth on the west side of town, including the Casino, new hotels, business enterprises and residences has increased the need for expended public services in that area, including a new Westside fire station. How can these services be offered without putting an enormous strain on the city budget?

 

There definitely needs to be a fire station there. With all the new growth coming into the city by way of new housing, hotels, restaurants and other businesses money coming in should be allocated towards this. Hotel taxes and new home property taxes could help fund this fire station without putting an enormous strain on the budget and community.

 

- RP is somewhat unique in that public safety officers handle both police and fire responsibilities.  This need for added skills and training appears to lead to difficulty in hiring and keeping the department at full strength.  Some have suggested that the departments should be split. Do you view that as an option? Why and why not?

 

Yes I view that as an option. Having a combined police and fire department made sense when it was established in 1962 and there were only 2700 residents in the city. With a projection of an estimated 44,000 people here in 2020 it makes sense for the city to revisit this arrangement. We should no longer be cross training officers for two highly specialized jobs. With a growing city we need a police department that is stable, has proper training, and is committed to expertise in their field. I have two brothers-in-law that are firefighters and the same could be said for their field. Also with climate change increasing annual risk for larger and stronger wild fires, training and preparedness should be focused on dealing with those issues, leaving law enforcement to the police department. Without proper training our firefighters and police officers put themselves and our community at risk. Law enforcement officers also have to deal with needs like court time and this shouldn’t take up the time needed for their other role.

 

- Like every other city Rohnert Park increasingly needs to deal with the complicated problem of lack of low-income housing and a vulnerable homeless population.  What are your ideas for programs that can effectively address this growing problem?

 

  • Making sure that renters who are currently living here know the rules so that they are not taken advantage of. This would be for all residents and not only low income.

  • Rohnert Park currently requires that 15% of all new ownership units in the city be affordable. Developers have options to avoid this standard. We need to have more oversight and transparency when we approve and move forward with construction. We need to make sure that low-income housing units have an expedited review. They should not be the last part of the project and should be pushed through as soon as possible.

  • Having more affordable inventory will not only keep some of our young people here, but will also benefit our SSU community.

  • In regards to the homeless we need to create a place where they can receive medical attention and counseling with the goals of becoming employable and a contributing member of our community. This would save money because preventative care is cheaper than repeated public safety calls and emergency room use.

  • We should also help find funding for the local non-profits that serve our homeless population. There is not much in this city at the time serving the population. 

 

- What special personal qualities do you feel you would bring to the City Council that would add to a collegial working group?

 

  • I have always felt that volunteering is essential to the wellbeing of my community and myself. 

  • Teamwork has always been my strength. 

  • I am by nature very out going and outspoken.

  • I am bold and assertive but still always opened to others viewpoints.

  • I am a loving and caring person.

  • I have great communication skills.

  • I am a determined woman that goes after her goals.

  • I always finish projects that I start 

  • I am young and have a broad worldview as well as a lot of energy that the city council can use for the best of the community.

 

I am running for city council because I believe that representation for all matters. In my short time on this planet, I have seen a lot that has opened my mind, eyes and ears to the possibilities of what we can accomplish if we all work together and listen to each other for the betterment of our community. As a young women of color, a mother of school aged children, the wife of a teamster member, a student and homeowner, I am in prime position to assist Rohnert Park in moving forward. 

According to the Sonoma County Economic Development Board Rohnert Park has the youngest median age of all of Sonoma County at only 34. The statistics also show that this is the only city in the county where the population aged between 25 and 44 is growing faster than any other age range. Young people should be more involved in our local politics and should have a say in the future of this city.

 

 

 

P.O. Box 1772, Rohnert Park, CA 94928

(707) 794-2114 | jackie4citycouncil@gmail.com

Paid for by Committee to Elect Jackie Elward to Rohnert Park City Council 2020

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