Herald-Times Race Profile
Kate Wiltz, Monroe County Council, District 2
October 17, 2018
- What are your top priorities as a councilwoman if elected and explain why for each identified priority?
My priorities for Monroe County include funding public health services for those affected by addiction, including prevention, diversion, and treatment for those suffering from substance use disorder and their families. I will also prioritize improved public transportation and accessible, safe systems of non-motorized transportation routes, including trails, sidewalks and paths, and dedicated bike lanes. Both Bloomington Transit and Rural Transit are examining their services and determining priorities for the coming years. Connecting people to the services they need and the amenities they deserve positively impacts health and economic factors for our community.
Perhaps most importantly, I will prioritize sustainability of both natural and economic resources. Lake Monroe is the sole source of drinking water for 120,000 people. It attracts a million visitors per year. Both of these uses are critical to our health and vitality in Monroe County. Yet, Monroe is one of five counties in the lake’s watershed, and it makes up only a small portion of the land that protects this resource. Working across the Monroe watershed to coordinate natural resource management on a multi-county level is critical to maintaining Lake Monroe as a safe water source as well as a recreational resource.
- Jail overcrowding, the opioid crisis and declining user fees are some of the challenges facing the county’s public safety and justice system. Can you elaborate on how as a councilwoman you intend to tackle these and other issues facing the county’s public safety and justice operations?
First, we must realize that these problems are not solely public safety and justice system issues. They are complex and systemic and should be addressed at their root causes. On Council I will support collaborative efforts that bring county, city, nonprofit, and private stakeholders together to implement proactive solutions that get at the real risk factors for substance use disorder, cycles of poverty, and mental illness. The Opioid Commission is taking steps in this direction and is a model for community-based problem-solving. These solutions include intervention and treatment based on the compassionate pragmatism that undergirds proven harm reduction approaches and empowers those in need. These solutions identify coordinated approaches to combatting the social and economic determinants of our community’s health. These solutions implement diversion from jail to targeted treatment-based support. Yet, these solutions are only half of the picture.
Ninety-five percent of incarcerated individuals return to the community. Therefore, it is imperative that discharge planning – especially for those with substance use disorder and mental illness – be a coordinated effort that includes continuity of healthcare (including Medicaid enrollment, stable access to medication, and support and education on self-management of health) and support for stable housing. These programs, operating outside of the justice system, could alleviate some of the burden on the system and our jail.
- Township fire protection has been a topic of concern since the implementation of the public safety local income tax. What can you do as a councilwoman to help township fire departments and by extension county residents they serve?
Fire protection is critical in our unincorporated areas and benefits from cooperation among the townships as well as the City of Bloomington Fire Department. However, we must support our Township firefighters to offer fully effective services across the broadest area possible. The joining of Indian Creek Twp Fire with the Perry-Clear Creek District will allow more residents to be better served in a more efficient way and is a great example of identifying an efficient solution to meet our fire protection needs. When our Township Fire departments have the support they need, insurance rates go down, but most importantly services are faster and lives are saved. Because of the way the PS-LIT is administered, the County Council body has little direct influence on the allocation of those funds. There are two Council representatives to the public safety council and those members can advocate for the most judicious and efficient distribution of public safety dollars across the supported departments. I have met with several members of the public safety community and will continue to learn more about how we can best meet their needs and protect our citizens.
- The food and beverage tax passed and dollars are being collected. What is your stance on the passage of the food and beverage tax and its intended use to expand the convention center?
The food and beverage tax promises to generate funding that will expand our current capacity to attract and host large-scale events. Will this have a positive impact on our local economy? Most certainly. Will all Monroe Countians feel that positive impact equally? I doubt it. Overall, this will be good for economic growth in Bloomington and Monroe County; however, it remains to be seen if this project will contribute to the sustainability and social infrastructure of our community, or if it will contribute to the erosion of the character of our once small town. This struggle is emblematic of the challenges facing our County over the next decade or more: sustainable, smart growth that strengthens our community’s resilience while maintaining the qualities – of both urban and rural areas – that have defined Monroe County for generations.
- How would you like to see the portion of money slated to come to the county spent so it benefits county residents – including those who opposed the tax?
The auditor’s office is working to closely track the source of each dollar this tax is generating so that it is clear which areas of the county have contributed to the fund. Money collected by establishments outside the incorporated areas will go to the County and is tagged for tourism support. With current data indicating that trails and greenspace are important contributors to the local economy, I would support using these funds to build out our trail systems and community parks as well as other recreational development.
- Since annexation city and county relations have seemed tense. With collaboration on projects such as the convention center expansion and the opioid crisis needed, how can we start to mend this relationship and why is it important that we do?
I would like to see more interlocal agreements and cooperation between the city and county on issues that impact economic development, such as housing and workforce development. In addition, I would like to see increased capacity in the areas of environmental sustainability and community economic development, perhaps beginning with a review of our boards and commissions. Current duplication of these entities and their activities does not seem like a good use of resources. Those serving on our County and City advisory boards are the “boots on the ground” of local government. It is at this level that collaboration on issues that affect us all can build a solid foundation for more efficient policy and programs that have the broadest impact. When statutorily permissible, these bodies should work jointly to guide both city and county decision-making.
- Can you briefly explain why you are seeking election and what makes you the most qualified candidate for the position?
I am running for County Council so that I can apply my skills and values to the important work being done here in Monroe County. I have worked with all levels of government on program evaluation projects, strategic planning, and stakeholder engagement. This has given me a broad, systems perspective and an appreciation for multiple viewpoints in problem-solving. As a project manager, I review multiple budgets for ways that limited funding can achieve the greatest impact. My experience working in Ohio for the state extension allowed me to work with landowners on conservation practices in agricultural and suburban-wildland interface areas. When making decisions regarding public tax dollars, I will seek input from those closest to the issues, including those whose lives are directly impacted.
Keys to the Candidates
I authorize the League of Women Voters and the Herald-Times to publish my responses to these questions in Keys to the Candidates, both online and in print. I understand that the Herald-Times reserves the right to edit anything the editors deem obscene, libelous or offensive. Responses longer than word limit will be cut to the last complete sentence within the word limit. My return of this form via email constitutes my permission to publish my responses.
County Council, District 2
1. What are your qualifications for this office? (75 words)
As a project manager, I regularly look at budgets and for ways that limited funding can achieve the greatest impact. I have worked with all levels of government on building partnerships, strategic planning, and stakeholder engagement. This has given me a broad, systems perspective and an appreciation for multiple viewpoints in problem-solving. My background with the state extension service allowed me to work with landowners on conservation best practices in agriculture and suburban-wildland interface areas.
2. What is your top priority for this office, and how would you address it? (125 words)
My top priority on County Council is to connect people in finding sustainable solutions to meet the needs of Monroe County. Specifically, I want to make sure that public-private-nonprofit collaboration is encouraged and supported, and our tax dollars go to providing innovative, cost-effective solutions with measurable outcomes related to our community’s challenges. I use the word “sustainability” intentionally to reflect both financial and environmental stewardship. Sustainable economic and social development must protect our environmental systems – our water, air, and forests. These protections should be an explicit part of our decision-making across all sectors, and not just a corollary or add-on policy.
3. What responsibility does the county have for addressing issues of poverty, addiction, and homelessness? How would you alleviate these problems? (150 words)
Government exists to serve and support its people and their community. Poverty, addiction, and homelessness – and their impacts on schools, public health, and criminal justice systems – represent a failure in our community and our government to adequately care for all of its people. These issues are intertwined and have complicated causes that require complex analysis and carefully considered solutions. When we look at entrenched societal bias and the social and economic barriers faced by people of color, those in need of recovery, and other marginalized populations, the inequity is palpable.
Our budgets reflect our values. I support harm reduction and diversion to treatment approaches for addiction, housing first and rapid rehousing approaches for those experiencing homelessness, and financial mediation and affordable housing for those struggling to make ends meet. And for all these, I expect to involve those directly and indirectly affected in the solutions we develop.
The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce
Election Initiative 2018
Kate Wiltz, Candidate for Monroe County Council, District 2
1. What is the single most significant issue you see facing Monroe County in the coming term and what is your specific plan to address that issue, both in terms of budget and policy proposals?
I continue to see the broader impacts of the opioid crisis on our community as the most significant issue we face. County Council should support the newly established Opioid Commission and its work to influence legislative policy locally and at the state level. The Council also needs to make sure the local government departments with responsibilities around housing, youth services, justice and community corrections have the resources they need to offer harm reducing services and wrap-around care to those suffering from substance use disorder. New approaches, such as Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, are being put in place. I will hold our county departments accountable to fulfilling these community needs in an interdepartmental coordinated effort and in partnership with nongovernment agencies.
2. What areas of county government could be more efficient? How would you address those areas?
I’ve attended County Council meetings regularly since February and have been impressed by the departments’ ability to operate efficiently within statutory constraints. Some areas for improvement that I have noted and will explore on Council are: long-term planning, inter-departmental coordination, program evaluation, and facility management practices. I hope to address these areas as a participant on our government Commissions and in working with our department heads to implement ongoing data collection and evidence-based practices that allow Council and Commissioners to link activities and outcomes. These areas may seem ambiguous, but they rely on systems thinking and strategic approaches to programming – practices I have been using in my professional work with governments and universities for years.
3. How do you view the County Council role in supporting economic vitality through tools such as tax abatements and tax increment financing?
County Council should be a partner in promoting economic health and smart growth. Monroe County has unique resources, including Lake Monroe and other recreational areas, a highly educated workforce, a population very supportive of alternative energy and creative arts. We must look to those things that set it apart from the 90+ other Indiana counties and build on those strengths. In addition to focusing on development that emphasizes our unique assets, we should be monitoring the commercial and industrial investments in and around our current TIF Districts, analyzing outcomes related to those investments, and exploring opportunities to further build on that capital investment.
4. How do you think the County can work with the City to better serve business and residents?
The County and City need to coordinate their work on infrastructure improvements and be proactive in communicating with local economic development commissions, planning and redevelopment commissions, and local businesses. In addition to roads and utilities projects, city and county departments should be coordinating their approach to zoning, building permits, and broader transportation planning.
Democracy for Monroe County
Democracy for Monroe County is a grassroots political action committee that is dedicated to supporting progressive policies at the local
and state levels, as well as candidates who support those policies. DFMC is part of a nationwide coalition of grassroots groups allied with
Democracy for America.
Candidate Endorsement Questionnaire (2018)
1. Why are you running for office, or re-election, and what do you hope to accomplish as County Council member? If you
are running for re-election, please include your accomplishments in the prior term.
I am running for County Council for a few reasons. First, I believe my two daughters deserve a role model who actively contributes to the community and follows through on commitments. Second, I have specific skills that will benefit the collaborative decision-making undertaken by the Council. I have extensive experience in program development and evaluation, as well as strategic planning and organizational development. I would like to use my thoughtful and critical approach to assist Monroe County in creating efficiencies through partnerships and effective evidence-based programs.
2. What is the overall theme of your campaign and how will you share and explain it to the community?
My campaign is about compassion, sustainability, and problem-solving. These qualities are evidenced though: public health and restorative justice approaches to the social services needs of our community; clean energy and sustainable resource management strategies to our economic and environmental needs; and an emphasis on programs and services that have specifically articulated, measurable goals and objectives that target outcomes with evidence-based action.
3. What are the top three issues our district, or your office, faces and how do you plan to address these issues?
Monroe County faces a constellation of issues that stem from addiction, cycles of poverty, and a lack of federal and state support for those affected by these and other social disadvantages. In addition, the area’s watersheds are threatened by potential changes to environmental protections that keep our water clean and our forests intact. Our challenge is to solve these problems while maintaining a sustainable level of smart economic growth. Monroe County has a robust network of organizations working to support the community’s health. Nonprofits, businesses, city and county governments bring strengths and strategies to the challenges facing our citizens and natural environment. To the extent possible, I plan to use my position as a member of Council to connect people and programs, encourage partnerships that capitalize on complementary strengths, and promote budgets that use this approach to find innovative, evidence-based solutions.
4. Please list your political experience, both here and elsewhere, including any grassroots activity in which you participated
I am a first-time candidate. I am relatively new to the formal political scene. However, I am a life-long Democrat. As a high-schooler, I canvassed in Cincinnati, Ohio as part of an affordable urban housing initiative in the 1980s. I worked with Habitat for Humanity and the Rainforest Action Network in college in the nineties. More recently, I took a big step in supporting party politics by managing Amanda Barge’s successful campaign for Monroe County Commissioner in 2016. I currently serve on the Monroe County Environmental Commission. Less political, but very grassroots, is my work in one of the MCCSC elementary schools where I implemented a classroom and cafeteria recycling program with the support of staff and a small team of volunteers. Finally, another example is my experience working with the Ohio State University Extension. As a state-level program manager, I developed, evaluated, and taught programs for landowners. Working with forestry, wildlife, fishery, and watershed professionals, I directly educated citizens on conservation practices and best management approaches to managing private property across the state.
5. In what way(s) do you consider yourself to be socially, politically, and economically progressive?
I am an advocate for justice and equity in both social and environmental contexts. With respect to economic development, I firmly believe that any cost-benefit analysis must be accountable to the costs paid by our natural environment and disadvantaged social groups. In a political context, I strive for collaborative and innovative solutions that allow our government to be the best guardian of its citizens.
6. What are the guiding principles of your political philosophy and how will these principles inform and guide your
decisions and actions as County Council member?
Principles of justice, equity, and inclusion frame my view on the obligations of the government to its citizens. However, those same words describe the obligations of a citizenry to its government as well. In other words, a just and fair democracy depends on the participation of its citizens, while at the same time working to support the health and wellness those citizens. That said, the government is but one of the systems at work in supporting society and individuals journey toward betterment. As an elected member of our local government I will foster public input in my decision-making. I will look for ways to amplify the efforts of government with inclusive approaches like public-private partnerships and inter-local agreements. I will also advocate for solutions that are fair and level the playing field for all members of our community.
7. Describe your ideas for engaging community members through more informed., active, and inclusive participation in the
community and in County government.
We need to meet people where they are, both culturally and geographically. I plan to hold regular office hours where I am available electronically and in-person to answer questions and discuss issues. Further, I will “advertise” my position and availability in community-based venues such as township, school, neighborhood, and other offices and events. Finally, across all these opportunities, I will educate and inform our citizens about the role of the County Council and relevant local issues.
8. Please describe your field plan for your campaign, including how you plan to recruit grassroots activists and your plans
for contacting voters. Note: Your response to this question will be seen by members of the DFMC Endorsement Committee
Currently, my team and I are canvassing across my district in Monroe County. I continue to reach out to a variety of community leaders in local grassroots organizations. These include the Indiana Forest Alliance and Friends of Lake Monroe, as well as individuals active in everything from combating gerrymandering to installing native plantings and outdoor classrooms on public school grounds. In addition to this outreach and networking, my campaign hopes to fund a direct mailing to the likely democratic voters in the more rural parts of my district. This mailing will serve to generate awareness about my platform as well as invite conversation and questions on local issues.
9. Will you pledge to not accept donations from corporations, businesses, and people whose activities are overseen by your
10. Please explain why or why not.
“Money isn’t speech and corporations aren’t people” (David Kairys, civil rights attorney). In a progressive democracy, elected officials serve the people,. In short, that is the power and strength of democracy, and that is the basis of local governance.
11. How do you propose to balance economic development with environmental issues?
Our local community has been successful in implementing sustainable and green energy projects across both city and county facilities. I would like to continue this legacy and commitment to sustainable development. In my work on the Monroe County environmental commission, we have recently looked at ways we can evaluate and recognized local businesses’ sustainability to encourage green business practices. In terms of economic growth, we must prioritize, and when necessary incentivize environmentally responsible investment. IU faculty member and Nobel Laureate, Elinor Ostrom, detailed the ways in which our common natural resources can be sustainably managed at the local level. By working at that local level, I hope to support opportunities for individual landowners and private business to invest in our community for the long-term using models that account for impacts to water and air quality, as well as more subtle but equally important ecosystem services.
12. How has the 2010 Property Tax Cap Amendment to the Indiana Constitution affected your budget priorities? How do you
maintain a progressive agenda in light of the resulting budget cuts?
The property tax cap amendment should not change budget priorities. The property tax cap does affect how we budget for these priorities. My priority areas for government spending remain focused on community needs and critical services for our most vulnerable populations, protection of our natural resources, and careful economic development. In Monroe County, we are lucky to have a relatively large assessed value upon which to base our tax rates. That keeps tax rates relatively low while generating adequate funding for the County budget. Because of the ways in which our maximum tax levy is calculated, it is important to review the historical data on state income growth so that we can prepare for the resulting fluctuations and use the little room we have on property assessment with great care. Some alternative funding sources that can be used to maintain our priorities include grants, partner-leveraged funding, and referendum taxes. Referenda are based on community vote and take a lot of energy and effort to enact. However, they are good at implementing progressive, community-based initiatives and supporting valued services threatened by unstable funding. I will remain open to a variety of alternative funding streams while working to stabilize our primary revenue sources.
Bloomington Board of REALTORS®
320 W. 8th Street, Suite 121
PO Box 1478
Bloomington, IN 47402
1. What problems do you think will face the holder of this office over the elected term?
The challenges currently facing the County Council include adequately addressing the impact that opioid use is having on our community, increasing and maintaining affordable housing for those living and working in Monroe County, and supporting and expanding transportation and for those living in and around Bloomington and Ellettsville. Unfortunately, these challenges promise to remain for the coming several years.
2. What actions would you take to solve them?
With respect to the opioid crisis, I plan to advocate for recovery services that fill current gaps in treatment and meet the growing need for harm reduction approaches, and expand options for housing-first accommodations. Monroe County needs to look closely at housing inequity. We enjoy an amazing quality of life for many and the increases in assessed value each year indicate that we should be able to incentivize affordable housing for those who live and work here. However, when one type of development is over-subsidized (e.g. tax abatements, those targeting high-end “student” rental property), the increased value is not captured in a way that can be applied to the market with the greatest need. I plan to look closely at these issues and prioritize development incentives that meet the needs of our community’s workforce. Finally, the extension of our public transit system outside the city is limited by state statute. Until that can be remedied, I will look at ways to expand and coordinate rural transit options to connect residents via routes that are accessible and reasonably direct, while remaining affordable.
3. What do you consider to be your top priorities if elected?
My priorities for Monroe County include funding public health services for those affected by addiction, including prevention, diversion, and treatment for those suffering from substance use disorder and their families. I will also prioritize improved public transportation and accessible, safe systems of non-motorized transportation routes, including trails, sidewalks and paths, and dedicated bike lanes. Perhaps, most importantly, I will prioritize sustainability of both natural and economic resources. Working across the Monroe watershed to coordinate natural resource management on a multi-county level is critical to maintaining Lake Monroe as a safe water source as well as a recreational resource.
4. What is your position on Private Property Rights?
If you own property, your actions on that property are unlimited except by the rule of law. Your right to realize economic gain from that property is also recognized by the law, as well as state and local legislation and policy. The County government’s interest in private property rights is shaped by its role in economic development, environmental quality, and public safety. The vast majority of the time, the interests of private property owners and local government do not conflict in our community. However, when they do conflict, they must be resolved by a careful examination of the impacts to those involved and should not create an undue burden on the individual to do so.
5. HUD defines affordable housing as housing where the “occupant(s) is/are paying no more than 30 percent of his or her income for gross housing costs, including utilities.” The median household income in Monroe County for 2016 was $44,442 (Stats Indiana). Given this information, the average price range for a median household in Bloomington is less than $150,000. How do you propose creating an environment to increase supply for these families?
Community economic development that is connected to land use planning is critical in creating the environments that we envision for Monroe County. By doing this, we support social equity and cultural autonomy in addition to sustainable economic opportunities. When we have these in place, the Council can look at the other more direct incentives for shaping the housing market, if those are needed.
6. How do you propose supporting economic/industrial/housing growth in our community?
Increasing city county collaboration will be key to sustainable and smart growth. As the places we live and work continue to evolve, we must incorporate more diversity in the rental market that reflects and accommodates the diversity we want in our community. When planning for an expanding business sector, we must also plan for workforce housing that includes access to transportation. In order to grow well, we must grow sustainably – we must look at the resources we currently have in our community and invest in those.
7. What is your position on the use of tax abatements?
Tax abatements are one of the tools in the economic development toolbox. An abatement is probably one of the most aggressive ways to incentivize development in a particular location and/or to address specific housing or business needs. As such, I believe it should be used judiciously, and in each proposed instance, the return on investment for Monroe County citizens should be considered very carefully.
8. What do you think is the appropriate use of EDIT funds?
Monroe County does not have an EDIT. Currently, LIT funds are allocated across certified shares and public safety. The County Commission and Council would have to approve via ordinance in any change to the current status. Having just implemented a food and beverage tax dedicated for economic development purposes, I doubt an additional appropriation would be a prudent imposition on the citizens of our community in the near term. That said, monies collected in the name of local economic development should be looked at as an opportunity to invest in the social and cultural, as well as economic, health of our community, from recreation infrastructure to affordable housing, to redevelopment of urban and industrial areas.
9. What changes in the governmental structure do you see in the next five years?
Over the next five years, I don’t see major changes in the structure of County government per se; however, I would like to see more interlocal agreements and cooperation between the city and county on issues such as annexation. In addition, I would like to see an increased structural capacity in the areas of environmental sustainability and community economic development, possibly via a thorough review of our boards and commissions.
10. What would you like to accomplish most if elected?
I would like to see our county meet the health and welfare needs of its most vulnerable residents through improved access to sustainable housing, healthcare, and employment.
11. What can REALTORS® do to help you achieve your goals?
I would like to hear about what your organization would like to see in the way of economic development and meeting housing needs for Monroe County residents. It is important to me to speak with those who are most familiar with issues at hand and engaging in conversation on these and related topics would be very helpful.
Campaign Manager Name: Amanda Barge / Amy Piper
Campaign Treasurer: Cindy Somers
Would you accept PAC money?: I have.
Address of campaign committee: 2745 E. Elderberry Court
Black Lives Matter Bloomington
September 15, 2018
Kate Wiltz, Monroe County Council District 2
1) Describe your platform by telling us what populations are most impacted by your platform policies as well as your specific plan to reach out and work with the affected groups. If you do not explicitly cover marginalized populations in your initial response, tell us what influence you believe your policies will have on marginalized populations, especially Black and brown citizens. Finally, describe how your previous work in politics or elsewhere has impacted Black and other marginalized populations.
My platform encompasses the following three priorities:
- Funding public health services for those affected by addiction
- Supporting public transportation, sidewalks and paths, and trail systems that connect all of citizens with safe, accessible routes to the places they need to be
- Sustainable management of our natural resources
While these issues affect us all, and everyone in our community benefits from addiction services, safe routes, trails, and transportation, and clean air and water; any policy around these issues impacts marginalized populations and those suffering from lower socio-economic status first. As these services, connectivity, and environmental protections are implemented across Monroe County, they must be brought to those most in need first. We are only as strong as the least among us, and if our government is to serve the people, it must not leave anyone behind.
2) To the best of your knowledge, describe why people of color are disproportionately targeted and arrested by the criminal justice system. What ideas do you have to make the justice system more equitable and impartial? What do you consider to be the top priorities for reforming our justice system?
The disproportionate numbers of people of color in our jails is a direct result of the disproportionate number of people of color pulled over on the roads and confronted on the streets by police. This problem is ubiquitous, and it is systemic. We must develop systemic approaches to confront this problem and we must work from within the criminal justice system as well as in our communities and larger socio-political landscape. First, while we cannot outlaw hate, we can teach tolerance and model acceptance. While we cannot mandate color blindness, we can use research-based tools to identify bias (implicit and overt) among those serving in our law enforcement agencies as well as more broadly in our society.
Locally, I will support field-based, results-oriented training with verifiable outcomes for those serving our community in the criminal justice system. In addition, I would support the formation of an oversight board with community representation to review and advise on issues of misconduct in our criminal justice system.
3) What concerns do you have about the militarization of our police force? What would you do, and what can the community do, to protect people of color from the effects of militarization? Name a specific issue in your community relating to the militarization of the police and how you have or would respond to it.
I am concerned that a militarized police force may have more fire power than necessary, and individuals can make devastating decisions when placed in stressful situations. I have a hard time thinking of a situation in which a police officer would need to be armed with an automatic weapon. That said, I support the necessity of police to protect themselves and the public from volatile and dangerous situations. Our government is multifaceted and has specific balances of power. Elected officials are the voice of the people, and in that role act to balance the power of government departments. Officials can and should develop policy that clearly stipulates lines within which law enforcement should operate. That policy should be informed by stakeholders from both law enforcement and communities of color, in addition to others. A key component in this process is transparency. Assurances are not enough when it comes to processes that can result in loss of life. The policy and guidelines developed for determining the course of action with respect to elevated response (including an armored vehicle) should be made available for public comment and input. Finally, ongoing training on these intents and uses is imperative.
4) Do you support programs focused on harm reduction, restorative justice, decriminalization of drugs, reducing nuisance crimes and quality of life policing, and/or jail diversion programs? Choose one or more of those programs (or comparable ones that you are aware of) and describe how you have or would support that program or programs.
I support harm reduction, restorative justice, decriminalization of drugs, and jail diversion programs. Reducing nuisance crimes and quality of life policing are law enforcement outreach approaches that support at-risk populations with a positive presence in the community. I support that as well. I prioritize preventative, fiscally responsible programs that reduce harm. Specifically, I welcome evidenced-based initiatives like combining services of fire, police and social service providers in 911 calls for suspected overdoses so citizens can immediately be linked to help and treatment options both in and outside the jail. Recent efforts toward implementing law enforcement assisted diversion (LEAD) programs here in Monroe County show promise but must be supported by a comprehensive suite of harm reducing programs and services in the community.
5) Name an issue facing school-aged children of color that you think needs to be better addressed and discuss how you would address it. Issues of particular interest to this organization include curriculum, busing and redistricting, before-and-after-school programs, and lunch programs.
Because our public school system is based on a system of inequity wherein one’s neighborhood determines the quality of education available to a child, the issues that need to be “better addressed” are many. One that should be relatively easy to fix is curriculum that supports and sustains accurate and racially-sensitive messages in its core content and supplemental materials. Unfortunately, recent examples in our local school district have highlighted the fact that more than good intentions are necessary to ensure that even the most obviously sensitive topics (such as the experience of enslaved peoples in the United States) are taught in ways that do justice to our past and present and offer strategies to build a better future. Several years ago I volunteered to review and provide input on the science curricula under consideration for my children’s elementary school. Another parent and I pored over the sample textbooks and materials that were presented as options. We looked for the qualities we knew to be best standards of practice in science education and we did this based on our experiences in parenting and science. Did we see every lesson? No. Could we be sure that the curricula we endorsed based on the materials provided was free from bias? Again, no. While involving active and willing community members in the selection process is an important step in validating the curriculum, it isn’t enough. The core curriculum selection process must be specific and include direction for selecting materials that are fully accessible and free from bias, in addition to aligning with standards. Then, in recognition that supplemental materials are becoming more commonplace, and at times replacing textbooks, teachers must be expected and empowered to use the same criteria for selecting their materials as well.
6) What are the top economic issues affecting Black and other marginalized peoples of today? What economic policies would you prioritize in order to improve life for marginalized people in our community? Have you done any work in the past to address these or other economic issues affecting people of color?
The top economic issues facing Black and other marginalized peoples are affordable housing and income inequity. These issues have roots in historical disparities that were systematically perpetuated by zoning policies as well as overt racism. To overcome these disparities, we must begin to think inclusively about new ways to define landuse and housing markets. We must establish minimum living wages that ensure an equitable quality of life for everyone, regardless of their color or neighborhood. I have not worked specifically on economic issues in the past.
7) What role do you think local government needs to play in improving the physical and mental health of black people and other people of color? What specific issues around the intersection of race and health do you believe need to be addressed? Tell us how your policies would affect these issues and describe any past experience you have in this area.
The health and wellness of the people is a responsibility of government. Whether it is protecting people from pollution and degradation of our environment and neighborhoods or providing access to healthcare, food, and safe places to work and play. Health disparities occur when some populations have more access to opportunities and resources over generations (see www.countyhealthrankings.org ). In Indiana, the county health ranking data make these unjust and avoidable differences in health very clear. As a group “blacks are less healthy than those living in the bottom ranked county,” so while Monroe County is in the top 25% of counties for length and quality of life, these data don’t show the same health outcomes for blacks, regardless of where they live. This is an injustice and it is systemic. It will not right itself, and the government is responsible for its correction. Specifically, Monroe County must support efforts to improve access to care, increase educational and economic opportunities for people of color and other vulnerable populations. This requires some very difficult, but critically important conversations. In my work at Indiana University, I have trained government employees on how to identify health disparities and implement programs to alleviate these disparities in their agencies.
8) What challenges do Black and other people of color face as renters or homebuyers? How do current policies or norms preserve past policies of discrimination on the basis of race, and what can be done to change these policies or norms? Similarly, are there any instances of discrimination specific to our historical moment, and how would you work to change those?
There are unwritten norms in the lending, selling, and developing markets that have roots in more formalized policies of the past. Policies such as redlining defined how our cities and neighborhoods took shape over decades. The effects of these policies are still felt as we look at largely segregated communities across the country. As recently as ten years ago, the mortgage industry’s complicit adoption of policies that allowed expansive lending to those who did not have adequate collateral had devastating effects for many Americans, disproportionately so for Black Americans and Black neighborhoods. After an interminable history of intentionally excluding people of color from opportunities for home ownership and community development, we must focus revitalization efforts on programs and geographic areas that are intentionally inclusive. The time has come for a more concerted effort in the economic development of these neglected communities.
9) How does gentrification contribute to the lack of affordable housing in Monroe County? How will your policies impact the availability of affordable housing? What will you do to prevent homelessness and other crises caused by gentrification?
When redevelopment results in rising rent costs and an inability of those who are working in our city to live in that same city, we have succumbed to gentrification’s assault on affordable housing. Bloomington’s 90% occupancy rate and the relative wealth brought by the university and other sources all contribute to an environment wrought with obstacles for fair and equitable housing policy. When on Council, I will support innovative ways to house those already experiencing homelessness and displacement, including transitional housing communities and permanent affordable housing that is connected to public transportation. I will support strategic and smart development that aligns workforce housing with transportation and food, health, and recreational resources that support whole communities.
10) How do you define privilege? How has privilege impacted decisions you have made as an elected official, or if you are running for the first time, as an engaged community member? If you are elected, how will you use your privilege to assist black and brown communities?
Privilege is the advantage granted by dominant societal norms to those whose power keeps those norms intact. Privilege is that seemingly innate power that is wielded like a wand rather than a sword – casting a spell of illegitimacy.
Privilege is what allows me to be able to run for office. I have said this several times over the course of my campaign. I simply would not be able to participate at this level if I didn’t have the social supports that have defined my life: upper-middle class upbringing; post-graduate education; fully employed spouse. All of these stem from the social status of my parents, and their parents – educated, involved, financially comfortable at our humblest and wealthy in their retirement.
When elected, I will use my voice to speak to others and for others; but most importantly, I will use my power to engage black and brown people in their communities.