1. Given the strong mayoral system established by our City Charter, what can Councilmembers do to address the crime problem?
The City Council can require that the criminal justice agencies provide strategic plans containing timelines, goals and accountability measures before approving funding for programs. Funding must be linked to verifiable outcomes. This information must be available for public inspection, to ensure public support and trust in the programs.
Priority must be given to programs that target prosecution of violent and repeat offenders. For the Council to fund only proven programs, the Mayor must agree to this targeted funding. I will seek immediately to pass an ordinance calling for an amendment to the Home Rule Charter to allow the council to target funding to proven programs.
The Council must continue to work with and fund the Vera Institute of Justice, an independent center for justice policy and practice, which has worked with the Council and the criminal justice agencies since 2007 to reform our criminal justice system. Numerous Vera Institute recommendations have already been successfully implemented, including increased cooperation between the NOPD and the DA's office and expediting the time between arrest and the formal charging of a person with a crime.
The Criminal Justice Committee of the City Council can continue to be actively engaged with the leaders of the criminal justice agencies to work toward improvement of the system.
The Council, by unanimous vote, can fire an underperforming police chief.
2. Would you support any level of decriminalization of drugs? If so, in what form?
No. The focus of the criminal justice system must be on the suppliers and violent drug offenders. The District Attorney has not called for any decriminalization of drugs. Rather, with the goal of freeing up prosecutors' time to focus on more serious cases, he has proposed that many first offense marijuana cases be handled in municipal court, rather than criminal court. He has also worked toward sending more drug misdemeanor, non-violent offenders through the DA's diversion program to receive drug treatment in exchange for not being prosecuted. I agree with the DA that we must take the drug problem seriously, or the drug problems, and the crimes associated with them, will continue to escalate.
3. How do you propose to improve communication and cooperation between the Mayor's Office and City Council regarding such issues as adoption and oversight of the budget, supervision of Department heads, etc?
I immediately will work to obtain the full Council's agreement to make communication and cooperation with the new Mayor a priority. The Mayor has broader powers under the Home Rule Charter and must share this goal for it to be reached. I will work to establish a good working relationship between the Mayor and the Council, such that ideas are vetted and all constituents' positions are considered carefully.
Presently, the Council has only thirty days from the time that the Mayor presents the proposed budget to hold hearings with all departments and produce a balanced budget. I will seek an amendment to the Charter to expand that time period so that the Mayor, the Council and the department heads can work more methodically together. I will also seek an amendment to the Charter to require line item budgeting and to permit line item appropriation, so that the funds going to particular purposes and programs are clearly identified and funding can be targeted to specific needs.
In 2007, the City adopted Budgeting for Outcomes, a performance-based budgeting procedure that promotes inclusiveness in the budgeting process and improves the accountability and performance of government programs. The goal of Budgeting for Outcomes is to focus the city's resources on the results that the citizens have stated are their priorities. This procedure has not been followed. I will work with the Mayor and Council to fully implement Budgeting for Outcomes.
I will call for department heads to produce annual reports of their activities in accordance with the Charter. This and the above budget oversight changes will result in department heads being more responsive to the Council and the public.
4. What are your priorities for your District?
Reducing crime using the strategies stated above. Protecting and improving our neighborhoods. I will continue the District A Neighborhood Presidents' Council. I will support funding and completion of the Master Plan and revamping of the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance. I will seek to make code enforcement self-funding by supporting initial adequate funding for inspectors, blight hearings and enforcement of fines. Adequate enforcement will increase voluntary compliance. I will work to streamline the process to get blighted properties back into commerce through sheriff's sales. I will support funding of a Pavement Management System that will contain all data on infrastructure needs, will use objective and consistent criteria to determine maintenance and repair priorities, and will be available online for public scrutiny.
Economic development. I will support funding of the Public Private Partnership. I will encourage growth of the Green Industry.