ON THE ISSUES
- The city can do a better job reaching out and listening. A Lynchburg citizens survey from 2017 showed that 92 percent of residents agree that the Lynchburg community should prioritize “Treating all residents fairly and equally regardless of race or any other factor.” But the results also show that only 48 percent of minorities and 59 percent of women believe Lynchburg is making progress towards this value of equal treatment. This disparity between values and lived experience shows a clear disconnect between Lynchburg’s government and its people.
- For many years, the city has had a goal of increasing engagement on boards and commissions, but several important boards, such as the Economic Development Authority and the Greater Lynchburg Transit Company meet at 8:30 a.m. on weekdays. The city should change the meeting times of these boards to the evening so regular folks can participate. These boards should also offer greater transparency to give people easy access to information regarding how the city invests money for economic development.
- We have departments all over the city that have cut back as far as they can. We have done as much as we can to conserve the resources available. When city built the new Heritage High School, the budget included new science equipment. As chair for the Linkhorne Middle School Science Department, Katie drove back and forth across the city with microscopes and glassware to rescue and reuse Heritage’s old equipment.
- Katie is grateful for the new Sandusky Middle School and the new Heritage High School because they filled long standing needs. A recent article in The News & Advance highlighted conditions across the city, including several schools needing roof replacement and elementary schools without gymnasiums. These are community buildings, which we should maintain for use by both students and community organizations.
- Facing a 24 percent poverty rate that touches every ward in the city, Lynchburg’s leaders need to understand the community’s needs to formulate good solutions. We have a disconnect between the city and many of its residents. Sometimes people do not realize that resources from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors are already available. Holding meetings and expecting people to come, particularly those we’re trying to reach, is less effective than going out and talking to them. Conversations at the door and at the grocery store are where we can really make a difference.
- We need to make sure the people on the Poverty to Progress committees have the support they need to reach out for those conversations, which includes applying for state and federal grants. The city should learn from the successes and failures of existing poverty initiatives, such as Richmond’s Office of Community Wealth Building. That program received grant money to fund community outreach and is producing annual reports to track success and additional needs.
- After meeting the police officers who patrolled her neighborhood a few years ago, Katie exchanged contact information with them. Having open dialogue with the officers who routinely patrolled her neighborhood was incredible for her family. Unfortunately, those officers left after a few years, a common occurrence in Lynchburg. Due to changes in how the police department staffs officers, we’ve lost communication between the community and the police, which is undermining trust.
- Katie spent several years working in financial services, which included selling property insurance. When first responders take longer to get to your home or business, your property insurance rates are more expensive. Unfortunately, Lynchburg’s property insurance rates could rise if we don’t properly fund both police and fire and make sure they have the resources they need. If it comes down to taking this risk with her family or paying these workers, Katie would much rather invest in our first responders.
- Lynchburg had cutting edge infrastructure a century ago, and we have certainly gotten our money’s worth. As we look to replace pipes under our roads and aging public buildings, Lynchburg must seek state and federal monies whenever available. When the city applies for grants, it is critical that we take a citywide view, prioritizing projects to ensure that we are addressing the actual needs of Lynchburg’s residents. We simply cannot defer long-overdue infrastructure replacement.
- Katie is concerned by the lack of lighted crosswalks along Rivermont Avenue below Riverside Park, the 12th Street corridor, Fort Avenue, and Old Forest Road. Other than near the library and in the central business district, we have very few lighted crosswalks. As we undertake construction projects in these areas, we should incorporate pedestrian safety upgrades.