Fayetteville Ward 1 candidates discuss creativity, community at forum

Posted: September 5, 2018 at 1:04 a.m.

Kris Paxton (from left), Olivia Trimble and Sonia Gutierrez.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Creativity is the key to finding solutions for the issues ailing the city, and residents on the southern end of town have a uniquely strong reputation for banding together, three City Council candidates said Tuesday.

The Chamber of Commerce began hosting a series of candidate forums this week at the Fayetteville Public Library. Ward 1 candidates Kris Paxton, Olivia Trimble and Sonia Gutierrez kicked things off at the municipal level. Current Ward 1 Council Member Adella Gray is not running for re-election.

Web watch

To watch the full forum online, go to livestream.com/faylib and look under past events.

Source: Staff report

Ward 1 covers most of the southern half of the city, including 15th Street, South School Avenue, Huntsville Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Notable landmarks include Walker Park, Lake Sequoyah, Kessler Mountain Regional Park, Fayetteville High School and Ramay Junior High.

Paxton, 33, is technical services manager for Springdale's Engineering Department and northwest representative of the Arkansas Floodplain Management Association.

Trimble, 32, is a sign painter and community organizer who has created several murals across Northwest Arkansas.

Gutierrez, 44, is a graphic designer and founder of New Design School on the downtown square.

Paxton said positivity is driving his campaign. Trimble spoke of the need to bolster community engagement. Gutierrez touted her professional and educational experience.

Questions from the audience focused on offsetting homelessness and poverty, the future of the city's public housing, preserving older neighborhoods in the face of new development and the city's long-term plan for energy use and sustainability.

Paxton said the city needs to do more to afford women the same employment opportunities as men, and should start by setting an example. The city's human resources policy on equal opportunity is antiquated and needs revisions to encourage the hiring of more women and minorities, he said.

Paxton suggested creating a full-time position in the city for someone to actively recruit a more diverse population of employees.

"We need a policy in place that is longer than one page from our HR department," he said. "We have parks programs, we have master plans -- we have so many plans in Fayetteville that are so much more in detail than our HR 2.0 policy."

Trimble said she has played an active role in trying to reshape public housing in the city, particularly with Willow Heights. The public-housing complex at 10 S. Willow Ave. is under contract to be sold, and the City Council recently intervened to recommend changes to the Housing Authority's policies.

A community-led campaign to buy new air-conditioning units for the complex raised more than $15,000 in four days, an effort Trimble said she helped organize. Complicated situations can sometimes have simple solutions, she added.

"It's very easy for me, where we live, to plug people in," she said. "I think for every one of us, whether we're on council, or we're sitting in the audience, or we're sitting at home watching a live stream, it's very easy to get to know your neighbors at Morgan or Hillcrest or Lewis or Willow Heights and directly ask what they need."

Gutierrez said she sees encouraging landlords to accept housing vouchers as a a low-hanging fruit in helping solve homelessness. She mentioned the encampment of people living in tents on land the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville owns who will have to move out this week.

The city should make property owners expanding housing opportunities for low-income residents part of its branding effort, Gutierrez said.

"People have unfortunately perished with a voucher in their hand because a landlord wasn't willing to take the voucher," she said. "That's an easy, progressive, bold thing I can actively work for."

City Council members earn $12,504 annually for their time and serve four-year terms.

The nonpartisan election is Nov. 6.

NW News on 09/05/2018