SPRINGDALE — Mark Fougerousse and Derek Van Voast are running to represent Ward 4, the northeast and central parts of the city, on the City Council.
The incumbent, Kathy Jaycox, announced last month she’s moving out of the ward and will no longer be eligible to represent it on the council.
The position is nonpartisan. Council members meet twice a month and earn $900 monthly regardless of attendance.
The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette emailed the same questions to the candidates. Their responses are below. Candidates were limited to 200 words per answer. Responses more than 200 words were ended as close to the limit as possible.
QUESTION: Many have called lately for Springdale to become more inclusive of its many diverse communities. Do you agree with the goal? If not, why? If yes, how should the city accomplish it?
Fougerousse: Springdale is a very diverse community. I agree that people of all cultures that make up this great town should get involved. We are all in this together to make Springdale what it is. There are some that will be positive in their approach, and then there are some that approach things negatively. Then there are many that just want to live their lives and not be bothered. Springdale is a large city, by Arkansas standards, but it still has a small, hometown feel that is a draw for many.
I would love to see Springdale continue to have different events that showcase the different cultures that live here. There should be even more, and make sure that the events are open and welcoming for all.
Van Voast: A successful community is inclusive, one that celebrates diversity. Failing communities are exclusive and reject diversity. One of our main strengths in Springdale is our beautiful diversity of cultures. In my life, I have been able to be a part of some successful teams, from being a Razorback football player to being a coach at several Northwest Arkansas high schools. In each of these situations, I helped young people utilize their strengths and work together, and we won championships.
I believe that Springdale’s strength is not being utilized to its full potential because of the exclusiveness and divisive nature of the current status quo leadership. We are not allowing Springdale’s star to shine. Springdale doesn’t have a “one culture” population. Unfortunately, its city council does. When I was encouraged to run for office, I had no idea what a learning experience this would be. Through events I have sponsored and individual conversations I have had, I have heard real problems from real people of Springdale … hunger, joblessness, no access to health care, no hope for the future.
It is time for a change. I want to provide real solutions. Status quo is no longer acceptable. I welcome the opportunity to be that change.
QUESTION: As the city grows and land prices escalate, more developers are proposing multifamily housing projects. Do you support the growth in this type of housing? Why or why not?
Van Voast: Adequate and affordable housing is always one of the largest issues growing communities must address. Without enough available residences, those who do not make enough money to afford the ever-rising real estate prices are forced to settle for less-than-acceptable solutions, multifamily single housing and unhealthy living conditions. Multifamily housing is needed and is a necessary part of the growth of a community. Our neighboring communities are experiencing these same issues because of rapid growth of Northwest Arkansas.
In Springdale, we have the opportunity to be a success story in these efforts. It will take foresight and wisdom to envision and create communities that are both financially available and pleasing enough to attract a diverse cross-section of homeowners and renters. It will take compromise and a commitment to develop a plan that will help the whole community prosper.
This isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition. There will always be wealthy enclaves of the “haves”… that is part of the process of becoming successful in America. There does not, however, have to be enclaves of the ‘have nots.” Our focus must be to create a balance where desirable living spaces are available for those with less available money.
Fougerousse: Absolutely. From duplexes, quadplexes, to apartment complexes. Multifamily housing not only adds to the type of locations available (choices); it also makes more housing available. Not everyone wants a large yard, or even any yard, to have to maintain. With the rapid growth here, Springdale needs more housing. Springdale is too diverse to say there is the one size, style or kind of housing the city will have or allow. Some people want to live out in the woods in their own secluded single-family home, others on a farm or neighborhood. Then there are some that don’t want to be far away from others and like the close proximity to friends and family.
Also, many large-scale developers and small builders can benefit by having the opportunity to build more housing, which means employing many hard working ‘blue collar’ workers who are trying to provide for themselves and their families.These new housing projects also raise the property values, which in turn brings money to the county and city. Allowing this money to go into the city’s budget to pay for additional infrastructure for the growth and also the maintenance of what is already there.
QUESTION: What is the most important challenge facing Springdale right now? How would you tackle it?
Fougerousse: Highways and byways. With the rapid growth of Springdale that has mostly been since the 1990s, the addition of roads and highways has been outrun by vehicle traffic growth. Additional east-west corridors, bypass routes, etc., are needed. Planning for the future, having a long term vision of the possibilities and getting things in place before the neighborhoods take over available spaces and land. Get the roads in place and then the neighborhoods and businesses will follow.
Van Voast: I believe the most important challenges facing Springdale right now are “growing pains.” Growing communities are always faced with new challenges. The community can accept status quo, or it can embrace the clear, obvious need for change. We must welcome change and embrace it with the understanding that unless there is a willingness to try new tactics, policies and paths, the community will wither and die. The whole world is facing challenges. From physical and mental health issues to education and employment, people of the world — as well as Springdale — need hope.
This need for hope has been reinforced in my campaign by the conversations I have daily with the citizens of our community. I want to help provide more equitable solutions to these challenges that are fair to a majority of the population, instead of policies that only cater to a small, exclusive percentage of the population. The people of Springdale are good people. Most of them want what is best for themselves, as well as their whole community.
I know what “community” can accomplish when it works together. With effective and compassionate leadership, Springdale can live up to its potential. I want to be a voice for that vision.
Laurinda Joenks can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @NWALaurinda.