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NAME: Omar Ahmad
CANDIDATE FOR: Huntington City Council At-Large (At-Large candidates are elected by all Huntington voters.)
HOME CITY: Huntington
HOME COUNTY: Cabell
EDUCATION: B.A., Marshall University; J.D., West Virginia University.
CURRENT OFFICE OR OCCUPATION: Attorney
CIVIC ORGANIZATIONS: Gro Huntington Board of Directors (2016-2019); Huntington Human Relations Commission.
FAMILY: wife, Lacey Cyfers; dog Nilla, cats Sookie and Baby Kitty.
PERSONAL STATEMENT: If elected to City Council, my goal is to further the city's efforts to make Huntington a desirable place to work and live. Our city continues to lose residents, but I believe we are on the right track. We need to develop plans that grow jobs and opportunities that will keep our people in the city and attract others to Huntington. We also need to maintain the decrease in crime and help our neighbors who are struggling with addiction. Our community is amazing, we just need to build upon that foundation for the benefit of our city.
1. What are your suggestions for the long-term financing of Huntington's government?
The B&O tax generates the most revenue for the city, so we should explore ways to reduce business licensing and permit fees to draw new businesses and stimulate existing businesses. Also, Huntington is an ideal place to implement a public scooter or bike rental program similar to those established in metropolitan areas of the U.S.
2. What are the most important problems in your district (or city for mayor and at-large council candidates)?
The most important problems currently facing Huntington are population decrease and opioid abuse. We should continue to support local treatment initiatives for our residents who are struggling with addiction. We should also develop community-specific prevention programs that address the social issues that typically lead to substance abuse.
3. Should the city bring back a curbside recycling program? If so, should it be funded with a levy vote or by expanding the county's program?
We should bring back the curbside recycling program by expanding the county's program. However, this expansion should be limited initially. We should utilize the data collected by the city to designate communities for probationary curbside service and mobile recycling unit sites. The response to this trial period can be used to modify the program based on need and participation.
4. What more needs to be done to encourage new housing construction in the city?
New housing construction is only feasible if we can stop the flow of people leaving our city for opportunities elsewhere. People will remain in Huntington if there are jobs in Huntington. If we enact policies that help existing businesses, attract new businesses and foster entrepreneurial opportunities, we will keep our residents home and bring in new residents.
5. How would you continue to fight the opioid epidemic? Do you support the harm reduction program?
I support the harm reduction program, it provides essential services for the vulnerable in our community. We need to continue to support opioid treatment programs in our city, but also formulate substance abuse prevention plans. This includes identifying specific needs in each of our communities and developing programs that address those needs, such as after-school programs and education.
6. What more could be done to help tear down dilapidated houses?
We can increase the funding and capacity of the city's Code Enforcement Unit. Also, by improving Huntington's business climate, we will create more jobs and the need for more new housing in the city. This will lead to more development of areas of our community with dilapidated and neglected buildings.
7. How will you address Huntington’s dwindling population?
We have to improve Huntington's job market. In addition to incentivizing businesses, we need to promote vocational education opportunities. Quite simply, the more careers our city has to offer, the fewer people will leave looking for careers elsewhere. We must also continue the city's efforts to make Huntington a more open and welcoming place for everybody to live.
8. How will you continue to encourage the decrease in crime throughout the city?
We need to continue to provide for the needs of our police and fire departments in our budget. We should also do what we can to support partnerships among our neighborhood organizations and associations. This will allow our communities to efficiently implement measures such as neighborhood watch programs and criminal activity alerts.
9. Do you think staffing levels for the city’s police and fire departments are adequate, too low or too high? If you think changes are needed, how would you accomplish those?
I believe the staffing levels for our fire and police departments are adequate. Violent crime rates continue to decline and our firefighters do an excellent job responding to emergencies when needed. We can build on this progress by strengthening our partnerships with other law enforcement agencies and neighborhood organizations.
10. The state of WV government recently put all finances and purchases online for the public’s review. Do you support a similar thing happening in Huntington?
I support this effort. Government is more effective when it is made accountable through transparency.