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NAME: Pete Gillespie
CANDIDATE FOR: Huntington City Council District 2 (West Huntington from 1st Street to 17th Street West between the Ohio River and Van Buren and Jackson Avenues; also includes a small portion of West Huntington from West 28th to 17th streets.)
HOME CITY: Huntington
HOME COUNTY: Cabell
EDUCATION: High School
CURRENT OFFICE OR OCCUPATION: Upholstery Business, Tradesman/Craftsman,
OTHER WORK HISTORY: Former Huntington City Councilman, Real estate investments, upholstery Pattern design @ Kings, Nashville Tennessee, Craftsman @ Zollinger, St. Louis. Missouri, Kustom Kraft upholstery.
CIVIC ORGANIZATIONS: former Vice President of the West Huntington Organization, former chairman of the Huntington storm water committee, former member, Huntington Personnel committee. former city councilman for Huntington’s West End.
FAMILY: Wife, Sarah Nowak; children, Tristen Gillespie, Reese Gillespie, Abagail Gillespie.
PERSONAL STATEMENT: Separation of government even at local levels, it's been my experience there has been those on city council that look at the chief executor as if he/she was there leader that by disagreeing with the chief executor/executive branch that they would feel unpopular or somehow rogue to other members of council/legislative branch. I promise, I will always be my own man, no one from the legislative/executive branches can send me to city hall, nor can they send me home, only voters from my district can do that. I agree to disagree, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
1. What are your suggestions for the long-term financing of Huntington's government
Regressive revenue, User Fee’s, B&O Taxes and municipal fees are regressive. User Fee collects 8.3 million, B&O taxes collect 13 million and municipal Fee’s collect 5 million dollars every year, and are key to Huntington's budget. We must replace them with Progressive equitable revenue, such as a 1% income tax capped at 100k.
2. What are the most important problems in your district?
West Huntington has perhaps been hit the hardest by the drug problem; abandoned houses that need demolishing, petty theft and property crimes, homelessness, and low property value all create an overall feel of decay. It sounds bleak I know but West Huntington is ripe for investment and revitalization and I believe with the right stimulus West Huntington can recover.
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?
I would write an ordinance of council creating a ‘’Recycling Program Committee’’ whose job would explore the pros and cons of such a program, the best way to pay for the program and the social benefits/economic impact received by said program. The committee will then report its recommendation, as favorably or unfavorably, whereas council will then proceed appropriately.
4. What more needs to be done to encourage new housing construction in the city?
There were about 22 homes built last year, roughly 15 habitat homes and 7 private homes. We must make Huntington feel safe, clean, good streets, curbs, and sidewalks. We need jobs paying livable wages and relief from nuisance fees so people will build here because people don’t want to live in areas where the above does not exist.
5. How would you continue to fight the opioid epidemic? Do you support the harm reduction program?
I would work with treatment programs focused on our residents in recovery and sponsor an ordinance of council creating a Harm Reduction Committee made up of Health professionals, recovering addicts, and members of the public. It’s objective to examine the effects of needle exchange in relationship to the health of drug addicts and the health/safety of the general public.
6. What more could be done to help tear down dilapidated houses?
We really need to intervene before homes get into deplorable condition. We need to invest in love your block type programs and work to protect historic areas. Continued allocation of 200k in CDBG moneys should keep us on track in the fight to tear down dilapidated structures. No it won’t happen overnight but we will get there.
7. How will you address Huntington’s dwindling population?
We must have a progressive city government revenue, where people feel they're actually getting what they pay for. We need to invest in love your block type programs, beautification projects, public safety initiatives, good streets/curbs and sidewalks, and livable wage jobs because that’s what people want. Make that happen and one people won’t leave and two people will settle here.
8. How will you continue to encourage the decrease in crime throughout the city?
Well people commit crimes for a reason. We have a drug problem and about 27% of people living in Huntington are in poverty. So we must start from the roots of our problems and try to improve our community, staff our police, clean up our city, and avoid taking on problems we don’t need,
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?
Police base salary may be a little low $41,260. Police receive good benefits, you can be 40 years old and apply. Almost half Huntington’s budget is dedicated to Police/Fire departments. Application data suggests the Police department received 271 applicants, 54 showed up for physical ability test. 43 completed the written test, 24 advanced, so I suggest reviewing the process/base pay.
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?
Oh yes, no question about that. They should be online and follow the state model.