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NAME: Jeff Ward
CANDIDATE FOR: Huntington City Council District 4 (includes Harveytown and a small portion of the South Hills area above Ritter Park; also includes parts of the Southside west of 8th Street.)
CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: www.electjeffward.com
HOME CITY: Huntington
HOME COUNTY: Cabell
EDUCATION: Masters – Marshall University
CURRENT OFFICE OR OCCUPATION: Retired – Sales Management
OTHER WORK HISTORY: TruGreen, US House of Representatives, US District Court DC Circuit
CIVIC ORGANIZATIONS: Southside Neighborhood Organization, Southside Alliance, Knights of Columbus
FAMILY: three adult children, one grandchild and one on the way
PERSONAL STATEMENT: I’m running for city council to make Huntington the place it was when I grew up here. It was safe, vibrant, and on the move. My district is by far one of the most beautiful areas of the city. The blight that has impacted the far ends of the city for years is knocking on our doors and breaking into our cars. We have to stop this spread of vagrancy and crime before it’s too late. I have real solutions to address these issues and the business experience to provide the mayor and other council members with the tools that are needed to do the job.
1. What are your suggestions for the long term financing of Huntington’s government?
Grow the economy not the city government. A third of city residents live in poverty, barely 50% participate in the labor force, and 6.4% decline in population since the 2010 census, growing city government is unsustainable. For example, 2018 actual spending was $49,794,861. 2020 approved spending, $60,670,538. Is Huntington $10,875,857 Safer? Cleaner? Competitive in the region? What has the $10,875,847 gotten us? It’s unsustainable.
2. What are the most important problems in your district?
Property crime is rampant. Vacant and abandoned buildings are a growing concern and with them transient tourists and vagrants. Available police and fire. Inadequate infrastructure, street flooding, viaduct flooding. Decreasing property values and an exodus of home owners. These problems have plagued other parts of the city for years and they’re on our doorstep.
3. Should the city bring back a curbside recycling program?
I support this service if the economics of it make sense.
4. What more needs to be done to encourage new housing construction in the city?
Make the city safer, cleaner and it’s government more attuned to property owners and spur the economy for job growth.
5. How would you continue to fight the opioid epidemic?
We have an epidemic of lawlessness. Opioids are but one facet. I think Huntington needs, help from our legislature. For instance, we need the tool of involuntary commitment in a safe, secure, state hospital for those drug users who have committed no other criminal act. Kentucky has this capability in state code. It’s a tool that is needed here.
6. What could be done to tear down more dilapidated houses?
Make it a real priority instead of window dressing. For example, around 100 structures were torn down last year with over 700 on the list to be demolished. I’d imagine there are more than 700 others that haven’t made it to the list. It has not been a high priority and it needs to be as it’s a quality of life issue in the neighborhoods.
7. How would you address Huntington’s dwindling population?
Make Huntington safer, cleaner and more responsive to property owners, people will come. It’s a beautiful city.
8. How will you continue to encourage the decrease in crime throughout the city?
I don’t think it’s decreased. I think it’s rampant in certain parts of the city. I think if the city uses numbers to suggest otherwise, it’s because people have given up calling for police - they won’t come because there aren’t enough of them. The scanner traffic is pretty constant, day in and day out. Fully deploy the 111 sworn officers approved by council. Unleash them and let them be police.
9. Do you think staffing levels for the city’s police and fire departments are adequate, too low, too high?
Too low for both departments. Recruitment and retention need to be made a higher priority. Barely 85 police officers available for duty. 111 budgeted for. With injuries, deployments and retirements, we’ve not been able to keep up. A sense that these two departments are a cornerstone to a prosperous, growing, healthy Huntington needs to be demonstrated by council and the mayor.
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?
Yes. Transparency and accountability are key to keeping the public’s trust.
NEW GENERAL ELECTION QUESTIONS
11. How would you address the problems with litter and loose trash in the district?
It can be a problem in the alleys. But I think people are generally very responsible. Our problem with it does not begin to rival other parts of the city.
12. Do you support rehabilitation housing in your district? Why or why not?
No. Rehabilitation is a business and should be regulated by zoning, building and safety code compliance, and regulatory oversight.
13. What more can be done to encourage businesses to open in the city?
First focus on making Huntington safer, cleaner and easy to start a business. Second, incentivize technology and similar industries to relocate. Third, find a plan to eliminate user fees and make people want to work in town again.
14. What more could be done to promote an inclusive environment as part of the city’s “Open to All” campaign?
The "Open To All" Campaign is a revenue positive solution for the city and highlights the welcoming spirit Huntington is known for. We should encourage all groups who want to come to our city to do so, and also find better ways to communicate these endeavors to local business owners so they can reach out proactively to these groups.