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District 5 council election: Jason Lawhorn in his own words

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1. What is the most important issue affecting your district in particular? How would you fix it?

The COVID-19 pandemic is the most important issue facing our district and entire community. We must ensure the safety of all citizens while making smart fiscal decisions to minimize the impact to our city budget.

2. The effects of the pandemic have left the city’s financial stability in question. How can the city take steps to shore up its finances? If necessary, how would you approach a decision between cutting services or raising taxes?

I voted in support of expediting our financial reports to get accurate data for proper decision making, supported cutting all non-essential spending, projects and part time personnel, and voted to eliminate the rate stabilization adjustment for 2020. These measures, along with the reduction in utility purchase and $1.15 million from the CARES Act, has reduced the city shortfall by approximately $9 million. I will continue to work with staff to maintain quality services while identifying creative ways to save money.

3. How should the city approach development in a way that balances the growing population of students with the needs of residents?

Data from the Rental Needs Assessment, along with the growth of the University, indicates we don’t have enough student housing. I have met with University leaders and they agree more dorm rooms are needed and they have discussed plans to build more. I will follow up on these discussions. We also have an opportunity to reduce the tax burden on our residents by supporting additional student housing downtown. Replacing older, unsafe homes with new student housing in areas currently populated by students increases the tax base and absorbs the student demand, creating a market more amenable to housing for downsizing seniors and families.

4. What specific steps should council take to improve the city’s relationship with UD?

During my first term, I supported council decisions to engage with the University on mutually beneficial projects, such as the Pomeroy Connector Trail and new park at the Rodney dorm site. We should continue to work together when it makes sense. For more difficult issues, it’s important for the City and University to maintain open communication. I have encouraged that open dialogue with our City Manager, personally met with University leadership, and attended board of trustee meetings in an effort to support positive collaboration. I will continue to do so.

5. What qualities or skills set you apart from the other candidate?

I have a strong background in problem solving and organizational management – and a love for our city. Public service and community involvement are extremely important to me – I proudly served as a member of the United States Navy, I have volunteered as a little league coach for the past decade – serving as Vice President of the league for four years, and last year, I joined the Newark Morning Rotary. Being a council person isn’t a part-time job relegated to weekly meetings – it means participating in events, talking with neighbors, and working closely with staff to constantly identify opportunities to improve our community. If re-elected, I will continue to dedicate the time, energy and effort required to best represent my district.

6. Name one specific piece of legislation you would like to see council pass within the first three months of your term.

Reducing water rates for residents to offset a small customer charge to the water bill will be a net zero change for the average resident but will ensure all water customers pay for the infrastructure to feed their property. This will be most beneficial to the city when students vacate the city for summer, or for pandemic related reasons. Instead of a $0 balance water bill, the customer charge will ensure their infrastructure is being paid for and not subsidized by full time residents. This best practice is recommended by staff and will reduce our dependence on water consumption to fund our budget.

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