WILMINGTON — Kimberly Spader is running for one of three contested seats on Wilmington City Council. All of the council seats are ‘at-large,’ and represent all areas of the city.
Note: Candidate interviews are published largely without editing (besides minor typographical corrections) and without limits on length. All council candidates received the same questions, which appear in bold with answers in italics below.
Affordable housing: One of the most common concerns we hear from readers is the need for affordable housing. Is the city doing enough to address the issue? If not, what specific plans would you suggest?
This is an issue that will involve many different angles. My first plan is education on what “affordable” is. We are living in affordable housing if our housing costs are 30% or less than our income. I believe many people are finding themselves in unaffordable situations and really don’t know. If we can get the word out about how being cost-burdened is a threat to our mental and physical health and help people understand the risk factors, that will be a good start toward developing some real solutions.
As a social worker, it is very much ingrained in me that we as individuals have the best solutions for our particular set of circumstances, and that once we uncover what the underlying issue is and we have access to support, we come up with a wide variety of creative, long term solutions. As a person, I have seen government attempt to solve problems without the full involvement of the folks with the problems and waste a lot of time and money. What I want to do is identify workable solutions with the community, identify where rules and regulations are getting in their way, as well as offer financial support and education to make those solutions a reality.
Mass transportation: WAVE is in financial crisis and, by some accounts, fails to adequately connect low-income areas with workplaces efficiently (sometimes called a ‘last mile’ problem). Some have suggested cutting back services, others have called for more local support for WAVE. Where do you stand, and what would you like to see public transportation look like in the Wilmington area?
I believe it is the responsibility of a city to offer reliable, functional public transportation for those who do not have access to a car. This will allow those folks to get needs like appointments, food, banking, and many will have access to employment. It is also a smart financial decision to make the transportation user-friendly and efficient, because that will be the most likely way to have tourists and “nondependent” riders access it, which has been shown in other cities to cover the costs of the whole system. We will also want to invest in infrastructure to cover alternative forms of transportation, so that folks who prefer to ride bikes, skateboard, rollerblade, electric scooter — whatever alternative transportation you can imagine — have a safe way to navigate the city.
Employment – What are your thoughts on Wilmington’s job scene? Are you satisfied with the way incentives have been used in the past? What other specific plans would you suggest to bring jobs to the area — and what kinds of jobs would you like to see here?
We will need to evolve with the times, younger people are now running the companies we hope to attract. If we develop the kind of city that makes sense for a young person, an energy-efficient city with a robust public transit system and affordable housing as well as a vibrant cultural scene with educational opportunities and good public schools, companies will want to come.
Downtown: Wilmington has paid special attention to its downtown area in terms of incentives, police presence, marketing, and other services (including those provided by WDI). What are your thoughts on the current state of downtown. Are there any specific changes you’d like to see in the downtown area?
I would like to see violent crime better addressed by acknowledging the problem and making a clear plan to address the issue.
Development: There’s been a lot of discussion about how development has taken place in Wilmington. Are you satisfied with that process? Is there anything about it you’d like to change?
I would like to see more environmentally responsible development, to include maintaining more trees, green spaces, smaller footprint and inclusion of alternative energy such as solar panels. I would like to see some cultural centers also involved, perhaps a local museum of Wilmington’s rich and sometimes violent history, I would love a natural science museum with revolving exhibits and a planetarium. Of course, affordable housing and a safe space for alternative forms of transportation as well.
Green space/trees: Every city approaches its green spaces and urban canopy differently. What are your thoughts on Wilmington’s approach? What changes, if any, would you make?
Trees are fundamental in our air quality, management of flooding and the aesthetic of a community. I would like to see those facts appreciated.
Environmental concerns: Could Wilmington do more to address environmental concerns? If so, what, specifically, would you suggest?
As it seems this will not be addressed nationally, cities are going to have to take climate change more seriously. We should be setting benchmarks every year to get our carbon footprint down.
Opioid epidemic – What are your thoughts on the city’s efforts to combat the opioid crisis? Anything specific you would change, encourage, avoid?
Addiction is a collision of many factors, one that I have personal interest in is addressing mental health. We should be making sure that all young people have access to mental health supports, and are educated on possible signs that our mental health isn’t well managed.
Jim Crow-era monuments: The two ‘Confederate monuments’ in downtown Wilmington — erected in 1911 and 1924 — have been a source of controversy. Do you have any specific ideas on how to address these monuments?
I would like to see them in the museum, I am imagining. They are a very real part of the story, especially the fact that we continue to have robust discussions on the role they are playing in our current story. With the right context, they could spark some very interesting and meaningful conversations.
Transparency: Do you think the city and its leaders conduct business transparently? If not, what concerns do you have?
I would like to see more community engagement and thus more engagement of the city government. I want a much stronger back and forth between everyone in the community.
Law enforcement: Are you satisfied with the approach that Chief Ralph Evangelous and the Wilmington Police Department is taking in providing law enforcement for the city? Are there specific aspects you’d like to encourage or change?
I have lived downtown for the better part of 20 years, I have seen community policing dramatically improve. It isn’t where it needs to be yet, [but] with more community engagement at all levels of public officials we will find more workable solutions.
City management: Are you satisfied with the approach the City Manager Sterling Cheatham is taking in providing leadership for city staff? Are there specific aspects you’d like to encourage or change?
I would like to see the city manager more engaged as well. Since meeting him, I have learned that he is very happy with the current city council as they make his “job easy”.
Experience and conflict(s) of interest – What experience do you have that you think would be beneficial for a city leader? Do you have any conflicts of interest that might cause you to recuse yourself from city business?
The only real conflict of interest would be if someone doing business with the city is or was a client. I would navigate that with the individual.
Other thoughts – Anything else you’d like to add that hasn’t been covered?
It seems worth noting, this is a part-time position: the salary for a City Council member is roughly $15,000 in the City of Wilmington. It has been mentioned that a City Council person will have to work for minimum wage in order to manage all of the responsibilities. As evidenced by the very long list of questions above, Wilmington has a very is a city with a complex set of needs which will require a great deal of attention. I would strongly recommend considering raising the salary of City Council or lowering the expectations of what we think a reasonable person can accomplish with a part-time job.