• District 4, City Council/Aldermen Candidates 2014


  • You Asked! They Answered!

    Prior to the Political Meet & Greet and Mayoral Debate on October 16, the Chamber solicited questions from the business community for the city council/alderman candidates. Below are the submitted questions and the answers from those who chose to respond.

    District 4 Candidates:
    Judi Null and Jim Pearce

  • Question 1

    Specifically how will you promote business and well-planned city development for your district?

    Answer - Judi Null

    District 4 is primarily a residential district so it is important to make decisions that positively impact our residents. As I am walking through each neighborhood and meeting with residents, I am learning about what they would like to see happen in Ruston. That’s the first step to developing a strategic plan. You include those that will be impacted.

    It is the primary responsibility of an alderman to fully support economic development. An alderman should enhance and facilitate the creation of new businesses as well as the expansion of current businesses by prioritizing revenue and expenditures; establishing ordinances and practices that support growth and expansion; recruiting and attracting new industry; and providing the climate and resources needed.

    The current ordinances, zoning laws, and permitting processes need to be examined to reflect a business friendly environment. In my meetings with local residents I have heard story after story about how this has not been the norm. Our processes are cumbersome, inconsistent, and the red tape has resulted in lost business. This cannot continue. We can and must do better. Our processes need to be clear and consistent.

    Until we bring new industry and jobs to Ruston, we cannot support so many of the quality of life needs we have such as sidewalks, bike paths, recycling, and parks. More importantly, we need increased revenue to fully fund and support our law enforcement and fire men and women. My son is Deputy Sheriff in another state and as the Director of the Minnesota Criminal Justice Resource Center, I worked with the law enforcement and criminal justice community daily. I know their needs and I know their worth! We need to be doing more for them and it takes revenue.

    We need to better utilize and engage our University and community college resources. We need to support startups, leverage small business incubators at Tech, and focus on incentivizing manufacturing and productions industries to locate or start here. As we increase our tax base, we have funding for increased infrastructure development. As business grows so does entertainment, retail, and restaurants. Ruston’s economy would no longer leave each weekend to spend their money in another city. Thus, we need to hire a full-time city planner.

     

    But, we need to be strategic in our planning so as not to negatively impact our neighborhoods and the Ruston charm we all love. I would never advocate to lose that small town feel. I will advocate for strategic direction to address our needs while maintaining our culture.

    Answer - Jim Pearce

    Growing our economy is crucial for our district and our community to thrive.  I will work with the mayor, council, and community leaders to attract new businesses that will create jobs.  The Board of Aldermen’s role in economic development is to provide infrastructure and a climate that spurs economic development.  We must provide the resources to actively pursue and attract new businesses and to help existing businesses to grow and expand.  


  • Question 2

    What do you plan to accomplish in your district and what are the means of accomplishing your proposals?

    Answer - Judi Null

    First and foremost, I believe public service is just that. I do not intend to accept the currently accepted practice of receiving expensive health care insurance for a part-time position. No other part-time person in Ruston receives this benefit so why should an Alderman? This will mean an immediate cost reduction to the City.

    I intend to practice fiscal stewardship by scrutinizing the City budget and implementing cost-saving measures. As the executive director of a non-profit, I understand full well the difference between need and want, and have to prioritize spending daily. And, I know the importance of increasing our revenue through sound business practices. We need to resist attempts to unnecessarily raise taxes and fees by seeking out new grants and ensuring a business-friendly environment.

    It concerns me that we do not have jobs here for our kids and that every weekend our economy leaves Ruston to shop elsewhere. I believe there are decisions that should have already been made that would have increased jobs as well as our City's revenue. We need to build a gateway to Ruston, leveraging our universities and encouraging people to travel to Ruston. We need to explore new opportunities for tourism with the Convention and Visitor's Bureau and the Chamber of Commerce. We need to better support our current businesses and incentivize new business growth.

    Answer - Jim Pearce

    My district covers northwest Ruston and a large portion of downtown.    I would like to see the Tarbutton interchange accomplished.  This project is mostly funded with state and federal dollars.  This will help traffic congestion on Cooktown Road and the Louisiana Tech interchange.  All of the property around the interchange has been annexed into the city limits and will have a huge impact as this area develops commercially.  I also want to continue with the revitalization of downtown and completing the side streets, including Monroe Street, Alabama, Mississippi and Railroad Avenue.  These projects will be funded by state and local dollars.


  • Question 3

    Would you be willing to consider a recycling program?

    Answer - Judi Null

    Yes, it is included in my platform. To learn more about my plan, visit www.JudiNull.com.

    Answer - Jim Pearce

    I am in favor of recycling.  By recycling we show a community that is progressive and dedicated to preserving our environment.  The first step is to locate a source that is interested in our recyclable waste.  The next step is to determine a method of collection that is economical and easy for our citizens to participate.


  • Question 4

    Would you want to have bike paths added in Ruston?

    Answer - Judi Null

    Yes, it is included in my platform. To learn more about my plan, visit www.JudiNull.com.

    Answer - Jim Pearce

    Bike paths are a great idea and an item that was requested by many in our Ruston 21 long range plans.  The issues are how to locate bike path in our right of ways and how to fund the building of them.  The other request from Ruston 21 that goes along with the bike paths is the development of sidewalks.  Sidewalks are now a requirement for any street frontage on any new commercial building.  Many existing sidewalks have been redone and built by the City.


  • Question 5

    What are your plans on working with LA Tech & Grambling to strengthen the relationships between Ruston and the universities?

    Answer - Judi Null

    My goal is to develop a strategic plan that compliments and integrates the individual plans that the City and University both have. I believe it is important to meet occasionally with leadership and students to become aware of emerging opportunities. We know that every 100 students has a $1 m impact on Ruston, so we must leverage this opportunity.  

    Having personally worked at Louisiana Tech, I know the culture, many of the faculty and staff, and have spent a considerable amount of time during my campaign speaking to the student population. I know how the University works. As the Executive Director of The Health Hut, I have met with the Grambling University interim President and discussed opportunities there. As a Leadership Lincoln graduated, I have also initiated a relationship with Delta Community College faculty. As a professional facilitator, I know how to work with others to accomplish a common goal. 

    Answer - Jim Pearce

    A great working relationship has been established with Louisiana Tech in the past sixteen years.  The City of Ruston supports Louisiana Tech in many aspects.  Some of these include being a contributing sponsor of Tech Athletics, Tech logo on the new city water tower, Homer Street project with a joint grant between Tech and the City, a joint calendar, downtown activities during orientation, students and professors working on projects to improve our community, and honoring the retired Tech president by naming a street Dan Reneau Drive.  I believe we need to nurture and grow this relationship as we move forward.


  • Question 6

    If we are overspending on budget, where and how do we spend it in a more frugal manner?

    Answer - Judi Null

    Ruston needs to develop an annual strategic plan and ensure that our expenditures are based on that. The plan “Should” be based on priorities and return on investment (ROI). We, as a City, should not spend money that does not meet our primary objectives. 

    The City likes to highlight the spending of the past, but is short on their ability to recruit new businesses and increase revenue through growth, rather than increases in fees and taxes. There is nothing wrong with improving city buildings, but we should prioritize and only do so when there is new revenue through growth instead of taxes, fees, and fines. 

    Answer - Jim Pearce

    We spend approximately 15% less than the amount of our budget expenses.  Because of good management practices the City of Ruston has about $2 million in unrestricted budget reserves.  Budgets have been submitted on time for the past sixteen years and the city has received good audits every year.


  • Question 7

    What are the pressing issues you see facing Ruston now and in the next 5 years?

    Answer - Judi Null

    Tech plans to grow significantly. Where will these students live? Where will the increased numbers of faculty live? Where will they go to spend their money? Is our infrastructure prepared for that level of growth? We are at a crossroad. What we do today will have serious repercussions on tomorrow if we do not prepare.

    Ruston is well poised to be considered a college town, a destination town. By creating a gateway that entices people to visit and shop Ruston we can further increase our revenue. We need to develop businesses that will provide the tax revenue to further develop our downtown and surrounding areas.

    Our Sparta Aquifer is a major concern. We need to plan for water utilization, contingency, and we need to recruit businesses that will not require significant use of our water sources.

    Answer - Jim Pearce

    One issue is to address the depletion of our water in the Sparta Water Aquifer and seek solutions.   Another is to secure a long term power supply at reasonable rates.  We also need to continue to expand our fiber optics capability to meet the needs of our business community and use it to attract new hi-tech businesses.  Also to continue providing our citizens with a reliable, trained and compensated police and fire department.  And we need to continue to provide and improve streets, water and sewer collections systems to meet the needs of our growing community. 

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