Register staff report
Jim Newby, a Richmond firefighter, is making his first bid for public office by seeking a seat on the Richmond City Commission. If elected, he could not also be a city employee.
He addressed questions from the Richmond Register during an interview. His edited responses appear below.
Should funding be restored to the Parks and Recreation Department, which saw the biggest reduction in the 2012-13 budget?
“Yes, I think some of that funding should be restored. Parks and Recreation helps bring people and revenue to the city.”
Is the number of firefighters, 52, which is two below budgeted strength, adequate?
“I think it was a huge mistake to shut down Fire Station 5 off Duncannon Lane. About two weeks later, we had several emergency runs in that area. Station 4 on North Keeneland now has to cover that area. Relying on the county fire department to help cover it is not enough, and Station 4 has to cover county areas along Lexington Road. To respond to an bad accident in the northbound lane north of Exit 83, we had to go south from Station 4 near Exit 90, cross the bridge at Exit 83 and then head north. That took 12 to 15 minutes instead of 2 to 3 minutes it would have taken from Station 5.”
How to fix the city's storm-water problems, and pay for it.
“This is something we need to address without punishing the citizens. We need to study this more, find out what needs to be done and how much it will cost.”
Rezoning corner of Barnes Mill Road and Lancaster Avenue for a student housing complex?
“I don't think (the rezoning) was a good idea. I've talked with more than 800 residents of that area and almost all were against it. I don't think the commission was looking out for the interest of people who live in that neighborhood.”
Better funding, promotion of the Human Rights Commission and banning discrimination based on sexual orientation.
“I would have no problem with Richmond adopting similar protections that Lexington, Louisville and Covington have.”
Are minorities adequately represented and treated fairly in the city workforce?
“I haven't seen the city discriminate. We have only one black firefighter, but others who have retired in recent years had all been promoted to officer rank. I don't know as much about other departments, but I don't think that's an issue. The city has been reducing the number of employees the past few years, not hiring, so you really can't talking about discrimination in hiring.”
How to promote, redevelop downtown?
“We can do a lot of things to help downtown. We need more greenery and to have all the empty spaces filled in. Other areas of the city also could be made to look better, for example the railroad overpass next to the hospital. It could at least be painted.
Allowing drinks to be served after 9 p.m. on Sundays?
“I think it's ridiculous that they have to stop serving at 9 on Sundays. People are driving to Lexington instead of staying in Richmond, and we're losing revenue because of that. We should extend the hours to what they are other nights of the week.”
Critique the past two years.
“My biggest problem with the current mayor and commission is the way they try to micro-manage things.” He said said the mayor and commission also appear to discuss things among themselves rather than gathering information from citizens, city employees and department heads and then discussing it openly before making decisions.
Goals if elected.
Better treatment of city employees all across the board.
“They took away city employees' Christmas bonus. That was something people counted on to buy Christmas presents or pay their taxes.”
City employees are scared, Newby said. City employees are told they must greet members of the commission if they see them in public. “If I'm elected, the first thing I will do is tell city employees if they see me in a restaurant somewhere, they don't have to say 'hi' to me if they don't want to,” he said.