I try to be as informed as I can when I vote. I am a big fan of the non-partisan breakdown of the state ballot issues that the UofA puts out each election (link). However, the lower you get on the ballot the hard is is to find information on the issues or candidates. To help everyone make an informed vote, I have asked the same eight questions of each of the Shannon Hills City Council candidates. I will update the below links as I get the other candidates responses.
A little background on the City Council. There are six City Council members who are elected for two year terms. Shannon Hills has three Wards each with two City Council positions. Although they represent a single Ward, all voters of Shannon Hills get to vote on the candidates. Only Ward 2 position 1 will be on the ballot this year, as all other incumbent City Council members are running unopposed. Even though she is running unopposed Alderman Toni Blackwell (Ward 1 Position 1) has been kind enough to answer my questions
1. Tell me about yourself
Toni Blackwell: I have lived in Shannon Hills for 22 years. I am married and a mom of four. I work as a secretary at Geyer Springs First Baptist Church, where I am also a member.
2. Why are you running for City council?
Toni Blackwell: I love our city. Some pretty cool people live here. I want to continue to help make it a great place to live.
3. Why should the voters elect you to the City Council?
Toni Blackwell: I would like the opportunity to continue to help oversee our city government.
4. What do you believe to be the significant issues facing Shannon Hills, and what is your position on those issues?
Toni Blackwell: Along with many others, I would very much like to see a stoplight at the intersection of Vimy Ridge and County Line. The city has been working for years to be able to acquire the necessary right-of-way in a financially responsible manner. We hope to be able to share news about this project very soon.
5. In looking at the City’s budget, what components of the budget do you advocate to be increased, and what components do you advocate to be decreased?
Toni Blackwell: Our city’s budget is quite limited. City revenue generally comes from taxes and we do not have a large business base in Shannon Hills like many surrounding cities. Of course, all cities have certain needs that are rather fixed. We must have police, adequate water and street services, … The current city council has examined the past two year’s budgets and spent a good deal of time and consideration on it. We are getting ready to do this again to prepare for the next calendar year. Each department’s budgetary needs are evaluated separately. We try to keep costs down by asking the department heads to closely monitor their budgets and be frugal with the resources that they have; also to try and anticipate upcoming needs so that they can be budgeted. Extra projects, like the city park, have been funded through specific state grants. Our city has not gone into debt for these kinds of things and has no plans to do so. That is a long way around mainly to be able to say that there isn’t a lot of ‘play-room’ in the city budget to add new projects without defunding or underfunding necessities.
6. If you are not elected, what would you do to try to help work on ideas or issues that are important to you?
Toni Blackwell: I do not have an opposing candidate in this election, but I always advocate for being a good neighbor. There is much that can be accomplished and many issues that can be worked through if we all play nice and work together.
7. Do you believe that the City should notify residents of important issues and proposed changes to City ordinances to come before the Town Council? If so, what mechanism should be used to solicit residents’ comments and to report the City Council actions to residents?
Toni Blackwell: Obviously, citizens need to be informed of important issues. But not everyone agrees on what is important. An issue like a boil order is effective only if the information is given in a very timely manner. In a case like this, notifying local news media is more effective than putting this in the monthly newsletter. (By the way, I commend whoever suggested adding a monthly newsletter to the back of the water bill several years ago. This is a great way to get the word out about things without spending any extra money.) But I digress, while the council obviously feels that all the issues we deal with each month are important, I am sure a lot of people wouldn’t consider many of them to be ‘front-page-news.’ The city has monthly public meetings on the third Tuesday of each month. Any and all citizen are encouraged to attend. Minutes of the meetings are then published on the city website. And of course, the city aldermen are always a go-to if citizens have questions or have issues which should be brought up in a meeting.
8. Do you have a Facebook page or other way that a citizens could learn more about you and your positions on issues?
Toni Blackwell: I do have a personal Facebook page, and Shannon Hills citizens are welcome to friend request me. The best way to contact me about city issues though, would be to email tblackwellSHCC@outlook.com or call me.