This is number 3 in a series of email interviews with Mayoral and Council Candidates.
1. Please rate the following core services in the order in which you, personally, feel they should be prioritized (Ibarra's answers follow the listed core services):
> capital improvements (3)
> public safety (1)
> quality of life, as in entertainment; parks; sport events; the arts; etc. (4)
> road and bridge maintenance and infrastructure (2)
2. Do you support a 1 percent sales tax to fund the police and fire pension plan?
Ibarra: While I have the utmost respect for our men and women who keep us safe, and while I believe that our community’s safety needs to be the priority, I did not vote for the one percent sales tax on February 3rd. There were three primary reasons that I did not vote yes on the measure: (1) Many of the cuts that the city manager stated were going to be made in his worst case scenario are cuts that need to be made; (2) it was made clear to the city and its police and fire departments that the cuts that were going to be made if the tax failed were to ensure that the pension was given the full actuarial recommendation; (3) because of the situation we are in economically, both locally and nationally, an increase of the burden on the taxpayer is not appropriate. Furthermore, I do believe that the tax failed because of these reasons, as well as the reason that many citizens in our community are truly concerned that our municipal government has been irresponsible regarding the fiscal program that it has taken part in over the course of many years.
3. Do you support a sales tax of some amount less than 1 percent but equal to or more than 1/8-cent? If so, what would you consider the ideal amount within that range?
Ibarra: I do. The media has given much attention to the idea brought forth that the next City Council should allow the Capital Improvement Program ¼% tax to expire, and to replace it with a ¼% pension tax. While this may not completely fund the pension at the full 100%, it would allow the fund to hold at the state mandated 60%, which is considered adequate. While we are getting to that 60%, we as a community will have the breathing room – approximately 5 years, if not more – to find a long term/permanent solution.
From the beginning of this issue’s discussion, I have stated that what needs to happen is that the community needs to have a dialogue and consider what taxes are currently on the books that are not absolutely necessary, and look at replacing one of them (if not more) with a tax for the police/fire pension. This would allow the pension fund to have a designated tax, and at the same time not increase the burden of the tax payer.
With all of this said, I do support the greatly publicized idea of replacing the CIP tax with a pension tax.
4. Describe, in your opinion, what are "core city services."
Ibarra: I consider the core services of a city government to be public safety and infrastructure. In order to keep our community safe, we need to have a strong police and fire department with appropriate staffing levels, equipment, and logistical support that ensures that when we need them they are there and readily equipped to help us in times of need. Infrastructure: streets, waterways, sewers, etc. In addition to our police and fire, our infrastructure is a large part of public safety. We, as citizens, expect our infrastructure to be constantly updated and serviced in a manner to ensure a clean environment is what surrounds us and that we have a sense of security as we live our day-to-day lives in Springfield.
Additionally, these core services are very important to a strong economy. When potential business owners come to Springfield, they want to feel safe, and they want to be surrounded by an environment that is pleasing to the eye. While non-essential aesthetics may arguably be part of that, basic infrastructure is a larger part, and needs to be given priority.
5. If forced to cut areas of the budget which include the core city services you listed or indicated in #4, list the order in which you would cut the services from the most to the least amount.
Ibarra: Difficult question, because what are to be considered core services are the services that only the government has the ability to provide by law. Likewise, I understand this question to be asking what services I would be willing to cut completely, which I don’t believe can be done without extremely detrimental consequences.
With this said, I do believe that the most responsible way to go about an issue like this would be to trim budgets in a manner that all non-essential services in the departments that provide core services are considered. Because I do believe that community safety should be first, I do believe that infrastructure would have cuts made before our police and fire.
I do want to point out, however, that if we have a City Council that understands that the core services come first, we will not have to participate in such activities. If, when the Council sits down to budget annually, they begin and finish the process with the philosophy that police, fire, and infrastructure come first and foremost, and all else is secondary, we will not have to be put in this position.
6. Are there any core city services listed in #4 that you would simply refuse to support cutting? If so, why would you refuse to cut those services?
Ibarra: Yes. The essentials of the core services: the emergency response and investigation aspects of our first responders, and the upkeep of the infrastructure that we have. We must have police and fire that respond to our emergencies; we must have investigating units that consider criminal action (police department) and cause of events (structural emergencies, for instance, which would be done by the fire department). Second, while infrastructure projects that we have planned may need to be put on hold at times, we need to continuously care for the infrastructure that we currently have. For instance, the industry I work in has been directly affected by the economy; while in better times a complete replacement of equipment is an option, in tougher economic times many businesses are requiring more maintenance on already owned equipment. This philosophy should be carried to the public sector.
7. When funding capital improvement projects how would you set priorities among the projects eligible for funding in the current and upcoming voter approved capital improvement project lists?
Ibarra: Infrastructure should be a priority. Streets, waterways, and sewers must come first. For instance, we can consider some of the current projects that are planned as capital improvements. Ones that should be at the top of the list: storm-water drainage projects, drainage improvements, and intersection projects. Items that should be secondary, if they should exist at all: streetscapes, parks, and other projects that are not mandatory or already have a designated budget. For instance, I don’t think it is responsible practice to make a habit of sending general revenue funds to projects in which the department that oversees it has taxes earmarked for them already. In short, what is mandatory, such as infrastructure, should be the priority; all else is optional and should be done with restraint where it is done at all.
8. How would you stay in touch with your constituents to insure you were properly representing them?
Ibarra: As I have campaigned over the past year, I have found many ways to stay in continuous contact with the community that – if I am elected to City Council – I can continue to do regularly. I have attended neighborhood association meetings and other similar gatherings regularly; I have met with people on their doorsteps and taken countless calls over the phone; I have responded to e-mails on every possible occasion. In short, I have intentionally made myself as available as possible over the past year because I truly believe that to be an effective public servant an individual must be available to those he or she serves; I have this philosophy as a candidate, and will have it as a councilman. One thing that will be added to these basic duties is that I fully intend to ask management that whenever a citizen of Zone 1 makes an inquiry, complaint, or simply contacts the municipal government for any reason, that I be notified as to make direct contact with that citizen to ensure that the effort has been made to address the issue at hand and/or inquire if there is anything that I can personally do to further address the situation. People want to be heard, and people deserve to be heard; the citizens of Springfield, and in particular Zone 1, will get this with Nicholas Ibarra as a councilman.
9. Explain why you want to serve on the City Council.
Ibarra: It is the responsibility of each and every citizen to find a way to play a role in the world around them. While there are many ways to do this, I have always been of the mind that I wanted to help and serve in a place that I could be of value. Whether it was joining the Marines, volunteering for service in Iraq, or something such as being a youth coach for baseball and football teams in the community, I have always found fulfillment in being a part of something that I feel is greater than myself.
With that in mind, I plan to go to City Council with the mindset of finding solutions. Whether it concerns the ‘black and white’ issues such as the pension fund or more ‘gray’ areas such as how to work towards the restoration of trust and confidence that the community needs to have with their local government, I firmly believe that the next several years are going to be very defining for our community. Many of the issues that we as a community are facing and will face are going to take strong minds and good ideas in order to make decisive decisions that will produce positive results. As somebody who has both the will and desire to serve, and is healthy in mind and body, I believe that this is the best way that I can serve our community at this point in time.
10. If elected to City Council, will you read the background information on every bill proposed for passage before you enter the Council Chambers to hear first reading of a bill and before casting your vote to either support or oppose the bill?
Ibarra: Absolutely. To begin, for about the past year I have read as much information that has been given to the public regarding council bills as I possibly could to gain a better understanding of the language and structure of the bills themselves.
Additionally, having attended Council meetings regularly for over the past year and a half, I have come to believe that reading the bill before first reading is of great importance, and for two reasons. The first is to have an understanding of what is actually being discussed for passage, rather than simply listening to the overview that is given during the meeting. The second is that in order to ask the appropriate questions in a direct manner and to know what you are looking for in an answer, you must know what it is that is being proposed.
Lastly, it is an absolute duty of every council person to read every bill in its entirety. The citizens have elected them to do a certain job, and this is a duty in that job description.
11. In your opinion, do current events effect past votes of the public on any given sales tax?
Ibarra: Yes… and the way finding sign’s issue is a prime example. It is hard to foresee – in a definitive manner – events that are going to happen in the future, and we have all been introduced to this idea in the recent months. We can forecast and theorize as much as we’d like, but the truth of the matter is that we are not in as much control as we’d like to be. So, when it comes to making decisions that are going to affect issues and actions years down the road, it needs to be understood that there may need to be flexibility regarding those decisions. Likewise, when that future time comes, the decision makers at the time need to understand the context of both the past and present, and how changes in times may determine that something considered to be a good idea several years ago may not be a wise decision presently.
12. In your opinion, would it ever be beneficial to poll registered Springfield voters or your zone constituency, by some method you might determine yourself, regarding controversial issues before making a decision as to whether you would support a particular bill?
Ibarra: I’m not sure that I would use the word “poll”, but I do believe it is extremely important to stay in touch with the citizens and their opinions on the issues of the day. Over the course of the past year and a half, one of the biggest criticisms I have heard about the way that City Council has operated in the past is that many times it doesn’t seem as though the elected representatives at City Hall listen to the every day citizen. While the 2007 City Council election brought about a certain degree of change for the better, the general sentiment remains.
In somewhat of a reiteration to question eight, as a councilman I will consider it part of the job to constantly be in contact with the citizens of the community, and in particular Zone 1. By doing this consistently, it will give me a constant sense of the issues of importance to the community, as well as insight that may not have been considered when deciding issues.
13. Do you consider yourself to have a conservative philosophy or a liberal philosophy, or perhaps, somewhere in between? Explain.
Ibarra: My philosophy, when it comes to the role of government, defaults to what our founders prescribed: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. While government at any level does have a role to play, it is a limited one. In that, I am a conservative. Each one of us has a right to life, and to be given due protection to ensure that our life is not endangered by others. I believe that by natural law we are all given liberty, and that liberty can be defined as the ability for each individual to pursue his or her own self interest as long as it is not impeding on the ability for another individual to pursue theirs. And the pursuit – not the guarantee – of happiness… it is up to each and every one of us to clearly define to ourselves what ‘happiness’ entails, prescribe the appropriate path in order to achieve it, and to work with discipline and determination to get to that place.
14. What personal philosophy(ies) do you hold which might effect the way you vote on future issues of the City?
Ibarra: When it comes to my role if elected to City Council, I will ask questions of basic philosophy when it comes to deciding each and every vote: how will my vote affect the safety of others; how will my vote affect the freedom of others; how will my vote affect the government’s role; will my vote put more or less government in the life of the citizen? These are just a few, but it is about asking basic questions, under the guise of a basic philosophy, but one that is in keeping with what our nation is built upon.
15. Do you recycle? If not, why not?
Ibarra: Yes… paper mainly.
16. When was the last time you visited a Springfield area park? When and if you visited a Springfield area park, did you attend a special event or just decide to go to the park?
Ibarra: The last time I visited a Springfield park was when it was warm! Seriously, I coach youth baseball and football, both with games taking place at various parks in Springfield; I helped with the Grant Beach Neighborhood Kids Softball program, which was at Grant Beach Park; in the summer, Zack and Hailey (the kids) love going to the pool. In short, I spend an adequate amount of time at City Parks.
17. What is your favorite color?
Ibarra: Green… has always been green since I was a child. When it comes to clothes, though, I like to wear red and blue.
18. What is your favorite item of clothing and why?
Ibarra: Not sure I can answer that one piece of clothing is my “favorite”… but I will say that there is nothing more pleasing to me than being in a pair of jeans, a t-shirt, and a pair of running shoes… although it has become more and more rare these days.
19. What is your favorite genre of music?
Ibarra: I like all music, and at different times I am in different moods. Lately I have been in the mood for rock and R&B. Favorite songs right now: “Fool in the Rain” by Led Zepplin, “September” by Earth, Wind, and Fire, and “Where the Stars and Stripes, and the Eagles Fly” by Aaron Tippin.
20. What is your favorite book?
Ibarra: Right now I am reading the Heritage Guide to the Constitution, which is very intriguing… but 1984 is an all time favorite – scary, in a very real way.
21. Do you have any pets? Cat(s)? Dog(s)? Are you a "cat person" or a "dog person" and why?
Ibarra: I am a dog person… I used to be allergic to cats. Though that allergy went away, and although I don’t mind cats, I will always be a dog person. Our family dog, Gunner (boxer), was a dog we got when we first moved into our home. A little over three weeks ago, he passed away. While my son and I are looking at the possibility of another dog in the future, the “Queen” says that she is not ready, and may not be for a while.
22. Do you attend a church regularly? If so, what faith would you associate yourself with?
Ibarra: Not as regularly as I should. When we do, though, we go between Northpoint and Mt. Pleasant Baptist (which is where my father-in-law is the pastor, and is between Willard and Ash Grove). I would consider myself a Christian… not any one denomination, though.
23. What is your favorite kind of food?
Ibarra: To be very honest, my favorite kind of food is the kind you eat! But, if I had to choose, it would have to be pizza – pepperoni and jalapenos.
24. What is your favorite kind of pie?
Ibarra: My favorite pie is undoubtedly my Granny Mary’s cherry cheese cake… NO DOUBTS! While all food that comes from her kitchen is wonderful, that is the best.
Ibarra: Almond Joy.
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