Editor's note: Every candidate running for City Council in New Rochelle in the Nov. 8 election was sent the same list of questions. The answers were only edited for style. Councilman Jared Rice, D-District 3, is being challenged by John Earvin for the seat. Earvin's responses to the questionnaire can be found here.
Name: Jared Rice
Family: Wife, Jasmine; Daughter, Jocelyn, 2
Line(s) on the ballot: Democrat, Independence, Working Families
Patch: Last winter was particularly severe, taxing city resources. What can be done to avoid similar situations?
Rice: Our Department of Public Works worked around the clock during last winter's snow storms to ensure that our roads and sidewalks would be as safe as possible for travel. Looking forward, I think that there is room for improvement as far as our procedures concerning snow and ice removal, and the potholes created as a result.
For one, I believe that the color-coded mapping system recently introduced by our new Commissioner of DPW, Alex Tergis, will expedite the process of removing snow and ice to the extent that we can cover more ground more quickly and effectively. Additionally, what we can do is look into the latest technologies available such as infrared radiation which is now being used to repair potholes in Staten Island. A cost benefit analysis would be appropriate as to any new equipment which may be considered to determine if the initial purchase price is worth the potential long-term savings in time and money.
Patch: The city adopted the GreeNR Sustainability Plan recently. What should the city concentrate on in the short run and long run to implement it? Or should it be something that is implemented at all?
Rice: The passage of the GreeNR Sustainability Plan was a great moment for the City of New Rochelle as we instantly became a national leader in the field of environmental preservation. This forward-looking plan is unique in that it combines environmental, economic and social concerns and comes up with goals and solutions to some of our most pressing issues.
In the short run, it is important that we use our existing resources wisely and implement projects that cost the city little to nothing. For example, the idea of a rain garden in an area which is prone to flooding such as the Halcyon Neighborhood makes sense if materials and labor can be donated and partners such as can be secured. In the long run, the ability for homes and buildings to be made more energy efficient is a goal of GreeNR that can be accomplished by providing incentives, assistance and guidance.
Patch: Declining revenues and increasing costs seem to be a fact of life. How would you adjust the city's budget without hurting the quality of life for its residents?
Rice: The quality of life in New Rochelle is what makes this city a great place to live. Unfortunately, the worldwide recession has taken a toll on local economies, including New Rochelle. Declining revenues can be attributed to the declining real estate market and increased expenses include higher pension and health-care costs. As we move forward with this upcoming budget, I would recommend that we do not offer raises to city employees as payroll expenses are one of the few budget items where the council has some control. However, I think that it is important that our essential services which are police, fire, and sanitation are not affected to the point that their emergency response times or garbage pickup schedules suffer as a result of the city's fiscal condition.
Also, volunteerism is especially needed now more than ever. This past August, along with the newly formed Community Enrichment Zone, I sponsored the first ever Community Beautification Day where almost 100 volunteers showed up to pick up litter. "Unity in the Community" was our mantra, and it brought out instant results as far as minimizing the ongoing impact of our declining revenues and increasing expenses.
Patch: Parking is always an issue in New Rochelle. What is the solution?
Rice: Adequate parking for residents, business owners and consumers is an issue that the City of New Rochelle has to address. There is not one solution that can solve everything; however a mix of different solutions should be able to make substantial progress towards a much better parking situation. Something that the City has already begun looking into is the upgrading of our existing parking facilities and meters. The burden of having to use quarters to pay for parking is too high, especially when technology allows for parking payments in the forms of credit/debit cards, telephonic payments and even text messaging.
In addition, when we consider new development, it is more advantageous to use the transit-oriented development model where new residents can live in walkable, livable communities conveniently located near public transportation. This allows for less reliance on automobiles, hence less need for parking.
Patch: What are some concrete ways the city can bring more businesses to New Rochelle?
Rice: New Rochelle needs to make it a priority to recruit Green Businesses as the "Green Collar Economy" is one of the fastest growing economies globally. Obtaining jobs for unemployed New Rochelle residents is a high priority for me and I believe that the GreeNR sustainability can be helpful in reducing joblessness. A green business council would work to assist the existing green businesses we have in New Rochelle as well serve as a tool to recruit more green businesses where eventually a cluster of green businesses can flourish in New Rochelle and further the goals of our GreeNR Sustainability Plan.
Patch: How can development be used to increase the quality of life for New Rochelle residents and help the city's coffers?
Rice: Development is one of the most useful tools that New Rochelle can use to benefit the quality of life for the city's residents. With that being acknowledged, development must be done in a manner consistent with a unified vision whereby we can plan accordingly for the future. The comprehensive plan is currently being revised; I am excited about being able to use that as a blueprint for our development. New Rochelle is in sore need of more commercial and retail development, but to be able to maximize our sales tax revenues, a strategic approach is necessary. It appears that mixed-use development is the model that many municipalities are using these days and New Rochelle has several proposed developments underway. How each proposed development fits into the greater strategy is how I will analyze each project on a case-by-case basis. A smart-growth strategy whereby a detailed analysis can be performed to project expected revenues and expenses for each project is the strategy that I plan to employ.
Patch: If there is anything you want to add or if you'd like to make a statement, please feel free.
Rice: New Rochelle is at an important crossroad at the current moment where the city has the unique opportunity to take control of its own future. During tough economic times such as these, proper leadership is a must. New ideas need to be promulgated, more volunteers need to step forward and more harmony needs to exist to ensure a positive future for its residents. Over the past 10 months, I have been able to bring forward new ideas, recruit volunteers and create more harmony. However, 10 months is not enough time to really make a difference. When I was elected as the council member for District Three last year, it was one of the greatest honors of my life. I am now asking that the people of District 3 elect me for a full four-year term so we can really make positive change right here in New Rochelle. For more information on my campaign, please log onto JaredRice.org.