Chase after contractors after they botch a sidewalk? Or keep track of them in advance?
Two candidates for alderman in upper Westville offered those two responses at a campaign forum Thursday night.
The candidates—Darryl Brackeen and Ronald Rainey — made their pitches at a meeting at Davis Street School of the 26th Ward Democratic committee. The two are set to face off in a Sept. 10 party primary. They are running to replace incumbent Sergio Rodriguez, while Rodriguez makes a run for city clerk.
The pair sat before a crowd of more than 30 upper Westville neighbors at an event that proved the dictum that all politics is local. Very local.
One of the questions that received the biggest response from the audience focused on how each candidate would hold accountable the city contractors who do work in Westville — on street repair, and sidewalks, for example.
Rainey responded that, as alderman, he would “bring [the complaint] to the proper people.” He cited his long employment at AT&T, where he said contractors who are hired to do his job have often done shoddy work, requiring him to step in and “fix things.”
Brackeen, meanwhile, said that he would create a Complete Streets Initiative task force in the area to document what parts of Upper Westville need repairs, and who is responsible for making those repairs.
“We need to be more proactive,” Brackeen told the audience. “We need to make sure they’re accountable on the front end, not the back end.”
Most of Brackeen’s responses focused on his time as a youth organizer, calling on his experience starting several youth initiatives at Lincoln-Basset School, where he teaches. He spoke of the many city government meetings he attends, to illustrate his knowledge of city issues. Rainey, who at 47 is nearly twice Brackeen’s age, stressed his “longevity” in the neighborhood and leadership roles as a trustee at his church and as co-chair of the ward committee.
The one contemporary citywide issue that emerged concerned charter revision, specifically the candidates’ views on attempts to restructure the Board of Education. Rainey did not describe a position on the once-in-a-decade process, instead telling the audience that city schools needs more money that doesn’t rely on the “backs of the middle class.” Brackeen, who said he has been to every meeting on charter revision, said that he agrees with the proposal to elect two members of the Board of Ed (rather than having them all appointed by the mayor) but disagrees with a proposal to remove the mayor from sitting on the Board of Ed. He said he wants the mayor there in order to hold the mayor “accountable” for progress in the schools. Charter revision proposals are set to appear on this November’s ballot.
Other questions ranged from how each aldermanic hopeful would make himself accessible — Rainey promised to have availability every day, while Brackeen announced his phone number and email address — to how they would handle noise complaints in the neighborhood. Toward the end of the debate, one audience member asked about another prominent Westville issue: What would the candidates do about the flooding problems involving Yale’s golf course? That led to a broader discussion of the candidates’ perspectives on the university more generally.
Brackeen noted that flooding problems would soon be solved with Yale’s help. He credited ALderman Rodriguez for his efforts on the matter, and said that it would be his job as an alderman to “make sure Yale is a good neighbor.” Rainey agreed, adding that the university needs to be more accountable and “shouldn’t do whatever they want.”
The ward committee is scheduled to make an official aldermanic endorsement on July 11.