Thanks to Josh for his time!
Candidates are very busy. I want to thank Joshua for taking time and answering these interview questions.
1) What is your plan to achieve more funding for Lanta Bus and public transportation? How do you plan to increase public use of buses?
As Mayor, I want to lobby county and state actors to make significant investments in local transportation. I think some of the first steps we can take to make public transportation more desirable and frequently used is to modernize and adapt it to the demands of every city resident. There are many who are environmentally conscious and are deeply concerned about emissions but do not use public transit for a number of reasons. I want to work with LANTA on starting a pilot program to procure ProTerra electric buses which significantly reduce carbon emissions in an effort to attract younger people. In the long run they’ll save the county millions on fuel and maintenance costs. Public transit also needs to reflect the modern demands of consumers which means interactivity, accessibility and customization. OurBus, which is now challenging many of the major New York City bus companies functions like Uber by adjusting its route based on demand and needs. I want to experiment with software developers to design a program that allows LANTA buses to travel based on travelers needs and adjust routes accordingly in addition to their traditional routes. I think this is important for modernizing and making public transportation a better option today
2) How so you plan on evolving Allentown's job market from a retail / hospitality / warehousing to a more modern technology base
I have three goals for Allentown’s job market which I think are key to breaking out of service oriented low wage economy. One is developing a regionally oriented incubator program designed to attract and build a state of the art incubation area. A program similar to this was started in Santiago, Chile where entrepreneurs were provided with 40,000 dollars in upfront funding and given access to an array of professional assistance and business promotion. They’ve created an entirely new tech oriented economy and increased interest. In order for Allentown to succeed it must lead the way in making the Lehigh Valley a leader domestically and internationally in developing start-ups in business support services, software development, coding and strengthening the creative economy. This will lift wages in all regards by increasing spending power and providing many with access to new jobs. Second, is rebuilding manufacturing to reflect modern day demand. We must have a business development strategy that prioritizes export oriented specialized products with high demand and limited replicability. Third, we just also incentivize advanced manufacturers to refurbish and make use of the many commercial properties that remain vacant. Advanced manufacturing provides for strong wages and injects additional support into the local economy through training and spending
3) What is your plan to attract businesses that will hire based on proven life experience?
As Mayor, I want to create a city based employ-ability certificate program designed to promote and assist those who may have been previously incarcerated or those who may lack a formal education but have proven to be skilled workers. This directly connects into attracting businesses who will hire based on proven lift experience. I want to partner with existing businesses to agree to join and hire and people who employ-ability certificates. This will create a supportive environment where businesses respect and seek this talent. I will work with local agencies to provide tax credits and incentives for hiring those with proven life experience
4) What is your plan to support and encourage the development of serious independent media?
The best way to encourage independent media to give it legitimacy in the eyes of the government and city. I will sit and talk with independent journalists and conduct interviews with everyone who has serious questions about the city. I will encourage residents to read and connect with it as well. I will explore the possibility of creating a designated press office in city hall which will give journalists full time access to monitor and interact with government officials.
5) What are your ideas on how Allentown can become the leader in areas like substance abuse treatment, especially alcohol?
I think Allentown can lead the way in the way it deals with substance abuse by creating a one of a kind fully supportive model designed to deal with every step of the recovery process. The problems in treating these issues often come from the massive number of organizations and agencies that exist to provide treatment and support. Allentown must first centralize and manage all of the organizations within the Lehigh Valley and build an integrated system designed to foster cooperation between them all. It starts with law enforcement and health care professional who need the training and assistance to diagnose and respond. One individuals have been identified, we must assess the resources closet to them and which they have access to. There must be a seamless process of community support and monitoring including assigned and frequent medical checks up. This kind respond will require hospitals, police, local churches to all work together to kind the person to recovery.
6) A lot of people believe the Niz needs to be dissolved. Downtown needs to become more friendly to lower income levels. I hear this from people in and outside Allentown. How do you plan to re-work the area around the arena so everyone feels welcome? Examples: a dollar store / fast food / diner such as Top or Hamilton Family.
I want to encourage diversified development in the downtown area. The market has been saturated with too many restaurants. The city would benefit from a diner or family oriented restaurant. There must also be entertainment development such as a music venue, or restaurant/arcade. The center of the city needs affordable sources of business to draw family’s downtown. A dollar general or perhaps even an Aldi’s grocery store which pay above average wages and offers grocery store convenience to many.
7) Do you plan on building a modern homeless shelter in downtown? One that would actually help people by providing job training, computer skills, etc?
My strategy for dealing with the city’s homeless crisis is founded around the belief of a housing first policy. I believe that supportive housing is crucial to recovery. I want to write city ordinances to be permit micro housing units similar to those in Salt Lake City Utah and San Francisco. They would be maintenance by community organizations and volunteer support. They provide modest accommodation, but living in them requires that they promise to counseling programs and receive assistance in job related skills to move them beyond homelessness.
8) Do you use or plan to use Lanta bus? As a way to show people the advantages of public transportation? To find out what people really think?
I would use LANTA bus as way of encouraging public transportation and more important hearing people’s concerns.
9) Point blank: Allentown is a dead city. How do you plan to inject energy and life to make the city exciting and fun for everyone?
I think of the Mayor has needing to be a hands on leader. I also see government has transformative and activist in nature. I think Allentown suffers from low community engagement and voter participation. As part of my electoral reform program, I want to create a voter voucher system and use participatory budgeting so people are involved.
I also want to inspire and encourage the artistic community by holding competitions and local events to showcase creativity. I personally want to see music, movies and art produced locally in the public eye and brought to life. I believe cities should lead their citizens in fitness which is why I want to hold weekend fitness events whether it be a run through the parks or community games at gyms. There needs to be a hands on role in bringing people back into society. I want to create a local service corps to empower local residents but also youth to take a stand in their community in picking up trash to painting the outsides of houses and making murals. We all have to bring this city back together.
10) There is no reason why a local politician should not be on the street level. Do you walk the streets and visit all types of businesses on a regular basis? As a way to find out what all types of people think and what they want?
I knock doors and interact with residents every day to listen and hear their concerns. As Mayor, I want to sit down every Sunday at a new business and talk with residents and the owners and hear what I can do better.
11) How do you, sincerely, help the community? Examples: volunteering at a soup kitchen / animal shelter / library.
I’m a volunteer speech and debate coach, I enjoying teaching and educating.
12) What are your plans for Allentown to become a leader in the fight against domestic violence? suicide prevention? helping survivors of violent crimes? survivors of sexual assault?
My fiancé was a victim of sexual assault in college, I take the matter personally and seriously. The strategy goes back to creating a community organized support system so that victims have access to treatment and assistance from the beginning. The first problem is always reporting. We need to break the stigma around speaking openly about the topic and make sure that law enforcement have sufficient training and emotional understanding when it comes to dealing with these crimes. Mental issues also mean creating special crisis intervention teams on the police force to reduce misunderstandings and ensure that those who may be dealing with a severe mental illness are not harmed by law enforcement or do not harm law enforcement themselves. This will require strong partnering with county officials.