Q & A: James Ingle
Published: Monday, January 16, 2012 at 8:15 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 16, 2012 at 8:15 p.m.
Candidates were asked to keep their responses to 100 words or less.
Birthplace: Orange Park
Occupation: Electrician, F and H contractors, working at the Progress Energy Power Plant; teacher, Gainesville JATC, a local electrical apprenticeship; member, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
Education: Graduated top of my class from the electrical apprenticeship where I now teach.
Political offices: None
Past elections: 2011: City Commission, District 2 (lost, 10.9 percent of the vote)
Party affiliation: Democrat
Community involvement: Volunteer doing electrical work for several charities, including Rebuilding Together and The Humane Society
Family: Wife, Trisha Ingle
Links: website | Facebook | Twitter
1. What are the biggest issues the city faces, and how would you as a commissioner solve them?
There are many challenges facing our city: Koppers, the budget and crime just to name a few. The biggest problem here in Gainesville, though, is our lack of decent jobs. A third of our city lives below the poverty level, our median income is around half that of the rest of the state, and Gainesville was recently ranked the fifth-worst city in the nation for wealth disparity. The type of jobs available here are low-wage, no-benefit, no-future jobs. This lack of economic opportunity causes or complicates every problem we have.
2. The city is projecting a nearly $2 million shortfall for its two-year budget period ending in 2013. What initiatives should the commission put in place to raise revenues or cut expenses to make up the gap?
We have an unfortunate history of balancing the budget at the expense of those that can least afford it, with increased fees, cut services and higher utility rates. There are many examples of wasteful spending, frivolous lawsuits and poorly prioritized projects that provide opportunities to cut spending. Raising revenue is trickier. I would like to look at untapped resources, like the crowds that come for Gator games. A small excise tax on drinks during football season is an example. While there are temporary solutions we will continue to have budget problems until we address the poverty that cripples this town.
3. What are your thoughts on the city’s 30-year contract to purchase biomass power?
There is a role for biomass in our energy portfolio. That being said there are significant problems with this particular contract. One of the biggest being there was little or no opportunity for public review of the contract before it was voted on by the commission. Keeping the public out of the decision-making process makes things seem shady even if they are on the up and up. This has become such a contentious and divisive issue as much for the way it was handled as for the content of the contract itself.
4. Do you support making changes to employee pension plans? Explain.
Multiple times over the last few years the city has illegally taken money from current employee and retiree benefits. The city has also decided to take these issues to court instead of sitting down and talking with our workers. This has resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, hundreds of thousands more in repayments of money that was illegally taken from workers and retirees, more than $1 million in total. While the pension and health benefits will, of course, require adjustment as long as we have employees, we can save a huge amount of money by negotiating in good faith and avoiding these frivolous and counterproductive lawsuits.
5. What steps, if any, can and should the city take to improve the local economy?
There are several steps we can take to improve the local economy. A quicker planning and permitting process for local businesses. Making sure that the companies that do business with the city hire locally. A local hiring preference is an easy, low-cost way we can help to ensure the money that we as a city spend stays here, improves the local job market and helps grow the economy. Not only that but the jobs this would keep in Gainesville are the decent-paying jobs we so desperately need.