VOTE 2018: Gutierrez, Paxton, Trimble face off in Ward 1 City Council forum

(From left) Taylor Shelton, the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce’s director of government affairs, moderates a forum Tuesday evening with Ward 1 City Council candidates Olivia Trimble, Kris Paxton and Sonia Gutierrez inside the Fayetteville Public Library’s Walker Community Room.

Staff photo

Three candidates hoping to represent Ward 1 on the Fayetteville City Council participated in an hour-long forum held Tuesday night at the Fayetteville Public Library.

Sonia Gutierrez, Kris Paxton, and Olivia Trimble each hope to succeed three-term council member Adella Gray, who announced she will not seek re-election in November.

The forum began with each of the candidates offering brief opening statements, before taking questions from the audience.

Meet the Candidates

The following candidates have responded to a request from the Fayetteville Flyer for more information about their candidacy in the Nov. 6 election.

Ward 1
Sonia Gutierrez
Kris Paxton
Olivia Trimble

Ward 2
Martin Bemberg
Raymond Burks
Mark Kinion

Ward 3
Lucas Regnier
Sloan Scroggin

Ward 4
Adam Fire Cat
John La Tour
Teresa Turk

Gutierrez, 40, went first, touting her personal and professional experience as a student, educator and non-profit administrator, and entrepreneur. She runs 3c21 Design, and is co-founder of the New Design School, a nonprofit graphic design school located inside the Fulbright Building on East Dickson Street. Gutierrez also outlined her platform to keep Fayetteville “financially fit, friendly, and funky.”

Paxton, 33, is the technical services manager for the City of Springdale engineering department. He opened by thanking Gray for her years of service on the council, and pledged to fight for solutions “both social and fiscal” for Fayetteville residents if elected, and to treat his “fellow progressive opponents with the respect they deserve” throughout the race.

Trimble, 32, is a sign painter, activist, and community organizer known locally for her “Repaint Hate” campaign and other initiatives. She cited her connection to south Fayetteville as a lifetime resident, and pledged to represent “mothers, tradespeople, and working class folks” in her ward on the council. Trimble said Fayetteville needs to find a balance between new housing while preserving traditional neighborhoods, and needs to find creative solutions to address affordable housing and homelessness in the ward.

Affordable housing, and addressing the homeless population in Ward 1 was a recurring theme during the forum.

One resident asked the candidates for specific policies they would pursue to address poverty and homelessness in Fayetteville.

Paxton said promoting the existing Hearth program, as part of the city’s Community Development Block Grant program, and working closely with the Federal Housing Authority is one way to address some of the immediate needs of the homeless community. He also said applying pressure to other cities in the region to offer more services to the homeless would go a long way to helping address the issue.

“One thing we need to consider is we are the region’s community that attracts the homeless population because we provide more, because Fayetteville cares,” Paxton said. “We need to reach out to different communities and ensure they are participating more.”

Trimble said housing the homeless should be the first priority, followed closely by addressing some of their other needs.

“We know the most effective way to help people who are experiencing homelessness is housing them first,” Trimble said. “Then we need to work on allowing them to access job options and resources that they need, and programs that maybe they qualify for.”

Gutierrez said promoting a voucher program for housing, and getting landlords on board with the program, is another step that could be taken to address the homeless issue in Ward 1.

“I would love to get landlords excited about taking vouchers,” Gutierrez said. “That is an easy, progressive, bold thing I can actually work for.”

The candidates were also asked about the recent controversy around the sale of the Willow Heights public housing neighborhood and what they would do outside of city government solutions to address the issue.

“We recently raised $15,000 in four days to make sure everyone living in Willow Heights has a new, energy-efficient air conditioner,” Trimble said. “That wasn’t the city doing it, and that wasn’t Tyson doing it, it was residents. What I can do is continue to connect with people who are my neighbors, ask them ‘How can you get involved?'”

Gutierrez said encouraging public housing residents to provide their own solutions to the issues facing the neighborhood could be helpful.

“I think people need to feel like they are welcome to say their piece, explain their needs, and not feel like they are being judged, or concerned about losing their own housing,” she said.

Paxton said helping to encourage public transportation options the neighborhood is one way a City Council member could help the residents.

“52 percent of the people at Willow Heights do not have transportation,” he said. “There’s not a bus stop there. We don’t have a method for these people to be successful.”

“I think it’s going beyond being a City Council member to reach out to the organizations that provide bus routes, and (ask them) to provide a bus at the church.”

The next Fayetteville City Council candidate forum is scheduled for tonight (Wednesday, Sept. 5) at the library when Ward 2 candidates Mark Kinion, Raymond Burks, and Martin Bemberg are expected to participate in a similar discussion.

A full schedule of upcoming election forums hosted by the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce is available here.

Election day is set for Nov. 6.