What, in your opinion, are the top three quality of life issues that must be addressed by the council and how do you propose to do so?
- Insufficient retail/dining choices downtown –Our lack of shopping and dining choices is a quality of life issue that impacts current residents and discourages young professionals with other options from relocating to Covington. This in turn impacts industry recruitment and retention. I’ve already noted the keys to addressing this, so I won’t elaborate again here. But, it comes down to selling our strengths while confronting and improving our weaknesses.
- Inadequate green space for passive recreation – Easy access to green space and passive recreation areas like parks, nature preserves, and greenway trails is proven nationally to increase property values, foster economic development, and promote public health. Yet, the Comprehensive Plan for the Newton County Recreation Commission details the extent to which we fall below established standards for such amenities in a community our size. This is a weakness we must address for economic and health reasons. As a council member, I will push to make green space and passive recreation a priority in city plans, in our partnership with other local governments, and in the establishment future SPLOST priorities.
- Barriers to Walkability – Americans are driving less. Miles driven annually per person has declined every year since 2004 and is presently at levels not seen since 1996. The decline is sharpest among those born between 1983 and 2000, who show a clear preference to live in walkable, live/work/play places that don’t require driving from one activity to another. Covington has great elements with our centrally located Square flanked by shops and restaurants, with housing extremely close by. But, our main roadways into and through downtown are poorly built for pedestrians, bicyclists, or golf carts. Recent pedestrian deaths on Jackson Highway, Washington Street, and US-278 show just how dangerous it is. As a councilmember, I will work to ensure we keep walkability at the forefront of our plans for downtown and the surrounding community. I will resurrect and reinforce plans already established for US-278, Pace Street, and Washington Street. I will emphasize the need for pedestrian planning in all new development projects.