Lenny Kovalick | Candidate Questionnaires - Durham County | Indy Week

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Lenny Kovalick

Durham City Council (Ward 3)


Lenny Kovalick
Website: https://www.facebook.com/LennyKForDurhamCouncil
Occupation: Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
Email Address: lkovalick@gmail.com
Phone number: 919-949-5612
Years Lived in Durham: 13 years

1) Durham residents, from the new group Durham for All to the demonstrators who tore down the Confederate monument on Main Street, are calling for more power to be placed in the hands of the people. In what ways do you think Durham can improve public participation in local government? How would you make room for that in city government?

While I agree with the removal of the Confederate monument it could have occurred under less disruptive and destructive circumstances. Tearing down the Confederate monument was not placing the power in the hands of the people. This event significantly impacted our community by placing stress on local businesses and our police force. To place more power in the hands of the people I would encourage members of the community to attend City Council meetings and vote in local elections. If elected I would encourage open discussion of resident’s concerns and arriving at solutions in a peaceful and efficient manner.

2) Because of state law, municipalities have a number of restrictions placed on them by the legislature: they can’t, for instance, be a sanctuary city, impose a city-wide minimum wage, enforce inclusionary zoning, or remove Confederate monuments. Under what circumstances should elected officials push back against the legislature?

As the saying goes all politics are local. We are responsible for initiating the change that we want our state officials to make. While we do not have the power to change these laws we can let our voices be heard by relaying the concerns of our citizens and encouraging and pushing for change within the state legislature.

3.) Given the inflamed racial tensions after the recent events in Charlottesville, what steps should Durham take to position itself as a guardian of social justice? How would you characterize city leaders’ relationship with Durham’s communities of color, and what should be done to improve that relationship going forward?

I am proud to live in a diverse community that embraces people of all backgrounds. Without a doubt there continues to be racial tension in our city and many communities across the country. City leaders need to be able to have civil discussions with our communities of color and make sure their voices are heard.

4) Durham’s public housing stock is aging, and there is limited money to redevelop units. What are your ideas for keeping residents of public housing in quality, affordable homes?

This will no doubt be one of the biggest challenges the city faces over the next several years. It will need to be determined if existing structures can be renovated or new housing can be built that may involve less maintenance and be more cost effective. Since I do not have much experience in this area I would work with our community and fellow council members towards a solution that is beneficial for our citizens living in public housing and cost effective for our city.

5) While much of Durham has seen a renaissance during Mayor Bell’s tenure, the city’s poverty rate has also increased. What are your ideas for lowering Durham’s poverty rate, other than providing affordable housing? How can Durham’s renaissance be spread more equitably throughout the city?

This is definitely a challenge and one that is often overlooked, especially with all the growth and success our city has seen over recent years. It is difficult to raise the poverty rate without having more mid-wage jobs in our city. I would work with our leaders to get out into the community and bring awareness to the excellent job training classes at our local community colleges. Many jobs in our community go unfilled due to un-skilled labor. We can only improve our poverty rate by getting better trained and educated citizens in better paying jobs.

6) The Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit project has moved into the engineering phase, although the Trump administration seems reticent to fund it. What are your thoughts on light rail? If completed, do you believe the project will be worth the community’s investment? Why or why not?

From someone who grew up in the much more densely settled Northeast it’s hard for me to imagine a light rail system here. We don’t currently have the type of community structure that would seem to support this kind of system. While I realize that traffic congestion is continuing to become more of a concern I cannot say for sure that this project would be the best solution for our city. I worry that it would be sparsely used and be a drain on our resources. While I like the idea of a light rail and am open to the concept in the future I have a hard time imaging it would be beneficial to our community at this time.

7) Given the current direction of Durham city government, would you say things are generally on the right course? If not, what specific changes you will advocate if elected?

I think our city has experienced great growth and success over recent years due in great part to the qualified members in our Durham City government. As with any government position there is concern that personal agendas and fear of a negative backlash can influence the decisions of City Council members. I would strive to be a neutral member of Council and make independent decisions that I feel would benefit our city.

8) Please identify the three most pressing issues the city faces and how you will address them.

The three issues that I think are most pressing facing our city are sensible growth, policing concerns, and keeping Durham affordable. I am concerned that our growth is too fast too soon and could negatively impact our city’s character. We need to make sure that both our population and infrastructure can maintain our growth and help to ensure non-downtown areas aren’t being left behind. I chose to live and raise a family in Durham in big part due to the sense of community and I don’t want that to change. Secondly we need to support our first responders with training opportunities and better community engagement. Our first responders work hard to keep our city and citizens safe and they do not often get the respect they deserve. Lastly, I would encourage development and rezoning that would not price people out of our city. I hope that Durham can be a city where people of all socioeconomic levels are welcome.

9) What in your public or professional career shows your ability to be an effective member of the city council? If you’ve identified specific issues above, what in your record has prepared you to deal with them?

As a nurse practitioner I encounter challenging situations everyday whether it be making the right diagnosis or helping patient’s and their families navigate the healthcare system and getting them the care they need and deserve. Solutions to these situations cannot be resolved without good communication and working as a team. Our goal is to always do what’s best for the patient. I will apply the same approach to city government and I recognize that while city council members, the mayor, and the citizens may not always have the same view point on an issue it’s important that we strive to do what’s best for our city.

10) Please give an example of an action by the City Council in the past year that went wrong or should have been handled differently. Also, what was the city’s biggest accomplishment during that period?

I feel that the North Durham rezoning project for the North River Village development (Publix) could have been handled differently. North Durham has not seen the growth of Downtown or South Durham and this project could have had a significant positive impact on this area. If projects like this aren’t approved in the future we will see less new development in this part of town, a decreased tax base, and limited incentive for investment in this area. The biggest accomplishment to date was the acquisition of the Fayette Place property which will hopefully be used to provide more affordable housing for NC Central students.

11) How do you identify yourself to others in terms of your political philosophy? For example, do you tell people you’re a conservative, a moderate, a progressive, a libertarian?

I’m a registered Democrat but I consider myself more of a moderate. I plan on taking a sensible political approach to City Council decisions and I’m prepared to make decisions that may not always be popular but in the best interest for our city.

12) If there are other issues you want to discuss, please do so here.

I have not sought any endorsements during my campaign. I plan to be an independent voice on the council and that is not influenced by outside interests. Unlike my competition or some other council members I will not receive any gain from my position on a business or professional level. My primary focus will continue to be caring for the children of North Carolina but I am very committed to a position in city government. My experience as a City of Durham intern and member of the City Appearance Commission taught me that our city workers are dedicated and hard work individuals. I look forward to seeing our city continue to be a place that I’m proud to live in and raise a family.

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