Zone 4 Springfield City Council Candidates discussed a variety of topics Tuesday before about 30 attendees at the Springfield Art Museum. During the hour-long forum, hosted by the Springfield News-Leader, incumbent Craig Fishel and challenger Debra Brady addressed several issues, from public safety to economic development to the city's homeless problem.
Zone 4 is located in southeast Springfield, bounded generally by Campbell on the west, Sunshine on the north, Blackman Rd. on the east and extending south to the city limits.
The election is Tuesday, April 4.
Craig Fishel was elected to Springfield City Council in 2013. He's the founder/owner of Fishel Pools and has served on the board of directors for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. He volunteers for his church. Fishel is a Glendale High School graduate and holds a bachelor in industrial management and technology from then Southwest Missouri State College.
Debra Brady is a real estate agent with Murney Associates and has worked as a nurse and pharmaceutical sales representative. She's volunteered with her church and in her children's schools. She graduated from Northwest High School in House Springs, MO and holds a bachelor of nursing degree from St. Louis University.
Brady began the discussion on addressing crime in Springfield by answering the question "what should city council be doing to address public safety?"
Brady feels the city's police are underpaid and understaffed.
She claims that "we have people leaving in droves that graduate from our police force and move onto other cities because our pay is so bad."
She believes the city should increase officer pay and support officers with things they need "like tasers and guns and dogs."
According to Fisher, tackling the city's public safety issue involves more than just adding officers, even though he said they've added 20 since he's been in office. He said it costs $100,000 to add one officer to the force, and "if the sales tax isn't there, there's not money there to support new officers."
Fisher said other issues like mental health and drug addiction need to be addressed to lower the number of people going to the Greene County Jail. And, according to Fisher, "we need more judges, courtrooms, prosecutors, public defenders, which are funded by the state."
Fishel said the city has some "wonderful tools" that have been used in Springfield to spur economic development, including in Zone 4. He pointed to development in the Galloway area, which involved offering tax incentives to developers. According to Fishel, they've worked with 3M on some incentives to expand a plant in northeast Springfield, and they're working with other major manufacturers.
He praised the Springfield Chamber of Commerce, which he said "has done an incredible job of promoting industry into our town and bringing higher wage jobs." He said the city needs to develop the workforce to support those jobs, but that is currently underway.
Brady expressed concern about the incentives the city of Springfield offered to 3M.
Another issue she said she's heard about from citizens in her zone is the time it takes to get businesses going. "I've heard that developers say that they would like to see same-day filings be something that could occur here." She said she heard that the Vandivort Hotel had to wait eight months before it received the permit needed to put a billboard on top of the building.
Homelessness in Springfield
According to Brady, she’d like to see panhandlers off the streets, but she would like for there to be a network of organizations, including churches and nonprofits, to help them.
Brady said she'd like to create a network of people to help with poverty, mental illness and people in need "because this community is so wonderful...that if we all work together I just know that we can fix most of the issues together instead of us all focusing on the same thing, like, 'oh, let's all feed someone.'"
Fishel said the good news is there’s already a network in place to help Springfield’s homeless. He pointed to the closing of a homeless camp, which Brady had mentioned, and said help was offered to the 27 people who were displaced.
"There were six agencies there," he said, "from Burrell to the Kitchen...anything you needed...went out to these homeless tents, to these people living in tents and said, 'what'll you need? We'll do it.'"
And he said One Door also helps people find housing. He mentioned Prosper Springfield, a recently unveiled effort to address poverty in the city, which will bring together services that already exist.
Candidates were asked about the role of non-Zone 1 council members in finding answers to problems in that area of the city. Zone 1 is the target of the first phase of Zone Blitz, an initiative aimed at lifting people out of poverty.
Fishel, who said he attended all nine Zone Blitz meetings, is concerned about issues on certain parts of Springfield eventually impacting the entire city. He feels that if the city doesn't do something about blighted areas, like those in Zone 1, "the whole town's gonna go that way."
According to Fishel, if the issue of blight is ignored, it's not going to get any better. "We can't kick this can down the road," he said.
Fishel said he supports Zone Blitz and is excited about "some really neat programs coming down the pike."
Brady said she understands that "Zone 1 is the most dangerous area of our city, unfortunately."
But she knows that crime is impacting other parts of the city, too. She shared a story of taking her kids to school a few weeks ago and seeing a suspect being put up against a police car by an officer.
"Crimes don't just stick around in a certain zone," she said. "What we need to do is get safety for all of our children, all throughout Springfield."
According to Brady, problems affecting Zone 1 will eventually spread to the rest of the city.
As of February 23, 2017, Craig Fishel's campaign had raised $8,076.14
As of February 22, 2017, Debra Brady's campaign had raised less than $500
Craig Fishel: Craig Fishel for Zone 4 Councilman
Debra Brady: Debra Brady for Springfield