Jack Marshall

District/Office: 
Political party: 
Nonpartisan
Question 1: 

What are the major issues facing the City of Berea?

There are four issues that currently weigh heavily on my heart.  First, as I talk to folks around town, the impression I get is that Public Safety (from bicycles, to student crossings, to some seriously dangerous intersections) is foremost on the minds of concerned citizens. Second, Education is another issue about which I feel strongly.  We have a world class college, and I’m very proud of that institution, but we need additional post-secondary educational assets.  A technical institute or college, would be ideal for Berea to help our more vocationally-oriented youth prepare for 21st century job opportunities. Third, Drugs:  They’re here and quite frankly they are destroying the roots of our community.  There is no one sure fire way to combat this problem, which is why, when elected, I’ll call for a community task force to immediately set about exploring and acting on options in treating this reign of terror.  Finally, and most importantly, the environment.  Nothing we want to do will be accomplished without clean air to breath and secure access to clean water.

Question 2: 

What is your position on future growth and development issues as they affect Berea; including further development of historical districts, tourism, and sustainable “buy local” initiatives?

The first thing that comes to mind is our infrastructure.  Our town, as evidenced by last year’s spoonbread festival, is not built for 60,000 tourists and their cars.  I believe that we Bereans need to take a serious look at the type of town we want to have, and the type of town we want our grandchildren to have.  I believe in investing in what we already have, making Chestnut street a bright and beautiful entryway into our town.  My wife and I never eat at chain restaurants anymore because we believe in and support the entrepreneurial spirit of those who have opened new dining establishments in the last year, as well as those who have been here for MANY years.  The development of our tourist destinations must continue, and I feel it’s the city’s highest civic duty to preserve the character of the town, while providing the services need to live in this technological age.

Question 3: 

Are you in favor of the development of pedestrian and bicycle pathways as safe and practical options to motorized transportation in Berea? If so, what projects of this kind would be your priority?

As part of my platform on Public Safety, I feel that the development of safe bike paths and sidewalks are key to strengthening our community.  Let’s face it, we have traffic flow issues in town that are at times mind-numbing.  I think we gather input from the community, discover where we can improve in these areas, and proceed from there.  At this point, no idea should be off the table, from pedestrian over-walks, to roundabouts – I’ve even heard an incredible idea about taking some streets underground!  We have a lot of options and in order to solve our traffic issues, we’re going to have to innovate.  I hear a lot of talk about the Berea bypass, and have to say that frankly, I’m against it.  Already businesses like O’Charley’s and Big Lots are planning to pounce on the bypass as soon as it’s built.  Do you have any idea how much green space we are going to lose to this bypass?  Do you have any idea what effect the bypass will have on those businesses we prize the most in Old Town and on Chestnut and Richmond Road?  Look what happened to Danville.  Once, Kentucky’s prime example of a well-preserved small town, Berea may now face the threat of dying due to the bypass that a rather small number wanted.  I want Berea to be Berea, not Richmond, not Danville, and definitely not a Lexington.  We have a rich and wonderful history here.  We also have an obligation to those who have invested heavily in Berea’s center as well as to those who will walk the town 100 years from now. The smart way to develop Berea is to enhance the character, charm and vibrancy of the city and the many assets we already have to attract new residents and visitors.

Question 4: 

State and federal laws do not exist that ban discrimination against people in areas of housing, employment and public accommodation based on perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. Knowing that, would you be in favor of passing a fairness ordinance in Berea that would address this type of discrimination? Please explain.

I am a strong believer in equality for all Kentuckians and all Americans in the areas of employment, housing, public accommodations and in all spheres that affect the ability to participate in community life fully and equally.  Our civil rights laws are watershed accomplishments for racial and religious minorities, immigrants, women, and the disabled, and these protections should be extended to include sexual orientation and gender identity. Almost every family has one or more close or extended family members who suffer because of discrimination based on perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. I could therefore not live with myself if I didn’t favor a local Fairness Ordinance. Change is hard, and sometimes it conflicts with traditional social or religious beliefs. I therefore believe that the religious exemptions provided for churches and religious institutions in existing Fairness Ordinances in Kentucky provide needed balance. I trust that once a Fairness Ordinance is passed in Berea, it will quickly become clear that equality extends our democracy and makes for a more inclusive community, and harms no one.

Question 5: 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in the years of 2010-2014, 19.7% of the residents of Madison County lived below the poverty line. What policies will you support to improve the availability of safe affordable housing and increased economic opportunities for all citizens?

I know this for sure: Poverty cripples heads of households and every member of an impoverished family. It makes safe, affordable housing and economic opportunity very nearly impossible to secure. And it not only affects this generation; it also condemns coming generations to severely reduced life chances. And, in addition, poverty retards the growth of the broader economy. The old truism that “Everybody does better when everybody does better” has been proven over and over in American history. Government can’t do everything for people, but, for the sake of a productive economy, if not just because it is the right thing to do, Berea city government should work to insure safe, habitable housing through adopting a Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act that would protect the rights of both tenants and landlords and make sure that unsafe housing or housing that doesn’t meet reasonable standards of habitability is no longer permitted in the city.

Affordable housing is an even greater challenge. The city must work with state and federal agencies to promote the construction of additional subsidized housing for low income residents.

But I am convinced that the most pressing immediate need is to increase income levels of those in poverty through a statewide increase in the minimum wage. The current minimum wage is not livable, period, and those struggling breadwinners who try to support a family by working more than one minimum wage job face a terrible dilemma: suffer real privation or sacrifice important family time which predictably results in greater educational deficits for children and more family dysfunction. There is no doubt an adequate minimum wage would make for a healthier community and economy. City government, the Chamber and local non-profits should be advocating fiercely for this. 

Another continuing need is for effective targeted workforce training to prepare local residents – especially women, persons from minority backgrounds, and persons with disabilities to be able to take advantage of jobs that become available in our manufacturing businesses. As I write this, there are fifty vacancies at one of the local factories.

Recently, several promising grant initiatives have been taken, led by our new Economic Development Director, toward preparing residents for entrepreneurial opportunities. This needs to be a continuing effort. We also need to target potential new businesses that would eliminate trade and employment gaps created when Berea individuals and businesses have to purchase major items outside of Berea -- business that if done by businesses here would lead to jobs for local residents and profits for Berea business people. Finally, the city council must make sure that Economic development focused on growing local business and local jobs is ongoing. As one of your Councilpersons, I will insist that that focus is never allowed to lag.

Question 6: 

What actions or initiatives can the city take to provide help and alternatives to families and people in Berea living with addiction?

Drug abuse and addiction are the gravest threats to the health, vitality, and safety of our community, period. Addictive drugs – whether legal or illegal, whether it’s alcoholism or the terrors of heroin and opioid addiction – are destroying families and creating more and more crime here and across the Commonwealth. Law enforcement cannot by itself eliminate this scourge, nor can the limited treatment options available. What is needed is a city-wide, all agencies, all civic groups, all faiths, all education entities, all local and other law enforcement agencies joining in a compact which considers every aspect of this problem – economic, health, educational, spiritual – as the crisis that it is for the city and our residents. Much good work is already being done in this area, but the clearly visible growth of the problem from month to month and year to year shows that a much more robust and coordinated “all in” approach is essential. As your Berea City Councilperson, I will work with everyone who can be persuaded to join together to bring about a more comprehensive effort. I certainly don’t have all the answers but I do have the energy and will to raise this many-faceted problem high enough into public view that we can look at it from all sides and apply the best approaches that have been found. And I won’t stop or let go until we have strong results.

Question 7: 

What measures do you support to foster good relations between law enforcement officers and our local community?

To start with, I believe that Berea has a good police force that is led by an able Chief. However, even fundamentally strong forces can be, must be, made better. The fact is, over the last year and more, the numerous unjustifiable killings of (mainly) black men has brought our nation’s law enforcement establishment under much scrutiny and there have been many totally understandable protests against excessive violence by police. So, what can be done to foster good relations between the public and law enforcement officers?

First, the purpose and amount of training for rookie police officers is probably inadequate. Law enforcement officers are above all PEACE OFFICERS, and a significant amount of both initial training and continuing education must be devoted to having officers learn behaviors that de-escalate conflict whenever possible while imposing strict standards of accountability for the use of violence when it is necessary for preservation of life – the officer’s or someone else’s. 

Second, drawing weapons should be a last resort and extremely rare. Police officers and others from pre-teens to seniors are subject to the powerful influences of television, movies and video games that are rife with the constant use of extreme violence, and this has the undesirable effect of convincing officers (and non-officers) that this violent fantasy world is reality. Yet, our neighbors the Canadians, and our cousins the British, have extremely rare recourse to violence by police and a miniscule number of police-involved deaths as compared with the U.S. 

Thirdly, good basic human relations behaviors should be a measured element of regular police officer evaluations, and officers who do not display such behaviors on a consistent basis should be referred for additional opportunities to learn them. Officers should be helped to understand that courtesy and kindness toward citizens does not diminish their professionalism but enhances it.

Finally, class, racial, sexual, and anti-immigrant bias can be lessened by education, and fear of the police by the public can be dramatically reduced by having the backgrounds of officers appropriately reflect the composition of the communities they serve.

Question 8: 

Last year there was a great deal of controversy around the selling of confederate flag merchandise at the Spoonbread Festival, and Berea students reported being harassed on the basis of race while in town. Given that, what measures do you support to address racial harassment in Berea?

I have addressed ways of reducing the fears of police harassment in Berea. Racial harassment by biased community members toward members of racial minorities is a much more difficult thing to prevent and requires that Berea foster a culture of acceptance and appreciation of diversity while also making clear that Berea supports and promotes policies that disapprove of racial, class, gender, and other forms of intolerance at every level. I propose that intense efforts be made through the Human Rights Commission, through the churches, and through our schools, newspapers and other community media to make Berea a “Golden Rule” city – a city that promotes the practice of “Doing unto others what we would have others do unto us.” Simple, but profound. And I will try hard to personally practice such a policy as Councilperson.

Question 9: 

Berea is in the midst of making long-term decisions about where and how it gets and manages its wholesale electric power. Beyond safety, reliability and affordability, what considerations should be made with respect to Berea's electric power choices?

The process for choosing a power provider for the city of Berea going forward has been a murky one. In other places, when monopolies are granted to private businesses involving large, long-term contracts, you can be pretty sure that some decision makers are on the take. I don’t think that happened here, but the messy and contentious appearance of the process by a council that is usually silent raises questions. But to try to answer the specific question, I would work to make the process more accountably open and transparent, and I would insist that all proposal and change documents be made available to the public through the city’s website and Facebook page as well as always available to the newspapers to publish. Public forums should be well publicized and repeated at different times convenient to the working public.

Beyond safety, reliability and affordability, the most important additional considerations are environmental. Coal-fired generation has been cheap, but is extremely costly to the environment, to public health, and it must be phased out. Considering the costs of making coal generation even remotely safe for the environment, renewables have now reached the level of efficiency and price evolution so that they are fully competitive with fossil fuel generation and should be preferred at every turn in the interest of the planet, and in the interest of creating new industries and new jobs for Kentuckians to replace vanishing coal jobs. Berea Municipal Utilities has taken a very positive step toward the use of renewables with its solar farm. While natural gas generation may be a short-term acceptable transitional form, over time, other renewable sources—wind, water, biomass, etc.  must be promoted in the interest of a healthy environment and a healthy Kentucky. Our decisions must include keen awareness of how they affect Berea, but also how they affect the entire interdependent web that is our nation and planet.