Fort Collins City Council election: 20 questiosn with Sidna Rachid, District 4 candidate

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Sidna Rachid

The Coloradoan sent a 20-item questionnaire to all Fort Collins City Council candidates, seeking their viewpoints and policy ideas about a range of city issues.

The Fort Collins municipal election is April 6, and the City Clerk’s Office will send ballots in the mail by March 19. Check your voter registration here to make sure you get a ballot. Council members are elected by district, and the mayor is elected city-wide. Check which council district you live in here.

Sidna Rachid is running to represent District 4, which covers southwest Fort Collins. The other District 4 candidates are Jessica Dyrdahl, Erin Hottenstein, Shirley Peel and Melanie Potyondy. These are Rachid’s submitted answers to our questionnaire.

Learn more about Rachid at sidna4district4.com.

1. What should the city do to address the social and public health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic? Is there anything you’d like council to do differently in this space?

I think that the city has handled the pandemic very well. I can’t think of anything that should be changed. The one disaster waiting to happen which the city could try to mitigate is the number of evictions which will occur once the moratorium is lifted. The city could meet with nonprofits like Neighbor to Neighbor to determine what could be done and try to get ahead of the problem. Let’s not wait until the furniture is piled on the sidewalk.

2. What should the city do to address the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic? Is there anything you’d like council to do differently in this space?

One of the biggest economic issues for Fort Collins in the wake of the pandemic is how many small businesses will survive. The city should have a mechanism to help them identify small businesses which will survive with a little help. Perhaps something as simple as a help line where business owners can call when they need information, help filling out forms or help filing for state and federal aid. Often, these forms are overwhelming, and many small businesses can’t afford to hire professionals. A volunteer group of retired professionals and interns from the business college could be effective. I’m not sure what the city is doing now to help small businesses specifically.

3. The Homeward 2020 initiative recently wrapped up, with organizers recommending that Fort Collins or Larimer County create a dedicated revenue stream to address homelessness. On a related note, a recent city effort to explore a centralized campus for a homeless shelter and services resulted in no concrete action. What do you think of these two approaches, and do you have any other specific suggestions for addressing homelessness in Fort Collins?

Nothing irritates me more than endlessly studying issues which need to be addressed immediately. Evidence-based data about homelessness shows that there is one way to attack the problem and that is “housing first” or permanent supportive housing. Once in a stable home, the previously homeless are provided with services to help them stabilize. Housing Catalyst has provided permanent supportive housing in Fort Collins with two housing projects: Redtail Ponds and Mason Place. They should be funded and encouraged in their work. As for the centralized campus, I would consult the leaders of the homeless services nonprofits in Fort Collins. My guess would be that it would be more efficient with services in one place.

4. How should the city respond to recent and projected population growth?

One way not to respond is to continue unfettered development. Everyday I open the paper; it seems that there is yet one more apartment complex planned — whether it’s 304 apartments at Harmony Gateway or 240 apartments as a “third leg of an apartment neighborhood.” Since Fort Collins is located in a (semi-arid climate), the water consumption that these developments add to the city’s needs has to be examined with clear eyes based on facts. The use of grey water could be examined. Drought-resistant turf should be allowed only in very limited green areas, and everything else should be xeriscape. Projections, which aren’t always correct, are often used to guide decision-making in a specific direction.

5. The city’s Housing Strategic Plan lays out a vision for strategies to increase the volume of affordable and attainable housing in Fort Collins. Which of these strategies are most appealing to you, and how would you work to make housing costs more affordable in Fort Collins?

The focus for affordable and attainable housing in Fort Collins should remain on rental units. Any housing which is designated as affordable and purchased faces future issues with the resale of the unit. What price will it be sold at, and will it still be affordable?  Will people be deed restricted to sell at a lower price than neighboring units?  

I believe that the U+2 has served its usefulness. The Land Use Code needs to be revised to allow higher densities in some areas. Adding rental units to existing single family dwellings should be encouraged by the city with lower costs for permits and help with designs. Increasing apartments this way takes advantage of existing infrastructure and is more sustainable.

6. Council recently directed staff to draft regulations on oil and gas activity that would serve as a de facto ban on oil and gas activity in city limits. Do you agree with this approach? Why or why not?

Yes, I agree with them wholeheartedly. Allowing oil and gas activity near populated areas is dangerous because the health effects rarely occur immediately, but rather over long periods of time. Why put our residents at risk?

7. Many residents in the community struggle to afford the rising costs of child care. How should the city address child care affordability?

Affordable child care is essential for a diverse, healthy workforce. The benefit of high-quality preschool education is well-known, but many families can’t afford its high cost. The county of Multnomah in Oregon (the home of Portland) passed a ballot initiative with one of the most progressive universal preschool policies in the nation. The measure will provide free preschool for all children ages 3 and 4 in public schools, and in existing and new private preschools and home-based child care centers. I would like to see something like this passed in Fort Collins.

8. If you’re elected, what would be your approach to open space preservation and creation of new parks and trails? How would you prioritize this value in relation to other city priorities, particularly when the city is facing budget constraints?

This would be one of my top priorities. The city already has a dedicated sales tax for this purpose, so I don’t think it will infringe on other budget constraints.

9. The future of the Hughes Stadium site has been a subject of contention for the last few years. Where do you stand on the city’s involvement so far in the rezoning of that property and the ballot measure that would direct the city to rezone the property as 100% open lands and attempt to acquire it from CSU?

I am totally in favor of the ballot initiative to rezone the Hughes Stadium site for open lands and to attempt to acquire it from CSU. I am grateful for the citizen group who took the time and effort to get the issue on the ballot. My major problem with CSU’s plans for the land — selling it to a private developer or some variation of that — is that the land appears to have been purchased by the State Bureau of Agriculture in 1901 from a farmer. This means that it was purchased with public money, and therefore should remain as public property.

10. Several Colorado cities, including Denver, Aurora, Littleton and Longmont, have recently decided to allow marijuana delivery or are expected to consider it in the coming months. Some marijuana dispensaries in Fort Collins have expressed support for a delivery program here. Would you support the city exploring that possibility?

Yes, I would definitely support that possibility, especially since the delivery of alcohol products is allowed and licensed.

11. Fort Collins is creating a new Equity and Inclusion Office to promote those values at the highest levels of city management. What would you like to see that office focus on, and how would you work to make Fort Collins a more inclusive and equitable community?

The largest inequities exist around bank loans for small businesses and homes. Another source of inequity is landlords discriminating against their tenants or to whom they will rent. A dedicated telephone number in city government which allows people to complain if they feel that they have been discriminated against should make it easier to solve problems on a case-by-case basis.

12. Conversations about policing practices came to the forefront this summer after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd, an unarmed black man, inspiring global demonstrations and police reform legislation in Colorado. Here in Fort Collins, Black residents are arrested and cited at higher rates than white residents. Are you satisfied with the level of equity in policing here in Fort Collins, and if not, what would you like to change about it?

I would like to see more transparency with data about who has been arrested, and who has been ticketed. We all have biases, but with police officers it’s much more dangerous since they have authority and lethal weapons. It is important to ensure that all interactions with the public be filmed. If the officer doesn’t turn on his body camera, then he should be fired. All interactions should be reviewed within 48 hours by someone outside of the police department. Any complaint against a police officer should be handled by a panel which doesn’t include any members who are part of the police force, their union representatives or retired police officers. It is only then that you can get a fair reading on whether a shooting or incident was reasonable.

13. What is your stance on possible changes to the “U+2” occupancy ordinance? If you support changes, what would like to see specifically and how would you catalyze action?

I am in favor of this change. See my answer to question No. 5. I would catalyze it by contacting the group who wanted to put (Me+3) on the ballot.

14. Fort Collins adopted climate action goals to reduce community greenhouse gas emissions by 20% of 2005 levels by 2020, 80% by 2030 and 2050. The city is projected to miss the 2020 goal by a few percent, and big, systemic changes will be needed to reach the 2030 and 2050 goals. Do you support the climate goals, and if so, what should City Council do to ensure they are met?

I support the climate action goals. I’m not sure that there is a way to ensure that they are met. Fort Collins Utilities is already shifting to renewables. One method could be to strongly encourage (perhaps through incentives) that new apartment buildings use solar panels. Any commercial building should be encouraged as well to switch over to solar panels. The new King Soopers on Drake and College might be a good start.

15. Fort Collins is working toward a goal of zero waste by 2030, but it didn’t meet its 2020 benchmark goal of 75% landfill diversion, and the city is now reevaluating the goal. What would you do on council to support meaningful reductions in the volume of waste sent to landfills?

People will generally do what is easiest, which is put whatever they don’t want in the garbage. This is a habit which will be almost impossible to change. I can’t really think of one specific way to change these entrenched habits. The recycle center works well, but I wonder how many people know about it. Education in elementary school could create “Recycle Ambassadors.”

16. Fort Collins has relatively poor air quality compared to other parts of the country, particularly in regard to ozone levels. How would you work to improve community air quality?

Encourage the use of hybrid and electric cars, trucks and vans.

17. The health of the Poudre River degrades considerably as it moves from the canyon mouth to Fort Collins, and the city’s 2017 Poudre River report card awarded an overall grade of “C” for the stretch from Gateway Natural Area to I-25. What would you do on council to improve the health and quality of the Poudre River?

I would ask the experts, but I’m not sure that we, as a city, can change what happens upstream on the Poudre River. The Poudre River is an important part of Fort Collins and preserving its health is important.

18. If you’re elected, what would be your top priorities in regard to roads and transportation in Fort Collins?

I would like to see more parents sending their children to and from school on the school bus. The traffic jam outside of McGraw Elementary School in my neighborhood is unnecessary. I would like to see better bus services for east-west arterial streets.

19. Council and the community have had many discussions in recent years about transparency and Connexion, Fort Collins’ municipal broadband network. Some of the public is craving more information about the buildout and the network’s financial performance. How do you think Connexion should balance the public interest in transparency and accountability with the need to preserve competitiveness?

I am anxiously awaiting my connection to Connexion. It’s a huge project. They spent a few months in my neighborhood this summer. The undertaking is enormous. It’s certain that their competitors would like to know their plans so that they could be foiled. I was happy to see this type of broadband network come to Fort Collins, and I support whatever Connexion needs to help them succeed.

20. If you’d like, use this space to share your perspective on an issue or issues that are important to you but weren’t mentioned in the Coloradoan’s questionnaire.

My website details my positions on many issues: www.sidna4district4.com.