Q&A With District 14 City Council Candidate Sunny Gettinger

Apr 29, 2019

Early voting in Jacksonville’s runoff elections is now underway ahead of Election Day, May 14.

One of the five City Council races on ballot is District 14, covering parts of the Westside, Avondale and Riverside. The two candidates are Democrat Sunny Gettinger and Republican Randy DeFoor.

Gettinger has worked for Google, most recently as the lead on Google Fiber’s exploration of Jacksonville and other cities. She’s served as the chair of the Riverside Arts Market and the Riverside Avondale Preservation Board.  

Related:

What do you consider the most pressing issue facing District 14?

I have been knocking [on] doors. I think we've knocked [on] over 40,000 doors in District 14. And you know, it really doesn't matter the neighborhood - Argyle, Venetia, Murray Hill, Avondale or Riverside - every single person is worried about traffic in their neighborhood and how fast the cars are going with their kids playing.

It really is kind of amazing how uniform that is. It's different situations; some places it's we need more stop signs; some places we need more sidewalks and some places it's that we have speed limits that are out of whack with how much traffic now travels on these roads. But honestly, that's the one that people are most concerned about right now.

This district is rapidly growing with new restaurants and businesses popping up every month. As a City Council member how do you balance rising rent and home prices, gentrification essentially, with encouraging business growth?

I think looking at how we how we approach affordable housing in this in the city as a whole, we need to be much more strategic. We need to be looking at where people are living now and what we need to do to preserve it. And we also need to be harder on landlords, because a lot of these situations, which are considered affordable are not really livable. So how do we make it so that people have good places to live in the neighborhoods that they've traditionally been in and also have the opportunity to thrive?

Should the City be doing more to address sea level rise? And if so, what?

Resiliency is a huge piece of my platform and what I'm running on. I think it's great that we have a committee that's looking at this now, but it took us a year-and-a-half after a major storm. And that was a year after another storm to even get a committee and we all know what committees do, which is to look at things and make recommendations.

Every year that we take is time off the clock. And I think we've got to get much more serious about it. We've got to get serious about funding streams that aren't coming back just to our taxpayers, but looking at what federal dollars are available. And we need a resiliency officer who's helping us prioritize projects and is really looking across the entire city at where we have things that are dire and need to be addressed tomorrow because people are living in situations that aren’t really tenable. And [some situations] where we have a little more time.

If elected, what would you do to curb crime?

The reality is we're not going to fix our crime problem in Jacksonville until we fix our opportunity problem. So what I want to see is not just investing in police and resources - which I think we need to do, we're a huge city, we have fewer officers per thousand than most of the other cities - but it's also about where do those people live. Where do our police officers live? Are they living in the communities they're policing? Are they a part of it? Do they know the people that they're working to protect? It's also about how are they trained.

At the flip side of that is that there needs to be hope and success and belief in that community. And so I want to see us taking care of our parks and our streets and our infrastructure. This infrastructure thing is very serious because it really is about being a stronger city, from the ground up for every single person in Jacksonville.

Would you support imposing impact fees on developments or raising a sales tax to generate revenue to help with the Duval School District’s repair and replace costs?

I've been following this very closely. I'm a public school mom. I have a second grader at West Riverside. And next year, I'll have a kindergartener and third grader at West Riverside Elementary School, which is actually the oldest continuously functioning school in the state.

We have got to do more to help support our school system and to recognize that is our community's future. We're never going to have everybody in charter schools or everybody in private schools, and we've got to invest as a community. It's not just about the kids that are in there. These are our neighbors. This is the next generation of jobs. It's about how attractive we are to people who want to move here right now. And I think that when you look at that, you have to say we're ready to take action in some way. I'm not I'm not sure I want to comment on exactly how.

Related: Duval School Board Proposes Sales Tax To Repair And Replace Aging Schools 

I think [the school board’s] proposal is quite controversial. A lot of combining middle and high schools where I really want to see the developmental research that says that's a good idea. As a parent, because I'm a parent, this to me is an issue that's not just about government. This is a very personal issue for me. While I think that everybody says let's invest, when push comes to shove, some people aren't willing to put their money where their mouth is, and I think we've got to be as a community. And I think we have to recognize that when schools are crumbling, it's very hard for teachers to do their job. And so let's, let's get this taken care of, and also focus on what's going on inside our classroom.

What do you think about the current administration? And how will you work with or against them?

I don’t believe in being oppositional for the sake of being oppositional. And we have a strong mayor form of government. I firmly believe that the things that I want to do are wins for all of Jacksonville. So I really am interested in working to make sure that our mayor and our city council and our city grows and thrives because I think we win together.

What issue or type of legislation do you see yourself leading?

Definitely the resiliency. The getting us in front of this resiliency issue, taking steps to create a resiliency position and office in city government that's looking at these issues with an eye towards its long term, not just this long term effect on our environment, on our infrastructure, but also on its opportunities for our economy.

I really believe that when you're running for office that should be about the next 40 years, not the next four. And that's what I'm focused on. And I believe that this is at the core of that issue for our city. I think that this is not just about environmental issues or just about resiliency issues, I actually think it's about how we are attractive to outside investment. I think it's about how we think about our long term future and the next generation.

Contact Abukar Adan at 904-358-6319, aadan@wjct.org or on Twitter at @abukaradan17