Ebonee Hammonds - Candidate Position Statement

Ebonee Hammonds

Center Point City Council Place 5 Candidate

Position Statements

Economic Development

What should be Center Point’s top Economic Development priority?

Answer: Center Point’s top economic development priority must be being innovative in recruiting new businesses to Center Point.  Currently there are an abundance of empty store fronts, and commercial property.  Over the past several years there have been too many businesses that have left the city.  Center Point needs more businesses that will be willing to come to Center Point and stay and be successful.  More businesses will be an asset to the city because it will bring in more tax revenue which will be beneficial to the city.  More businesses will create more jobs, and hopefully bring new people to the city to live.  Business that come in an thrive will attract other businesses to come, which will create a steady rise in economic development.  I also think more entertainment will be an asset to Center Point.  I would like to see more sit-down restaurants in the city as well as other entertainment businesses such as a bowling alley and maybe a movie theater.  We would be able to get the residents in Center Point to spend more money in the city instead of having to go to other cities for those amenities, which in turn will increase tax revenue.

When it comes to Economic Development and growth, what are Center Point’s greatest challenges and greatest assets?

Answer: The greatest challenge that Center Point has is regards to economic development and growth is that fact that we currently have a crime problem in the area.  Many businesses will look at the crime issue as a deterrent to coming into the city and opening businesses.  I would like to see Center Point start a small business development program that will provide education and financial resources to current and future business owners.  This will enable current small business owners to have the assistance needed to stay profitable and keep their businesses open.  The program will also be a great help to any entrepreneurs in the city who would like to open a storefront or have an office space in the community get the education and resources to start their business and get adequate funding.  The greatest assets that Center Point has when it comes to economic development and growth is that fact that it is in an area where very many people pass through to get to another area.  There is always potential traffic that will allow any new businesses to have potential customers. I would like Center Point to be more engaging with local employers to see what their needs are in the workforce, and work with local colleges to find out what they are doing to address local workforce needs.  I think that it will be essential to form partnerships with local community organizations to get residents the education and training needed to accommodate the employers in Center Point.

How would you prioritize Center Point’s capital improvement needs?

Answer:  I prioritize Center Point’s capital improvement needs to be a top priority.  Capital improvement goes hand in hand with economic development.  Center Point does have a lot of empty commercial property that could possibly be renovated so that new businesses could occupy those spaces.  The owners of the empty commercial properties need to agree to renovate those properties and bring them up to date.  There are a lot of buildings that are very old and will not attract potential businesses to occupy those spaces, so I do think that there does need to be new infrastructure brought to the city in order to be appealing to new businesses.

The City and representatives from the Chamber of Commerce attend the International Conference of Shopping Centers annual convention each year as well as the regional ICSC meeting attended by the Chamber Economic Development Coordinator. These events are primarily recruiting venues for new businesses. Both the City and the Chamber work closely with the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham to plan growth and development within the city. The City of Center Point has also recently been named an Alabama Community of Excellence (ACE) which provides more grant opportunities for the City. What other means would you employ to draw new businesses to our City?

Answer: I think that offering incentives to businesses that are considering opening in Center Point will be attractive.  Incentives such as tax abatements for several years. Another great way to draw new businesses to Center Point will be to offer discounted fees and permits.  If a company wants to build a new space for their business the city could also consider giving them a property tax break for a period.

The City has had a very aggressive grant writing program over the years that has gained the City over $12 million in services, inventory, construction and programs. While grants do not fund operating expenses, they do allow the City to offer special programs that are over and above what the budget allows. Some examples of things grants have funded in the City include: law enforcement equipment and training, three additions to the Senior Center (including the one currently being constructed) as well as programs for seniors, all of the sidewalks within the city limits, the splash pad, energy efficiency grant to bring down utility costs, boardwalk at the Reed Harvey Park, a playground at the community center, etc. What types of innovative programs would you envision our community having that might be accessible through grant writing?

Answer:  There are several programs and amenities that I would like to see available to residents in Center Point.  First, I would like to see better lighting in the city.  There are areas even on residential streets that are too dark and can cause people to be more comfortable to commit crimes.  I would also like to see a mentoring program for school age children and young adults in the city that will assist in helping our children and young adult be more successful in school and prepared for college or staring their own business.  Another program I would like to see in Center Point is something related to the Arts.  I think that it would be a good outlet for residents just like sports is.  Another program that I would like for Center Point would be a gardening and landscaping club for children and adults.  This will help to encourage people to get involved with making their city a more visually appealing while creating a sense of community.

Education:

Since our schools are a part of the Jefferson County School District, the City has limited input into their organization/structure. How can the City of Center Point best support the area schools in our city limits?

Answer: Center Point can support area schools by helping to sponsor trainings for educators along with what the schools already offer.  Center Point could also assist area schools in helping to support any before and after school programs with any supplies or other resources that is needed.  I think an internship program for high school students would also be a great investment into the city because it will allow students to get an idea of how the city runs and also give them access to skills needed in being successful in the workforce.

Although our public library has an independent board, the city still supports the library financially. What do you see as the city’s role as pertains to the library?

Answer: I see the city’s role as it pertains to the library as not only a financial role, but a role of support as well.  Often libraries become a hub for the city.  It gives people access to information and becomes a place where a lot of activities that benefit the city are taking place.  Libraries are a key source of early childhood education which is an investment in residents in the city.  Libraries can also be support service for local small businesses by proving online resources that is needed to succeed in an increasingly competitive small business environment.  It is important that the city support the library in helping to reach residents in letting the know what services are provided by the library.  The city can also be an integral part in referring community programs to the library for partnering on projects aimed to better the community.

Parks & Recreation:

Please name the existing services offered at each of the City’s parks that you are aware of and what services can be improved upon.

Answer: Some of the services that I am aware of offered at the city’s parks are youth sports which include, football, basketball, cheerleading, and baseball.  I am also aware of the Sports Complex, the Splash Pad, and the area to fish at Reed- Harvey Park.  There is also pavilion rental available at both Civitan and Reed-Harvey Park.  I am excited to see the children be able to fully enjoy the Splash Pad now that it has opened back up to the public.  I would like to see longer hours for the Splash Pad and hopefully open to the public some hours on the weekends for more residents to enjoy.

Please state what additional recreational services you would like to see the City offer its residents.

Answer:  I would like to see more youth sports started such as soccer and gymnastics.  I think gymnastics will be an outlet to get more young girls involved in sports.

If you have visited the new Community Center, please give your impressions of the positives of this facility and what you would improve upon within current budgetary funding.

Answer:  I have been to the new Community Center attending a youth basketball game, and I also had my bridal shower there in June.  I have to say that the community center was nice each time I have visited.  It appeared to be very well maintained and the staff were very professional and accommodating.

Public Works:

Are there any areas of PUBLIC property within the City limits of Center Point that need improvements? Where and what improvements would you implement?

Answer:  I would like to see more clean up done and maintenance on the streets within Center Point.  A lot of residential areas, especially close to apartment complexes are filled with litter and trash which makes our neighborhoods unappealing.

Safety:

The US Department of Justice just completed a study of crime in the City of Center Point. The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department has provided updated information for 2019 as well as amended information from the DOJ data. This study is available to read on the city’s website (http://www.thecityofcenterpoint.org/DOJ%20report%20with%20City%20of%20Center%20Poi nt%20reponses.pdf ). Please state which of the study’s recommendations you would implement first and why. Funding and availability of law enforcement candidates are barriers to public safety in Center Point. There is a national shortage of police academy candidates, primarily minority candidates as well as difficulty in retaining law enforcement officers once hired. What would you do to attract additional competent officers/deputies to our City? For those who believe Center Point should have its own police department, how would you fund it (either using existing budgetary numbers or increased revenue from other sources)?

Answer: The study’s recommendation that I would want to implement first would be implementing concepts of community policing that include deputies patrolling and making more contact with hot spot areas and by being active in neighborhood watch meetings.  The relationship between deputies and the residents of Center Point is strained and needs to be rebuilt again.  I think that more deputies being allowed to patrol and going into the neighborhoods to speak with residents to find out what their issues are will help to build a strong relationship between residents and officers.  I would also like to see more deputies follow up with residents who have been the victims of crime so that they will be aware of the status of their case and won’t feel like they’re being forgotten.

Right now, there is nothing that the council can do to attract officers because Center Point is being patrolled by Jefferson County.  In the future I do hope that Center Point can get to a place sooner than later to be able to have their own police department.  Existing budgetary data shows that currently Center Point is not in a position financially to fund and operate a police department.  I have heard of candidates referring to grants as a mean of funding, but I’m not sure if that is completely viable for continuous funding that will be needed.  Grants are usually not guaranteed, or one-time funding source or only a certain amount of time.  We would need o be ale to continuously fund and operate a police department.  Therefore, economic development must be a top priority of focus for the city.  If the city can bring in more tax revenue, then it will be possible to effectively start and maintain a police department.

Senior Citizens:

Please list the programs that you are familiar with as pertains to the Senior Citizens Center. The Senior Center is currently being enlarged through a Community Development Block grant. With this extra space, what additional programs would you like to see implemented?

Answer:  I am familiar with several different programs at the Senior Citizens Center such as the Walking Club and the Health & Wellness Fairs.  I am also aware of the Walking Club and Line Dancing.  Another great program that the Senior Center does to help the seniors is the assistance with Meals on Wheels, and they also have personal care & grooming classes available. The seniors at the center play Bingo.   I also know that they take the seniors for outings to restaurants and farmers markets.  I would like to see the city partner with local facilities such as the nearest YMCA to provide access to their pools for the seniors who would like to use the pool for exercise classes, and the Senior Citizen Center could provide transportation to the nearest YMCA for the seniors to participate in any swimming/exercise classes.  I would like to also like to have a program onsite where seniors could get referral sources for financial assistance, healthcare assistance, or counseling assistance.

Candidate Information:

Please provide a short biography that will let people know a little about who you are and your connection to Center Point.

Biography:  My name is Ebonee Hammonds, and I am a candidate for the Center Point City Council Place 5.  I have been a current homeowner here in Center Point for about 4 years.  I have been an Auditor for the Jefferson County Commission in the Revenue Department since 2016.  I have an MBA with a concentration in Public Administration.  I am a current member of the County Revenue Officers Association of Alabama.  I held a Treasurer position on the Travelers Aid of Greater Birmingham Junior Board for several years.  I am recently married and have three children.  I love to be of service and help to others.  I am looking forward to helping Center Point to grow economically and better than ever before.

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