Con­trol­ling devel­op­ment a key is­sue for Wallace in re-elec­tion bid

Newark Post - - LOCAL NEWS - By JOSH SHAN­NON jshan­non@ches­

When Jen Wallace was elected to city coun­cil two years ago, she took her place on the dais next to coun­cil mem­bers she had often chal­lenged as a fre­quent at­tendee of coun­cil meet­ings and leader of the ad­vo­cacy group Newark Res­i­dents Against the Power Plant.

The tran­si­tion proved to be eye-open­ing, she said last week.

“I have a bet­ter ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the work it takes to be a coun­cil per­son,” Wallace said. “It’s very easy on the other side of the dais to judge and say they’re not do­ing enough.”

On Tues­day, Wallace will seek re-elec­tion to the Dis­trict 3 coun­cil seat. Run­ning against her is for­mer city em­ployee Ricky Ni­etubicz.

Wallace, a 46-year-old res­i­dent of Barks­dale Es­tates, works as mem­ber­ship and mar­ket­ing co­or­di­na­tor for the Amer­i­can So­ci­ety of Cy­topathol­ogy and as a free­lance writer. She moved to Newark in 2000 and gained promi­nence in 2013 as a leader in the fight against the data cen­ter and power plant that was pro­posed for the STAR Cam­pus.

In 2016, she ran for the coun­cil seat be­ing va­cated by Rob Gif­ford and won a con­vinc­ing 84 per­cent of the votes, de­feat­ing fire­fighter Ar­lynn Hall.

Wallace said the main is­sue in her dis­trict is devel­op­ment, as many res­i­dents feel en­croached upon by stu­dent-fo­cused projects.

“They’re sur­rounded,” she said.

That is­sue was on full dis­play re­cently as coun­cil de­bated a pro­posal to re­place a va­cant build­ing in the Park N Shop with 12 apart­ments and re­tail space. Wallace, whose dis­trict in­cludes the shop­ping cen­ter, was one of sev­eral coun­cil mem­bers who voiced con­cerns about the project and ul­ti­mately voted to ta­ble it so the de­vel­oper could re­vise the plans.

“I don’t want to say what it would take for me to sup­port it,” she said. “What I would hope is we could see units with less be­d­rooms.”

The cur­rent plan con­sists mostly of four-bed­room units that are com­mon among stu­dent apart­ment com­plexes. Smaller units would be more likely to ap­peal to ten­ants other than stu­dents, Wallace said.

She ac­knowl­edged that with UD plan­ning to ex­pand by more than 5,000 stu­dents over the next few years, some devel­op­ment is in­evitable. How­ever, she said, it’s im­por­tant to have places for fam­i­lies, se­niors and young pro­fes­sion­als to live as well.

“Stu­dents do need hous­ing, but we need to fig­ure out how to pro­vide hous­ing for ever yone else,” she said.

Changes need to be made to Newark’s com­pre­hen­sive plan be­cause UD’s ex­pan­sion plans have made the cur­rent ver­sion out of date, she said.

“We need to go back to the draw­ing board,” she said.

Wallace said she is pleased coun­cil has taken steps to­ward bet­ter fis­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity but be­lieves there is still room for im­prove­ment.

“We do need more crit­i­cal think­ing about spend­ing and pri­or­i­tiz­ing,” she said, adding the city also needs to find more sus­tain­able fund­ing sources, rather than re­ly­ing on elec­tric ser­vice rev­enue.

On the long-dis­cussed is­sue of down­town park­ing, Wallace said the city still needs more data be­fore mak­ing a de­ci­sion on a big project like a park­ing garage. She praised the re­cent in­stal­la­tion of signs that show a real-time count of open park­ing spa­ces.

“I’m not against a park­ing garage, but I’m not real crazy about tax­pay­ers pay­ing for a park­ing garage for the ben­e­fit of a small group,” she said, adding coun­cil should ex­haust its op­tions for smaller, less ex­pen­sive mea­sures first.

Wallace said her proud­est ac­com­plish­ment in her first term was help­ing pro­mote open gov­ern­ment, such as push­ing for an ear­lier start to the bud­get process and ask­ing the plan­ning de­part­ment to post pro­posed devel­op­ment projects on­line.

“I’ve worked to bring more trans­parency to city coun­cil,” Wallace said. “That’s some­thing Dis­trict 3 is sen­si­tive to in light of re­cent years. That’s gone a long way in restor­ing trust with res­i­dents of the city.”

She said her ex­pe­ri­ence over the past two years best qual­i­fies her to serve Dis­trict 3.

“Now is not the time for a lead­er­ship change,” she said. “We need peo­ple who have been here to choose the next city man­ager.”

She said that while she re­spects Ni­etubicz’s friendly per­son­al­ity and com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills, she doesn’t be­lieve he has a track record in the dis­trict.

“I’m not sure he’s shown he has been as in­volved and en­gaged as a res­i­dent,” she said.

Dis­trict: 3 Age: 46 Ad­dress: 19 Sue Lane Oc­cu­pa­tion: Mem­ber­ship and mar­ket­ing co­or­di­na­tor with the Amer­i­can So­ci­ety of Cy­topathol­ogy and free­lance writer Civic ex­pe­ri­ence: Coun­cil­woman since 2016; for­mer leader of Newark Res­i­dents Against the Power...

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