Meet the Candidates: Duncan Kirkwood

By on 31 January, 2011 in Government, Kate and Stephen, Legal Issues with 1 Comment

On March 8th, much of Midtown will go to the polls to elect a new representative for District 7 of the Montgomery City Council. Now that Martha Roby has gone off to Washington to represent Montgomery in Congress, eight candidates have qualified for the special election to replace her. Midtown Montgomery Living will be interviewing candidates throughout the month and posting results as we get them. Candidates submit their answers to MML in writing and the only edits we make are for grammar or punctuation. First up is Duncan Kirkwood. He is currently the Chief of Staff for District 3’s Tracy Larkin.

What do you do for a living?

I work in a Pilot Program partnership between city council District 3 and the Alabama Center for Leadership and Public Policy. This pilot program has been extended to give support to all of the city council districts. Also, I am a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army National Guard at the 145th HHD Chemical Unit.

What is your educational background?

I graduated from Alabama State University with a degree in Communications. My focus was in Public Relations. I am currently working on my masters’ degree at ASU in American History.

Are you married? Any children?

No I am not married, and I have one son (19 months old) named Elijah Cambridge Kirkwood.

How long have you lived in Montgomery?

Almost 8 years

Does your campaign have a website?

www.Kirkwood4montgomery.com

Why are you running for city council?

I am running for city council because I know I can give the best representation to the residents of District 7. I have worked with the city council for the last year and a half. Working in the pilot program has allowed me to work with city legal, neighborhood associations, research legislation and to plan important events. The pilot program has prepared me for some of the responsibilities of a city councilor.

I have a heart to serve and I believe I can offer so much to the residents of this district. I will speak for those who can’t speak for themselves, and I can organize and unite people. I am running for city council because it’s time for new ideas and fresh energy. Time for someone to finally bring together the Black, White and Latino communities so that the district can truly flourish. I will be that person.

How many council meetings have you attended?

40

Who do you think is the most effective current council member, and why?

I think the most effective council member is Tracy Larkin. I feel he is truly a sound minded representative, not influenced by political motives. He says what is right, he votes what is right. He truly cares about the people in his district. I am sure all the councilors do, but I just see Councilor Larkin as someone who is readily available to any constituent with any concern. Also, more and more, I am seeing newly elected counselor Dow as a fervent advocate for the people of his district.

What did you think of Martha Roby’s time as D7 rep on the council? Did she do a good job?

I think that in certain parts of the district Mrs. Roby did an outstanding job in providing representation and help to the constituents. However, some of the poorer parts of the district have expressed a strong disconnect from everyone who represents them. In the council chambers, Mrs. Roby never had a problem asking the tough questions and never hesitated to speak strongly for or against an issue. It just seemed sometimes she had her mind made up to oppose an issue before she arrived in the chambers. This is not something that I plan to emulate if elected. Overall, I do believe she did a good job and was a strong councilwoman for District 7.

What distinguishes you from your fellow candidates?

I think the main two things that separate me from the other candidates are experience and my ability to relate to a wide range of people. I fully understand the job of a city councilor from Act 618 that created the Mayor-council form of government here. I understand parliamentary rules used to conduct council meetings. I understand the importance of working with neighborhood associations, most importantly giving them the tools to work on their own. I have helped to write resolutions and ordinances here in the city already, and debated with some counselors in an effort to get these issues passed. I have learned the ins and outs of the position.

Second is my ability to relate to people. District 7 is probably the best representation of Montgomery. Someone who represents this district must be able to go out and discuss the issues of the community with the residents in Cloverdale, but also must be someone not afraid to be in Cleveland Court at night and hear the gunshots in the distance. The person who represents this district must be someone who can sit down and have a nice long conversation with someone in the Graetz neighborhood and still be the voice for all the students at Huntingdon. To truly represent the people of this district it will take a versatile individual, and I know that person is me.

The City Council seems like a ‘full-time part-time job.’ How do you plan to make time in your schedule?

The council meetings and work meetings are every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month, so it’s easy to plan for those meetings because they do not change. The many community meetings, neighborhood association meetings,  and community events are all the time, every week. It is impossible to attend all. But by making a good calendar, I can attend the vast majority of meetings and events. Actually, I enjoy going to community events and meetings to get to hear what the people’s issues and concerns are because I love to solve them.

What are the major issues that you see confronting District 7?

Domestic violence is a huge problem in District 7 and in the city as a whole. The problem has gotten so big because it seems that no one really talks about it anymore.

Crime is a growing problem in District 7. Not necessarily violent crimes, but home break-ins.

Speeding in neighborhoods is a huge concern at both ends of the district and all the way through.

Some of the elderly live on a fixed income in the district and a lot of times their income does not match their expenses. What we have is some of our elderly going a month without lights or heat.

Lack of communication between the elected officials and the people they represent. There are so many people who don’t know who represents them or what is going on in local politics.

What do you intend to do to solve those issues?

I plan to work on domestic violence by helping to unify the different organizations, facilities and programs that already exist to combat domestic violence in the city. I will help these programs to spread awareness about the help that is available to all the residents of District 7 and make it clear that this violence is not acceptable.

Having more police officers can catch more criminals, but to stop crime we have to create more positive programs for our youth. I will continue to work with community centers and neighborhood associations to create programs that are free for youth to get involved in. For example, I want to start a chess program called “Chess Beats the Streets” for the communities in our district. This will be a volunteer program to teach the youth chess on a weekly basis. This is just one of the programs that I will be creating if elected. Once we give our youth something positive to do, it is my belief that idle time contributes to some of the petty crime in the area.

Many of the residents on streets off of main roads and some not, complain that cars are speeding down their streets and the feel that it is becoming increasingly dangerous for the children in their neighborhood. This problem is exacerbated because of the lack of sidewalks. If elected I will work to put speed bumps in these communities, even if they have to be the thick yellow kind that tear up people’s cars who speed over them. Safety of children trumps everything else.

To help the elderly who are in these difficult situations, I plan to work with people in the community like Wanda Jones. She is working with the food bank to create a place where the elderly in bad situations can get one meal a day, or get them delivered if they are immobile. I have no problem empowering community leaders who have great ideas to better their community.

The biggest problem that I have seen is also the easiest to solve. There is this huge gap between the elected officials and those they represent. If elected, I am going to bridge that gap. I am going to create a database where I can call, email, or direct mail each resident of the community about every issue that comes up, and then, based on the what the majority of the district wants, is how I will vote as their representative. That is what was meant by a representative democracy when it was set up.

What is your position on residential recycling?

I think that the city needs to get serious about recycling and make it a priority by going back to curbside pickup in combination with a massive recycling education effort. One thing the city does not do well is getting information out to residents of the city. It is more convenient for the average person for curbside pickup, even though it’s not always as efficient for the sanitation department.

What should the City Council do about urban blight?

Housing code needs to ride through street by street and locate all the houses that need to be demolished. I understand that demolitions are expensive, but we cannot go on pretending that these houses are okay. People live in these neighborhoods and  vacant houses are an eyesore and they attract crime.

Is SmartCode good for Cloverdale?

Absolutely. For Cloverdale and places like it we should always want to encourage businesses to open and find ways to help them progress, and not hinder them with rigid regulations on zoning.

In a world where higher taxes seems to be totally off the table as an option for raising revenue, what ideas do you have for filling the hole in the city’s budget? If you think programs and services can/should be cut, please be specific about which ones and how much.

The only major thing I would cut out of the city budget is the $757,000 for equipment rental. The city needs to take that same amount and purchase whatever equipment they need. This will do two things:

1. It will eliminate the cost from future budgets,

2. It will allow the city to  gain revenue from renting out the equipment to other agencies. The minor things I would cut in half would be the tennis and the softball allocations in the park and recreations department at $140,000 and $80,000.

But I think we are looking at this problem the wrong way. Instead of having such tunnel vision on what we should cut, we need to look at how the city can generate more funds. For example, we can begin to wrap buses with advertisements and do a better job of marketing city events. Montgomery has 5 major colleges and universities that are totally disconnected from the city itself. This is a major problem for a number of reasons:

1. We are not embracing the knowledge and skills that the students of the universities have to offer.

2. Once they graduate, most leave for better opportunity in a place that welcomes the youth.

3. Students can provide a plethora of interns for city departments and programs.

But the most important thing about this shortfall is that  students are not frequenting city events and activities, so the city is not benefiting from all of that possible revenue. If elected, I will work tirelessly to bring the students and universities more into the bedrock of Montgomery.

What is something people should know about you but don’t?

I am the type of person that is always honest, for better or for worse. If I feel that something is wrong or being done for malevolent reasons, I feel compelled to speak out against it.

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  1. Brent says:

    I I stay out near Cloverdale and I am so impressed by this young man. Not only is he spot on with all of the issues he wants to address, but he came and knocked on my door and we spoke for some time. He is sincere in everything he says and wants to do. And his level of competence as it relates to how the city runs is remarkable.

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