Address: 4206 Touzalin Ave.
Occupation: School social worker and small business owner
Political party: Democrat
Education: Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Social Work
Organization endorsements: Lincoln Central Labor Union; Lincoln FireFighters Local 644; Run for Something; LGBTQ Victory Fund
Bowers is the vice president of the Lincoln-Lancaster Board of Health and served on the boards of the Northeast Family Center and Fresh Start Home. He feels his service, along with his work at Dawes Middle School, has helped him realize the needs of families in northeast Lincoln. He wants to fix streets, fight for affordable housing and secure neighborhoods.
Why are you running and what do you want to accomplish in office?
I’m running because of my history in the district and involvement in the neighborhood make me the strongest candidate to advocate for our working families.
I grew up in northeast Lincoln and I’ve lived here all my life. I started a small business here, work at Dawes Middle School, and I’ve volunteered throughout the district for the last 15 years. The City Council needs someone who is invested in this part of town, and I’ve demonstrated that investment throughout my professional and civic career.
In office, I want to accomplish three things: fix our streets, fight for housing affordability and secure our neighborhoods.
The Lincoln Fire Fighters Association endorsed me because of my commitment to public safety. On the council, I will be an advocate for our first responders so they have the tools they need to keep our city safe.
Are there any special needs in your district that are different from issues in the rest of the city?
My district is too often neglected by the city. Existing neighborhoods feel forgotten and left behind as we develop other areas of town. Our neighborhoods need street repair desperately, especially along Cornhusker Highway and 48th Street. Lincoln’s biggest food desert is in my district, and health disparities between my district and other neighborhoods are concerning. I will work hard to attract more grocery options and health care facilities to my district.
Every candidate includes public safety and streets as their top priorities. In lean financial times how would you budget for parks, libraries and other city services?
Just like a family budget, sound financial management in good years is critical. Keeping an adequate cash reserve and not taking on more city debt in the good years will give us more flexibility for services in lean years. I remember going to Anderson Library after school and playing in Havelock Park. Those were safe places for me growing up and are great resources for Lincoln’s families. I will protect those vital city services.
Should voters approve a quarter-cent hike in the city sales tax with proceeds earmarked for streets? Why or why not?
Our roads need to be fixed. With current funding, we won’t be able to repair our roads to where they need to be. However, families are already feeling the sting of property taxes. This is an issue voters, not the council, should decide. I will vote for the increase. We need to realistically deal with this issue, not pass the buck. If elected, I will seek a spot on the oversight committee to ensure we aren’t in this position again.
Ensuring that everyone has access to decent housing that they can afford has become a national topic. What is your definition of affordable housing? What should the city do to encourage or provide for more affordable housing?
Affordable housing is quality housing that people of all life stages can pay for without a large financial burden. This usually means spending 30 percent or less of your monthly take-home pay on housing. Children who live in stable housing are proven to have higher test scores, better school attendance and more productive adult lives. To encourage more affordable housing, we should use TIF investment more wisely in neighborhoods, explore a community land bank and incentivize new housing construction.
With the rise in home values, the city and other local governments could bring in more revenue by not reducing the property tax rate. The additional tax revenue coming from the increase in appraised value has been called a windfall. How should the city respond?
Let’s be clear: This is not a windfall, this is our citizens' money. We need to reinvest that money into fixing our neighborhood streets and funding our emergency response services. We need to fully staff our fire crews and give police the tools they need to keep us safe. Rising valuations directly impact affordability. I’ll use my experience working with the county to hold the line on valuations and work together to prevent future tax increases.
In 2012 the City Council passed an ordinance protecting people from discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation in housing, employment and public accommodations. A referendum petition stopped the ordinance from going into effect. The council has not rescinded the ordinance nor put the issue on the ballot. If the state does not pass discrimination protection based on sexual orientation and gender identity this session, should the City Council put the proposed fairness ordinance on the ballot for a citywide vote? Why or why not?
Since the Legislature has failed to act, the City Council should. Everyone should be able to earn a living, regardless of who they love. Yet here in Lincoln, a person can be fired from their job, denied housing or be told to leave a restaurant because of who they are. Those are not the values Lincoln residents share, and the council should ensure all get fair treatment under the law.
Some Lincoln residents, including members of Nebraskans Against Gun Violence, believe the City Council should pass a safe gun storage ordinance. Do you think the city should require gun owners to lock up guns in their homes?
We all want children and families to be safe, and I understand the problem that safe storage is attempting to address. As a therapist and social worker I am well aware of gun violence and the impact it has on families and children. However, I have concerns with how the ordinance would be enforced and implemented. This is why I want to see the results of the Mayor’s Gun Violence Task Force before we set policy.
The city has banned cardboard from the city landfill and required local haulers to provide curbside recycling service. Should the city go further, by banning other recyclable products (paper, plastic) from the landfill? What changes, if any, would you propose for the recycling program?
We should explore all options to save taxpayer dollars. Banning cardboard was a good idea. Lincoln’s landfill is nearing capacity, and we extended its life and we saved taxpayer money with the cardboard ban. I support new initiatives that maintain the landfill at its current size through more readily available voluntary recycling, instead of wasting tax dollars buying land for our garbage.
What role should the city take in planning and paying for bike paths (on streets or wider sidewalks) and bike trails (separate paths for bikes and walkers)?
Lincoln should continue our investment in bike paths and bike trails. If we want to be a city that draws and retains young talent, we need to develop a city that is attractive and livable. Young professionals and families like to have outdoor activity options, and Lincoln’s bike plan is a part of attracting and retaining talent. However, we need to do a better job of balancing those needs with good traffic flow and fixing our streets.
Winter weather has created an abundance of potholes. Do you think the city does enough to address the problem? Is there anything it should change?
No, the city is not doing enough to address the problem, as anyone who has driven in Lincoln can see. Currently, only 15 percent of our wheel tax goes to residential street rehabilitation, and just 35 percent to arterial street rehabilitation. My district has the majority of the residential streets that need repair. Our city staff are working hard, but we need to put more of the wheel tax money directly to our residential streets, especially here in northeast Lincoln.