Jerome Rice on plans for minority businesses, public safety
Tuesday, November 2 is election day for the municipal races in Spartanburg.
Mayoral candidates Cathy McCabe and Jerome Rice participated in several forums where each candidate often only had two minutes to speak to each issue or question. The Herald-Journal interviewed each candidate on the eve of the election to follow up on some of their responses.
Learn more about each candidate’s vision:SPARTANBURG MAYOR’S RACE: Cathy McCabe and Jerome Rice vie to replace Junie White
Prior to this interview, Rice spoke about promoting equity in economic development. It plans to support more minority-owned businesses, improve broadband access, and increase community policing and street lighting. He also hopes to continue supporting the city’s efforts to help the homeless and provide affordable housing.
Detailed synopsis of the mayors’ forum:Spartanburg mayoral candidates Jerome Rice and Cathy McCabe discuss city and fairness in forum
Jérôme Rice Q&A
Economic development and equity
Question: You emphasized equity in economic development. What are some of your specific plans?
Reply: If a developer wants the city to encourage the city to move development forward, the city will ask for affordable housing in return. And I want to make sure that the developer has a certain percentage of the work that goes to minorities and women.
Some of our small businesses and minority entrepreneurs need to develop the capacity to get bigger jobs. We are therefore also developing programs like Amplify to connect these minority companies to different resources. I am behind the expansion of Amplify. I see that this department is bigger and works beyond the city limits.
Question: You also talked about using part of the US $ 16.5 million bailout to invest in minority businesses. So how exactly do you go about doing this?
A: I think it’s thanks to Amplify’s expansion and a bigger budget for the city’s diversity and inclusion department. I plan to not only increase the budget, but also increase the budget for our diversity and inclusion staff in the city.
Question: Even with the city’s diversity and inclusion efforts, many people still believe there is under-representation in downtown minority businesses. With stores almost at full capacity now, how are you going to promote diversity in the downtown core?
A: We can launch a business challenge with potential minority businesses and give some of them a year of rent on a storefront. Although the city center is quite busy, I think other places like the WestGate Mall have great local foot traffic.
We can have these little minority businesses there with the big stores. And we will make sure to promote these companies so that more people can know about these stores.
Question: In addition to investing in small minority businesses, what other areas are you looking to invest the $ 16.5 million US bailout in?
A: I want to improve our broadband so that we have internet access in every corner of Spartanburg. Prince Hall, Victoria Gardens, Spartan Terrace and Crescent Hill did not have a good reception during the pandemic, so we need to change that. And we can even have internet access on our buses and public transport.
Question: After talking to the city manager and the folks at OneSpartanburg, Inc., I learned that Spartanburg is looking to increase the number of white collar jobs. What would be the references for these jobs?
A: These jobs are where we work on recruiting with many universities, Wofford, Converse, USC Upstate and Spartanburg Community College.
Question: What would be the demographics of those who usually hold white collar jobs?
A: I don’t know the full demographics. I know the lowest demographic in colleges are African American men. So how do you get more young African American men to go to school? These are some of the conversations I would have with college presidents.
Question: What about blue collar jobs? They have been among the slowest to recover from the pandemic.
A: We need to talk to companies that are downsizing and see what kind of support they might need to hire more workers.
We must also work on communication and public transport. And with public transportation, we have to start talking about expanding the roads outside the city limits with the county. And we also want to extend the opening hours.
Question: Do you know how long the extension can take?
A: I don’t see it taking that long. We already have the pilot carpool program with Dollar General. It is not as difficult as it is sometimes claimed. We can hire more drivers, we can put more people to work. Again, this could be part of how we use COVID recovery funds.
Housing and homelessness
Question: With the affordable housing projects that the city has now, a lot of them are affordable for 20 or 30 years. What will you do after these years?
A: We’re going to sit down with the developers again and try to negotiate. This is still new territory for us. So we will learn and refine as we go.
Question: For increased roaming, you mentioned existing resources and programs like Litter Hero to address some roaming issues. But currently, Litter Hero only has a maximum of four people in each cycle, and Miracle Hill only has 45 beds due to the pandemic. How do you plan to address the issues facing the homeless population?
A: Access to food is not the problem our homeless face. It’s mental health and addiction, so that’s what we need to work on. We may also need to open up spaces on different sides of the city to serve the homeless on different sides of the city.
Rice runs for the mayor:Jerome Rice announces his candidacy for mayor of Spartanburg and hopes to make the city fairer
Question: You talked about increasing the number of police officers in communities on foot and installing more street lights as part of the public safety measure. Do you have something else in mind for public safety?
A: We still have a budget for more police officers. And we’ve tried to hire more agents in the past, but some of the people who applied were not qualified. We must therefore be very creative in our recruitment and attach more advantages to the work. We can make sure our agents can take a car home and receive a bonus for being here.
And to address the issues with the slow response time, once again it’s about making sure we have more agents on foot in certain areas. So it shouldn’t take them long to answer a call.
Public participation process
Question: For the comprehensive plan meeting specific to the city district, there was not a high attendance rate at any of these meetings. If you were mayor, how do you make sure you reach more people who may not be participating as much in these meetings or polls?
A: We took it to community centers, but why not take it to apartment complexes and made it a partnership with the housing authority? For example, we would go to Victoria Gardens, hold meetings there, knock on doors and distribute flyers. I am not saying anything obligatory, but I will strongly encourage them to attend the meetings because it is in their best interests. If we don’t get good results there, we can also send the flyers to their homes, ask them to fill it out and return it.
Question: Would this be feasible? Considering the number of people and communities?
A: It’s doable. It may take a little longer for that to happen, but we can hire people to go out there and fill out those forms like we do with the census.