Candidate for City Council, District 4: Kelly Palmer
By Kelly Palmer
Affordable housing, economic development, and COVID-19 are three of the most pressing issues our District IV City Councilmember must prioritize. More than ever, we need trustworthy leaders who listen to their constituents’ needs and are well equipped to address the complex issues our city faces.
Issue 1: Affordable Housing
The rising cost of housing in our community is one of the concerns I have heard repeatedly voiced by District IV residents. Since 2015, the cost of property taxes and housing in Waco has skyrocketed while wages have mostly stayed stagnate. Nearly half of our city’s residents are “housing burdened” and spend more than 30% of their monthly income on housing. As housing costs continue to surge, folks have to move further and further from the city’s core, where many of Waco’s highest paying jobs are located. Housing is an issue where we see poverty and race significantly intersect, in everything from disproportionate homeownership rates to redlining in communities of color.
While there are several ways to address housing-related issues, I believe we will not see meaningful change enacted until housing is a priority in our city’s budget — which ultimately reflects the city’s values. In reviewing the city of Waco’s budget from the past three fiscal years, I was surprised to learn that housing and community development are consistently the least funded budget category. Year after year, housing has made up only 1% of the city’s annual budget. By allocating greater resources to housing, we can invest in solutions that will help alleviate this significant area of need in our community. If elected to the council, I would advocate for both for the development of mixed-income housing, which the data suggests can significantly benefit both communities and residents, in addition to pursuing policies that prevent gentrification and displacement of families from generational homes.
Issue 2: Equitable Development
Waco has experienced a significant economic boom over the past several years, and yet, 44% of District IV residents make under $25,000 a year. While Waco’s growth has undoubtedly benefited some segments of our community, many of our neighbors have not shared in the prosperity or growth. As the city continues to expand in the coming years, the development we pursue must be sustainable and rooted in equity.
Equitable Development is a framework that encompasses economic and community development goals, in which community members are actively engaged in the decision-making process. If elected, I would pursue economic development initiatives that seek to improve the quality of life for all Wacoans, focusing particularly on our residents experiencing financial insecurity. One way I will do this is by championing jobs that provide our residents with a living wage and supporting our local workforce development programs. Through my work with Communities In Schools, I have seen firsthand the impact that workforce development programming can have on someone’s life by equipping them with an employable skill set that opens the door to financial security.
I look forward to reinforcing partnerships like this within our city, bringing together schools, non-profit organizations, and businesses to train our residents with the specialized skill sets needed to access high paying jobs available within the Greater Waco area.
Issue 3: COVID-19 Management & Recovery
COVID-19 continues to pose a real threat to the security and wellbeing of our community. While the virus has had broad sweeping adverse effects on all of our residents, it has significantly hit our communities of color. Our Black and Latinx populations have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, as evidenced by the positivity and morbidity rates among these demographic groups. Addressing racial disparity as it relates to the novel-coronavirus is an issue of critical importance.
While there are no quick fixes or easy answers, our city council members must continue to provide thoughtful leadership throughout the duration of this crisis. Getting up-to-date, accurate information to our residents will continue to be an important area of focus. Finding ways to access hard-to-reach populations and populations at heightened risk of contracting the virus is also vital. We need city leaders who can strategically mitigate and respond to the wide range of effects COVID-19 has on our community. Even after a vaccine has been created and widely distributed, we will likely face the virus’s ramifications for months, if not years to come. As a city, we must be thoughtful as we develop plans for the long-term multi-tiered recovery we will need.
I commend Mayor Deaver, Judge Felton, and our extensive network of local healthcare providers for the decisive actions taken since March to flatten the curve and minimize the transmission of COVID-19 in our community. The road ahead of us is long, but we can weather the storms of this virus together. My experience working on the frontlines of a humanitarian aid crisis in 2015 and 2016 has equipped me with the skills needed to effectively prioritize competing values and lead during times of collective crisis.
2020 has been a challenging year, but there is hope for a brighter tomorrow. Our community is resilient and resourceful; we will get through this together. Collectively we can build a healthy future for all Wacoans – one where our neighbors have access to needed resources, our local economy is strong, and our community thrives. As a social worker and educator, I have the tools and expertise necessary to get us there. I have been on the frontlines, showing up for our community for years, and I’m ready to serve District IV residents as their next city councilwoman.
Biographical information for Kelly Palmer
Kelly Palmer is a licensed social worker and educator running for Waco City Council, District IV. She has called Waco home since 2013, when she moved to here to pursue her Masters in Social Work for Baylor University. Kelly is running for public office to further serve the community she loves by promoting greater equity and justice through public policy and city funding. Kelly’s campaign priorities are housing, COVID-19 leadership, and economic development with a focus on impacting our most financially insecure neighbors. When she’s not working, you can usually find Kelly volunteering with a local non-profit, on a walk with her husband, or nose deep in a book from the library.