ELECTION 2019 QUESTIONNAIRES | Champaign City Council: Jon Paul Youakim

ELECTION 2019 QUESTIONNAIRES | Champaign City Council: Jon Paul Youakim

1. What prompted you to run for a seat on the city council?

"Throughout my life, I've always tried to find ways to make the biggest difference with the time that I have been given.

"Growing up, I knew I wanted to become a doctor because of my love of science. As I pursued pediatrics, I learned that you are supposed to be an advocate for families and children — something that I've proudly taken to heart.

"Running for city council is an extension of that endeavor by giving a platform for the vulnerable and voiceless in our city, empowering community members with opportunities to lift themselves up and make our community more productive and resilient."

2. What would make you a better candidate than your opponents?

"I would bring a community health perspective to the city council. My medical and scientific background will transfer into my efforts to improve the city.

"With that perspective, I am providing a vision for Champaign that would ensure that decisions we make place our city on a better path so that 10 to 20 years from now, we aren't looking back and wondering why we didn't invest in our community.

"My goal is to coordinate efforts in the community for long-lasting positive change and being on the city council would allow me to expand that effort."

3. What do you consider the greatest challenge facing the city in the next four years?

"Most of us would say gun violence, but the overarching issue that needs to be addressed in this city is truly the cycle of poverty that is inextricably linked to gun violence.

"We need to have a comprehensive plan that provides a platform for community members to lift themselves out of the cycle of poverty, overcome educational and economic adversity and that prevents so many from falling into that cycle in the first place. Statistically, poverty leads to worse health outcomes in children, higher infant mortality rates and higher rates of abuse and neglect, which ultimately impacts their outcomes as adults.

"Higher rates of poorer academic achievement, higher high school drop-out rates, more high-risk behaviors and increased 'toxics stress' in children has also been proven as a direct correlation to systemic poverty.

"A landmark study by the CDC and Kaiser Permanente in the 1990s observed the correlation between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and well-being later in life. These ACEs can include all types of abuse and neglect, as well as household stressors, such as domestic abuse, mental illness, parental separation, substance abuse and the incarceration of a family member.

"The researchers questioned individuals on whether they had been exposed to these ACEs and found that adverse childhood experiences led to a whole host of problems later in life. The more prevalent and elongated these stressors were, the greater the risk of 'negative health and well-being across the life course.' An individual with four of these ACEs vs. an individual with zero has twice the risk of having heart disease; four times the risk for lung disease, depression and drug abuse; seven times the risk for alcoholism; and 12 times the risk for suicide.

"What's even more disturbing is that someone with six or more of these ACEs has their life expectancy drop from 80 years to 60 years. The reason this is the case is because toxic stress disrupts normal brain development, leading to social, emotional and cognitive impairment, leading to the adoption of high-risk behaviors. This leads to an increase in social problems, disease and disability and ultimately, early death.

"These long-lasting effects can be seen in Champaign and throughout communities nationwide. Only until we realize the scope of the problem can we create solutions to solve it."

4. How would you evaluate the CU Fresh Start anti-gun-violence initiative after two years?

"CU Fresh Start is a noble endeavor that is attempting to decrease gun violence in our community. The issue, however, is that the program is not enough, it is only a piece of the puzzle.

"Those that have participated in the program have stressed that as a city we need to find ways to offer educational opportunities and jobs that offer living wages and address affordable housing for those that have been incarcerated. The goals to decrease gun violence echoes the objectives to decrease recidivism rates in the community.

"It's hard to say how I'd evaluate the program because it's not a comprehensive plan and as a result some years may be better than others in preventing violence.

"An increase in gun violence does not mean the program is doing poorly, it just means we as a city aren't addressing enough of the root causes of gun violence. I don't think it's fair to judge the program when the plan needs to be more comprehensive and the city needs to step up and address the underlying issues stressed by the community."

5. How worrisome an issue is gun violence in Champaign-Urbana, and what more, if anything, can be done to curtail it

"Gun violence is the canary in the coal mine that we have failed as a society. It is very worrisome because it is a sign of a severe failure of communities and government to address long-standing issues.

"Gun violence is a symptom and result of poor public policies and legislation: a result of decades of mass incarceration, decades of systemic racism and classism and a lack of addressing economic and educational adversities.

"Taking a closer look at the previously referenced 1990s Kaiser Permanente ACEs study, we see that the effects of these adverse childhood experiences give rise to an increase in gun violence. Toxic stress on the brain stunts the development in parts of the brain responsible for empathy, planning for the future, reasoning and regulating impulsivity."This stress over stimulates the part that is responsible for fight or flight, the amygdala. This increase in impulsivity is important because when the University of Chicago's Crime Lab studied the homicides in Chicago, they found an alarming pattern. They found that the overall equation of gun violence was young individuals getting into a disagreement, there's an impulsive action with a gun around leading to a dead body. It's this impulsivity that we find significant because it is controlled by the part of the brain that is disrupted and stunted by toxic stress.

"There are many in the community that are currently working toward addressing these ACEs with a home visiting program for pregnant women and families with newborns, parenting training programs and social support for parents. The city must help fill in the gaps in addressing the cycle of poverty and ultimately gun violence by directly addressing affordable housing, discrimination against ex-offenders when they attempt to obtain housing, and encouraging job training and education.

"We must coordinate with designated community members and hospitals to stop escalation in gang violence and quell tensions when gun violence occurs."

6. Assuming recreational cannabis is legalized, what additional resources, if any, would you be in favor of devoting to police and DUI enforcement/education?

"I don't believe the police department would need additional resources. Prescription drugs are the most abused drugs in America, and to my knowledge, we do not have additional tests or special training for these vs. cannabis.

"I know there is no quick test to confirm if someone is under the influence of cannabis; however, the same reasoning applies to prescription drugs but we still manage enforcing DUIs on prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse. If the police department feels that there is a need, then I would want objective measures. We would need to know what goals we are trying to accomplish and how do we know if we are achieving those desired goals.

"Additionally, I believe if we really want to decrease DUIs, then we should focus on rehabilitation and programs to get people away from abusing substances. DUI enforcement and police department education is a topic that interests me as there have been police departments in other states that have ruined innocent lives and reputations in the search of combatting driving under the influence.

"Most notably, in Georgia they have officers that are trained as 'Drug Recognition Experts' that are given unrestricted authority to diagnose individuals as being under the influence and arrest them. Citizens have been arrested based solely on the police officer's opinion, even when they were scientifically proven to not be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. After blood and urine tests showed that those arrested had no drugs in their system, the charges were eventually dropped, but the arrests remain on their public records, they were detained in jail overnight and 'their lives have been turned upside down,' according the ACLU.

"Many spend months and thousands of dollars in court costs to fight their charges. Some have lost their jobs over these false arrests and some were under threat of losing custody of their children. The ACLU sued Cobb County, Georgia in 2017 over wrongfully arresting and jailing three innocent citizens due to this issue.

"Training police officers for a month and then calling them a 'Drug Recognition Expert' that can identify what drugs are in a person's system and then claim they are better than standardized drug tests is giving police officers unfettered authority. Without sufficient oversight, this has caused untold damage and long-lasting harm to the lives of many Americans."

7. What are your thoughts on the growing number of high-rises near campus, and their impact on the look and feel of Campustown?

"Having more dense housing near campus may decrease the number of cars going to and from campus as it allows for an easier commute. However, I feel that there was a rapid growth that may not have been thoroughly thought out, and there may be some long-term consequences that we do not yet realize.

"In my recent discussions with community members, some feel that the high-rises look nice and make us seem like a larger city, but most are worried about what will happen with housing in the next recession and the sustainability of the housing developed.

"We need more affordable housing in Champaign with access to parks, medical and dental care, food resources and common places of employment."

8. Do you worry about the loss of historic structures as this development expands?

"As we transition into a larger city, it is becoming evident that we need to start planning on preserving historical structures as development expands.

"If we start planning this preservation now, we can make it less burdensome on owners and neighborhoods. People want to have control over their futures and by allowing them to plan in advance what will happen to their neighborhood and giving them a voice, we can hopefully make sure we all come to an agreement on what structures need to be preserved and how we plan on achieving that goal."

9. Given the recent Clark Park issue, how would you protect central Champaign neighborhoods that want to retain their character?

"There are a few issues with development in Champaign as we transition into a larger city, and there is a definite balance that needs to be found. We should not impose any restrictions on housing which makes home owners feel that they can't make changes to their home as they desire as long as those changes do not exacerbate long-term issues as they pertain to housing affordability, flooding, lighting to neighboring structures/homes and in certain more rare instances, historical preservation.

"I feel that specific zoning rules to certain neighborhoods would ensure that neighborhoods still maintain their character. However, I would want the neighborhood to meet prior to coming to the city council. I would want them to invite the city council, appropriate city board or commission to attend the meeting to discuss and agree upon a plan that all are agreeable to. Once a plan has been agreed to, then bring it up formally to the council or appropriate board to implement the desired change.

"In order for this to happen, prior to any formal requests or submissions, I would want the city's Zoning Board or the Plan Commission to be of guidance informally in this respect to neighborhoods that seek this change. This would hopefully avoid neighborhoods from becoming divided.

"In regards to central Champaign, we need to keep in mind the long-term plan of minimizing flooding potential as we develop and grow. I don't want us to needlessly increase taxes to improve storm water drainage because we didn't anticipate this problem when constructing larger homes on smaller lots eventually increasing flooding.

"Additionally, some older neighborhoods are not as segregated by socioeconomic status and class as some of the newer neighborhoods are. I would like to make sure some of the smaller homes in the older neighborhoods are not demolished so we can keep those neighborhoods diverse in the affordability and character of the homes.

"Bigger cities are running into the problem that the working class and middle class have a difficult time living in their cities. If we plan long-term from now to prevent this issue, we will save ourselves from having to deal with the same issue. If we continue to build wealthy-only subdivisions and neighborhoods, then the wealthy get to ignore their neighbors and the problems of the community.

"If we understand that we are all affected, then we are more likely to push for improvements faster as a community rather than kicking the can down the road."

10. Similarly, are you worried that developments on the fringe of town — i.e., Carle at the Fields — will simply draw retail, etc., away from downtown and central Champaign?

"Any new development has the potential to draw retail away from older developments. I think a certain amount is reasonable and to be expected.

"If it is excessive or appears detrimental to the well-being of downtown and central Champaign, then we should be looking at what we are doing well in terms of developing the 'fringe of town' vs. what we can improve with developing downtown and central Champaign. Those living in the neighborhoods and subdivisions on the outer part of the city may not want to have to come in frequently to go out to eat or shop.

"I feel that the city has done an excellent job with providing ample parking downtown to draw in those that live on the outer parts of the city. From living in Champaign-Urbana most of my life, it feels that downtown Champaign is slowly becoming less of a place to work and more balanced as also a place to shop, dine and relax, which is good for social engagement and economic development in downtown."

11. Has the city done enough to award contracts to minority- and female-owned businesses? And, if not, what specifically would you propose?

"The city has taken some great steps forward with the Champaign Diversity Advancement Program, but there is always room to improve. We should continue to purposefully reach out to these locally owned businesses. There should continue to be a deliberate effort to increase and maintain the diversity of contracts awarded to local businesses owned by minorities, women and other historically disadvantaged groups."

12. How significant an investment should Champaign make to try to lure back the IHSA boys' basketball tournament once its contract with Peoria expires in 2020?

"Bringing the IHSA boys' basketball tournament back to Champaign-Urbana is something that is very important to the community. There is a deep history for those that have lived in Champaign of having the tournament here; we hosted the tournament for 77 years, until 1995.

"I believe we should make a strong bid that is still cost-effective to bring this back. It would bring in revenue for hotels, restaurants and many small businesses, boosting the local economy.

"In the 2015 bid, the community put forward $750,000 with Champaign contributing $150,000 over five years. Other parts of the previous bid were to have hotels provide discounted rates and provide complimentary shuttles, as well as the IHSA keeping proceeds from souvenir and program sales. To put things into perspective of what the tournament means economically, we only have to look at the IHSA wrestling tournament. The IHSA wrestling tournament brings in $5.5 million over one weekend; imagine what a weekend of the IHSA basketball tournament could bring in.

"This time around, Champaign has added and improved amenities throughout the community. For one, the State Farm Center is no longer under construction. We also now have the hotel space, a diverse restaurant scene, a vibrant downtown, and we can sufficiently accommodate the traffic that the tournament would bring. On top of that, Champaign is a central location in the state with many access points for people traveling from southern Illinois and Chicago.

"By winning the bid, the tournament would be a huge recruiting tool for the University of Illinois' men's basketball program. It would allow top talent from the state to see firsthand the appeal of the university's basketball program by showcasing the State Farm Center, the university's practice facilities and all that the community has to offer."

13. What's the thing or two you're proudest of about living in Champaign?

"There is a lot to be proud of in Champaign, but what I'm always impressed with is the amount of altruism and connectedness this community contains. When I visit other cities and return, I'm always appreciative of what our community offers.

"If it wasn't for the altruistic acts of the countless people in the community, I wouldn't be where I am today. I wouldn't be able to give back in the ways I'm trying to now.

"I think there is a lot to be proud of in Champaign and I want to make sure that future generations have that same sentiment."

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