Lincoln City Council Primary Candidate: Dr. Elina Newman
Twelve candidates, including three incumbents, are running for the three Lincoln City Council at-large seats. Voters will cast a ballot for three candidates in the April 6 primary election and six candidates will advance to the General Election on May 4. 10/11 NOW sent a questionnaire to all candidates and we did not edit responses. View other candidate profiles here.
- Name: Dr. Elina Newman
- Occupation: educator, pharmacy technician, business owner
Why are you running for a seat on the city council?
I am running for a seat on the city council because it is an exciting opportunity to restore accountability and the Council’s task of oversight, protect people’s Constitutional rights, promote and aid small businesses, make health decisions based on multiple sources with open and transparent discussion, and support and hold police and citizens accountable. My ultimate goal is to ensure that people’s rights are protected. I came to the US 26 years ago from a communist country where I had no rights.
What are your key issues in this election, and why are they important to address?
I have 5 goals:
1. Restore accountability and the Council’s task of oversight.
2. Protect people’s Constitutional rights.
3. Promote and aid small businesses.
4. Make health decisions based on multiple sources with open and transparent discussion.
5. Support and hold police and citizens accountable.
Higher property tax valuations continue to lead to higher property tax payments in the city of Lincoln. Does this concern you? Why or why not?
This concerns me greatly because citizens of Lincoln have been taxed to death. Lincoln is becoming unaffordable to live in. This impacts potential economic growth.
Do you support a recent effort by the Lincoln City Council to keep an emergency declaration in place for Lincoln during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I do not support this effort for a few reasons. First, our hospital numbers are low. Second, our deaths have not increased. Third, we are no longer in an emergency. People cannot continue to live their lives on “what-ifs.” They have to return to normal. Yes, we have to protect the vulnerable, but it has to be done with a different approach. A virus is a virus, and there will always be variants of a virus. We will never beat a virus or defeat a virus. The initial goal was to flatten the curve. We did that. There now seems to be no goal or end in sight, and 14 days have turned into a year, a year that, for some, has been excruciatingly painful. People are mentally and physically exhausted. There was and still is not enough consideration given to mental health. Anxiety and depression are up considerably since last year, as are drug abuse and family violence.
Would you do anything differently in terms of the city’s response to the pandemic?
What I would have done differently is to hear the thoughts and opinions of more than just one-sided experts. This is biased. Many healthcare professionals disagree with what’s going on. However, they 1) have either been silenced or 2) are afraid of speaking up for fear of losing their jobs. This is not how science or healthcare works. Science is not one-sided, and healthcare is not a “one glove fits all.” What has resulted from all this is bullying and discrimination. Furthermore, I would have followed appropriate procedures in the appointment of the health director. People are upset because 1) rules were not followed, 2) they were excluded from the decision process, and 3) while people followed the rules, those in leadership did not, which has created significant distrust.
Did you support a recent effort to recall Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird and four city council members?
It is important to understand that the people elect the Mayor and the city council members to be their representatives and hold their interests at heart. That being said, just like with a job, there is a yearly or a periodic evaluation. Upon evaluating the leaders they elected to be spokespeople for them, some people believed that those leaders were not doing what they were elected to do. This recall was within the citizens of Lincoln’s rights to be heard because all other avenues have failed. Their attempts to plead and ask for help have been ignored.
Does Lincoln have an affordable housing shortage? If so, what do you think should be done to fix it.
The city absolutely has an affordable housing shortage. First and foremost, we need to get our economy back on track. We need to focus on small businesses as they employ 2/3 of the workforce and contribute 44 percent to the overall economic movement. Second, we need to remove red tape and get rid of irrelevant or unneeded codes, which will drive down cost. Third, we need to readdress zoning. Fourth, we need to look at options for building up. Finally, we also need to consider supply costs. We need to look at multiple companies for the most cost-effective options.
The most recent budget in Lincoln came with a $12 million gap filled by fee increases in 15 different areas, as well as department budget cuts. Do you support the effort made by the council? Would you have proposed other changes?
The effort was minimal, in my opinion, as there are still questions about where some of the money went or is going. There is a lot of distrust in the community. The online budget reporting is convoluted; it is a stagnant document that goes on forever. It needs to be simplified. The roads are a disaster, yet citizens are paying 3 different taxes for road maintenance. There needs to be an examination of the budget, line item by line item. Every dollar needs to be accounted for. We did not need to spend $97,000 on putting together a climate plan as that money could have been used elsewhere.
If elected as council, how will you apply your experience to address future budget negotiations?
I am a business owner. Budgeting is a normal part of my day-to-day operations. I would examine the budget line item by line item to understand all expenses and revenue sources. I would also ensure that each line item was used for its intended purpose. My goal is to create a living budget document where people can see where the money they are paying is going.
Is there anything else you’d like to include?
I am excited about this opportunity. I am very humbled by those who have, to date, supported me. I receive encouraging messages every day. Change doesn’t happen when we are stagnant; change does not happen without action. What sets me apart is my diverse background in education, healthcare, small business ownership, and the fact that I lived in a country where rights did not exist.
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