Lincoln City Council candidate profile: James Michael Bowers

James Michael Bowers
James Michael Bowers(James Michael Bowers)
Published: Mar. 20, 2023 at 2:42 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 10, 2023 at 2:33 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - James Michael Bowers is the sole Lincoln City Council member running for a second term during this upcoming election. The Democrat is facing off against Republican Taylor Wyatt in District 1 which covers a large swath of northeast Lincoln.

10/11 NOW sent a questionnaire to all candidates and we did not edit responses. Read James Michael Bowers’ below and view other candidate profiles here.

Occupation: School Social Worker, Therapist

Public Service History: My past public service starting in high school is what led me to go to college and start my career as a social worker. I will forever be thankful for nonprofits that let me serve and grow at the same time. While a senior at Northeast High School, I started volunteering at the Northeast Family Center and eventually became board president. While in college, I joined the Board of Directors for Fresh Start in Havelock. I graduated with a degree in social work and became a mental health therapist, where I worked on the frontlines of our child welfare system and eventually returned to Dawes Middle School and Northeast High School, working with students. In 2015 I was appointed to serve on the Lincoln-Lancaster County Board of Health. I was elected to the Lincoln City Council in 2019, where I served on the Joint Budget Committee and Railroad Transportation Safety District. I have been the only elected official to consistently hold a monthly town hall to be accessible to residents.

Briefly explain why you’re running for Lincoln City Council. Northeast Lincoln deserves experienced leadership on the City Council. I was born and raised here. I went to our public schools, served on multiple nonprofit boards, opened a business, and made my life all in Northeast Lincoln. It is important that we elect someone who knows how to get things done, who understands what being from our community means, and who can deliver results. I’ve been delivering throughout my time in office, and I won’t stop now. I have passed numerous initiatives to improve the quality of life in Lincoln ranging from banning price gouging during disasters to securing funding for a nearly $1 million investment in accessible playground equipment at Mahoney Park. Additionally, leading through the crisis of COVID was a crash course in decision-making, and I’ll carry that experience forward to my next term.

As a city council member, you’ll be tasked with approving a city budget. Explain any experience you have handling budgets. What are your priorities when it comes to budget negotiations and how do you achieve them? Over the past four years, I have worked on the city budget. During those four years, I have made roads and public safety a priority. Roads in Northeast Lincoln have been historically underfunded, which is why I have been aggressive in putting more dollars into our roads, a total of $211 million. The work is not done, and I will continue to make roads a priority. In order to attract more officers, we successfully made the pay for Lincoln Police more competitive. Public safety and roads will continue to be a top priority.

I have found success in budget negotiations by engaging residents of Lincoln. During my time on the council, I have worked to share information about the budget with folks in Northeast Lincoln and have incorporated resident feedback into the budget. Including Lincolnites in the budget process has helped me successfully allocate dollars to programs and projects that benefit Northeast Lincoln.

What can be done by the city council to improve housing affordability? Housing affordability is a major problem and requires a multifaceted approach. We have both a general housing shortage and an affordable housing shortage. The city should work to streamline new development to increase the overall housing stock, incentivize affordable housing through state and federal dollars, and preserve the existing housing stock with rehab programs.

What are your thoughts on using Tax Increment Financing (TIF) for development? Tax Increment Financing is a tool that can boost economic development. It is important to review each TIF proposal to ensure that it meets outlined criteria and brings value to our city. There has been community conversation regarding TIF, how it should be used, and when something qualifies for it. I recently held a town hall to provide more information to residents so the public can become more informed and involved in discussing how the city uses TIF.

How should Lincoln work to attract new business and support and increase the number of small businesses? We can attract, retain, and increase businesses in Lincoln by creating a city where the next generation of Lincolnites want to live, work, and have a family. Some steps that the city has taken over the past four years include the youth ballfield complex, the downtown Music District, and accessible playground equipment. Also, the city should continue to ensure a safe Lincoln, keep up on infrastructure, and create a vibrant city.

It is also crucial that the city continues to review the regulations that are in place. Some regulations are needed, and some are outdated. An example of an outdated regulation that I worked to repeal with bipartisan support was a code that did not allow establishments to serve customers on their patios. We successfully replaced this ordinance and allowed businesses to create “sidewalk cafes.” Sidewalk cafes are a way for businesses to expand service to their customers, create a more vibrant community, and allow people to enjoy refreshments on a patio.

When should Lincoln’s COVID-19 health emergency expire? The federal health public health emergency has plans to end in May. The declaration helps ensure that Lincoln receives outside dollars for reimbursement and protection for residents. It is important that the city is fully aware of the financial impacts of ending the declaration ahead of time.

Would you support an LGBTQ fairness ordinance ballot initiative? LGBTQ+ residents in Lincoln need these protections. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen in current and recent campaigns, outside wealthy interest groups will spend millions of dollars on misinformation campaigns and hateful rhetoric if this issue is on a ballot. It is important that resources are put in place to help dispel harmful myths that lead to increased rates of suicide and self-harm like our community experienced a year ago.

A handful of Nebraska municipalities have outlawed abortion by local ordinance. Would you support a such a move in Lincoln? No. There is no need for additional laws to limit access to reproductive health care, and abortion should remain legal.

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