Lincoln mayoral candidate profile: Stan Parker

Stan Parker
Stan Parker(Stan Parker)
Published: Mar. 20, 2023 at 2:51 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 3, 2023 at 6:44 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Stan Parker, a former Nebraska Husker football player and current Christian radio host, describes the role of mayor as a leadership position, not a political one. He’s on the April 4 primary election ballot with Democrat Leirion Gaylor Baird and fellow Republican State Sen. Suzanne Geist.

Two candidates will advance to the May 2 general election.

Parker has the backing of former Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach Tom Osborne.

Parker will be hosting a live Zoom event on Monday, April 3 from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., anyone interested in attending can register here.

10/11 NOW sent a questionnaire to all candidates and did not edit responses. Read Stan Parker’s replies below and view other candidate profiles here.

Public Service History: I have served on the Board of Directors for People’s City Mission, People’s Health Center (now Bluestem Health), and Christian Heritage. I have also served as a leadership coach for numerous nonprofits, helping them navigate their challenges as they press toward the fulfillment of their mission.

Briefly explain why you’re running for the office of Lincoln Mayor. Lincoln has been my home for over 30 years. I love the small town Nebraska feel of our growing city with all the opportunities it offers! We have something special, worthy of protecting. While in college at UNL I made the decision to pursue impact over income, so public service has always been my path. With the volatility of our world, strong leadership of our community is critical, and to that end I offer my service. What better way to impact?

What would you identify as the three biggest challenges facing Lincoln residents? Why, and how would you make improvements? Roads - In my many conversations with Lincoln residents, the number one issue that comes up is a strong frustration regarding the condition of the roads, especially top of mind with the potholes each season. I will address this in more detail in the specific question about roads asked below.

Safety - The number two issue that comes up as I talk with Lincolnites is a concern about crime and feeling less safe in our community than in the past. I’ll address this in more detail in the question specifically addressing crime below.

Taxes - The third issue that quickly comes up in conversations with Lincoln residents is taxes, specifically property taxes due to the increase in property valuations. I would seek to address this concern by promoting fiscal responsibility, annual pruning, complete transparency and disciplined budgeting.

Fiscal responsibility: Acknowledging that the city accounts for a smaller percentage of the property taxes (about 15-16%, according to a recent news article), it remains critical that the mayor leads the city departments in maintaining a high confidence that we are stewarding those funds by exercising excellence in fiscal responsibility. In my work with organizations, one of the practices I have observed too often is money spent merely because it’s in the budget. That’s a poor reason to spend money! It is critical to make sure all expenditures are absolutely necessary.

Annual pruning: “Overgrowth” in government just happens, yet while unavoidable, it is addressable if we establish the discipline of pruning on a regular basis - annually seeking to see what we can reduce or cut. I believe in striving to keep the government lean.

Complete transparency: Ensuring citizens have access to clear information about tax revenues and spending so their questions about where and how the money is being spent are answered is at the foundation of being appropriately accountable to those we serve.

Disciplined budgeting: Budgets are initially set with educated guesses of what money will come in from various taxes and other sources. With disciplined budgeting, when tax revenues are higher than estimated, rather than redirecting funds to spend on something else, returning the money to the people. For property taxes, this could happen through reducing the mill levy to adjust for increased valuations.

What, if anything, should the city do to improve the process of repairing streets? Almost every time I have the opportunity to hear the hearts of Lincoln residents, significant frustration about our roads flows out. Frustration at a level that I believe is unacceptable. Our elected officials work for our citizens and therefore the community helps set the priorities to be addressed, and this priority is being clearly communicated!

In conversation with Director of Lincoln Transportation and Utilities, Liz Elliott, prior to the quarter cent sales tax, Lincoln was significantly under spending on our streets according to the national averages.

In talking with Lincolnites, more than having to pay a tax set aside for roads, the issue is paying the tax and not clearly perceiving the benefit in overall improved road conditions.

As I see it, either the city’s plan is working and just needs to be given time OR even with the increased work from increased taxes the results are still not acceptable and need to be reevaluated and addressed. Either way there is work to be done to address the disconnect between what I hear from our LTU and what I hear from our people, therefore it would be a top priority for me if elected mayor.

What can be done to improve housing affordability? In December 2020, the City of Lincoln Affordable Housing Coordinated Action Plan was completed in consultation with a resource committee including the directors of the Department of Urban Development, the Planning Department and the Building and Safety Department. This extensive plan stresses collaboration among the City, service providers, employers, lending institutions, the Chamber of Commerce and other entities to address housing affordability. I would work with these leaders to evaluate the plans and their progress on implementing the recommendations in the plan that will contribute to growth in the area of housing affordability.

Do you think Lincoln is a safe place to live? Provide your detailed plan to handle crime and manage public safety, while addressing funding for both Lincoln Police and Lincoln Fire and Rescue. On the short list of unarguable roles we ALL expect and need our government to play, I believe Law Enforcement is at the very top of that list! And how our government executes that duty is one of the most significant factors that directly affects our ability to enjoy safe communities! The amount of lawlessness we are currently seeing in our country is shocking! How did we get to this place?

There is an ancient proverb that says…”Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil.” Allowing laws to be broken without consequences HAS CONSEQUENCES! And one of those consequences is an INCREASE in laws being broken! Without a doubt the way rioting, looting and violence against police officers during 2020-21 was handled is a significant contributor to how we got to where we are as a country. And how we handle crime going forward will significantly impact our future experience as a nation, state and city!

I believe in strongly upholding the rule of law! And I believe in strongly supporting those on the frontline of stewarding that task on our behalf… our police force! The amount of disrespect, sometimes to the point of disdain, that was shown toward police, expressed by a significant disregard for their authority, did damage to the soul of our country. Damage that has sent us moving in a wrong direction! A direction that has yet to be adequately countered!

Inertia in physics is a property of matter that makes an object stay in the same position or continue to move in a straight line until its state is changed by an external force. The death of George Floyd was an “external force” impacting the status quo of where we had been regarding our relationship with law enforcement, and a fundamental change occurred, sending us in a different direction! I don’t believe we will just automatically return to our previous normal! Nor do I think we should completely… no one would claim we had reached perfection.

I believe we need to initiate an intentional counter force that creates change and gets us moving in the right direction!

If elected mayor, my priorities, specifically in terms of what the mayor has direct control of, that I believe would generate the necessary force (F.O.R.C.E.) to create the change in direction we need are…

1. Forging solidarity! – …because to serve on the frontlines, you must know that your mayor has your back! From the officers I have spoken with, there is a pervasive belief that the current administration does not have their backs. This must be addressed if we are going to have any hope of attracting and retaining quality officers.

2. Optimal leadership! – …because the mayor’s role isn’t to figure out the “how to,” it is to figure out the “who to!” We must be absolutely sure we have the right person leading as chief of police. Everything rises and falls on leadership! I would make sure we have a leader in place who creates a culture where all our officers thrive while also bringing innovation to law enforcement, resulting in better solutions to address areas exposed over the past 3 years of conflict in our country.

3. Relevant metrics! – …because “Trust but verify” continues to be the way of wisdom for delegating without abdicating and for ensuring we are getting on and staying on the right course! We need numbers to inform our strategy on the front end and to inform our community on the back end.

4. Community engagement! – …because no one loves rules enforcement without relationship engagement! We must make the investment in establishing an authentic relationship between our law enforcement officers and our citizens.

5. Endorsing campaign! – …because we have MUCH to be proud of with our police officers! The national narrative that slanders all officers needs to be countered by first being different as stated above and then by celebrating loud and proud those differences creating a new narrative in Lincoln!

How should Lincoln work to attract new business and support and increase the number of small businesses? I believe collaboration is key to attracting new business and supporting small businesses. Strong, vibrant working relationships among civic, business and nonprofit leadership are vital to being a strong, dynamic city!

An experience I had after watching a college basketball game illustrates how I see the role of civic leadership. At the end of the game, as the refs walked in front of me, I realized I actually knew one of them! I told him I had watched the entire game and somehow hadn’t noticed him! I have never forgotten his response…”That means I did my job! I am not supposed to be noticed.” LIGHTBULB moment for me! I have watched games where the refs were way too “noticed!” They were over-regulating the players, therefore stifling play and reducing the teams’ ability to score!

As I have thought deeply about the role of government, the ref’s response has come back to me often! I believe the government should function like a great referee! It should strive to find the proper balance of appropriate regulation that ensures and even encourages fair play without tipping to over-regulation that impairs play! Government at its best is “under-noticed!”

If elected mayor, I will seek to forge catalytic working relationships with both the business and nonprofit leadership in our community! There are strong leaders in the business community with a great passion for our city and there are strong leaders in the nonprofit community with great compassion for our city! THEY are key players that make winning as a city possible!

In the city’s role as “referee,” I will work to ensure city regulations activate initiative and innovation instead of having them complicate and frustrate. This would allow leaders to accelerate the impact they seek to make in, on and for our city!

Switching metaphors, government is to be the preparer of the community “soil” ensuring everything is present for fertile growth, removing anything that would impede growth, which then allows businesses and nonprofits to plant their seeds, grow a harvest and bless our city! If elected mayor my focus would be on health, believing that all healthy organisms grow BUT not all growth is healthy! Cancer is a growth, tumors are growths, weeds grow!

As a city we want healthy growth that is cultivated in the rich soil of fiscal responsibility, growth that is protected from an overgrowth of taxes that would stress its yield and growth that is sustained on the trellis of a well-maintained infrastructure!

Explain any changes you would make to current snow removal procedures. The city has made changes over the past several years to develop strategies to deal with ice and snow before it begins to accumulate and to address timeliness of snow removal, especially in neighborhoods where snow removal was slow to be completed in the past. The past couple years we really haven’t been tested as snowfall totals have been low. So from here we must stay abreast and assess how the changes are working and address any weaknesses that get exposed along the way. So from my purview, there isn’t an immediate need for change.

When should Lincoln’s COVID-19 health emergency expire? Lincoln’s COVID-19 health emergency should expire immediately. I believe retaining emergency status beyond the emergency is an abuse of power that further erodes the trust and confidence of our citizens in our elected officials.

Should implementing Directed Health Measures remain the authority of the Lincoln-Lancaster County health director? Over the past 3 years since COVID-19 was first identified, I believe it has become evident that clarity is needed about the roles of the health director, the mayor, the City Council and the County Board related to health issues impacting the City.

In reading the Lincoln Municipal Code, the health director is given authority to “Investigate the existence of any contagious or infectious disease and adopt measures to arrest the progress of the disease.” However, there are also statements in the Code referring to the director enforcing health ordinances and resolutions of the City. And while giving the mayor the responsibility to declare a state of emergency related to events endangering the health, safety and welfare of Lincoln citizens, the Code specifies a limit of 72 hours only, with City Council approval required to extend the state of emergency.

It seems to me, those sections of the Municipal Code indicate there are roles to be considered for the health director, the City Council and the mayor. And just as the mayor’s right to declare a state of emergency is limited to 72 hours without City Council approval, I think limits to the length of time the health director can exercise sole authority over Directed Health Measures need to be established. Through checks and balances of the mayor and City Council related to measures that impact the well-being of citizens in so many ways, broader perspectives can be considered beyond the health impact of any specific disease.

Do you support any changes to current local firearm regulations? There are a volume of issues that are the direct responsibility of the mayor’s office, and while firearm regulations is a very important topic, it is not an issue that directly falls under the authority of the mayor. Therefore, while being aware of efforts regarding changing regulations, I just have not been able to invest the time yet to research it deeply enough to confidently articulate a position. I can however say that I am a strong advocate for protecting our Second Amendment rights as part of the critical fabric of freedom woven by our founding fathers.

Would you support an LGBTQ fairness ordinance ballot initiative? I am completely supportive of every individual having protection of their rights under the law. There have been times in our nation’s history where it was absolutely clear that rights were not being given equally as an actual matter of law - for example, African American men didn’t have the right to vote until the 15th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in February of 1870 and women didn’t have the right to vote until the 19th Amendment was ratified in August 1920. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed to prohibit legalized discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Since that time, processes have been put into place to address situations where those rights have been violated, and I believe there is now a consistent understanding legally that all rights equally apply to all people. As I read the proposed fairness ordinance, I have questions about what rights are being violated that don’t already have avenues to be addressed. I would like us to consider together as a city if what may be most effective is to strengthen the avenues to report issues of discrimination so they can be appropriately addressed, rather than adding a highly controversial and likely redundant ordinance. At this point, I believe such a ballot initiative will cause more division and pain in our community rather than leading to constructive dialog, and I would not support it.

A handful of Nebraska municipalities have outlawed abortion by local ordinance. Would you support a such a move in Lincoln? I believe our country functions most effectively when ordinances and laws are enacted at the level that most effectively addresses the needs of our citizens while also avoiding confusion and conflict with surrounding municipalities within the state or with state law itself. As such I believe an abortion ordinance should be decided on at a state level rather than on a local level. Based on that belief, I strongly support LB626 - The Nebraska Heartbeat Act as introduced.