Race for Lincoln Mayor: Leirion Gaylor Baird

LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) City councilwoman Leirion Gaylor Baird is running for Lincoln mayor and was the top vote-getter in the Lincoln Primary Election with 42 percent voter support followed by Cyndi Lamm with 36 percent.

Gaylor Baird, an at-large council member, was first elected to her seat in 2013 and was re-elected in 2017, garnering the most votes of any candidate. On the campaign trail, Gaylor Baird has touted her six years on the council as reason for voters to select her in the election.

She is a democrat running for the non-partisan office. Gaylor Baird launched her campaign for mayor shortly after a successful effort to term-limit Mayor Chris Beutler in November.

"I think how we continue to grow our city and still hold on to the quality of life we know and love. Lincoln is becoming a bigger and more vibrant city, but we love our small town feel. We know our neighbors, we help each other out, and as we grow we need to continue to have that cohesion and that we have a safe community. That we're taking care of the basics, like our streets and sidewalks, in every neighborhood. And that we continue to have wonderful neighborhood services, like our libraries, parks, and trails and the means to get to them, public transit. So all of those factors weigh heavily on my mind."

What was your reaction to snow removal efforts in Lincoln this winter and would you do anything differently?

"I think we'll be having a conversation with the community and representation from all districts to try and understand what people's service delivery level is desired. We certainly can alter the policy. It was based on community input years ago, but maybe it's time to resurvey what people are willing to spend to get the service they demand. I think having a task force that, not only looks at what people's desires are, but provides some fiscal impact recommendations is very important. I expect to be bringing forth some improvement and changes to make it as useful as possible to the city and next mayor."

We received many complaints from 10/11 viewers about potholes and poor road conditions around Lincoln. What is your reaction to the condition of city roads and would you do anything differently?

"I'm proud to have a record of investing and casting votes to invest in our roads every year that I've been on the council. We're investing over 71% more in our streets than we did a decade ago. But as you know, this is responsibility that's ongoing. Potholes come back every year, the freeze-thaw cycle is not kind to our streets. They still remain underfunded. A citizen's transportation coalition identified a huge gap between the needs of our system and a resource available to fund it. Given that, we're looking for ways to increase funding for roads so we can meet the needs of the public."

Where do you stand on the quarter-cent sales tax increase question that will appear on the April 9th ballot?

"I'm glad that our voters will have a chance to weigh in on this crucial investment in vital infrastructure. Yes, while this is not a perfect package, it will allow for a greater infusion of resources into our roads. Thirty percent of those resources are to come from people outside our community who come here and spend money on our services and entertainment. So I think this is something that deserves the support of the citizens of Lincoln."

Lincoln city leaders said the tax would generate about $13 million a year for a total $78 million for streets over six years.

A concern among Lincoln homeowners is the rise in property taxes. What do you say to residents who have concerns?

"I think my record speaks volumes on this subject. When we had a significant revaluation brought forward from the county assessor. Last time around, I led an effort at the council to cut the tax rate, but to meet the needs of our budget and deliver on services people expect and deserve. You know, property taxes in Lincoln work in such a way that one in every six [dollars in] property tax comes to the city of Lincoln. And we use that, that one dollar out of every six dollars to provide important emergency protection and to invest in the infrastructure and our streets. So it's important to keep the needs of the budget and the needs of people's pocketbooks in mind when we set the tax rate."

Affordable housing remains a concern for some Lincoln residents. Would you do anything to address that?

"This is an important concern in our community and many others across the country. As we grow and become more competitive and housing prices go up, we need to be mindful of how to make sure to provide an opportunity to thrive for all of our residents. And with sort of complex challenge, we need to come at it from many different angles. The city can be a good partner to the private sector, and our non-profits in our community, such as NeighborWorks and the Lincoln Housing Authority, so we can increase the supply and variety of housing at a range of costs. I'm also interested in using money that I helped set aside for affordable housing to help address the issue. Possibly by creating community land trusts, which help put certain amounts of housing in a permanent state of affordability and at the same time help revitalize neighborhoods."

Lincoln continues to expand in all directions. How would you manage and stay ahead of city growth if you became mayor?

"Well it's a city's job to help support that growth. One of the ways we do that most directly is to invest in vital infrastructure that supports the economic development of our communities, helps support the creation of jobs, keeps people moving through the city safely and helps contribute to our quality of life. So we work to invest in our roads, improve our sidewalks, improve our water mains at a faster pace and make sure that our infrastructure is ready for the severe weather impacts of the future."