With the goal of keeping local parents (and voters) as informed as possible about all things parent-related, the editors of Rocket City Mom compiled “4 Questions for the Candidates”. We asked all the Huntsville City and Madison City candidates to answer the same four questions, and have published their responses unedited and as they have sent them to us.
Get to know a little about each candidate and where they stand on serving local families in our full Know Your Vote series. We encourage all of our readers to exercise their democratic right and vote on Tuesday, August 25, 2020.
4 Questions with Ranae Bartlett
Q. What do you see as the top three most pressing issues facing Huntsville today? What are your plans to address those issues?
Responsible Growth and the Impact on Infrastructure/Roads
I want to help Madison take a more responsible and strategic approach to growth. This means balancing our desire for growth with our ability to pay for city services, infrastructure, and education. For any future growth we have to ask ourselves, “Will revenue generated by the new growth pay for the related services, infrastructure, and education of students?” City leaders must be disciplined enough to analyze the numbers and do the math. And we need to be prepared to take care of what we have within the city limits before continuing to annex more property. Residential growth by itself does not generate sufficient revenue to pay for the increased cost of city services and education. Economic development should be a top priority in our city.
Protecting Our School System
One impact of rapid growth on our school system is the first year carrying costs that are not covered by the current state education budget or the property tax increase that was recently passed to pay for new school construction. The Education Trust Fund Budget only covers the cost of educating the number of students who attended the previous year. Madison’s state allocation for education funding this year is based on our student count from last fall. For a system that is growing at a pace of 500 students a year, that equals more than $1 million in additional operations cost the school district has to cover. To find that money, Madison Schools has had to defer maintenance and withstand one of the worst teacher/pupil ratios in the state. Any plan for growing the City has to take into account the impact on our school system.
I would like to improve transparency in Madison City government. It is important to listen to people’s concerns, consider community input, and communicate the reasons for decisions that are ultimately made. Being honest and publicly sharing information with stakeholders is critical to building trust. Madison residents deserve honesty and transparency from their elected officials.
Q. Why do you believe you are the right person for this office?
I have lived in District 5 for seventeen years. I spent the last ten years serving on the Madison Board of Education without compensation demonstrating that I am a servant leader. During this time I saw first-hand the impact of City Council decisions on our school system and our residents. As I walk my district listening to constituents, I am impressed with how informed they are about the issues and how much they want Madison to continue to succeed and prosper. Fiscal responsibility and the debt load the city is carrying was among the top concerns. Traffic and improving our roads and infrastructure was also a top concern. And, maintaining the high quality of our schools by not overwhelming the student population with growth was on the minds of parents with school-aged children.
Q. What will you do differently than the incumbent?
When I announced my candidacy, I did so intending to run against a four-term incumbent. It was time for change in District 5. I began hearing the need for change during the property tax vote last year as residents in my district expressed concern about uncontrollable growth and the influence of special interests on the decisions our City government was making. They applauded our school system and wanted to support it but had concerns about the direction our City was going. Improving communication in both directions is key in making better decisions going forward.
Q. What is your overall vision/mission when it comes to families living in your city? What are your ideas about how to best serve them specifically?
People move to Madison because of its outstanding school system and small-town atmosphere. Madison is a special place to live, raise a family, and stay once the kids are grown. Our families represent a wide array of interests and need accessibility to a wide range of recreational activities and green space. During the pandemic, our families need a network of support from our City and school system working together to help families with the challenges of virtual learning.
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Rocket City Mom is a website about raising children in and around Huntsville, Alabama. Started in late 2010 by a local mom and newcomer to Huntsville, Rocket City Mom has grown into a thriving community of local parents and now boasts a staff of four, thirteen regular contributors, and tens of thousands of Tennessee Valley readers making it the #1 Parenting Resource in North Alabama.