A DECISIVE leader uniquely able to represent our diverse community. He’s proven his ability to seek input, understand complex issues, make thoughtful, difficult decisions, and effectively communicate with citizens.
A DEPENDABLE citizen of the community by engaging in community activities, supporting community development, bringing new ideas/concepts to the community and being a positive role model.
A DETERMINED citizen for change. Commissioner Cunningham continues to focus on positive results that promote economic and community growth. His energetic and dynamic personality, along with his strong work ethic, combine to support his vison of making Kalamazoo even greater.
FACTS ABOUT ERIC
- Lifetime Kalamazoo resident
- Graduate of Kalamazoo Public Schools and Western Michigan University
- Appointed to Kalamazoo City Commission (January 2015)
- Committed to public service while working 14 years with the State of Michigan
- Co-Chapter Director of Kalamazoo Networking Out
- Community/Communications Vice Chairman for the Kalamazoo Champion Child Welfare Executive Steering Committee
- Served as Vice Chairman of the Community Development Act Advisory Committee (CDAAC)
- Board member of the Black Arts and Cultural Center Northside Rockets Football team coach
Eric Cunningham is a man of integrity and leadership. He is committed to the needs oft his community and dedicated to making impactful change. It is an honor to work side by side with him.
"Mayor Bobby J. Hopewell"
Q & A
- What issues motivated you to run for this office?
Our community has a number of challenges that we are facing. These issues vary and are of vital importance. The issue that motivated me to run for the Kalamazoo City commission is a combination of our current financial situation, the need for fiscal responsibility and increased revenue through Business ownership and job development.
- What else should we know about you and your campaign?
I love my community and, as a life-long resident, am eager to develop innovative, sustainable pro-growth solutions to our present challenges. I am motivated to return to the Commission to promote fiscal responsibility, increased revenue through business/job development, and guide opportunities offered by the Foundation for Excellence. My passion lies in people, young and old alike, and strengths include seeking and considering a wide variety of opinions from multiple sources and perspectives. I am proud of my ability to understand complex issues and work with diverse interests in developing policy solutions reflective of our community values.
- Do you support an economic development strategy in the City that includes accelerating and attracting business using traditional tools and incentives (tax incentives, grants, brown redevelopment)?
Yes I believe economic growth is the most important factor for the viability of the city, and therefore I want to see all “tools in the toolbox” utilized to encourage and keep business development in our community. I am a strong believer that creating jobs and ownership opportunities for citizens is the most effective anti-poverty “social program” we can provide.
- What are your top three strategies for growth in your City and the region?
Investment in Micro business
Review of unnecessary and unclear laws, policies and processes
- In your opinion is there anything the City is doing or involved with that should be discontinued?
I don’t have anything specific that I’d like the City to cease, but I do seek to infuse goals and measurement into nearly every facet of governmental activity to ensure efficient and effective operations. Where we fall short we either need to force improvement or eliminate activities/programs and focus our money where it has the greatest desired impact.
In addition, you will find me to be extremely accessible and always interested in hearing ideas and suggestions for best practices and improvement from the business community. When government is efficient, infrastructure is adequate, regulations/requirements are reasonable, and the tax structure is fair and low an economically competitive community has the opportunity to thrive.
- How do you think the funds from the "Foundation for Excellence" should be used?
With a goal of ending generational poverty there are a lot of avenues to consider that can help to address the issue in our community. Currently the Foundation of Excellence subsidizes our city’s budget. While the Foundation for Excellence will plug some short term gaps and provide funding for new programs, work is needed to solve structural deficiencies and plan for the longer term. Ensuring efficient operations, effective programs, and continuous improvement through measurement will be key and an area in which I have experience/interest. I think more importantly is addressing our revenue structure issue so those foundation dollars are only being spent on aspirational goals.
- In your elected position what could you do to make your City function more efficiently and cost effectively?
Priority based budgeting is one of Kalamazoo’s measuring tools to help gauge the effectiveness of our city programs. We have also implemented Imagine Kalamazoo to help narrow our vision through community input. Yet this should also include other benchmarking techniques and comparative studies to better evaluate our efficiency. Implementing a culture of accountability and inclusion of diverse community input and interests are critical components of fiscal responsibility and governmental effectiveness. This is required for growth and job creation – which will ultimately prove a significant solution to the city’s long term fiscal health.
- How do you think government should balance private property rights with the need to regulate land?
The government should be minimally invasive as possible allowing citizens’ fair solutions and providing a clear vision and expectations of our growth as a city and redevelopment. The balance of private property rights with the need to regulate land should be done through increased collaboration between the community, Planning commission, Zoning Board of Appeals, Site plan review committee and the Downtown Design Review committee.
- The city is engaged in discussions regarding its long term fiscal health. Much has been said about new sources of revenue. Do you think that savings in the current budget/operation be part of the solution and/or all of the solution?
Yes, savings and fiscal responsibility has to be a part of the solution. The city government in recent years has repeatedly balanced our budget with a one-time solutions each year such as the Early Retirement Incentive and the Legacy costs bonds. This year the city is moving forward with Priority Based Budgeting in attempt to create a diagnostic tool to be more efficient and effective in our financial strategies. This includes measuring the impact of programs and the communities’ vision of program needs and effectiveness needs.
- Zimmerman/Volk Associates released a report about the demand for 1400+ housing units in and near downtown Kalamazoo in the next five years.
Do you think this is a realistic projection and why?
I believe after studying the Zimmerman/Volk Study and combining that with the Michigan Metros report this would be a correct view of our five year demand. With our community increase in downtown developments and the cities increased vision of green space and diverse land use options, it is once again making it more attractive to live in our urban communities. I believe our community is primed for the demand but we should also prioritize and invest in an even higher benchmark.
Can these developments be done without the use of tax increases (or similar) financing?
I believe financing has to be available for these developments and although I believe this effort has to be collaborative between the city and developers I do not believe it should require a tax increase. Prioritizing business development should take precedence and insuring available funds and private funds should be a combined effort.
- What would you do to further cooperation between municipalities in Kalamazoo County?
Continued dialogue and relationship building has to be a focus between the city and bordering municipalities. Reviewing and understanding programs, tax structures and community needs to create a long term regional vision. This will help our community to work together more efficiently and effectively. I believe my youthfulness and future years invested in this community will help to build and bridge these needs moving forward as a community.
- What experience do you have that will help you in office?
My professional background consist of working 12 years for the state government. Some of my deliverables that I was heavily involved in was creating a new communication plan implemented state wide for the Department of Health and Human Services and the completion of the city’s most recent consolidated plan. I currently work as a Community Liaison for the Department of Health and Human Services assisting 50 to 200 at risk individuals a day. With the unanimous vote to appoint me to the city commission I think it is a clear recognition and value of my unique blend of education in business and years of experience within the community and government. My experience as the only millennial on the city commission and my expertise in business and public administration will help to lead our current situation to the communities’ future vision.
- How can you address and eliminate blight in the City?
Blight is a local concern in our community on multiple levels and we have to combine community need and best practices in order to address that. I believe the primary focus should be on continuously creating redevelopment incentives and removing barriers for private owners and investors.