When John Stone was only 15 years old, he started using drugs and was kicked out of his home shortly. Living in the streets of Los Angeles, Stone was homeless for five years. He started working …
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When John Stone was only 15 years old, he started using drugs and was kicked out of his home shortly. Living in the streets of Los Angeles, Stone was homeless for five years. He started working multiple jobs at a time, and when his 21st birthday approached, he finally had enough money to rent a room at a family's home.
Stone, who has spent time working as a janitor, cook, carpenter and a researcher studying homelessness in Denver, will hold an at-large seat on Englewood City Council. Before he was elected, Stone did political consulting. He gained 35.3% of the vote and will replace Amy Martinez, who did not seek reelection, while Steven Ward received 23.6% of the vote and did not win a seat on council. Incumbent Rita Russell will continue to hold an at-large seat as she earned 41.1% of the vote.
Stone sat down with the Englewood Herald to reflect on his campaign, challenges facing Englewood, his goals as a councilmember and more. Here is what he had to say.
Why do you think you were elected to Englewood City Council?
I think there's a couple of reasons. I didn't talk to a single person that disagreed with me on what the issues are that Englewood is facing, and I talked to a lot of people. I personally talked to nearly 4,500 individuals in the city, and I think that's reflected in the turnout.
I also think that the win margin is indicative of my work ethic. I've worked hard my entire life, and there's nothing I don't work hard at.
What are the biggest challenges facing Englewood in your opinion?
Our current development trends and housing market is a big one. Our stormwater is another big one. I would say stormwater and drinking water go hand in hand as far as being pretty major issues, and then our economic atmosphere.
Rent and housing prices are rapidly increasing along with a somewhat difficult business atmosphere to start a new business. The fact that the economic opportunities available in Englewood don't necessarily pay enough for one to afford to live in Englewood is a challenge.
We have a pretty large and growing homeless population, and we have to figure out how we're going to address that. I would like us to address that with compassion.
How does Englewood work to solve homelessness and infrastructure issues?
You don't solve homelessness, but you can provide people with the resources and opportunities to overcome their circumstances. I was given resources and opportunities to overcome my circumstances, and I worked my butt off to make it happen, but I don't believe I'm special. I believe if we give others the same resources and opportunities that I had, there will be at least a couple of folks that seize that and are able to overcome their circumstances the way I did.
For infrastructure issues, we have to sit down and do it. That's all there is to it. I think that previous councils have cared more about reelection than about fixing problems. They've kicked the can down the road, and we have to spend the money to fix the problem.
What is your ultimate goal now that you've had some time to reflect on your victory?
My ultimate goal is to have as much as a positive impact as I possibly can on the issues that I really, truly care about. I want to make sure that this is a place people can afford to live, and that we're not pricing existing communities out of their own homes. That's for all marginalized and vulnerable communities — whether it's people on fixed incomes and retirement or families that need assistance. I don't want any of those people to lose their homes or to be forced out of their communities.
(Another goal is) making the economic and business environment here in Englewood good for people who live here and good for people who want to start businesses here — not for massive corporations that are coming in and extracting wealth from our community.
I want to make sure the way we address homelessness is productive and compassionate and to make sure people aren't losing their homes and their lives because we don't want to put the money into our infrastructure.
If I can accomplish one or two of those things, I will feel that I've been successful.
What are your opinions on growth and development?
I believe that growth and development are necessary for the health of the economy of a city and that a city that is not growing is dying.
We are a built-out city as well. That means that any development that happens has to be redevelopment. Existing structures will need to change in order to accommodate growth.
Broadway has been the heart of Englewood since before Englewood was a city. The majority of the economic activity has centered around Broadway. The majority of the density has centered around Broadway, and I think that should continue. That means we're going to have to increase density on Broadway. I did not have a single conversation with a resident of Englewood in which someone disagreed about Broadway being the right place for this to happen.
I don't think that we should be radically changing the character of neighborhoods by leveling single family homes and replacing them with duplexes and triplexes. I also don't think we should be building apartment structures in the middle of neighborhoods before we build out from Broadway. All growth and density should radiate out from Broadway.
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