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Running as a Democrat
Kyle Hudson is a progressive Democrat and former member of the West Chester Democratic Committee. Starting as a waiter in town, he now owns two businesses and co-founded the West Chester Cinco de Mayo Festival.
After running for Mayor unsuccessfully four years ago, he stayed involved and helped develop the Mayor’s Opioid Action Task Force. He also has attended every Borough Council voting session since January 2017. He has held many jobs in our community, including reporter, Lyft driver and Census Enumerator.
He lives in Towns Edge Apartments with his wife Leslie, daughter Ava, and cats Cosmo and Fluffy.
1. Do you think our main street/downtown is healthy and successful? If not, what would you do to change that?
I think before the pandemic we were seeing a slowdown of business downtown, and now we are in a real crisis. See, other municipalities like Phoenixville and Kennett Square have really been improving and that means we have competition. I would like to see more digital advertising and more of a focus on big events, something we will see less of now that borough council has made it more expensive than ever to host events. They also created a permit system for buskers, making it illegal to perform on the street, which is why we don’t see many people playing music on the street anymore. We need to recognize that we have competition, and that means we have to reevaluate our public image.
Last year I introduced a West Chester Gift Card stimulus program. I think having some sort of standardized payment system in the Borough would be a great marketing tool and keep customers coming back to West Chester. We see the success of Ram Bucks for the students, why not something similar for residents?
2. How would you rate the borough’s support of small businesses? What else can be done to help promote our locally owned small businesses?
I think the borough could support our businesses more. There are more resources for restaurants than retail or services, so I would like to see things be a little more equitable. My background is in marketing, and I think we need to have more consistent messaging going out, like a weekly show about our downtown, or maybe even a public access channel with programming featuring businesses in the borough.
3. How do you feel about the transportation options currently available in our city? Do we have enough options? If not, what will you do to increase those?
We need to invest in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, and I think a town shuttle, hopefully an electric vehicle, would be great. People can’t safely walk to any grocery store in town because sidewalks don’t lead there and we keep talking about reducing emissions, but we don’t invest in the infrastructure to make it possible. That means we need to get out a map and connect every sidewalk and resume our efforts to put in bike lanes.
Also, I was a Lyft driver and I can’t tell you how many times I drove back and forth just blocks, and how inefficient that was. An electric shuttle, similar to the free cab that was operating before the pandemic, is something the borough itself should invest in.
4. One topic that is always of concern to small businesses is parking. Do you think the borough has challenges with parking? How would you mitigate those concerns or change the situation?
The borough absolutely has parking problems. First off, we need to do a better job marketing the garages, because a lot of times they aren’t being used to capacity. This can be as simple as additional signage downtown. Also, if we can increase public transportation options, like a train, then that should ease the burden as well.
We need to reevaluate parking revenue’s place in borough finances.
5. If you could change one thing in our zoning code, what would it be and why?
People should be able to build driveways in front of their houses. In a council meeting a couple months ago, Council admitted it was only for aesthetics. If people want to build a driveway in front of their home, as long as it is something like gravel and not paved, we should allow it. Obviously, I believe it would help ease our parking and give people the ability to park in front of their home, which is something I know not every resident can do every day.
6. How do you plan to involve small business owners in the decision-making process in our town?
I have worked with over 30 business in town through my marketing business. I already have solid relationships with many local business owners, because I see them when I walk around town every week. I would encourage BID participation and every business owner (and resident) in town will have my phone number.
7. If someone came to you with a proposal to build a new piece of public infrastructure in our city (road, bridge, etc.) how would you evaluate whether that project was worth implementing?
We are lucky to have so many amazing resources here in West Chester, and many talented people in our government who are experts in their field. My background is not in infrastructure, so I think it would be really important to bring together the smartest people we have in our community in a few public and recorded meetings to go over the plans. Something like a road could be around for a hundred years or more, so you need to make sure the impact of what you are doing is looked at from all sides before moving forward.
I have built many ambitious projects, and my philosophy has always been “prepare, prepare, prepare, execute.” Meaning you should spend three times as much time preparing for something than actually doing it. I have always found success from knowing when you don’t know something and finding the best person you can to fill that need.
8. If elected, what three steps would you take to put our borough on a firmer financial footing?
My Special Police Officer Program uses part time officers to supplement full time officers. Because they are part time, they won’t be adding to our pension burden. I also think we need to approach out taxes with an “inflation plus” model, and accept that for the near future, we will have small tax increases, matching inflation plus an amount set by council.
I feel that our decision to not raise taxes for almost a decade was irresponsible. Pushing the burden onto parking hurt our downtown, as well as put countless people into unnecessary contact with law enforcement, because no one should have a warrant out for their arrest because they didn’t put a quarter in the meter. Our parking department has a reputation, and drives businesses and customers out of town, because it was seen as a primary revenue stream and overly aggressive.
9. If you received a $1 million grant to use for the borough any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?
Buy land and build a solar farm. This was a hard one because we have so many worthy causes, but a solar farm is an asset, like our waste management plant. I believe investing in a solar farm is one of the only ways we will be able to meet our sustainable energy goals. Also, it will generate more power over time, as solar panel and energy storage technology improves.
10. What would be your expectation and commitment regarding engagement and communication with the BID, through its Board and/or members?
I plan on taking an interest in our marketing and would try to attend as many BID board meetings as I could. I would communicate regularly with BID leadership and help them achieve their goals. I would hope that I could provide help that would normally require outside consulting.
11. How might we work together to help optimize the BID as a municipal authority of the Borough, such as through grant opportunities, strategic planning and goal development, initiative prioritization?
We need someone whose job it is to just write grants. There is so much Federal money out there right now and we have to go get it. I believe that as Mayor, my job will be to help facilitate relationships and execute our plans to the best of my ability. John O’Brien at the BID is doing a wonderful job and I want to be there to support him however I can.
12. How can businesses and police department work together to help control “nuisance” issues in the downtown? How can business owners assist the borough in keeping West Chester as a safe environment?
I have developed a Special Officer program to provide additional, unarmed police to our BID area. I believe that uniformed presence, on foot and brightly marked as police, will help deter crime.
To reduce overserving, I think local business should back their bartenders at the point of sale. When I worked at Outback, there was a policy that if I cut someone off and they didn’t tip me, the restaurant would cover up to 20% of the check. I would like to see local restaurants institute a policy like this, because ultimately the decision to serve that next one becomes an economic situation for the bartender. There is a real fear that if they don’t serve them that next drink they won’t get tipped, and when you are paid $2.83/hr, you are making your living off tips.