Spartanburg City Council District 5 Candidate Questionnaire: Sevi Alvarez, MAcc

Name: Sevi Alvarez, MAcc
Age: 38
Past political experience: Volunteer for Barack Obama (2008) and Hillary Clinton (2016); current vice-chairman of Spartanburg’s Housing Board of Adjustments and Appeals


How do you define equity and how does that translate into how you approach financial, programmatic, and policy decisions?

  • Equity is fairness, plain and simple. It is recognizing that while citizens in any functioning democracy must be equal before the law, our lived experiences are not the same. Historically, everyone has not been treated fairly. Equity, therefore, means equal access to opportunity through the fair distribution of shared resources according to need.
  • Equity, therefore, means equal access to opportunity through the fair distribution of shared resources according to need. We have seen this principle in action in both public and private spaces across the nation: for every staircase, a ramp, and/or elevator; every sign, braille; and for every video, there is also captioning.
  • We have and continue to account for our differences inabilities. But, what about our other differences?
  • What about those in District 5 who need grocery stores and pharmacies that they can travel to quickly by bus or on foot so that they more easily take care of themselves and their families?
  • What about those 2nd or 3rd shift workers who need a bus to take them to work or home from work after 6 pm?
  • And what about you, you all who may have a car or enough money to afford a ride often? Could your circumstances change and, if and when they do, would not a closer grocery store or more available bus system help you then?
  • As your next Councilman for District 5, I will be focusing on bringing more resources, more access to opportunity, to those whose personal circumstances indicate a need for them, be that right now or maybe eventually. I will ensure that the city of Spartanburg upholds its democratic obligations to liberty and justice for all.
What can the city do to make downtown a more welcoming environment for Black and Brown residents, visitors and entrepreneurs?

Through the efforts of our homegrown and foreign investors over the past 20+ years, we have seen our downtown thrive as it attracts not only new visitors and entrepreneurs but also local residents. As District 5’s next Councilman, it will be my goal to further expand public transportation and affordable housing initiatives. I want to ensure that everyone, especially Black and Brown people who have historically felt unwelcomed by law and/or systemic practice, can access our city’s developing center and all the new opportunities for living, playing, and working that this development continues to bring. Whether they are dining in a new restaurant, staying at one of our fine hotels, or living in one of the emerging multi-family residential units, I am dedicated to empowering ALL residents, visitors, and entrepreneurs with the resources and mobility that they need to participate in all the current and future greatness of Spartanburg.


As the city continues to attract economic development, what proactive steps can the city take to protect neighborhoods from gentrification?

Last year, the Spartanburg City Council recognized its past role in destroying and displacing Black communities during the urban renewal of the ’60s and ’70s. Now, rising rents have meant that our downtown is already experiencing some symptoms of gentrification with some business owners feeling forced out as Spartanburg continues to flourish. For District 5, I want to ensure that residents benefit from our city’s growth. We must increase community investment through initiatives that encourage homeownership, entrepreneurship, and the provision of commercial amenities like grocery stores and pharmacies. We must require developer buy-in through promoting community benefits agreements and the use of the affordable housing trust fund. It is imperative that the Council opts to protect the interests of the city’s most vulnerable communities to avoid repeating Spartanburg’s past and other growing cities’ concerning the present.


List three steps the city can take to help combat gun violence.

The rising tide of gun violence is a growing concern in Spartanburg. An increase in crime is an unfortunate consequence of city growth. However, there are many things that we can do to combat gun violence and keep our communities safe as the city continues to develop.

  • First and foremost, we must improve relationships between Spartanburg police officers and the people they serve. More trust will enable more cooperation on crime and violence prevention. I fully support the current community policing pilot program that is funded by a federal grant through the Justice Department and looks forward to contributing to its adoption as our principle policing policy.
  • Second, we must increase socioeconomic mobility within our most vulnerable communities through more access to opportunities. It is an established fact that children, teens especially, are significantly impacted by gun violence across the U.S., be they, victims or perpetrators. It is also an established fact that childcare continues to be a national hindrance for many parents from being able to pursue certain economic opportunities.
  • We need to not only offer personal enrichment and development activities and programs for young people but also actively recruit them to these programs. These community-led activities and programs will not only provide alternative ways for youths to occupy themselves but also a means for sharing the responsibility of child-rearing outside of school hours and further expanding community networks.
  • Finally, we must build a culture of neighborliness. I want to encourage more forums and other events in which the residents of Spartanburg can demonstrate that they are engaged with the issues of the area and are actively working to overcome them. New and current residents will come to learn through this culture that their neighbors will not tolerate disturbances to the neighborhood’s peace.


Spartanburg has been a place immigrant and refugee communities have contributed to shaping since the 1950s. And Spartanburg attracts very high rates of foreign direct investment. How can Spartanburg leverage its strengths in a global future?

My background in accounting and economics means that I am well-suited to understand the complexity of foreign direct investment (FDI). To maintain Spartanburg’s status as a model of FDI and economic development, we must continue to leverage the diversity within its successful economic growth and the dedication of its residents to the city’s prosperity. Our region has uniquely developed a two-tiered recruitment and retention model for foreign-based firms. Central to this model has been devoted to creating an evidence-based strategy, called the OneSpartanburg Vision Plan, to secure the city’s ability to transmit its economic success from FDI into prosperity for ALL residents. As the next Councilman for District 5, I plan to become fully engaged with the second OneSpartanburg Vision Plan so that the interests of this district can be fully represented in the next phase. I want to work with those investors who understand that their role must be to build a multidimensional relationship with the city in a way that benefits its residents beyond job creation.


How should the city move forward with public transit and development of complete streets and pedestrian safe zones within its footprints, and what opportunities do see for collaboration with the county outside of the city limits?

Improving public transportation is central to my political agenda. I have canvassed District 5 to understand what improvements must be made to more efficiently accommodate the needs of those who rely on the SPARTA bus system. The system needs:
1. Expanded schedules to support those who work outside of the traditional weekday 9 am-5 pm jobs;
2. Reduced route gaps so that riders can reach the nearby quality of life amenities such as grocery stores and pharmacies in a reasonable amount of time; and
3. More shelters from inclement weather at bus stops and seating if the location allows for it.
The county currently has some alternatives to SPARTA such as the Paratransit Service and Dial-A-Ride which are not perfect but could serve as a starting point for more public-private partnerships. We can also collaborate on vanpool services so that workers can access jobs outside of the immediate city where some of our larger private employers operate. The city must collaborate with the county to target those who are of immediate need but maybe unaware or otherwise unable to take advantage of current services. We must find a way to increase their utilization and efficiency in the short term while the Council works to improve SPARTA’s in the long term. The city also must ensure that all new development must be designed to allow safe passage regardless of the mode of transportation. Our city center would be ideal for the complete street approach, which would be in line with the 2007 resolution adopted by the county to design and maintain its streets with pedestrians, cyclists, and motor vehicles in mind. As I see it, equal opportunity through access to transportation is vital to economic freedom. Economic freedom must be an attainable outcome for every resident of Spartanburg if we are to have true social equity.


What measure(s) should the city put in place to continue combatting COVID-19, and should the city use its resources to help ease the burden on schools within the city limits?

COVID-19 has provided the opportunity to make the day-to-day business of the City of Spartanburg more accessible to the public. I firmly support the continued use of virtual spaces for meetings as well as deferring to the scientific expertise of the DHEC and CDC to establish measures to manage this public health crisis. These measures thus far have included requiring masks and social distancing in shared spaces, moving social activities outdoors when permissible, and closing shared spaces or postponing activities when a high risk of exposure is evident. I also will support campaigns to improve our vaccination rate in our area so that we may reduce the hospitalization rate, which, as it currently stands, is the highest in the country. As for schools, I understand that our ability to enact expert-recommended COVID-19 safety protocols is limited by the state legislature and that these regulations have placed an undue burden on our schools. However, we can still coordinate closely with the county to provide resources related to the provision of masks, testing, vaccination, and quarantining of staff and students. In any functioning democracy, individual liberty will always hinge upon communal responsibilities. Therefore, the City of Spartanburg’s public messaging must insist that each individual shares some responsibility in maintaining the health and safety of our schools and other public spaces




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