Joe Deets, City Council Candidate (Endorsed)

Candidate Questions posed by Quality Bainbridge

1. What interests inspired you to run for a seat on the City Council?

For the last 17 years Bainbridge Island has been my home. We love living here, and getting involved in the community. With increasing concern I am seeing the island at a crossroads, with our remarkable small town and rural character at risk. There is the constant pressure of growth coming from our close proximity to Seattle, a booming metropolitan city. Despite a community values survey that ranked as a top priority the preservation of our sense of place, i.e. protecting our open spaces, agricultural land and forests, we continue to see an erosion of these very things.

To guide the City towards sustainable growth that preserves our special character, I believe that we need leaders on the council who are adept at taking visions into action and practice good listening and excellent collaborative skills. I believe that I have that ability and those skills, as well as a strong commitment to serving the community; which is why I have decided to run for city council.

2. What are your top five priorities that you would work to have the City accomplish during your term in office? For each identified priority that requires the expenditure of money, please state how you would fund it.

Please note that many of my priorities involve shaping policies to support them. Much of that effort will involve the use of existing resources, such as volunteers and city staff serving in ad hoc groups and committees. So in these circumstances either I do not readily anticipate much of a fiscal impact, or that impact will be contingent upon future decisions being made where I do not anticipate a material expenditure of money.

a. Environmental Protection
My primary goal as a council member will be to protect the environment and insure its sustainability in all city actions. Much of the benefits from living here come from having the natural systems still in place. These include healthy trees and forests, as well as water quality.

I will ensure that the translation and implementation of the Comprehensive Plan to Codes does not favor growth over environmental sustainability. Specifically, there is currently no tree retention requirements for single family lots, creating a hole in the Code. This clearly needs to change, and I will push the City’s Tree and Low Impact Development Ad Hoc Committee for progress in addressing this. Among my concerns is the City allowing for “after the fact” permits, which I bring up in question #6 on Enforcement. In respect to water quality please see my response to question #4, where I talk about supporting the City’s Water Resource Group, and the need to focus on projects that can deliver the most good.

b. Climate Change
There is abundant and sufficient scientific proof that climate change is upon us. We have a duty to future generations to work to slow its effects. I pledge to treat it as a major component of the City’s decision making.

I will work with the City’s newly formed Climate Change Advisory Committee to develop policy towards reducing the City’s carbon footprint. Other areas include prioritizing affordable green building, increasing local renewable energy generation, and pushing for the Core 40 bike project (see my comments on transportation funding, below). In addition, see my responses to questions #5, which covers non-motorized transportation, and #7, where I talk about the advantage of building small homes over large ones.

c. Public Trust in Government
This is a top priority to me because for democracy to function the community must have reason to trust its Government. Fairly or unfairly, there have been too many instances of the community expressing doubts as to the City’s intent on an issue. Measures that I believe will serve to turn this view around include:

  • Expand the efforts that I initiated while Chair of the City’s Ethics Board to educate council members and committee members on the City’s Core Values and Ethics Program. These efforts should be continued, and expanded to include City staff.
  • Improve the City’s communications with the public. In particular, when the City informs the public on an issue, such as when it asks for input, that it provide a greater degree of context (i.e. background, current status, and what the next steps would be) so that people will have a better understanding of what is being presented to them, and why.
  • Have public participation occur early in the decision-making process, rather than towards the end, as is currently the case.
  • Improve the City’s enforcement efforts. Please see my response to question #6, where I discuss how the City can earn the community’s respect instead of its suspicion.

d. Transportation
How we travel is a key component to environmental sustainability and quality of life. I will work towards the development of a truly integrated multimodal transportation system that provides a range of safe transportation alternatives; with a focus on increasing non-motorized transportation and public transit.

In particular, I heartily support new bike lanes, paths and trails (e.g. the Core 40 project). For funding, I would want a bond measure that is directly allocated to these improvements. Among other things this will help to ensure that they are completed in a timely manner.

5. Affordable Housing
Please see my response to question #7, where I identify specific policies and actions that will increase the inventory of affordable housing, and refer to the recommendations expected to come out of the work of the Affordable Housing Task Force.

 

3. What skills, training, resources, expertise and relevant previous experience will you bring to the Council?

I am an experienced, pragmatic progressive, and an environmentalist. I strike the right balance between progressive ideals and fiscal responsibility. My values are aligned with the community’s values.

Working overseas for the Hong Kong Government as a financial regulator, I protected small investors. A good example was when I helped to recover lost assets resulting from the Asian financial crisis of 1997. In addition to financial expertise, this work required a high degree of close attention to detail and teamwork, an approach that I will bring to my city council role.

Returning to the US and settling on Bainbridge Island, I decided to take a new direction and co-founded the non-profit organization Community Energy Solutions, which promoted sustainable energy practices at the local level. Despite being a very small organization, I enabled thousands of Washingtonians to go solar by way of innovative legislation at the State level. I led the successful completion of numerous clean energy projects and programs, such as at Sakai Intermediate School, Bainbridge Island City Hall and Habitat for Humanity of Kitsap County. This work required developing and maintaining close working collaborations with diverse organizations. A high degree of fiscal responsibility, strong policy and project management skills were essential for success. All of these skills and experiences I will bring to the council, including a deep commitment to community service.

Further, in July of this year I completed a two year term as Chair of the City’s Ethics Board, where my work focused on government accountability and transparency. This experience provided me with a good understanding of the people and the work of the City; all of which will enable me to hit the ground running as a council member.

 

4. Islanders consistently identify water quality as a top community priority and yet a City study shows our streams are significantly polluted with fecal coliform, nitrogen and phosphorus. http://www.bainbridgewa.gov/516/Water-Quality-and-Flow-Monitoring-Program What ideas do you have for improving the health of island waters?

I completely agree that water is to be treated as a priority. As a council member I will vigorously defend funding of the City’s Watershed Resource Group. Starting out, I would want to see work applied where a small amount of investment can deliver a high return in water quality improvement. Speaking with the City’s Water Resource Specialist Cami Apfelbeck, I understand that areas where this can be achieved include Manzinita Creek and Springbrook Creek. Moving ahead, it is sensible to me to prioritize research by watershed, and have a plan for each in reducing bacteria, phosphorus, and nitrogen. From this systematic analysis we can then access the probability for success and proceed accordingly. And, while the sewage plant at Winslow does takes out some nitrogen, it does not remove all of it. So it certainly makes sense for the City to seek grant funding that will up-grade the sewage treatment there, to remove 100%.

 

5. How do you think growth (economic and population) on the island can best be managed? How would you address the balance between development and preserving our natural resources?

The natural environment of the Island makes it a wonderful place to live, raise children, and retire. So it shouldn’t be surprising that probably the number one concern that I have heard from people (often while doorbelling) is the perception that the City is not effectively managing the Island’s growth. As a council member I will work diligently to preserve the special character of our island and use its natural resources responsibly.
Some of the actions that I believe will have a positive impact on managing growth include:

  • Ensuring that the translation and implementation of the Comprehensive Plan to Codes does not favor growth over environmental sustainability.
  • Support the work of the City’s Water Resources Group. See my response to question #4, where I talk about land use policies being supported by research.
  • Improve the City’s Code Enforcement. See my response to question # 6, where I discuss the City being less permissive in enforcement violations.
  • Develop a Tree Protection Ordinance, i.e. push the City’s Tree and Low Impact Development Ad Hoc Committee for progress.
  • Develop an integrated multimodal transportation system. See my response to question # 2 where I advocate for increasing bike lanes, paths and trails, which among other things will serve to reduce traffic, pollution and noise.
  • Encourage the development of smaller sized homes, such as tiny houses and cottage housing. See my response to question # 7, building homes with smaller footprints.

 

6. How should we address the issue of code enforcement?

My many years as an overseas financial regulator involved at times an enforcement function, so I believe that I have a pertinent insight here. Based on what I have directly observed, and learned from others, the City can do a better job. Specifically, by addressing a lack of thoroughness in their investigations and follow through, and stop allowing for “after the fact” permits. This permissiveness in enforcement erodes the trust that people have in the City. It need not be this way. The organization that I was a member of earned the community’s respect by applying its rules diligently and fairly. I see an opportunity for the City to apply a similar approach, and achieve the same positive outcome.

 

7. What are your thoughts about the affordability of housing on Bainbridge Island? What policies or actions, if any, would you like to see our City implement to increase the inventory of affordable housing?

Sustainability is really about people living their lives fully. This includes the availability of quality housing for a diverse population. The vibrancy of our community will surely decline if people who work on the Island cannot afford to live here. Projects such as the Ferncliff Village Project are a model for what our community can accomplish. But while there seems to be no lack of large, $700,000 (the average home price as of 2016) single family homes being built, there is a dearth of affordable housing projects in the pipeline. This clearly needs to be changed, and the following are examples of policies and actions that I would support to increase the inventory of affordable housing:

  • Developing standards to encourage the building of small to mid-size single family units, such as tiny houses and cottage housing.
  • Partnering with non-profit and other organizations to create new multi-family housing through the use of surplus publically owned property.
  • Exempting impact and other fees for housing supporting specified income levels.
  • Adopting flexible permit processes in all designated centers to promote an increase in supply.

Further, I am encouraged with the City creating an Affordable Housing Task Force. The Task Force held their first meeting Sept. 6th, with a report due to the council by the end of June 2018. As a council member I will be very keen on seeing their recommendations for near term action.

 

8. Kitsap PUD is soliciting indications of interest in expanding broadband access to neighborhoods on the Island. What role, if any, should the City have in assisting with this expansion?

The City can certainly make a positive difference here. This is a great question, for internet access is essential for all islanders; whether they are working from home, are students, or retired. To make a positive difference for people, access needs to be a) consistently provided at the highest internet speeds, and b) delivered at a reasonable cost.

I would like to the City to be strategic, and use its authority to become an Internet Service Provider (ISP). In doing so it will provide needed competition with the private ISPs, ensuring that costs are kept as low as possible for Islanders. Being an ISP need not be difficult for the City, for it can contract with a private company. It should set operating standards that the company has to deliver, such as consistent high speeds 90% of every day. I believe that it is important for the City recognize this as a service that it provides to the community, rather than as a profit center.

In this and in other areas I see great opportunity in collaborating with Kitsap PUD. Speaking with Bob Hunter, the PUD’s General Manager I’ve learned that the City can, for instance, require that conduit for broadband be laid during all new construction. By taking this simple and sensible early action, costs will be significantly reduced for the end user.