Candidate Questions posed by Quality Bainbridge
1. What interests inspired you to run for a seat on the City Council?
We have something very special on Bainbridge Island. We know that and we must protect it. Unfortunately, we are under tremendous growth pressures and we all have seen so many changes in just the last few years that don’t bode well for our future. Added to these challenges is the increased need to be mindful of our environment – as an island community how we conduct ourselves affects an already compromised Puget Sound. Significantly, a recent and well documented report clearly shows how climate change threatens our community – more rainfall and landslides in winter, increased drought conditions and risk of fires in summer and rising sea levels which threatens homes and livelihoods. Certainly we can’t prevent the worst of climate change on our own, but we must join with cities and towns across the nation that clearly recognize that if we all do our share, we can have a huge and positive effect. And all of this needs to be done responsibly with a constant eye on very real financial constraints.
Addressing these crucial issues is what motivated me to run for council. I have watched the changes that have taken place over the last 20 years. I’ve been an active participant in community organizations and programs. I consider serving on the City Council as the best opportunity I have, given my background and skills, to pay back the debt that my family and I owe for the privilege of living on this beautiful island. Those are not just words; I mean that sincerely. I’ve traveled enough, seen enough towns to know, that when we use the world ‘special’ and ‘unique’ to describe Bainbridge, it is an accurate description.
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.
3. What skills, training, resources, expertise and relevant previous experience will you bring to the Council?
During my more than 20 years as a Bainbridge resident, I have seen lots of changes, some good but many that concern me. I have enjoyed working with so many Islanders on issues of real importance to our community such as our environment, utility issues, LGBTQ rights, waste reduction and other progressive programs. They have expanded my vision and put me in contact with talented people who can continue to keep me informed and educated on a variety of subjects that come before council.
I am proud to have received the approval of both the Kitsap County Democrats and the 23rd LD Democrats. Additionally, I am very appreciative of being the candidate in my race to have received the endorsement of Climate Action Bainbridge, one of the most active and committed environmental groups in our area.
My professional experience, as outlined below, will be valuable in dealing with some of the complicated and technical financial, fiscal and environmental questions that we currently face.
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?
Stream and beachfront water quality is a both an individual and a community issue. Educating the public is a critical first step. For busy people, and especially for those new to the community, it is easy to forget or simply not be aware that when you live on an island, everything you put on your land or down your drain can potentially find itself into our drinking supplies, local waterways and into the Sound. Years ago my family decided that chemical fertilizers (even “slow release” kinds), toxic pesticides and herbicides had no place in my yard care regimen. I took it all to the hazardous materials roundup (run by Rotary – thank you). I would encourage the hardware stores to stock and promote more natural and safe lawn care products. I would encourage all of us, as the Bainbridge Island Land Trust already does, to plant native species that don’t need a chemical boost to survive.
Fecal coliform and nitrogen are with few exceptions the result of septic systems. They don’t have to be “failing” to contribute to the problem. Department of Health is primarily concerned with the perk test when they issue a permit. I don’t agree with those who say sewers cause development. Sewers reduce pollution. If building sewers causes development, that is a zoning issue. Our City-run plant removes coliform of course, but they also remove more nitrogen that septic systems do. In recent years we have expanded sewer coverage specifically to improve surface and ground water quality. The city is collecting ample water quality data. But, we should move from “admiring the problem” to creating plans to improve water quality in the worst polluted basins. This is another area where we should not be looking at decades old technology. We should be exploring mini treatment plants like KPUD is installing at Port Gamble and other systems that are cheaper and have less impact than piping every home to a distant giant plant.
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?
We know that, given state law, simply saying we will stop all growth is not a possibility even if the majority of residents would support a no-growth policy. Arbitrary bans lead to expensive law suits. So the only way we can preserve what is most important to our island is a carefully and skillfully managed growth program. We simply must demand more from proposed development. Several recent housing developments are examples of the least creative and most invasive type.
We also need to continually work with both the county and state on the requirements of the Growth Management Act to ensure the most reasonable growth goals are set that recognize the special limitations and requirements of an island community. We chose to be a city partly so that we could control our urban and rural balance. We should not be forced to accept growth like we were mostly urban.
I have stressed the importance of the Comp Plan because it best represents the policy limitations we have put on development and clearly outlines our commitment to preserving our natural resources. But we also need strong voices on Council to continually push for accommodating the needs of the natural world in all decision making. Our leaders must be constant advocates for preserving natural resources.
I am always curious what people really mean by “economic development” when they are talking about a community’s needs. In many ways, we are already a ‘grown up’ community with an identity that we have collectively worked hard to create. The result is a real sense of place that is the reason we live here and not in the sprawl of much of America. Inviting industries and retail more fitting for Poulsbo or Silverdale may bring in more tax revenue, but at a price most of us are unwilling to pay. Cottage industries, in-home businesses, supporting our farms, craftspeople and artists and maximizing our tourist income is the kind of economic development that fits Bainbridge. The tradeoff is a real focus on fiscal responsibility to keep our taxes burden manageable. And our assignment is to be really, really good at planning, design and implementation. Not an easy assignment, but absolutely required of staff and our decision makers.
6. How should we address the issue of code enforcement?
Our codes are only as good as the enforcement. When codes are ignored or when commitments made by developers as part of the approval process go unsatisfied, it essentially nullifies the decisions we have made as a community. Code violation require complete documentation which includes the department’s response and all follow-up that is easily accessible to council and the community. Additionally, ‘after the fact approval’ except in very rare exceptions should not be tolerated.
Council had a good beginning conversation recently about how to better deal with citizen reports of important code violations which many have found a frustrating ordeal. When responsible citizens clearly see violations that undermine the integrity of our rules and regulations and negatively affect the community; they need to know that the city will follow up according to our established policies.
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?
I will strongly champion the Goal #3 from the Housing Element of the Comp Plan – Promote and maintain a variety of housing types to meet the needs of present and future Bainbridge Island residents at all economic segments in a way that is compatible with the character of the Island and encourages more socio-economic diversity. Partner with community non-profit organizations and local and regional private and public entities ……
The recently created Affordable Housing Task Force is a good start and we should pay careful attention to how it proceeds. I don’t think there is any question that establishing truly affordable housing is badly needed and locating such housing in the city core makes the most sense. This is an area, however, where we have seemed to ignore the positive and workable programs other communities have established. Changing our codes to allow ADUs in neighborhoods with access to walkable job opportunities and shopping should be a priority. This has the added benefit of providing income to homeowners where additional income can make the difference in their ability to keep their homes. Our goal must not simply be to build new affordable housing on land that we have to clear. Affordable housing is needed within our existing neighborhoods too.
I am concerned that we make sure that the promise of affordable housing by developers not be used as an excuse for more density while providing few homes that anyone could reasonably deem affordable. Already the Affordable Housing Task force is looking at innovations in other communities to best incentivize builders to build high quality permanently affordable units in the mix.
Housing becomes unaffordable when the price of housing gets out of reach or when wages fail to keep up. In the second meeting of the Affordable Housing Task Force, the chair asked us to think about the people in the army of trucks that come onto the island every day to work in our homes and businesses. They generally cannot afford to live here. I would propose that Bainbridge Island adopt a minimum wage similar to what our economic neighbor Seattle has done.
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?
We live in a world where access to the internet is something we all rely on and consequently becomes an appropriate concern of local government. High-speed, high-bandwidth communication is essential for business, schools and homes. So many of our smaller businesses are home based and not in the downtown core. Our problems with reliable and affordable broadband access are obvious and long standing. Additionally, cell phone coverage is very problematic on the island.
I will push the city will do all it can to help KPUD improve and expand broadband access throughout our community (on PSE’s infrastructure). Additionally, the City should work with cell service providers to introduce some of the newly available technologies for signal transmission and boosting.