Here are my answers to six questions the Newport News Times recently submitted to myself, and the other Lincoln City mayoral candidates. All of the candidates answers will appear in an upcoming issue of the paper.
1. The city is considering a ban on PLASTIC BAGS. Where do you stand on this issue, and how does it fit into your environmental beliefs?
Attempting to reduced plastic in our environment, although has the best intentions, could produce unintended results. For example, some cities banned “single-use plastic bags.” But retailers just made the bags thicker. Also, instead of banning plastic bags, we may want to consider allowing biodegradable plastic bags. However, the cost is approximately 7x more than a regular plastic bag, which the consumer will have to bear. The state is also considering a statewide band.
2. The city has tackled the HOMELESS CRISIS with mixed results. What should the city do to solve this growing problem?
In 2018, lawmakers added $5.2 million to the state’s budget to cover the rising costs of homeless shelters. In addition to increasing funding for our overnight shelter, city officials should tap into the resources at the state and federal levels and stop undermining the Warming Shelter’s operation in churches. Dating back to my early childhood in LC, shelters have existed throughout our communities — administered through civic leaders like my father.
Our homeless issue also demands intergovernmental collaboration with state, county, and local charities, to assist our most vulnerable receive the counseling, job placement assistance, and support they need. Also, I will prioritize advocating for federal and state assistance related homeless and community service grants to improve funding for the Lincoln City Resource Center and Warming Shelter.
3. AFFORDABLE HOUSING is another hot topic. Some blame empty vacation homes, low wages, or high development costs. What should the city do, if anything, to make housing cheaper?
The cost of affordable housing presents a massive challenge for the next Mayor of Lincoln City. But this is happening across the state. As mayor, my efforts will focus on building new affordable housing by lowering permitting fees, and simplify approval processes. I will also work with Housing and Community Services and Department of Land Conservation and Development and Lincoln County to revamp our zoning rules to allow for tiny homes, and other creative housing ideas. We should also look to other successful models to implement policies that work. I will also work to create a local Housing Authority dedicated to tackling this most pressing issue and build broader regional opportunities with our federal, state, tribe and county partners.
Additionally, we should also strive to expand our economic base, to promote higher wages, so people can afford to get into, and stay in, housing that meets their needs.
4. The city faces growing PERS fees, rising operating costs and pressing infrastructure needs. What’s your philosophy about MUNICIPAL SPENDING, such as your budget priorities?
Our city recently identified over $36 million in much needed sewer repairs. And we just spilled over two millions gallons of sewage into our Siletz Bay. Before we consider more undergrounding of wires, or other beautification projects, I suggest we focus on our water and sewer infrastructure and repairing our roads. I would work to sell some of the over 300 properties the city owns, to help keep our citizen’s property taxes low, and to avoid the time and expense of maintaining them.
PERS is a very challenging issue. Statewide, the PERS system’s unfunded liability is currently about $22 billion. Lincoln City’s current budget doesn’t list what its unfunded PERS liability may be. And the city anticipates a twenty percent or more increase in its PERS contribution beginning next year. So our city will be fiscally challenged by, on the one hand, a growing economy, but the cost of its pension system growing faster. In addition, more government workers are retiring, who now get pensions exceeding $100,000 a year. Therefore, until changes are made at the state level, curtailing the cost at the local level may prove difficult for us. However, we can become leaner in our hiring process, i.e., avoid paying for in-house legal counsel at 250k per year where other cities contract out the cost.
5. Serving in public office involves personal and professional sacrifice, but in Lincoln City it is likely to include ethics complaints, internal investigations, skeptical reporters and outrageous social media attacks. Are you sure you can HANDLE THE JOB, and why?
I have worked with the city administrations of Newberg and Keiser for many years, building platforms to communicate with their citizens, As Mayor, I will be bring that same level of transparency to Lincoln City, to rebuild trust. This will depend on a collaborative style of leadership between the Mayor and City Council members during difficult times. Besides ethics complaints, and internal challenges and media dynamics, it is important that we ensure the delivery of vital public services to Lincoln City residents by working tirelessly to strengthen the partnership of state and local jurisdictions. Revamping our city’s website as a transparency tool that links you to how our local government works and how the budget is constructed is beneficial to our key stakeholders, you. We also need to build social media functions that allow our citizens to directly engage with the city and our councilors, so they are being heard.
6. Please tell our readers something ABOUT YOURSELF — anything we can share to let them know who you are and why you deserve their vote.
In early June 2018, I was urged by Lincoln City residents to run to be mayor. As you may know, I spent my formidable years in Lincoln City, attending Delake Elementary and Oceanlake Elementary. I am excited to return to my childhood home over these last few years and most importantly, I am honored and fortunate to run for mayor. With your support, we can champion the issues that reflect the values you and I share for Lincoln City:
• Work with federal, state, and tribal partners to end youth street homelessness by 2022.
• Establish a program – with vision and compassion – to shelter highly vulnerable homeless residents who are often fearful of accessing regional support
• Expand infrastructure to areas of our cities that have been neglected
• Bolstering our mental-health center through federal and state grants
• Rebuilding Trust and transparency in our local government
• Public safety network by increasing local foot patrols