2. What are the three highest priorities you believe the City needs to address? How would you propose to address these issues?
Cooper - 1) To promote economic vitalization in the downtown core, including provision of adequate parking; 2) To promote neighborhood cohesion, tranquility and proper traffic flow; 3) To maintain environmental leadership among the communities of state and nation.
The three highest priorities I believe the city needs to address are:
1. Expand Olympia's revenue generating capabilities, live within current tax collections and creatively balance budget restrictions;
2. Update the Shoreline Management Plan and Comprehensive Plan in a cohesive manner and make zoning codes and other city ordinances consistent;
3. Encourage public participation in all issues facing Olympia: growth, strong neighborhoods, sea-level rise planning, and relationship with the Port and the county, and neighboring jurisdictions. I would address all the above issues by encouraging the city's citizens to have a say in the process. Involving citizens on city related issues can occur in many different ways:
• Hold periodic town hall meetings in locations other than the current city hall
• Work more closely with neighborhood and community group representatives, encouraging them to more actively engage in city council policy discussions and decisions.
• Print and enclose city business news with the City of Olympia Utility bill.
• Run independent public service announcements and advertisements in the local media and alternative print media to help facilitate communications on important issues.
• Allow the public to attend and listen in on the weekly city administrative department head meeting which is where they discuss the coming week's agenda.
a. Downtown renewal is the most important issue at hand for the city's development. Close cooperation with the Olympia Downtown Association is key, as well as with the Chamber of Commerce. Creative solutions are called for, such as helping create events that draw people downtown. Informational signs in buildings that tell of their history would be beneficial. I have seen several communities that have done this listing the history of occupancy, so people have some knowledge of the continuity of local commerce.
b. Improved permitting and review of construction in the city, particularly in historic districts. There have been too many instances of conflicting messages being given by city staff as to what is required for permitting, leading to confusion and exasperation in applicants to come away with the impression that among city staff, the left had doesn't know what the right hand is doing. There needs to be some cross-training among city staff so that everyone is on the same page, so to speak.
c. Greater education and training of existing city staff to be able to provide more efficiency and effectiveness in carrying out their existing duties. See above.
Budget Challenges: City tax revenues are not keeping up with inflation so that the city keeps falling behind more and more. This is a structural problem that needs to be resolved so that we can maintain the quality of life that we enjoy in Olympia. There are several ways to address these issues. We could run a ballot measure repealing Initiative 747 locally, since the citizens of Olympia rejected the Initiative by 60%. Also, I would advocate for annual efficiency studies to find more effective ways to spend taxpayer's money and make this a part of the city's corporate culture. The purpose of the efficiency studies would not be to ferret out "waste and abuse", although if there was waste and abuse, this process would find it. Instead, the focus would be on how to provide services "better and cheaper".
Keeping Downtown and the Rest of the City Healthy: Olympia has a great quality of life because of community festivals, natural beauty such as Budd Inlet, parks and proximity to the mountains, good public services and real and historic downtown. There is a great deal of community involvement by an engaged citizenry. We need to make sure that we are able to keep and capitalize on these resources by welcoming people downtown, reinstating the police walking patrol, improving water quality in the Sound, developing a sea level management plan.
Public Confidence Building in City Government: We need to maintain the confidence citizens have in the work of the city council and maintain an openness and respect for all views. Council members and involved citizens need to respect one another as they consider complex problems and the search for effective solutions while confronting often difficult policy and practical decisions that have to be made. I would contribute to the building of public confidence by finding ways to forge a strong working relationship with everyone. As a solution-focused management consultant for a number of years, I would join with other members to find common ground and work out differences to move toward shared objectives.
Public Safety: We need to have safety improvements to roads and streets, enforce safety-related laws, codes, standards, and ordinances, provide emergency services, and foster safe habits among city employees, city residents, and city visitors.
A Sound Budget: Olympia's budget process has been somewhat unfocused, with the Council providing input only at a very late stage of the process, and at a point in time when few changes are practical. I believe the Council should form a Budget Advisory Committee made up of citizens with public budgeting experience. The Committee could assist the Council throughout the year in developing a budget that achieves goals and policies, and in tracking performance under that budget.
Quality of Life: Olympia is a desirable place to live because of a great natural environment, vibrant cultural activity, diverse local business, and a high level of public services. We must protect and enhance these if we are to remain the premier South Sound community. I appreciate real estate ads that read "On transit Line. Close to parks, trails, and great public schools." I never want to read one in Olympia that says merely: "Easy access to 1-5."
Budget: Clearly one of the most pressing short-term issues, focus should be on meeting needs and setting priorities around weathering the recession, cutting where we have to, and saving wherever we can. Rham Emmanuel said, "Never let a good crisis go to waste." For Olympia, that means seizing the opportunity to get creative, engaging citizenry, and harnessing community's spirit of volunteerism.
Downtown: downtown is probably the most important neighborhood we have. It is the hub of community. The health of the City as a whole and the health of Downtown are directly connected. In the big picture, I think we need to break downtown into districts, and design them intentionally for different markets. For instance, the Farmer's Market and Percival Landing are fabulous destinations that attract hundreds of people every day, and we should gear future development in that area toward visitors to city. The south end of downtown could be a spectacular urban village that would attract new residents and merchants and serve to meet density goals. We have, geographically, a very large downtown for a city of size and I think we can use that to advantage and create opportunities and atmospheres for everyone.
Three specific steps I would take: Union Avenue High Density Corridor - I would designate Union Avenue from Capital Way to Eastside Street as a HDC. I think this would provide opportunities for dense multi-use developments and multifamily housing, as well as provide a space for much-needed amenities in that neighborhood. That corridor contains many opportunities for in-fill, and developers could build up without the controversy that other recent projects have garnered.
Revise City Codes To Allow For Monthly Events On Closed-Off Streets - There is a lot of work being done to create a monthly event in downtown on Washington between State and 4th Avenues. The biggest roadblock is that Code prevents a regularly scheduled street closure. Many cities have worked with community groups to flex and change codes to pave the way for events, such as Portland's Saturday Market. Allowing for similar events here would attract a large concentration of people into downtown core, and immediately begin to break down many of the perception issues plaguing Downtown.
Downtown Parks - I was disheartened to see that the Parks, Arts, and Recreation 2010 Draft Plan didn't mention any municipal facilities, i.e. basketball courts, playgrounds, swimming pools, being planned for downtown. Successful neighborhoods depend on pocket parks and other amenities to provide free recreational opportunities to residents of the neighborhood. I think it is imperative, if we are to meet density goals, that we start providing amenities that will attract new residents to planned and future downtown housing. This is one of the biggest long-term issues Olympia is facing. Carbon monoxide from automobiles is still biggest polluter and we should continue talking about how to design city in order to curb and prevent that pollution from continuing or getting worse. These conversations need to result in specific steps to be included in the Comprehensive Plan. Another area where I find room for improvement is around Olympia's zero waste goals. We do a great job of promoting recycling and composting in Olympia, much better than many other places in the U.S., but still half of the garbage that we put into the landfill is recyclable. We need to address this issue now, and I believe the way we do that is by sorting garbage before it goes to the plant in Tacoma, or to the landfill. This would mean expanding Solid Waste department and creating jobs to get the trash sorted, and Federal Stimulus money is available for just this sort of resource management expansion. Water quality is another big issue. We have to be looking both upstream and downstream when planning and permitting. Mitigation should be a last resort, and we should always try to avoid altogether any environmental impacts to ecosystems. Cleaning up Budd Inlet and Puget Sound should be at the top of list, and we need to collaborate with the Port of Olympia, Thurston County, and the State of Washington to clean up contaminated sites along the bay and throughout downtown, and end the release of uncontrolled storm water into the Inlet.
Selby - with community leaders and information available on the City of Olympia website, I believe the 3 highest priorities for the Olympia community are:
Public Safety - The 2010 budget resulted in core services being trimmed to their bare minimums. I believe the staff and council did a notable job in making tough choices when it came to making sure public safety is still supported. That said, I strongly support reinstituting the downtown walking patrol and the proposed tax increase to staff the new fire Station. The ongoing challenge will be to continue with organizational restructuring to maintain efficiencies and prepare for service consolidations in the new city hall.
Economic Development - For the near term, the city needs to continue to support the work in progress on the City Hall, Children's Museum, the East Bay Consortium partnership with the Port and LOTT. All these projects are in the pipeline and will serve to develop economic health in the core. The bigger picture needs to include ongoing analysis of the local economy including input from the finance committee, the planning commission and the council as well. Potential future projects will be impacted by the Comprehensive Plan updates and the Shoreline Management Program revisions. Once those are in place, the hope is that the economy will have stabilized enough for development dollars to begin to trickle back into community. I believe it is crucial to continue conversations with developers to encage the process of investment in Olympia so when the economy turns around we can be ahead of the curve. This would assist us in "green lighting" projects that the community and environment can support.
Environment and Climate Change - The science supports the trend of global warming and the effects it will have world wide. In community, it is especially pertinent as we have a symbiotic relationship with surrounding lakes, streams and Puget Sound. There is no longer the option of ignoring impact on the earth when we decide to permit a project. In addition, downtown core and port is well recognized as built on fill and with a multitude of polluted sites. Any project right out of the gate needs to include the additional costs of permitting and cleaning up such difficult sites. This can discourage investment and require more staff hours to accommodate those who do wish to move forward with projects. As a city council, it is a fine line to walk to encage environmentally responsible development without discouraging investment in core.
Smith - Business and entrepreneurship growth that creates jobs and fosters economic opportunity for all who live in the City of Olympia will be my top priority. City government has the responsibility to develop and maintain an environment that stimulates economic growth that makes Olympia a great place to live. city has the unique fortune to be the Capitol of State; working together we can build on this asset to take full advantage of opportunities afforded by a strong relationship with the largest employer in community.
Thomas - Priority 1: Implement Smart Growth principles locally and regionally, with a particular emphasis on developing multifamily housing for people of all income levels, and encouraging transportation alternatives for the automobile. I would work toward this by fostering regional partnerships to discuss, develop and refine planning and development regulations aimed at assuring that we absorb housing growth, encourage density along the urban corridors, and in the process protect environment by promoting transit and other transportation alternatives. This effort will also need to include productive conversations with each of Olympia's neighborhoods. It is in neighborhoods where we can discover how to absorb growth and density while maintaining and promoting the characteristics that make each of neighborhoods attractive and livable.
Priority 2: Leverage the city's budget crisis to create an opportunity for stronger planning, efficiency and accountability. With such great fiscal restrictions facing us in the next several years, it is critical that city leaders create two-way communications with stakeholders and residents. Together, we can define priorities and set realistic expectations for the future. I would accomplish this by working with my colleagues to develop a Priorities in Government program, like the one used by Governor Gregoire. This is described in my answer to question number six.
Priority 3: Renew emphasis on public involvement with a goal of increasing trust and a sense of partnership among all stakeholders in Olympia government. I would accomplish this by imbuing City activities with the attributes that build trust: open dialogue that creates clear understandings, managing shared expectations of City activities, asking stakeholders to help ensure positive outcomes, creating transparency, and demonstrating strong results. This will necessitate a long term investment of time and effort to develop well understood partnerships among members of community, regional leaders, the Council, and the city staff. I believe that a well-developed process of community engagement and dialog not only improves decision-making, but also saves time in the end by avoiding the need to revisit the same issues and to rebuild trust that is lost when communication break$ down.
Veldheer - 1) Address budget shortfalls while maintaining a high level of city services
It is important that city is run efficiently and effectively. I would favor performance measures to ensure these outcomes and to save money.
2) Encourage citizen participation
We have many well educated and passionate citizens in Olympia. Recognizing and tapping into this resource would greatly benefit the city and City Council as policy decisions are made. I would seek to find consensus and include citizen and community organization input whenever possible. A good communication stream between city government and citizens is vital to a city's well being.
3) Protect the Environment
Every year, we learn more about the world around us and how we need to protect and improve the quality of the air, water and land around us. The city of Olympia must partner with its neighboring jurisdictions when setting environmental policies so that jurisdictions are working in tandem on concurrent policies.