A few weeks ago, I asked friends for questions they’d like to ask the candidates for Mayor and the City Council members for the City of Redmond. I also added a few of my own and came up with a list of 15 questions.
So far, only the two new candidates have been interested in answering the questions; I received an email with answers from Angela Birney, running for Redmond City Council position #5 which will be vacated by the retiring councilmember Tom Flynn December 2015.
I have copied the answers in their entirety; I have edited the questions to be in boldface to add to ease of reading.
- Why are you running for Redmond City Council?
As a 17-year resident of Redmond, I understand what makes Redmond an exceptional place to live, work, and play. I am excited about our future and am committed to making wise investments throughout our city.
- What do you think the main obligations of Council members are?
The City Council members are the representatives of the citizens of Redmond. They establish laws and policies, give input and adopt the city budget, oversee the spending of taxes, and ensure that the city is working for its citizens.
- What will you bring to the council position?
I am the current chair of the Parks and Trails Commission and I have served in many volunteer roles in the city and community. I have experience working with many community groups and have a collaborative approach to leading. I want to find new ways to include the residents in decision-making processes.
- How will you stay connected with the people in the City of Redmond?
I plan on doorbelling this summer. I also plan on having regular times to meet with citizens about their concerns. I welcome communication from residents and will continue to use social media to keep the citizens informed.
- What projects are you excited about?
I am very excited to see Downtown Park progress. The City has been working on this plan for many years and the project will begin to take shape soon. The Redmond Central Connector Phase two is also in construction and I think residents and commuters will enjoy its completion. I am also looking forward to businesses filling in throughout downtown. The improved walkability is making it easier for businesses to be successful.
- What projects would you like to see proposed or planned for the City?
I want to see Sound Transit phase 3 fully funded to continue light rail into Downtown Redmond. I would also like there to be better connected transportation options for neighborhoods to light rail and the region. We have a plan to connect trails within the city and I would like to see more investment in that area.
Long-term, I would like to see the Overlake area develop in a way that provides housing and office space yet makes room for parks and other environmental amenities.
- What challenges do you think the residents of Redmond face in the coming year? 5 years? 10 years?
Our greatest challenge is the population and work force growth we will see in the coming years. It will be a paramount duty of the city council and staff to meet the needs of the population while preserving the natural beauty and history of our city. Finding a balance has and will be a challenge into the future. For example, some of our historic structures in our parks system need attention but we also need to put money into our roads, sidewalks, transportation systems, and staffing needs as our city grows. Another area for future consideration is some of our buildings (pool, public safety, and senior center for example) that will need further attention and investment. We will need to find ways to budget for these.
- How do you feel Redmond meets the needs of small businesses? Do you think Redmond could do better?
I have spoken with a few small business owners in the downtown core over the last few months. I think the city is improving its permitting process and making it easier for businesses to make improvements. They also have opportunities for businesses to participate in city processes and changes. I think there is always room for improvement. For example, the communication between small businesses and the city in regards to notification of street projects could be improved, as there are a lot of changes going on in that area.
- What project or projects would you like to have been involved in and why?
I would have liked to be involved in decisions regarding the appearance of downtown buildings. The city is now revising design codes, but some buildings could have used improved design standards before they were built.
- Do you feel Redmond is in step with other cities of like size and demographics?
Redmond is an unusual city in that the population doubles during the workday. I think that is a challenge that few cities of our size deal with. Given that, I think that the city is on the right track in managing the challenges that come from that situation. We still have room for improvement in managing traffic, giving workers housing options to live within our city rather than commuting from elsewhere, and improving our amenities (parks, restaurants, shopping, recreation) to make Redmond an even better place to live.
- What are the short and long term plans to address the growing homeless situation?
The city has a Task Force on Homelessness that recently convened to explore the issues with homelessness. The task force is exploring short- and long-term solutions. There is also a King County Task Force. Currently, there are many nonprofits and churches that provide a wide variety of services to our homeless and low-income populations. This is an issue that is not going away and is very complicated. I think the city needs to look at long-term solutions. What those will look like I don’t know, but I am committed to finding a better solution for our city and the region.
- What are the short and long term plans to address the growing crime rate?
There is a levy on the primary ballot in August that will address this issue. It provides additional police staff devoted to property crime. Increased enforcement will help as well as improved education of citizens. It is important that we look out for our neighbors, like the neighborhood watch program, and in general remember that one of the reasons Redmond is a great place to live is that we are a community of neighbors able to look out for each other as well as rely on law enforcement.
- How is the city going to mitigate traffic congestion and parking shortages with all the growth going on?
The city is involved in regional programs, Metro and Sound Transit, to give citizens options for transportation. Much of those programs require funding from the state and county as well as private companies. If we had better inside city transit that would help with the parking limitations. Some of what we are experiencing is a change from the small town we were to a larger city. Residents will have to adapt along with need for some creative solutions from the city.
- How do you feel the about the Budget by Priorities method the City currently uses?
The system requires much input from citizens, staff, the mayor, and council. I appreciate the time and input that goes into the process. Each budget offer requires prioritization and measurable outcomes in order to get funding. Like any process it has room for improvement, but having been part of the process in the last budget cycle I think Budgeting by Priorities allows for transparency and conversations about what is important to our city moving forward.
- How can the City remain fiscally accountable to the taxpayers?
I think by encouraging citizens to be involved in government. There are many opportunities for all of us to participate in the budgeting process as well as other areas of government. All of the financials are available to citizens and there are quarterly reports at council meetings. It is up to us (citizens) to ask questions and stay involved and take advantage of the public opportunities. And it is up to the city to make this information easily and readily available.