I asked Steve Fields, who is challenging the incumbent for the position of Redmond City Mayor, several questions regarding why he’s running for the office, the future of Redmond, projects, crime and homelessness. Below are the answers I received from Candidate Fields.
- Why are you running for the position of Redmond City Mayor?
I am running for Mayor of Redmond to bring new and stronger leadership that can be trusted to meet the needs and interests of the people who live and have businesses in Redmond. My commitment as Mayor is that our community will always be heard, and as a collective voice provide the guidance to a responsive city government. I want to bring a responsible approach to managing our city growth, so that as we build our urban centers, we maintain the quality of our neighborhoods. I believe genuine and proactive engagement between the government and the citizens is at the heart of a democratic society. It is how we negotiate living together. It builds trust so that as a community we can do great things together.
I will lead a Redmond City government that is well-managed and balanced with innovative service, fiscal responsibility and transparency to the citizens. I will work to inspire the people who live and work here to make Redmond one of the most livable, environmentally sustainable, healthy, and prosperous cities in the nation.
2) What do you view as your main purpose as Mayor?
The Mayor is the only full-time, elected position that exclusively represents and answers to the people who live in Redmond. This creates a unique position. The citizens need to trust the leadership and the word of the Mayor. Through attentive leadership that listens carefully to determine the needs of our citizens, I will improve the lives of people in Redmond by creating greater value from city services and leveraging our regional partnerships to bring the resources and solutions to our city. Implementing vision falls on leaders and individuals working in the City organization to make it a reality and not slogans or words just made up to throw around. It is the job of Redmond city government to continually meet the desires and expectations of the people who live here, pay taxes, and look to the City to come up with the ideas, practices and policies that manifest the vision we collectively set for ourselves
3) What will you bring to the position of Mayor?
I will bring to the city the talent, wisdom and leadership coming from a life’s work of improving the performance and successful outcomes of government agencies, private sector businesses, and nonprofit organizations. I will bring the extensive skills that I have gained during my career that includes over 24 years of working with or for government agencies. My work in large complex government and private sector organizations includes high level leadership roles in strategic planning, budgeting and financial management, project management, strategic advisor, and contract negotiations. As a member of the King County Executive Office I worked to improve operations and establish efficiency across all county departments. My wife and I own a small business in Redmond. In addition, I will bring a view of community service shaped by the experience of an active life that has always been dedicated to improving the health and happiness of others. I have lead a very active life in Redmond that includes serving as president of a major health and tennis club, scuba diving, backpacking, private airplane pilot, extensive international travel, and coaching young kids in basketball, baseball, and soccer through the City of Redmond recreation programs.
4) How does the Mayor work with the Council in our City?
The Mayor provides guidance to council in their legislative role as makers of policy, and administers the council’s decisions such as managing city budgets, managing and reporting on city operations, and implementing policies, strategies, and other initiatives. The Mayor should work collaboratively with city council as an independent elected by the voters in Redmond, but is also part of a system of checks and balances to ensure citizens are responsibly represented. Both the Mayor and Council should engage with the community to better understand current and emerging issues and to clarify city plans and actions.
5) How do you plan to stay connected with the people in the City of Redmond?
It is a matter of values that begins at the highest level of leadership. I know that talking with people broadens my understanding. Proactive engagement between the government and the citizens is at the heart of a democratic society. It is how we negotiate living together. I would include monthly outreach where key staff and department heads would join me to meet with community groups and citizens in their neighborhoods. I would make community engagement and service a major improvement initiative for all city staff. I would lead by example and empower city staff by encouraging innovation with clear and effective roles. I would make it easier and more meaningful for people to participate in city government by creating and promoting opportunities to engage with city representatives that are supported by delivering more information about city issues and activities so citizens can more easily stay on top of what’s going on. I would encourage and share public forums with city council, neighboring city officials and local and regional business and community service organizations. I would expand the size, promote, and broaden the reach of community matching grants. I would use the right information technology tools to support decision making and keep the public informed and include them in the decision making process, not just every two years at budget time.
6) What projects are you excited about?
The projects I am most excited about are the projects that will result in improvement of city capabilities to better manage our growth. This includes the development of an updated and understandable strategic plan that will establish a framework to balance our city growth where planning includes community engagement, investment in infrastructure is prioritized to improve quality of life for the people who live here, environmental and social impacts are addressed and cared for. This project will set the right foundation for all of the physical projects and changes that will make our city great.
7) What projects would you like to see proposed or planned for the City?
Transportation and the ability to move in and around or core centers quickly and safely is a major challenge. This would include evaluating our best options for spatial planning and the location of streets, parking, bike paths and transit routes.
One of the first things I will do after taking office as Mayor of Redmond will be to hire and establish positions within city staff with the credentials and expertise to oversee a City Urban Forest Plan implementation, Tree Retention, Sustainability efforts, Climate Change Response, and overall Environmental Planning efforts.
In addition, I will establish a Wetland Scientist/Stream & Wildlife Biologist position that reviews critical areas studies for accuracy, reviews development applications for compliance with critical areas regulations, relays related regulatory requirements to developers and applicants, engages in city restoration efforts, and tracks environmental mitigation projects in the city.
8) What challenges do you think the residents of Redmond face in the coming year? 5 years? 10 years?
Redmond has the business and financial resources, a strong sense of community spirit, natural environmental beauty and variety, and the innovative and creative people who live here to build a city that is great! Our biggest challenge and our most pressing need is to embrace this opportunity while it is still possible. This begins with city leadership that has the vision and the passion to lead the community together. Our challenges on growth, transportation gridlock, climate change impacts, public safety, cost of living, and city budgets are best met when we look forward together and address the issues head-on. For example, the rising use of drugs such as heroin has become our number one public safety issue. We need to address this now as a community.
9) How do you feel Redmond meets the needs of small businesses? Do you think Redmond could do better?
I am a small business owner and am proud of the contribution we make to our city. Small businesses spur growth and innovation, provide employment opportunities to people, and attract talent who invent new products or implement new solutions for existing ideas. In addition to their importance to our local economy, small business build much of our character, charm and unique identity.
Over the past eight years Redmond City government has ignored the needs of small business. This was highlighted by the OneRedmond economic development partnership with the city and its pay-to-play system that effectively shut out small businesses and educational organizations. Recently, after years of not including small business in the conversation of the city’s growth, changes have been made to make some overtures to include small business. This happened late last summer and well into the current campaign race for Mayor. It is likely that if this would have been another uncontested election in the city of Redmond these changes may not have happened.
10) What project or projects would you like to have been involved in and why?
I would like to have been involved years ago in the development of a city-wide strategic plan. I believe this would have resulted in better decisions on our design standards for building, highlighted the need for balanced growth, and put in place a vision supported by the citizens that resulted in defined objectives and the means to achieve the right outcomes
11) Do you feel Redmond is in step with other cities of like size and demographics?
Although Redmond is similar to other cities it has the unique element that the day-time population growth rate is the highest in the nation. This of course is the effect of Microsoft and makes Redmond a major employment center. Redmond is greatly influenced by Microsoft as an important resident but Redmond is much more than just the location of one of the world’s most important companies.
Because of this Redmond is often considered prosperous and a more successful city based on economic benchmarks. One of these is the much touted “cost of government” metric. However, given the higher salaries earned in the technology industry, this metric may not be indicative of the burden on the typical resident. Also, because the city does not include the storing up what’s called “Catch Up” costs in the city budget documents, this benchmark does not tell an honest picture of what city government will ultimately cost. Furthermore, Redmond does not have on-staff environmental engineers or biologists to help protect our urban forest, wetlands, and water quality in the face of substantial growth. Redmond should comprehensively benchmark major issues such as environmental management, road gridlock, and business turnover.
12) What are the short and long term plans to address the growing homeless situation?
Homelessness is a regional issue that will require combined leadership to find the locations and services to get people off our streets. The people who live in our community without homes are there very a broad range of reasons and require different services to help transform their lives. The city and regional governments must actively work together and support the many and varied non-profit agencies that attempt to meet these needs.
Short-term, we need to set the expectations in our communities that dignity is an important element to help people change their lives and their circumstances. Sometimes, just the availability of a shower and breakfast is the chance to begin a new life. Often, it takes help with domestic violence, drug addiction, or improving work and life skills. Outreach and education is needed to set social expectations and responsibilities for behavior by people regardless of their housing circumstances. This is a challenge that will always exist, but we can face it head-on and work to transform lives at an ongoing basis.
13) What are the short and long term plans to address the growing crime rate?
The increase in our crime rate is primarily property crime and fraud. Both types of crime can be reduced by using an approach that combines educational outreach and increasing awareness of what is causing the crimes and crime prevention. As mentioned in question 8 above, drug addiction is a growing problem that leads to property crime. The city needs to complete the cause and effect analysis of our crime and identify where preventative methods will work best. For example, bank account or computer fraud can be reduced through outreach programs that educate citizens and make them aware of typical scams. Outreach through our community service and law enforcement officials can help reduce drug use and have a direct impact on the reduction of property crime. Also, ensuring that there are enough officers in our police department to protect citizens and investigate and solve crimes is essential to both prevention and building confidence in the community.
14) How is the city going to mitigate traffic congestion and parking shortages with all the growth going on?
We are growing past our capacity to handle the impact of traffic and congestion with the current infrastructure and transit capabilities. I believe the City method to measure growth impact on traffic is not be used effectively. We need new methods to calculate impacts and evaluate solutions. This would be a first priority. Our prosperity and enjoyment of our lives greatly depends on the effort and time it takes to get to places.
- A number of things that could be looked at:
- Evaluation of a targeted shuttle system especially for senior communities.
- Evaluate placing limited small shops and stores in neighborhood locations to limit traffic downtown
- Look at where roads that by pass downtown could decrease congestion
- Look at how the city is spatially constructed and find ways to make typical trips more convenient or less spread out. Right now our downtown areas is fragmented.
- Conduct a comprehensive parking study that involves local businesses to determine more optimal parking locations and create space for business expansion.
- We need to consider how to manage the rate of growth so that we are more balanced with the current as well as future transit system to support what we add in residences and businesses.
15) How do you feel the about the Budget by Priorities method the City currently uses?
I am an industry expert on budgeting and have over 35 years of professional experience in all forms and techniques of budgeting and performance management. The concept of Budgeting by Priorities is very similar to many other methods that provide a way for local governments to focus on the results desired by their communities. Other budgeting methods include Managing for Results, Budgeting for Outcomes and Balanced Scorecard. However, current methods used by the city do not result in good budgeting decisions. This is evidenced by the failed tax levies in August and the lack of clarity on how budgets are determined and managed, and how major projects that have limited value were approved. It is important to have the right methods and tools to determine and manage budgets, but it requires skilled leadership and decision-making values to be successful. In this case it is the leadership that fails, not the principles of the methodology.
16) How can the City remain fiscally accountable to the taxpayers?
Fiscal management and accountability to taxpayers is a core principle to my management and leadership plan. Both begin through engagement with citizens to truly understand priorities and provide them the clear and understandable information on how their tax dollars are used. The most important element is to ensure that the entire city staff sees cost efficiency as a primary responsibility in their work.
<Author’s note: I asked incumbent Mayor John Marchione the same set of questions and have never received a response.>