LETTER: Q&A with Steve Fields — The Specifics of his campaign (By Brian Hansford)

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<reprinted with permission from Redmond Neighborhood Blog >

Sunday, September 20, 2015
LETTER: Q&A with Steve Fields — The Specifics of his campaign
By Brian Hansford

I recently met Steve Fields, candidate for Redmond Mayor. Redmond is at a pivotal point that needs strategic leadership, management skills, and community engagement. I’m not a fan of voting for a candidate “for the sake of change” and I asked Steve some direct questions on 5 issues important to me. Steve took the time answer my 5 questions in great detail. This is important to share because I think it helps provide information to making voting decisions beyond griping. I encourage Redmond citizens to spend five minutes to read this to help you make an informed voting decision. Based on Steve’s responses to my questions I have decided to support and vote for him as the next Mayor of Redmond.

Here is my Question and Answer with Steve Fields:

1. What would you have done differently, if anything, with the approach taken on the two recent failed tax propositions? My understanding is the original public safety levy is expiring. Renewing makes sense – if the money isn’t already there. Does the City only ask for money when a perceived ‘crisis’ comes up like an expired tax levy?

Before I answer the basic question of what I would have done differently I would like to clarify a couple of things.

• There was no expiration of the 2007 Public Safety Levy. The language in the 2015 Levy proposal that was defeated in August states that Council had voted to continue that funding. I think there was confusion on that by voters.

• The city can ask for new revenue sources based on a number of issues and not necessarily just a crisis. It could be to add or expand services or to cover unmet costs for existing services. I think part of the confusion on this levy is it was presented as both. People were confused.

I would have worked to avoid the need for a tax increase in the first place. There were many poor decisions such as the revision on 166th and the downtown park, and other poorly planned projects that should have not been approved ahead of the basic services included in the levy. Also, I am very confident under my leadership the City will find real cost efficiencies and determine more optimal levels of budget on services. This is what I do best.

The request for a new tax increase should always be very clear and supported by convincing information. The need for increased taxes should be compelling and the impacts of voting yes or no should be clearly understood by voters. The city leadership should be prepared with alternatives and let citizens know what changes will be made if a proposed tax levy is rejected. For example, what will the city do to mitigate the impact of not having the money for the proposed property crime and outreach officers? This should have had already been planned for by the Mayor.

2. Growth Management – how would you approach managing the growth that Redmond is experiencing? Buildings will be built, especially if permits have been approved and issued. Is there really anything to make this growing process less painful?

The City of Redmond does not have a Citywide Strategic Plan that is based on community engagement. You can only manage something as complicated as city building if you have a plan that everyone understands – Especially the people who live here. The city needs a strategic framework that the citizens participate in developing. This framework begins with values tied to the concept of the human scale. Or how will the end state feel, look, and taste to people.

Does it feel safe? Are people excited and proud of how it looks? (I.e. Design Standards for new buildings like condos.)

Does it accommodate all forms of mobility? (Transit, Bikes, Cars, Walking)

Is there a wide variety of shops, restaurants, and business that reflect our character and community identity? (And do small businesses feel confident in coming here)

Are there public green spaces and other public land to balance private businesses and residences?

Are we ensuring that the eco-system is not being degraded and threatened?

Is it laid out so that walking or bicycling makes sense to most people?

Adequate Parking, transit, or ways around the city to avoid coming downtown are included in the planning?

All of these things are examples of what we would include in a strategic framework, a way to measure progress, and manage step by step.

A narrow vision will result in a bad plan. Without community values and support from citizens planning is futile. From the UN Guidelines on City Planning “Plans conceived exclusively by technical experts, in isolation; plans using imported approaches that are not adapted to local conditions; and plans based on mechanical and detached assessments may be irrelevant” I would designate a specific group with responsibilities for strategic coordination and inter-departmental cooperation.

3. What can be done to manage traffic? More people in more apartments and condos mean more cars.

This is the difficult one. The elephant in the room of course is what you said in your question. That is, are we growing past our capacity to handle the impact on traffic and congestion? This problem is the poster child for my view that we need to have a detailed Citywide Strategic Plan. That plan would include quality of life objectives and measures that would demonstrate the tipping point from acceptable to unacceptable. I believe the City method to measure growth impact on traffic is outdated. Right now the city looks at each individual project to measure impact on transit. We need to have more proactive methods and out year analysis that tell us when we are not ready or in a position to build more residences. This would be a first priority for me to evaluate. I have ideas but this requires some very skilled people to look at. We need to talk with other cities that have done this well as well as the cities that have done this poorly. A number of things that could be looked at and these are some of my ideas only:

A limited city transit system or shuttle system.
Find ways to negotiate more transit service from regional services such as metro and sound transit.

Placing limited small shops and stores in neighborhood locations to limit traffic downtown.

Look at where roads that bypass 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 area is fragmented. (Does anyone know where the heart of downtown actually is?)

And the elephant in the room. We need to consider how to manage the rate of growth.

4. Do you support the impending change of the downtown one way streets to two-way? Personally I think it will be a complete goat rodeo with fewer lanes for more cars to go through.

Support it or not it is absolutely crazy that this was not done BEFORE we built all the new buildings and businesses. But no I don’t support it. Because it is too late to make it make sense. It will reduce parking. It will reduce bicycling. And it will add to the feeling of cramped and unsafe. And it has limited value to the businesses downtown. However I would make this a citizen outreach priority to be certain that the benefits of either changing it or keeping it the same are well understood.

5. Citizen Engagement – how would you engage citizens differently?

This is the heart of what will put our city back on the right track. Many people in our city have lost trust in our government – And for good reasons. As one person recently put it “City Hall has its own agenda and if a citizen voices a concern, then the blow-back attitude is basically ‘we know what’s best for you now go away and let us do our thing’”. Not only have I heard this from many other citizen sources, I have also had confirmation about this attitude from a source inside City Hall. It’s a real thing.”

It begins at the leadership level. It is a matter of leadership values. 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 along with key staff and department heads would 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 empower city staff by encouraging innovation and clear roles. This is a shift in city culture based on values. I would make it easier and meaningful for people to be involved.

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