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Meet the Candidates 2003 - David Cook
What do you think are the three biggest problems facing North Bend?
By now you are probably aware that North Bend's number-one problem is the lack of water rights. So, I would like to discuss the next three:
1. Roads. Our roads are in the worst condition in years. All you need to do is walk down North Bend Way by George's Bakery or Northeast Eighth Street in Silver Creek. The city is responsible for the repair and maintenance of 24.4 miles of asphalt roadway. Twenty percent of our entire road network is considered in poor to very poor condition. Roads in very poor condition must be reconstructed and cannot be repaired. In 2003, zero dollars have been budgeted for roads. It is estimated that the minimum maintenance needs over the next six years will be over $8.4 million dollars! The longer we wait, the more expensive it is going to get. We need to secure grant funding, work with the Department of Transportation on cooperative projects and begin our pavement management program. Most importantly, we need to get started.
2. Traffic. The City Council just adopted a controversial six-year transportation plan. The vote was 3-2 with the newest members opposed. The plan calls for a double roundabout connected by a concrete barrier right in front of QFC and the post office. This is their solution to the post office and Southeast Cedar Falls Way traffic congestion. The plan was adopted with little or no consultation with residents, QFC, Les Schwab or any other impacted business. What about aligning the post office driveway with QFC's driveway and installing a signal light? This solution will also allow our seniors and other pedestrians to cross the street. The postmaster offered to do just that years ago at their expense. We need common sense solutions shaped by input from our residents and local businesses.
3. Unchecked development in the UGA. While residents have talked about not becoming another Issaquah for years, it's hard to believe that the city failed to secure an inter-local agreement with King County to control growth in our Urban Growth Area (UGA) just outside the city limits. Commercial developments are being built on septic while new residential areas are created without any input from our local community planners. North Bend is impacted by the growth without any of the benefits. In a recent conversation with our King County Council Representative Kathy Lambert, she assured me that the county is willing to work with North Bend to secure such an agreement. This window of opportunity should be pursued without delay.
Bringing business to the downtown sector has been a topic of discussion for years within the city. If elected, what will you do, not only to bring new business downtown, but ensure that the current businesses remain in the area during that renewal process?
About eight years ago the owner of the Sunset Garage had a tenant lined up to occupy the building. The building was going to be refurbished into a brew pub and restaurant. Plans were drawn up and everything was ready to go until the city required $250,000 dollars to hook-up to the sewer line already in place. That demand killed the deal and since then the building has sat vacant and restricted by moratorium. The loss of economic benefits to the city for decisions like this are immeasurable.
Once we have access to water - we must create incentive programs to encourage the cooperation of building owners to redevelop in a meaningful way. Condemnation, lawsuits and litigation are not the answer. We must build upon relationships and work together to resolve this problem. There are plenty of tools in our toolbox for attracting and retaining businesses. Some of these include tax breaks, permitting discounts, grant funding, facade assistance and low-interest loan programs. Most importantly, we need to add an economic element to our comprehensive plan to guide us in the right direction.
Right now, many of our current business owners do not feel welcome in North Bend. To truly revitalize our downtown, the city must make a fundamental shift in how it relates to and interacts with local business. It's going to take time to attract new businesses, but we can make important steps to improve the current business environment. Here are some practical things we can do right away to help local merchants:
* Review local sign codes, permitting processes and license approval.
* Add a parking element to the new six-year transportation plan.
* Post better signage to utilize current city-owned parking areas.
* Take advantage to develop off-street parking opportunities.
* Implement business outreach programs and events.
* Accelerate facade assistance grants.
* Form a downtown revitalization commission to begin the renewal effort in earnest.
What is your vision for the future development of North Bend?
North Bend currently has a solid 20-year plan called our comprehensive plan. This plan can be amended every two years and is our road map to how we want our city to be in the future. This plan should not be manipulated at the whim of a new administration or City Council. Changes should only be made to keep the comprehensive plan in compliance with state regulations or when the plan is not consistent with the community's vision for the future. However, I do have a vision for North Bend that is in harmony with our comprehensive plan and includes a much stronger emphasis on improving our downtown as stated in our city's community vision statement.
We need to take local control f our UGA through annexation to guarantee that the county will not allow further unchecked growth. In addition, I would advocate that we do not expand beyond our current UGA boarders. In the future, it is likely that we will be encouraged to expand beyond our UGA into wilderness and wildlife habitat. If we truly want to keep our small-town feel, then we need to halt expansion beyond our current UGA.
What qualities do you have that make you the best candidate for the job?
During my 18-year career as an entrepreneur, CEO and property manager, I have gained the interpersonal skills necessary to work with all kinds of people. My experience has taught me how to achieve agreements, consensus and compromise. These are the key ingredients for a successful councilman to address North Bend's long-term challenges. In addition, I have focused my time on building the critical relationships necessary to be an effective city councilman. The relationships established during the past two years took time and are absolutely necessary to fulfill the promises of a campaign for office. The results of my efforts are reflected in the support of over 75 local merchants and businesses and the endorsement of our King County police officers.
Resident opposition to the SCTF was a huge rallying point for the city. How are you going to parlay that movement into gaining more involvement from resident participation in city government?
Increased resident participation begins with improved communication. It's time to bring video cameras back into City Council meetings. There are many residents, like our senior citizens, who cannot physically attend council meetings. An open and inclusive city government is one that reaches out to its residents in a meaningful way. Improved communication should include greater advertisement of public meetings and current issues, better access to city documents and specific outreach to residents and businesses impacted by proposed legislation. If we can improve how the city relates to the people it serves, residents will have the opportunities to get involved with issues that matter to them.
Anything else you'd like the voters to know?
I have attended nearly every council meeting and many other public meetings during the past two years preparing for this office. I have learned the issues that concern each neighborhood citywide and I want to be your advocate on the City Council. I hope that I have earned your trust and I ask for your vote on Nov. 4.