Decision 2014: Silverton mayoral candidates

October 2014 Posted in News

Our Town asked candidates five questions focused on the challenges the Silverton City Council will face over the next four years. The questions, below, are each identified by a key word.

1. FUNDING: How will we fund needed construction, reconstruction and major repairs to our infrastructure?  Most of the city’s facilities are aging and in urgent need of replacement or repair.  Where will the money come from?

2. COOPERATION: How can the elected officials work together in a more cooperative and efficient manner?  Too often, our council meetings are contentious and go late into the night.  How will the new council improve this situation?  What can individual councilors do about this issue?

3. ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: What can the city do to promote economic development in Silverton?  Much of the cost of public infrastructure now falls on residential customers.  What can be done to increase the number of commercial and industrial businesses in the city?

4. URBAN RENEWAL: How should the approximately $1 million in urban renewal funds be used to promote the Silverton economy and provide relief for residential customers?

5. PRIORITIES: How can the city better define its priorities?  Too often, individual elected officials have personal agendas and priorities that are not shared by the other councilors or the residents of the city.  Too often, individual councilors do not accept council decisions and move on.  What needs to be done to get closure, not only for the council but also for the community, on important or controversial issues?

Rick Lewis

Rick Lewis


RICK LEWIS

1. FUNDING: We are in the unfortunate position of having to compete with local districts for the same taxpayer dollars when all have needs, thereby making the passage of bonds a difficult challenge.  Note that I said “difficult,” not impossible. Federal funds for infrastructure have largely disappeared, with the exception of some dollars for seismic upgrades that have been passed through to the state and on to local communities. Some System Development Charge (SDC) funding is available.  Improvement SDC’s can be used to fund projects, but SDC’s are not constant and they rely on growth.  Carefully planned and managed growth, together with attracting industry to fill vacancies in our industrial park, can help reduce the burden on residential rate payers who currently subsidize industry. We must be careful when managing growth, however, to ensure that we don’t pass the “tipping point” where we maximize our capacity, requiring additions to the system to accommodate the growth. The result is that the burden falls largely on our citizens as taxpayers, making it very important that we carefully manage needs vs. wants and prioritize construction, reconstruction and repairs. We need to start a dialog with the community (the shared vision that I’ve been advocating in this campaign) so our citizens fully understand the dilemma and are able to provide input as we move forward. We also need to review current transfers from enterprise funds to make sure we are budgeting appropriately. What we cannot do is continue to ignore the problems we face that are partially what created the urgency we confront today.

2. COOPERATION:  The answer to this question is the primary reason I am running for mayor. We will have a very difficult time tackling the myriad of issues facing Silverton if we don’t first address the issues of civility and relationships between elected officials, staff and citizens. There is a lack of leadership (some say a complete leadership void) which has bred distrust, lack of respect and the inability to accomplish what needs to be done for Silverton.  Harry Truman once said, “The buck stops here.” The mayor has leadership responsibilities that are outlined in a number of city documents. The mayor should accept personal responsibility for the lack of leadership (substitute inability to get things done if you prefer) and not attempt to place the blame on other elected officials or on other reasons.  Changing the current climate will take a leader who will bring people together; one who is willing to listen, and compromise when it is in the best interest of the community to do so; a leader who will not ostracize any group, organization or individual; and, one who will commit to working together with other elected officials for the greater good of Silverton.   With regard to council meetings, I will work to reduce matters that come before the council from visitors not on the agenda by encouraging citizens to first contact department heads or the city manager on matters that are more appropriately handled at that level. The council cannot vote or consider matters that are not on the agenda and routinely must refer those matters to the city manager and departments.  If there is no satisfaction at staff level, then a citizen can always come to the Council as a next step.  This need not result in any time delay if folks understand the procedure beforehand. I believe the time limit for speaking during the visitor’s portion of the meeting should be strictly enforced by the mayor giving equal time for all.  It doesn’t serve the community, the staff or the council’s best interest to prolong dialog when citizens are in the audience to hear an item on the agenda, particularly when the council needs to conduct the city’s business. I sincerely believe in every citizen’s right to be heard, but it is the mayor’s responsibility to take control of the meetings and preserve order as well. Finally, with regard to the last question, individual councilors can commit to working with the mayor to achieve harmony and a good working relationship. Again, leadership is essential to make this work. There is strength in a diversity of opinions if there is mutual trust and mutual respect. These things must be earned; they are not an entitlement that comes with holding a position of authority.

3. ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: First and foremost, we must work with organizations that work to promote economic development, and that means a complete change in direction and rekindling of partnerships with the chamber of commerce, SEDCOR, leaders from other communities, the business community, developers,  and others. Some elected officials currently support these partnership efforts and will need no convincing.  We need to work to fill our industrial park with viable businesses that bring local jobs and help shoulder the burden currently on the backs of residential rate payers.  Secondly, once the council is working well together and has a commitment to putting Silverton first, then I will champion an effort to start engaging the community in developing a shared vision for the future.  We need to make some critical decisions about Silverton’s future and develop a shared vision that will help determine the future direction for Silverton for the next 5, 10 or even 20 years. That vision will guide us to how best to promote economic development. Again, these things require leadership.

4. URBAN RENEWAL: I am a proponent for the creation of a new structure for the Urban Renewal Agency. That may mean the creation of a new board made up of some council and some citizen representation, or it may mean the creation of a strong advisory committee comprised of citizen members that make recommendations to the URA board.  I also believe that a priority for the January goal-setting session with the new council needs to be a re-vamping of urban renewal. With regard to loans and grants for business starts, all concerned need to know and understand (1) the process for applying, (2) the criteria for consideration, and (3) the criteria for receiving a grant or a loan.  Grants are valuable to new business start-ups, help create jobs, and also generate revenue in the form of taxes.  Loans may be appropriate in some cases and the number of jobs and the size of the business are yet to be determined.  But all must know the rules and it cannot continue to be arbitrary in nature.  Once those decisions are made, we can have the discussion about how the funds should best be spent.  The city has master plans that should be reviewed and updated when appropriate and those plans should help identify projects that could be funded by urban renewal dollars.  I am advocating for the creation of a shared vision so we don’t make mistakes along the way that may adversely impact the community in the long run.

5. PRIORITIES: First let me restate that I believe there is strength in a diversity of ideas and opinions, provided everyone commits to listening respectfully, and demonstrates willingness and commitment to look for opportunities to compromise. It is about putting Silverton first. There will always be some personal agendas championed by elected officials, but if they are in the best interest of the community and if they represent ideas and beliefs of our citizens, then they deserve consideration. Trust, mutual respect, strong leadership and the commitment to refrain from personal attacks are crucial. My experience as a leader and manager also tell me that it is divisive and counterproductive to make end runs around fellow elected officials and publicly refuse to accept the decision of the council once the vote has been taken.  It leads to personal verbal attacks and erodes the faith of our citizens in the ability of the elected officials and staff to do the work of the city.  If we are able to fix all of this – and I am confident in our ability to do so with the right leadership and commitment — then the opportunity to create a shared vision for the future will open doors currently closed to us.  We need to put hard feelings aside, mend a few relationships and start anew. We also need to explore other ways to engage the community.  I have a few ideas along that line and, if elected, I will be discussing those during council goal-setting this coming January.


Stu Rasmussen

Stu Rasmussen


STU RASMUSSEN 

1. FUNDING: Bad news: The existing and future sewer and water users will have to pay the bulk of the repair and replacement cost. We can redirect some money from non-critical areas and maybe get some grant funds but the needs significantly exceed the available money.

2. COOPERATION: Politics is a contentious business. Democracy isn’t easy. If you come to a meeting with something to say it’s my responsibility to listen and consider your input. Ideas need to be worked through and all aspects considered. Sometimes it’s not pretty, but the end result is worth it.

3. ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: We (City government) could take a much more active role in promoting our assets to businesses interested in relocating. Silverton is a great place to locate a business – we just need to tell people more effectively. Currently, our zero marketing effort is getting about zero results and we’re wasting other money on dead-end programs with no measurable results.

4. URBAN RENEWAL: Urban renewal is supposed to increase property tax revenue by investing your tax dollars in projects that build taxable value and provide new employment. So far, only a tiny portion (about 8 percent)  of our urban renewal spending has been directed that way – that’s just WRONG! It’s up to you: Vote for new council candidates who understand the economics and won’t waste your money.

5. PRIORITIES: Some wrong decisions aren’t that important – like a teenager dyeing their hair fluorescent yellow, it’ll eventually work itself out. Other times the mistakes are unrecoverable and possibly fatal. Knowing the difference and deciding what battles to fight comes from experience. My Method: Take a step or two back and look at the issue from a neutral corner. If the facts and the math say it’s not important – let it go. If not – hang in there!

 

 

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