Statement on the Upcoming City Council Election

For the past few months I've wrestled with the question of whether to run again for Centralia City Council. After examining my priorities at this stage of life, I have decided not to seek another term. My wife and I have three boys, 6, 4, and 2 years old. My focus needs to be on the education, character, and discipleship of my children. These are formative years; they go fast, and you only get one shot at it.

It was a difficult decision. I’m still passionate about the principles that helped make America great, like property rights, free markets, civil liberties, and limited government. Protecting freedom isn't just the right thing to do, it’s a vital and practical ingredient of a successful community. For going-on four years I've honored my oath and voted “yes” to freedom every single time. I kept my promises, never voting for a tax increase, defending property rights, questioning the status quo, and maintaining open and honest communication. I helped to defeat things like the sprinkler mandate inside city limits, the ordinance to threaten graffiti victims, and several new taxation efforts. I was also able to help shape and adopt new policy like making historic district creation votes fair, financial policies to better manage reserves, tougher union negotiation, and removing the R:2 zone from the curbs/gutters/sidewalks mandate.

It’s been a real honor to represent the people of Centralia. Thank you for the opportunity and all the support you've given me. There’s a lot of work left to be done, but there always is. My time in office will be coming to an end, but maybe it’s time for you to step up? There are 5 City Council positions up for election. Candidate filing week starts May 13.

June 12 City Council Report

Agendahttp://www.cityofcentralia.com/Agendas.asp?AMID=155&Display=Agenda

Contract between City Light and Enerlyte LLC for customer energy use analysis and reporting: This provides web-based statistics and analysis for City Light customers to help them see how much power they use and help them find ways to use less (thus saving money on their bill). I was on the fence on this one. Although this service is not a requirement, it does help to fulfill some regulatory commitments for City Light. It's also a good service for City Light customers, not horribly expensive, and is already in the budget. I voted yes. Passed 7-0.

Kresky Annexation: This annexes a portion of Kresky (just before the viaduct) into the city. The Growth Management Act and decisions by counties and cities has placed people and property in political no-man's lands called Urban Grown Areas. In a UGA, you don't get to vote for the elected city officials who govern your land use rules. You may be subject to more stringent regulations, higher utility rates, and taxes. It's a bad situation for UGA residents. The decision to place areas in the UGA is also essentially a promise by a city to eventually annex the area. People make plans and investments according to this promise, so it's important that we honor it. I voted yes. Passed 7-0.

May 22 City Council Meeting Report

Agendahttp://www.cityofcentralia.com/Agendas.asp?AMID=153&Display=Agenda

Indoor pool 10-year subsidy and new debt: Centralia, a city with an unbalanced budget, that is talking about laying off police, and can't find the money to maintain crumbling streets, will be committing to another 10 years of expensive subsidy for the indoor pool. In addition to regular maintenance and operations costs, we'll be incurring new debt for our portion of a $900,000+ HVAC system (there is a state grant involved for about 1/3 of it). In all, the pool will cost the city an estimated $90,000 per year. Other major repairs still don't have funding, including the pool liner, whirlpool, drain lines, and siding. The price of repairs was too high back when it was $600,000+. Now it's projected at around $1.3 million for everything. That's a lot of tax dollars when we aren't even funding core functions like streets. I like swimming in the pool. My kids like swimming in the pool. My mom swims in the pool for health. But at some point you have to make tough choices and prioritize the core functions of government. I voted no. Passed 5-1.

Meeting Minutes Online

Holding your elected officials accountable starts with knowing what they're doing. City Council meeting minutes are put online at: http://www.cityofcentralia.com/Agendas.asp?SectionID=30

Pre-2009 Minutes are at: http://www.cityofcentralia.com/Page.asp?NavID=211

May 8 City Council Meeting Report

Agendahttp://www.cityofcentralia.com/Agendas.asp?AMID=148&Display=Agenda

Hub City Community Garden use agreement: This grants permission to a group of citizens who have formed a non-profit to build a community garden on city-owned property on Woodland Ave. This is great because the Woodland property has FEMA flood-related restrictions and is basically useless for anything else. It's also a good case of "Ask not what your city can do for you; ask what you can do for your city." This is not a government program. The non-profit handles all governance, utilities costs, etc. I can fully support something like this and I'm looking forward to seeing what they produce! Passed 6-0.

Stormwater Rate Study Workshop: The stormwater department would like to expand their operation and facilities and needs to raise rates to do it. Paying a consultant to do a study is the first step toward that. Under questioning, staff did state that this is not absolutely required and we could make do with what we already have. My position is that if we can comply with the mandates and do the job with current rates, we shouldn't raise them. Stormwater rates are already a concern, particularly for business and commercial customers (ask the Port) and we need to be very mindful of actions which would stifle economic development. This was a workshop; no votes were taken. With the exception of Councilor Anzelini and myself, general council input was to go along with staff's suggestions.

April 24 City Council Meeting Report

Agendahttp://www.cityofcentralia.com/Agendas.asp?AMID=147&Display=Agenda

Unfortunately I was absent from this meeting fixing a crashed server at work. (Coincidentally, Dan Henderson and Bill Bates were absent as well. The council can still conduct business with a minimum of 4 councilors present.)

I will comment on a few items, though.

Ward (district) boundary update: This is routine business but notable because you hear about new census numbers and redistricting at the state level, but it's easy to forget these things happen at the local level, too. Passed 4-0.

City light (IBEW Local 77) union contract: Centralia has been doing poorly negotiating union contracts, and this one is no exception. Wages and benefits comprise most of our budget so this is an important issue. One of the key things I've been lobbying for is transitioning healthcare benefits from a percentage basis (currently up to 90% of premium, which equals $1500+ per month for many employees) to a fixed dollar amount. We also need to keep wage increases under control. Neither goal was accomplished in this contract. The city has a lot of power at the bargaining table to work toward these goals while bargaining in good faith under the law. We need to act like it, instead of letting the public sector unions walk all over us. I would have voted no. Passed 4-0.

April 10 City Council Meeting Report

Agendahttp://www.cityofcentralia.com/Agendas.asp?AMID=144&Display=Agenda

Fixing Centralia Streets Advisory Board: Staff and council already have all the information they need to make decisions on funding streets repair and maintenance. We know which streets need fixing. We know it's urgent. We know there are only three funding options: existing revenues, debt, or raising taxes. We know what taxes can be raised and how much. We know how to acquire debt. So, why the committee?

This committee was formed by the council following a staff presentation that suggested raising taxes was the only way to fund streets. Being unwilling to exercise the discipline required to live within our means and prioritize streets within the city's existing tax haul, and being nervous about raising taxes without some political cover, the council formed this committee which will be carefully guided toward making a recommendation to raise taxes. At that point the politicians will say something like "I don't *want* to raise taxes, but the committee report says it's the only way," and then vote to raise taxes.

It's the same old story we hear from the state and federal governments. "We can't possibly cut another penny. We need more of your money or important things won't happen." What they don't mention is they already have plenty of your money to provide quality, basic, government services. The real problem is they didn't manage or prioritize it very well and it's all gone.

Downtown parking ordinance, second reading: I discussed this previously. One new thing that came to light, though, is that a few businesses with in-and-out customers really need a drastically shorter time limit than 4 hours. One example is the Post Office, for which we made a special 15-minute provision in the code. I suggested that if we're willing to accommodate the Post Office, we should be willing to accommodate small businesses with similar needs on a case-by-case basis. Unfortunately staff and most of the council weren't interested. I voted yes because the revised parking ordinance was still a big improvement. Passed 7-0.