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Council candidates Q and A

Nikki Hollatz

Please provide a summary of your experience and qualifications for a City Council position.

As a young working mother, I will bring a unique perspective to the council that is currently not represented.

I have over eight years of experience working for local government and am familiar with the responsibilities and duties of our elected officials. My time on the planning commission has allowed me to work with city staff, and become acquainted with Hood River’s policies and procedures. My experience as a land use planner will also be a valuable asset to the council as the city continues to strike a balance between livability and growth.

I may not have the range of experience that the other candidates hold, but I am really excited about the opportunity to be on the council and I will bring new energy and a strong voice to the table.





What are the top three issues facing the city and how would you address them?

The top three issues facing the city are affordable housing; living-wage jobs; and improvements to parks, open space and recreational access.

Affordable housing has been a top priority for the city for the past couple of years. The city needs to continue to look at adopting policies and/or incentives to encourage development of work-force housing. One idea I have would be to reduce or waive planning and building fees for accessory dwelling units, which could increase the supply of long-term affordable rentals.

Living-wage jobs are necessary to maintain a high quality of life. The city has goals in place that target higher-paying jobs. The city should consider providing additional incentives to businesses that provide both living-wage jobs and health benefits, as the current local health care providers are at capacity and there are limited options for uninsured residents.

The city needs to continue to increase and improve parks, biking and walking paths, and recreational access to maintain the livability of the community.

What new city opportunities would you champion?

I am passionate about the opportunities to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency. I know firsthand that Hood River has real opportunities to be a leader in sustainability while creating local jobs and decreasing long-term energy costs.

Specifically, I am interested in proposing a “Solarize Hood River” program that would lower the price of solar panels through a community-wide bulk-purchasing program as other cities in the state have successfully implemented. Additionally, the city should play an active role in promoting statewide home energy-efficiency programs that help reduce energy bills and create local job opportunities.

What department or service do you feel is underfunded, and why? Which one is overfunded, and why?

Although I have reviewed the 2012/2013 budget, I don’t have enough background to say whether or not any department or service is underfunded or overfunded. What I do know is that the city has put an incredible amount of effort into reducing the deficit and planning for the future over the past six years. If elected, I will invest my time into reviewing and understanding the budget, participating in discussions and asking lots of questions.

State your positions on these three topics:

a. Walmart expansion

Walmart is a valuable resource for many people in the community. Although the city approved the expansion, the recent LUBA decision requires that the city reconsider whether or not vested rights expire. This may ultimately modify the original decision. In general, I support spending dollars at locally owned, independent businesses.

b. Waterfront hotel

I think a commercial building and hotel on the waterfront would be a positive development for the city. However, any proposal needs to be compliant with local, state and federal laws.

c. Shared services

I support consolidated services as a cost-savings measure and a means to improve efficiency and increase the quality of those shared services. However, the potential impacts of consolidating services would need to be weighed against the potential benefits per each proposal to determine the best course of action.

Kate McBride

Please provide a summary of your experience and qualifications for a City Council position.

Serving on the Planning Commission for numerous years has given me the experience of working through the public process and listening to constituents on numerous controversial issues. Working on compromises to resolve issues is my philosophy, but when compromise is not possible I do not hesitate to try to make a choice that will be the best for the majority of the public with long term consequences of that decision always at the forefront of the decision.

I have a thorough understanding of land use planning and real estate issues which I bring to the council.

I am fiscally conservative and believe that the city needs to live within its means.

What are the top three issues facing the city and how would you address them?

Budget issues: The Capital Facilities Plan inventory will soon be completed which will undoubtedly show infrastructure maintenance/replacement items that will need to be addressed, some sooner than later. We cannot ignore basic services for our citizens, such as water and sewer infrastructure that may continue to deteriorate and cost more in the future to repair or upgrade.

Growth: We live in one of the most beautiful places on earth and recent surveys have shown that livability is a number one concern for a majority of Hood River residents. We are constrained by rivers and farm land, which is of utmost importance to all of us. As growth occurs we will need to add density in the city. How that density occurs and what it looks like is something we should all start talking about now, through a public process.

Affordable workforce housing: We need to look for new opportunities to add more workforce housing.

What new city opportunities would you champion?

I would love to see the Nichols Boat Basin Esplanade developed. This area has been blighted for a very long time and a public, user-friendly area with additional habitat restoration would be a great asset for the city. This is a perfect example of where urban renewal dollars, along with grants, can make a big difference in the look, feel and economic vitality of that area.

What department or service do you feel is underfunded, and why? Which one is overfunded, and why?

The city has been in an austerity mode for at least the last three years so I do not see much overfunding right now. As the economy picks up again I would like to see the planning department be one of the first places to add back staff. With additional land use decisions applications and a need to work on affordable housing issues we need to have staff to get this on a faster track.

State your positions on these three topics:

a. Walmart expansion

This question will be coming back to city council, very soon, as a remand from the Land Use Board of Appeals. This is a quasi-judicial land use application decision, so I am not able to talk about this outside of the hearing setting.

b. Waterfront hotel

This proposal was approved by both the planning commission and city council under current land use rules. It is currently being appealed and could be remanded back to city council so as a sitting city council member I cannot comment on it. I did vote to approve the upland proposal, which is on the record.

c. Shared services

Consolidating services should be analyzed. If there is a cost savings or efficiency to be gained by the entities involved, we need to know what those are. If it benefits the city and county citizens as a whole it needs to be considered.

Mark Zanmiller

Please provide a summary of your experience and qualifications for a City Council position.

I am running for City Council so I can apply my experience, energy and optimism to facilitate creative solutions to City opportunities. I do not have a specific agenda to push on the City Council, but want to ask our process to think boldly, discuss widely and decide wisely.

My experience on the HRVPR board is very applicable. We have facilities to maintain, a budget to watch over and policy to set. My goal is always to find a consensus position and language, and on the Parks board this has worked well — there are split votes, but we achieve consensus most of the time and civility every time.

Budget wise, I have been part of an ongoing effort to ensure that the Parks budget is clear, transparent and safe — making sure we have savings for future big-ticket expenses and live within our means, while being able to continue to add to the profile of recreational facilities.

What are the top three issues facing the city and how would you address them?

I like to consider a few things when examining any issue: First is to ensure we continue to meet previous commitments before we agree to new ones. We have to stay within our budget and have available bandwidth. The fun part is finding ways to achieve the new without risk.

Second is to strive for continuous improvement — how can we do things better and more efficiently?

Third is to think outside the box and allow ourselves to discuss big atypical solutions and opportunities. If we just stay with the safe choices, we lose.

And lastly to recognize that Hood River IS unique, and ask how the decision will affect the things we love about our town — recreational opportunities, close connections to the environment, good jobs, a close-knit community, etc.

What new city opportunities would you champion?

There are a number of things that I would like to keep in focus:

I would keep an eye out for ways to constantly improve and expand pedestrian/bike access and safety. The connection to the waterfront, traffic changes on Cascade and trails cooperation with other agencies are all examples of where this will come into play.

Affordable living is something that we have to keep on the agenda. I do not have any experience to offer in how to provide solutions, but there are smart folks that can help. My task will be to ensure it stays on the front burner.

Likewise, sustainability has to be something we should consider as part of all actions. How can we be a positive example and force in conservation and efficiency?

Open communications are really important. Good feedback and active discussion are critical to making the best possible decisions and avoiding misinterpretation.

What department or service do you feel is underfunded, and why? Which one is overfunded, and why?

I frankly do not know enough to provide an opinion on which departments are over- or underfunded. I believe that the council and city staff are doing a great job of planning our path to fiscal health and have a readable budget document and process to provide the tools to chart that path. My commitment is to be city budget literate and have my own set of pie charts and analyses to help shine light on the process. I will use the thought structure outlined in my answer to question 3 as my guide.

State your positions on these three topics:

a. Walmart expansion

Though the process has to follow the planning rules and agreements made during the original approvals, I am opposed to the expansion. Local spending dollars staying in the community should be the goal.

b. Waterfront hotel

Though I consider myself a greenie, I support the brownfield conversion at the former Nichols Boat Works and east edge of Lot 1. These will help create a vital, active, mixed-use corridor between Waterfront Park and downtown. This will help attract users and recreational businesses and supports/adds value to the light industry uses that will dominate the waterfront area (jobs!).

c. Shared services

As mentioned above, I think we should always be looking for smarter, better ways of completing objectives and providing services. Let’s discuss ALL options and make good decisions.

Laurent Picard

Please provide a summary of your experience and qualifications for a City Council position.

After serving seven years on Council, I have seen a lot of change in the city. During my time as a councilor, the city has gone from having a difficult relationship with the port to an excellent, collaborative one; we have gone from having over a $1 million budget deficit to finally having a balanced budget; we have a new finance director, new chiefs of police and fire, and a new city attorney; we now have a beautiful new waterfront park; we have a new fire station and a new ladder truck, a result of strong citizen support of our fire department; and we sold and moved out of the old Butler Bank building and renovated and moved into Hood River’s historic city hall. I feel that being part of all this change gives me a good historical perspective to work from when making decisions that will affect the city’s future.

What are the top three issues facing the city and how would you address them?

  1. Our city budget: We may not have a budget deficit anymore, thanks to a lot of hard work from our budget committee and sacrifice from our city employees, but we are still pretty far from having a sustainable budget. We need to build surpluses into city operating budgets, which will require continued conservative budgeting.

  2. Urban renewal: There is a lot of work to be done and decisions to be made on urban renewal in the Heights, downtown and on the waterfront. We have recently appointed a highly qualified Urban Renewal Advisory Committee — no hyperbole, it is truly amazing the caliber of people who stepped up to volunteer for this crucial committee. I look forward to seeing their recommendations and discussing them with my fellow Urban Renewal Board members.

  3. Jobs: Even during the recession, a remarkable number of new jobs and businesses have been created in the city. We need to continue the progress that has been made. I think it is crucial that we make changes to our zoning on the waterfront to prohibit residential construction down there.

What new city opportunities would you champion?

I would love to see better bike routes and walking paths through the city. We recently made a exciting step toward our goal of increased bicycle connectivity with the grant the city was awarded to help build a bike path on May Street from 17th to 30th streets.

What department or service do you feel is underfunded, and why? Which one is overfunded, and why?

I think planning is underfunded. They provide such a crucial service to the city and they have just been overwhelmed lately. When planning gets bogged down it holds the entire city back.

I know that police and fire have been operating really leanly over the last few years and that they have some wishes for their departments when/if funding becomes available, which I am open to looking at.

I don’t think any service or department is overfunded in the city at this time.

State your positions on these three topics:

a. Walmart expansion

When the planning commission’s decision denying the Walmart expansion was appealed to Council, I voted to uphold the planning commission’s decision to deny the expansion. I was in the minority on that vote and Council voted to overturn the planning commission’s decision and allow the expansion.

b. Waterfront hotel

I support the waterfront hotel proposal and fully support moving forward with the proposal by Mayor Babitz and Port Commission President Davies to shelve the cable park, proceed with the Naito project and use the urban renewal funds to improve the basin — which, in turn, will potentiate Lot 1 development and job creation.

c. Shared services

I am open to exploring regional consolidation opportunities in our police and fire departments if that consolidation would enhance delivery of services to our citizens and has the potential to save taxpayer dollars.

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