(This version corrects the amount of the city budget in the second-to-last paragraph. The city’s budget is $31 million; the city’s asset value is $158 million.)
POULSBO — Becky Erickson and Ricky Moon agree there should be a parking garage in downtown Poulsbo.
The similarities end there.
Both candidates for mayor of Poulsbo presented their priorities — and a roadmap on how to accomplish them — at a candidate forum Oct. 9 in Poulsbo City Hall. The forum was presented by the League of Women Voters of Kitsap and moderated by Catherine Ahl.
Also featured were North Kitsap School Board candidates: From District 1, Rick Eckert, a retired Navy chief petty officer; and Daron Jagodzinske, a local church pastor. From District 2, Richard (Dick) Lockwood, a retired Air Force officer and supervisor at Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific; and Beth Worthington, senior systems engineer for an information technology company, who is seeking a second term on the school board.
The mayor is elected for four years and is the full-time, salaried chief executive officer of the city. The mayor is paid $74,678. School board members are elected for four-year terms; board members are not compensated.
Moon said he wants to replace the sewer line that carries Poulsbo’s wastewater across Liberty Bay to the treatment plant in Brownsville; he’s worried that the line cannot handle increased wastewater that will result from future development. He wants to build a parking garage in downtown Poulsbo, and lamented that the city didn’t build parking garages on the old city hall and police department sites. He wants to see Highway 305 widened to five lanes, and opposes development of a roundabout at 305 and Suquamish Way, in front of the Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort. He also wants to get the Public Works yard being developed on Viking Way “up and running.”
Erickson talked of the accomplishments of her last two terms: The building code contains stronger protections for streams and wetlands. She “worked hard to fight the economic storm” of the recession and recovery periods, she said. Liberty Bay is clean enough for shellfish harvesting to resume. Fish Park has doubled in size. Roads are being repaved.
A Q&A followed.
Regarding affordable housing, both seemed to favor a housing mix that includes smaller homes that would be more in reach of first-time homebuyers.
Asked how he would pay for the development of a parking garage, Moon — a general contractor who manages several downtown properties — said he would use a funding mix: revenue generated from an improvement district, grants, and rent paid by downtown businesses for reserved parking spaces. He estimated that a parking garage would generate $72,000 a year in revenue for the city.
Erickson favors building a parking garage on the King Olav Parking Lot site, but estimated it would cost $6 million to $8 million to build in order to meet accessibility and ventilation standards (Moon later said Erickson overestimated the cost). How to pay for it needs to be the subject of a community discussion, she said.
They further diverged on the issue of growth. Moon said he’s opposed to the Growth Management Act, a state law that regulates growth in order to prevent sprawl and protect open spaces. Moon said he thinks the city is growing too fast and that the state should share some of the financial costs of growth. He said the state shouldn’t tell Poulsbo how to grow without understanding the infrastructure demands created by growth.
Erickson said the city’s population target is 14,808 by 2036, and the city’s projected infrastructure needs for the next 20 years are scheduled and accounted for.
“Last year, we added 300 people, or 2.93 percent,” she said (the population is now about 10,500). “Growth is hard, but what is worse is no growth, recession, like we faced in 2010 with 13 empty stores in downtown, Viking Avenue dying, and foreclosed homes throughout Poulsbo. We must manage growth with impact fees to pay for infrastructure, tight city code demanding quality development with enlarged open spaces. We also must have the courage to say ‘No.’”
Here’s what they had to say on other issues.
Should Poulsbo be a “Sanctuary City”?: Moon is opposed, saying that such a designation is politically charged and could cause the city to lose state or federal grant funding. “It’s a touchy subject,” he said. Erickson indicated such a designation is not necessary; the city has worked to build bridges between local government and people of different cultures. One effort to reach out resulted in a meeting at St. Olav Church between her, the police chief, and 150 residents, she said, with dialogue and cultural sharing. Her message: Everyone should feel welcome here, and no one should be afraid to call police when they need help.
Tiny houses as a solution to homelessness: Moon is opposed, saying tiny houses would attract more homeless people to locate here. He said making utilities available to tiny home residents would be challenging. Erickson said the solution is more affordable apartments. Tiny houses are more expensive to develop, because they have to be built in clusters with one common area for kitchen, laundry and restrooms in order to keep infrastructure costs down.
In closing: Erickson said she has the business background and experience to lead a municipal corporation with more than 90 employees, a budget of $31 million and an asset value of $158 million. It’s a job she enjoys. “I’ve been humbled and honored to be mayor,” she said, adding that she often awakens in the middle of the night with an idea. “I dream for Poulsbo,” she said.
Moon said he plans, if elected, “to get started right after Election Day. I’ll put my heart and soul into it seven days a week.”