Redmond mayor candidates attended a forum on June 13 at the First Baptist Church.
The forum was held by the Education Hill Neighborhood Association and saw the candidates discuss topics ranging from climate change to leadership and vision.
To begin the forum, each candidate gave an opening statement on who they were and why there were running for mayor. The running candidates are City Council president Angela Birney, City Councilmember Steve Fields and business owner Andrew Koeppen.
Koeppen said he is running for mayor because he wants to give back to the community, city and country that has given so much to him.
Fields said if elected mayor, the city government will take into consideration on how decisions will impact the people of Redmond.
Birney’s goal as mayor is to make sure opportunities are available for everyone. She said she wants everyone in Redmond to feel welcomed and that their voice is heard in the city.
When asked about climate change, residents wanted to know what the candidates were going to do to reduce the city’s carbon footprint, how they were going to encourage residents to do their part, and how to prepare for the inevitable changes coming.
Birney said the city is currently involved in the King County-Cities Climate Collaboration (K4C) action plan and it is time to revisit and update the agreement. She also said they are hiring a sustainability manager for the city that will make an assessment on what the city is already doing.
“As a city, I see that our highest priority is to make sure that everything we do now to the future takes climate into account,” she said. “It’s important for our citizens to be part of the solution as well… as a city, we can help guide them in that, produce the education they need, and work (with) all of our partners to make sure everyone in our community is reducing their impact.”
Koeppen mentioned how it first needs to start in the government. He said City Hall needs to turn its lights off in the evening, when everyone is gone.
“One of the things that I have committed to, is to reduce City Hall’s or city government’s energy usage by 10 percent the first year I’m mayor and up to 25 percent before I am done,” he said. “It’s much better to lead by example than by telling people and not doing anything.”
Fields said the city needs to take serious action. He said that the city needs to include a budget for carbon emissions in the formal budget for every department, and they need to formally commit to reduce their carbon emission.
“We need to take this very seriously. We need to advocate to the state and get as much support and help that we can get,” he said. “We need to change the word sustainability to survivability, and aware of climate change to accountability.”
On the topic of senior housing and vision for future development for the city, Koeppen said the city needs to think of creative ways to deal with permit fees. If residents are looking to tear down a house, there are various permit fees a resident will have to deal with.
“We need to have an area which has a very basic home construction that we can get to,” he said. “Basically going back to something in the ‘70s, ‘60s, and even the ‘50s. So the homes will be smaller homes with three bedrooms and one bath, zero lot lines, and a small yard. To get to that and make it affordable, we have to be creative in coming up with ways we deal with permit fees. We need to encourage and work with the state to make more condos available in Redmond.”
Birney said the challenge with affordable housing is that people are moving to Redmond but there is not enough housing and it impacts the seniors. She said she would want to continue working with programs the city has already partnered with like Providence.
“While we are working on a lot of programs right now, it will be my utmost importance to make sure that we’re working with everyone to see nonprofits, businesses, developers, to see what are the areas that we can do to create affordable housing for everyone.”
Fields pointed out the character size of the city and how they rushed to build quantity over quality. He said the city has not provided a broad opportunity for people to move here, and given their conditions, they should be able to find an option.
“I think when it comes to affordability, we need to do the math,” he said. “When we talk about affordability, (we) should talk about people and not buildings. Having people being able to afford living here does..that’s how I would approach the problem.”
Birney said a strong leader listens to people, brings in their ideas, and also makes those long-term decisions of what is right for the city. Her vision as mayor is to continue to be a leader in technology and continue to have the city be a place where anyone can call it home, no matter their income level.
Koeoppen said his leadership style is more action than words. He said he is someone that knows how to get things done. He said his style is to encourage and empower people to bring their ideas to the table.
Fields said leadership comes in different styles and needs. As an elected representative, it’s important to represent people, and Fields said it’s his style and job to represent people. His vision is to address the quality of life.
The Education Hill Neighborhood Association will host its next candidate forum on June 27 for City Council candidates, and July 25 for King County Council candidates.
For future forums, see http://edhillna.wixsite.com/educationhill.