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Future of city focus of candidate forum
Maple Valley’s future — including development of the Legacy site, ballfields, and economic development — was the focus of a forum which featured Maple Valley City Council candidates Sept. 26.
The forum, hosted by the Greater Maple Valley-Black Diamond Chamber of Commerce, also featured incumbent County Councilman Reagan Dunn who is up for re-election and his challenger Shari Song.
Mayor Bill Allison is running for re-election to Position No. 2 unopposed, and Erin Weaver is also up for re-election and running unopposed for Position No. 4.
The only contested race in Maple Valley is for Position No. 6 which is held by Victoria Jonas. Competing for the seat is Les Burberry.
The forum started out with a lightning round of statements to which candidates held up red or green cards to show they either agreed or disagreed.
Jonas and Burberry got the first question of the night and were asked to describe their vision for the Legacy site, 50 acres of wooded property off state Route 169 across from Rock Creek Elementary that the city purchased for $6.7 million in 2000.
“I don’t have a fully formed opinion as to what the legacy site can be,” Burberry said.
He said that the idea of sports facilities, possibly a YMCA, space for city offices, and office space for other companies appealed to him. Burberry that the hurdle for those projects would be funding.
Jonas cited her involvement with a committee which envisioned building a municipal campus on the site.
“During that visioning, so many years ago, it’s very similar to what I would see the vision now,” Jonas said. “Keep it as pristine, as natural, as possible. Creating (a) community gathering spot. We’re looking at building a municipal campus and having lots of passive and open recreation.”
On a question about what makes a city economically healthy, Weaver said she believes balance is key. Weaver said there hasn’t been enough commercial growth in Maple Valley and the city needs people coming to the city to work, not just leaving, and needs to create daytime foot traffic.
Allison was asked about building and funding ballfields, to which he mentioned running a bond to build Summit Park, for which a master plan exists.
“I think the immediate fix, however, is to partner with Ravensdale Park,” Allison said.
The Ravensdale Park Foundation is raising funds for phase two of construction of additional fields. The city agreed earlier this year to contribute $500,000 and the Foundation asked the city to contribute an additional $1.5 million to the project.
“To raise the money for that is going to be an interesting thing,” Allison said.
One source of funding that Allison said the city is considering is an administrative fee in the city’s garbage contract that Allison said would not cause rates to go up.
Weaver also answered a question about the city’s role in business recruitment and retention.
“We (City Council members) should be and are the city’s biggest cheerleaders,” Weaver said.
As far as recruiting businesses Weaver said the council supports the mayor and city manager going to conferences to attract developers. For retaining businesses Weaver said that public safety, roads, and making sure city codes and processes are business friendly are important.
Jonas opted to answer the question about having an economically healthy city in the round of questions where candidates could either select a question that had been previously answered or have a new question.
Jonas said that economic development is the number one priority but that city also needs to be sensitive to existing businesses. She also talked about attracting new businesses and industries like higher education, technology, and manufacturing.
“Diversifying our economics so we do become an economically solvent city,” Jonas said.
Weaver opted for a new question and was asked about the city’s sign code as it pertains to banning A boards.
“Can I take it back?” Weaver said jokingly.
She went on to say that the city is going to address A boards this year. With all the projects slated for the council’s agenda next year, including a comprehensive plan update, Weaver said the city should start with addressing A boards and look at the rest of the sign code at a later date.
“There is no code in any city that is static,” Weaver said. “The reality is the sign code is always going to be an object of tension.”
Burberry was asked a question about whether or not he would support a business and operations tax on businesses.
“It’s a readily available source we haven’t tapped into,” Burberry said. “I think this is one of the worst things we could do…this (a business and operations tax) just sends the absolute wrong message.”
Allison was asked what, if anything, the council has done in the last four years he would change, revisit or adjust. Allison said the council made lots of decisions and that there isn’t one he wouldn’t support.
“We make those decisions as a council and I would stand behind the council as a whole,” Allison said.
Burberry was asked if he would vote to fund Ravensdale Park and how he would suggest the city pay for it.
“The full $2 million is too much for the city to shoulder,” Burberry said.
He went on to say that he would rather see the city partner to develop parks inside the city. One potential project Burberry cited was, if the school bond passes, is working with the school district to build Summit Park, the land for which is adjacent to the proposed high school site.
Jonas fielded a question about ensuring the future of parks in the city.
Jonas replied that Lake Wilderness Park is protected by the city and stated the importance of continuing the city’s grants to the Arboretum.
“If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” Jonas said.
For the portion of the forum featuring Dunn and Song the main theme was economics in King County.
Song said that the biggest challenge she sees the County facing during the next four years is transportation and roads and keeping goods and people moving throughout the county. Dunn said he sees the biggest challenge as jobs, the economy, and transportation.
When asked about raising the minimum wage, as is proposed in SeaTac, Dunn and Song were split on whether or not that should be a decision up to individual cities.
Dunn noted that Washington state has the highest minimum wage in the country and said that he supports the current minimum wage.
“This needs to not be a local city issue,” Dunn said.
Song disagreed, saying that she felt it was something that the people of SeaTac will decide for themselves.
The candidates did agree on the importance of funding community centers and human services.
In closing, Song said that she wanted to run for the County Council because she has been a small business owner and she understands the problems people in the county face.
“I’m not a career politician,” Song said. “I don’t come with a political pedigree, but I will always have your back.”
Dunn said that he is running for re-election because he believes in and is committed to reform in King County, and he knows the district and Maple Valley.
“We need an advocate here who understands Southeast King County,” Dunn said. “I work hard for this district and I bring home the things that need to be brought home.”