College Place Municipal Government Candidate Forum discusses growth, affordable housing and jobs | New

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Candidates for the competitive mayoral and city council races in College Place seats have found much in common about the challenges the city faces during a town hall type virtual forum hosted by the Walla Walla branch of the American Association of University Women on Thursday evening October 7.

Housing in cities is increasingly unaffordable. Infrastructure must continue to be improved. And the tight-knit, small-town atmosphere of College Place must be preserved. On these questions, all the candidates were in agreement.

The seven candidates representing the four different electoral races that took part in the forum on October 7 compared and contrasted their proposed solutions to the aforementioned challenges. Each local candidate also explained why they believe their experience makes them the most qualified person to sit at the Governing Table.

AAUW host Bertha Clayton moderated the evening’s forum, drawing on questions from the audience when available and ensuring contestants followed agreed rules.

Municipal Council Station 1

The first of four forums started with a single candidate: John Haid, education program coordinator and business management student at Walla Walla Community College, whose family moved to College Place in 2017. His opponent for the City council post 1, Jerry Lee Bobbitt, declined to attend the Oct. 7 forum, according to program organizers.

Haid quickly recognized his status as a newcomer to the community, pointing to the qualities of College Place and its residents that quickly convinced him and his family to live in the city.

“One of my favorite things about College Place, hands down, is the people,” Haid said. “People here really care about each other. “

It was the desire to give back to those people who welcomed the new family to the city that inspired Haid to run for office, he said. The city needs to invest in its roads and utilities, he said, and tackle affordable housing, although he said he didn’t have many specific suggestions to address this issue. Instead, he said he would rely on experts around him.

In response to a question about how the city can attract more small businesses to College Place, Haid suggested that tax cuts or other financial incentives might be appropriate.

He also said it was important to maintain the city’s welcoming qualities, but said that just meant staying on the way the city is currently on.

“We have gone from a sleepy town to a small business and a loving community,” Haid said. “And the way to maintain that identity is to keep doing what we’re doing.”

City Council Position 3

In the race for the seat of position 3 of the city council, Nadine Stecklein, director of student life at Walla Walla Community College, spoke about her back-to-back positions with her opponent, Tito Espinoza, real estate agent and owner of United Country Real Estate. Walla Walla Valley.

While both candidates spoke about their experience in community leadership, Espinoza drew on his business background in his opening statement while Stecklein highlighted his time working in the public sector.

The two candidates were asked about their approach to support the economic development of the city.

“We want to maintain that uniqueness that we have, but we also want to look to the future,” said Stecklein.

Stecklein stressed the importance of a well-developed shopping corridor on College Avenue, running “local shop” campaigns and providing grants to support the promotion and advertising of local businesses that already exist.

Espinoza reiterated the need to attract, develop and retain local businesses, and highlighted areas of opportunity – which allow investments in low-income areas to have increased tax advantages – outside the main corridor. of the city as a way of growth.

On affordable housing, Espinoza highlighted his experience working on a county council looking at housing in the region. He said any approach would require cooperation between local, state and federal governments, as well as private companies, but said College Place may also consider local zoning changes.

Stecklein largely agreed with Espinoza and said she supported the regional housing plan adopted by local towns.

Candidates were also asked how the city could better engage the community’s Latin American population.

“Latinos make up about 11% of the population in College Place and Walla Walla, and I think we need to start paying attention to that demographic,” Espinoza said. “We need to see leadership that escalates and reaches minorities.”

The city is already making strides in engaging this part of its population, Espinoza said, with Spanish-language communications and community events that draw people from all demographic backgrounds.

Stecklein agreed that the city is making great efforts to involve its minority residents, but added that the city may be able to involve even more families if it provides some type of childcare at public events.

Position of the municipal council 7

In the race for City Council position 7, Monica Boyle, director of development and finance for the nonprofit United Way of the Blue Mountains, and Lonnie Croft, maintenance worker for the US Army Corps of Engineers and former College Place Police Officer, both recognized their work in public service.

Boyle highlighted his work with United Way, which helps distribute funds to nonprofits in the area, and with local youth, including helping to gather resources for Camp Fire Walla Walla, which serves school children. elementary schools of College Place and Walla Walla.

Croft noted that he served his country as a Navy, served his state as an officer in the Department of Corrections at Washington State Penitentiary, and served his city as as a member of the police department.

The two agreed that many local residents are struggling to pay their mortgages or rent, and that housing stock must increase to bring prices down. The two also agreed that job growth is needed to provide career options for the city’s next generation. But beyond those immediate issues, the two had different views on what growth should look like at College Place.

“Some people say we should grow taller and taller, and personally, I don’t share that same sentiment,” Croft said. “I like the small town vibe we have.

Boyle joined Croft’s praise for the qualities of the small town of College Place, saying she appreciated the fact that she felt safe when her children were playing outside, as well as the closeness to the community. But she added that the community must be ready to grow.

“What we are seeing is that our young people are finishing school and going elsewhere to look for places to build their future,” Boyle said. “My vision for our future is for College Place to be a place where my children can grow up, and when they graduate they will come back and start their families here.

In order to create jobs and increase the city’s tax base, big box stores could be part of this vision, she said.

Croft objected to the issue of job growth, reiterating that he didn’t want to see College Place grow any more than it needed to be, and adding that there were a lot of “Help Wanted” signs around. the city.

“There are a lot of people who say they’re looking for work,” Croft said. “These people don’t go to these places to find work. Why is that?”

Mayor

Finally, College Place mayoral candidates moved to the digital or virtual Zoom scene on October 7, with outgoing Mayor Norma Hernandez answering questions alongside her opponent, Navy veteran and VR serviceman Jed Headley.

Hernandez, who was appointed to city council in 2019 and as mayor later that year, spoke about the progress the city has made in recent years, including a new library, new park, new water wells and adopting the first Diversity and Inclusion Council, she said.

Headley highlighted his work as a youth pastor and elder in his church, his service in the Navy and as a deputy sheriff, and his experience in the private sector as a manager and small business owner.

“I understand how regulations and taxes affect the bottom line, which affects the jobs we can provide to our community,” Headley said.

Asked about the city’s current infrastructure needs, Headley spoke about the city’s sidewalks and the continued investments that need to be made and said he would seek to use state and federal funds as much as possible. to reduce the tax burden on local residents.

Hernandez agreed the roads needed to be repaired, saying sidewalks should be added and comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. She also focused more on the city’s water infrastructure, saying College Place needed a few more wells, larger sewer lines and up to two more water towers.

Candidates for mayor were also asked to describe their positions on high-density housing.

Hernandez, a former Seattle resident, described high-density housing as horrific, saying instead that she supported “smart density.”

“We have to think about what kind of structures are going where,” she said. “We don’t want a two story box house right next to a 1920s cottage.”

Headley agreed that smart city planning is necessary for development, saying he believes high-density housing like apartment complexes has a place in the city.

“These types of real estate developments have a place for us because they provide some of our low income opportunities,” Headley said. “I know that’s where I started.


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