OLYMPIA – All eight candidates for Olympia City Council were on hand at The Olympia Center on Wednesday night to debate issues at The Olympian’s candidate forum.
Here’s a sampling of some of the questions and answers.
What initiatives do you propose to make downtown Olympia feel safer for visitors, customers, merchants and residents?
Stephen Buxbaum: He’s worked with businesses to identify problems and is working on creating an Alcohol Impact Area, in which single-serve, high-alcohol drinks wouldn’t be sold.
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Dick Pust: Give police the tools they need to address people sleeping on the sidewalks. “I think the city has been studying this problem long enough.”
Steve Langer: He mentioned a city effort to survey people downtown to find out what their needs are. He talked about working with social services, police and business owners on a plan for downtown.
Democritus Blantayre: Institute a direct democracy where Olympia residents make all decisions.
Rhenda Strub: The city needs more money, through a 1/10 of 1 percent sales tax increase, to raise $1.4 million per year for police and social services.
Nathaniel Jones: Restore the downtown police walking patrol and address social services.
Brian Tomlinson: Restore the downtown police walking patrol, but do not impact the budget. Use current officers.
Jim Cooper: Have law enforcement work more with social services.
Are you satisfied with the new parking pay stations? Should the city change its parking policies? Do you support or oppose a municipal parking garage in downtown Olympia?
Langer: “I don’t like the pay stations but it’s what we have.” He says the parking policies are OK and there’s no way the city can afford a parking garage.
Blantayre: “I really, strongly dislike the downtown parking pay stations.” He said people could make a decision on a parking garage through direct democracy.
Strub: She said she’s no longer in favor of a parking garage and she is against the pay stations.
Jones: The city needs a rational parking system. A garage is out of reach, and the city can make its parking lots more intuitive.
Tomlinson: He favors a downtown parking garage and proposed a public-private partnership. He said he’s not opposed to the pay stations but perhaps they could be moved to the Capitol Campus.
Cooper: He finds the pay stations easy to use with newly improved markings. He said the city will need a parking garage but can’t pay for it now. The parking situation in South Capitol neighborhood should be improved.
Pust: “I loved the free parking while it was downtown I hate those parking meters with a passion” but it’s probably foolish to scrap them, he said.
Buxbaum: “Our parking policy needs to work for our downtown businesses.”
Downtown Olympia has a lot of subsidized housing. For years and years, the city has had a goal of creating more market-rate housing, yet nothing has happened. Should the city abandon its focus on creating market rate housing downtown, and if not, what steps will you take to bring that vision to reality?
Blantayre: All people should come together to decide if market rate housing is what they want, he said. He suggests getting rid of some building height restrictions and build up, not out.
Strub: Don’t abandon market-rate housing as a goal, she said; make downtown attractive so people will want to build there.
Jones: Don’t abandon an interest in housing, he said, but don’t just put the focus on residential development.
Tomlinson: “I believe we need housing for all income levels.”
Cooper: Don’t abandon the conversation, but housing should be mixed-income, he said.
Pust: “You have to make downtown a place where you want to put housing.”
Buxbaum: “We need to pay attention to our amenities, our downtown amenities.”
Langer: The city needs mixed-income housing.
While we understand that the future of Capitol Lake is ultimately a state decision, the Olympia City Council will have influence on that decision. Do you support retaining Capitol Lake as a lake or converting it into an estuary?
Jones: He said strong consideration should be given to a lake and free-flowing river, but didn’t commit to an option.
Cooper: Fix the lake. “We’re not going to build an estuary any time soon.”
Buxbaum: Didn’t pick one. “This is a potentially polarizing issue,” he said.
Langer: Didn’t pick one. He said it’s not his place to make that decision.
What’s your vision for the isthmus property?
Jones: Citizens asked for an isthmus park, he said. The community should have a conversation about it. He prefers it not just be a grassy park, but have a destination.
Tomlinson: “It’s not so much my vision, but the community’s vision.”
Cooper: He supports an isthmus park, but one that’s active.
Pust: He noted that the public doesn’t want development there and the Capitol Center Building should go. He’s concerned that it’s a thoroughfare, though.
Buxbaum: “The isthmus needs to be cleaned up.”
Langer: “I definitely support the vision of having a park on the isthmus,” he said. Such a park needs at least 10 interesting things to do, and he suggested a public plaza and food courts.
Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869 firstname.lastname@example.org