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Auburn City Council candidates face off
Four candidates for Auburn City Council met Tuesday night at the Auburn Avenue Theater for a debate co-sponsored by the Auburn Area Chamber of Commerce and the Auburn Reporter.
Presenting sharp contrasts between each other yet sometimes finding common ground, incumbent Virginia Haugen squared off with her challenger John Hayes Holman in the race for Position 5, while retired air traffic controller Wayne Osborne and locksmith Frank Lonergan described their qualifications and ideas for Position 7.
The candidates answered prepared questions about their plans for funding street repair and construction, presented their ideas for economic development, their opinions about red light photo enforcement, the problem of downtown parking and what they believe the City's priorities should be.
Haugen, a California native who has lived in Auburn since 1964, described her love for the city, recalled decades of political activism that include work with the Auburn School District, a term on the City Council in the mid-'90s, and her past membership on the Neely Mansion Association.
"I am about accountability and looking out for the guy who doesn't always have a voice," Haugen said.
Haugen repeated her well-known opposition to downtown redevelopment at this time when the City is cash strapped. She described red light photo enforcement cameras as a necessary evil and insisted that the City did not have a problem with gangs, it had a problem with families.
Haugen opposes further borrowing of money or taxing of residents to pay for street repair and construction, insisting it would just drive more people from their homes.
Asked to describe instances where she had demonstrated her ability to work with others, Haugen reached back 17 years to her term on the Council in 1994-1995 and "tough decisions' reached on Emerald Downs and the Auburn SuperMall.
Throughout the event, Haugen returned to a recurring theme, variously expressed as, "Auburn is a mess," and "Auburn is in serious trouble, and "we're in deep." At the end of the night she dismissed most of the questions as "irrelevant" because, she said, the City has no money.
Given the increasing number of homeless and the alarming numbers of desperate unemployed, she admonished city residents: "It's going to get worse, folks. And if you've got a gun, I'd put it under the bed."
Holman: 'Consensus builder'
In contrast with Haugen, Holman, who has lived in Auburn since 1957, described himself as "a consensus builder," and a "strong believer in collaborative negotiations who believes that the best decisions are made by groups of people working together."
Holman holds an undergraduate degree in sociology and a minor in education. He is retired from a 31-year career as a police officer with the Port of Seattle. He worked in Iraq to increase the City of Baghdad's police force from 6,000 to 26,000 officers.
"My background, my success has been in negotiations, both from a labor perspective on the job as a police officer and in Iraq working with Shi'a, Sunnis and Christians to form a police department in the middle of a civil war ... My entire life has been spent in public service," Holman said.
Holman said the solution to climbing out of the current financial crisis is going to come "when small, locally-owned business owners are encouraged by the City and get cooperation from the City to build and hire. We need to get living-wage jobs created in this city, and that calls for collaboration between the business owner, the City and the college."
He praised the officers of the Auburn Police Department for being well trained and skilled.
Osborne: 'I know how the City works'
Osborne said he had attended more than 250 meetings of the City Council and various subcommittees in the last three years to prepare himself for a seat on the City Council. He is a member of the City's Planning Commission and the Airport Advisory Board.
"I know how the City works," Osborne said.
Asked how the City should fund street and road repair and construction, Osborne demonstrated a quick command of what he had learned in those meetings. Today, Osborne noted, the City has the taxpayer-funded Save Our Streets program, which provides about $10 million for the residential streets, a 1-percent utility tax that provides $1.6 million for the arterials, and receives $400,000 from gas taxes.
"Obviously, that's not enough to bring the roads up to the condition we'd like to have them, so we're going to have to find additional revenues from somewhere. That's one thing as a councilmember I will work hard at is trying to determine where we find that money ... The roads need to be brought up to a standard that is acceptable to all the citizens," Osborne said.
As for addressing merchant complaints about the downtown parking situation, Osborne noted that Sound Transit has promised to build a second parking garage west of the BNSF tracks, which it hasn't done. He said the City needs to keep pressing Sound Transit to follow through.
Osborne supports economic development. While some people say the City should be not involved in economic development, he said it's something the City should encourage incentives.
Lonergan: "Relative newcomer"
In contrast to everyone else, Lonergan said he is a "relative newcomer" to Auburn, having lived her for about 10 years. In the 1990s, he said, he served four years on the City Council of Snoqualmie. He is a retired navy veteran. He said he worked well as a team member and is a hard worker and problem solver. He said he is dissatisfied with the current City government, and will not be a yes man on the Council.
Lonergan was the sole person on stage to express dissatisfaction with the Auburn Police Department.
"When a citizen has a robbery and calls the police department, they should rightfully expect to see a police officer at their door, they should rightfully expect a proper investigation, which includes fingerprinting," Lonergan said. "I don't know if our officers have the ability to take fingerprints on scene. I've never seen it, and I've had two break-ins, one of which stole some burglary tools. Did the police come out and try to get fingerprints? No. Did the police show up? No. When you call, you should get a response, and it should be a live person."
Lonergan acknowledged the legitimacy of the merchants' parking beef, but said the City shouldn't look to Sound Transit to solve its parking problems.
"My question to you is, how is permit parking working for you? It's not working for me. When I go on a call, trying to find a parking spot close to a business is difficult at best because I don't have a parking permit, and I will not get one," he said. "So, we have all these parking permit spaces that are empty. Wake up. Get rid of the permit, it's not working. You want to raise revenue from parking spaces? I hate to be the one to say it, but put parking meters out there. I'll drop a couple of quarters in it."
Lonergan added that if the City expects to see more apartments in the downtown core, there should be more high-rise garages.
INSET PHOTOS: Incumbent Virginia Haugen addresses a question as challenger John Hayes Holman waits for his chance to reply. Position 7 candidate Wayne Osborne fields a question during the debate.
– Charles Cortes, Auburn Reporter
VIDEO: Courtesy of City of Auburn