Auburn City Councilmember James Jeyaraj is running for re-election to Position 3. His opponent in the contest, Tracy Taylor-Turner, did not return the questionnaire sent out by the Auburn Reporter in time to make this publication.
What do you consider to be the job of an Auburn City Council member?
The role of an Auburn City Council member is multi-faceted and goes beyond the simplistic notion of legislating through the approval or rejection of ordinances and resolutions. In practice, the position encompasses the critical responsibility of shaping both policy and budgetary decisions. Elected by the residents, Council members act as a representative of the community, working alongside the Mayor’s office as an equally significant branch of the government.
When confronted with a new policy or ordinance, our duty transcends mere decision-making; we are tasked with acting in the best interest of the entire city. This involves meticulous examination of the pertinent issues, meticulously weighing the benefits and drawbacks, and ensuring that any legislation passed serves the greater good of Auburn as a whole.
What are the City of Auburn’s five most pressing issues as you see them in order and how should the city tackle them?
In terms of priority, the pressing concerns are as follows: ensuring Public Safety, fostering Economic Growth, addressing the need for Affordable Housing, tackling Homelessness and combating Drug Addiction.
1. Despite the common perception that the city has defunded the police, the reality is quite different. The council has allocated funding for advanced equipment, encompassing body cameras, tasers, de-escalation training. Moreover, over the next six years, we have approved the acquisition of 49 police cruisers. These measures are aimed at enhancing response times, bolstering officer morale, and improving retention rates.
2. To stimulate economic growth, our focus lies in attracting mid-sized manufacturing companies for initial establishment. Additionally, a thorough review of the B&O taxes for small business owners is imperative, with potential adjustments to the receipt threshold. By implementing these measures, we aim to foster an environment conducive to local job creation, providing valuable opportunities for our residents.
3. Our city is actively engaged in the development of a comprehensive 20-year plan to address the pressing issue of affordable housing. This initiative involves strategically incorporating middle housing across various transit lines within the city. Our plan will be meticulously designed to align with the state mandate aimed at fostering affordable housing development within the region, particularly recognizing Auburn’s status as an urban growth center. Anticipating an influx of 20 to 30 thousand residents over the next decade, it is crucial that we proactively prepare for this growth by ensuring a sustainable and including housing strategy.
Over the past three years the city has employed two resource coordinators dedicated to working directly with homeless individuals in the community. These coordinators actively engage with the homeless population, providing essential resources to facilitate their journey toward stability and self sufficiency. Furthermore, the city has secured a strip mall, now transformed into a resources center, accommodating vital services such as a food bank, a men’s shelter, and a community court.
4. Operating with an ethos of compassion, respect, and dignity, our coordinators prioritize addressing individual needs, including assistance with acquiring identification, accessing Social Security benefits, Veterans benefits, and other vital support systems. The extent of aid provided is tailored to the unique circumstances and preferences of each individual, ensuring a personalized and holistic approach to addressing homelessness.
5. Fentanyl has emerged as the latest drug concern on our streets,demanding a comprehensive and empathetic response. To effectively address the issue, we must implement a series of crucial strategies. These include fostering Community Education and Awareness, establishing Accessible Treatment and Rehabilitation Programs, forging Collaboration with Healthcare Providers, and partnering with Law Enforcement for coordinated efforts. It is equally vital to provide Community Support Services, promote Alternative Activities and foster Partnerships and Collaborations with relevant stakeholders
Furthermore, continuous Ongoing Assessment and Adaptation of these strategies are imperative for their sustained efficacy. Importantly, secure funding from the state to support the implementation of these vital services is crucial for ensuring their success and sustainability in our community.
How will your unique range of talents and abilities help the city deal with the aforementioned problems? What sets you apart from the herd?
What sets me apart is my extensive engagement in local politics and my continuous role as a leading community figure in Auburn. My unwavering commitment to public service has been evident across diverse sectors, underscored not only by my current position as a Council member and Deputy Mayor for the past two years, but also by my active participation on two non profit boards. Juggling these responsibilities with a full-time role in a nonprofit organization, I devote a significant portion of my free time to meeting with residents at their preferred venues, emphasizing direct interaction with the community.
Through the years, I have established strong connections with various influential figures. Including Congressional Representatives, State Leaders, such as the Attorney General, State Treasurer, State Representatives and State Senators, as well as Mayors, Deputy Mayors and Council Members from other cities, many of whom have endorsed me unequivocally.
Name a concern or two you’ve had with any legislation passed to date by the Auburn City Council.
Regarding the B&O tax, I was among the Council members who approved the ordinance back in May 2021. At that time, a thorough assessment of the balance sheet supported the decision. However, observing the recent struggles faced by businesses in maintaining their operations, particularly smaller businesses, it has become apparent that the impact of the B&O tax extends beyond its intended scope. Recognizing this, it is imperative for the Council to reconsider the existing B&O tax structure, contemplating a potential increase in the receipt threshold from $500,000 to $1,000,000. This adjustment holds the potential to offer much-needed relief to our small business community.
Looking ahead, it remains crucial to monitor the state of the economy closely and explore how our local government can provide effective support to businesses. Retaining our business community is paramount, and we must remain agile and receptive to the consensus and concerns of our local businesses. While acknowledging the aversion to taxes, I firmly believe in contributing my fair share to sustain the essential services required by our city.
Are you an Auburn native, and if not where do you come from?
I hail from Singapore originally, where I completed my high school education and subsequently served in the Singapore Armed Forces. In 1985, I made the move to the Pacific Northwest to pursue further academic endeavors. I earned an AAS degree in Computer Network Technology from Renton Technical College and later obtained a BA in Organizational Management from Whitworth University in Spokane, WA.
In 2007, I settled in Auburn, enticed by a promising job opportunity in the greater Seattle area. Prior to my current role as a Council Member, I actively engaged with the community, serving on the City Parks and Recreation Board. Presently, I contribute my time and efforts to two local nonprofit boards. On a broader scale, I serve as a member of the Regional Water Quality Council and play an integral role in the Equity and Inclusion cabinet. Additionally, I am an alternate member for the Public Issue Committee at the Sound Cities Association and the South Correctional Entity (SCORE).
My commitment extends beyond the local level, as evidenced by my involvement with the National League of Cities. I serve on the Race Equity and Leadership Council and hold a board position for the Asian Pacific American Municipal Officials, contributing to the advancement of important causes at the national level.