Mike Kahler hopes to win Position 7 on the Auburn City Council to tackle what he considers the city’s two biggest problems — “homeless folks and drugs,” and their effect on business, and, well, everything else.
Much the same as he did when he first ran for a spot on the council in 2017, a contest he lost to Larry Brown.
Now retired from managing the Auburn Valley Humane Society’s Thrift Store, for this go-around, Kahler said, he has much more time to devote to a campaign.
“This is one of my bucket list items,” Kahler said of public service. “I’ve always wanted to be a good public servant. Think I’d be good at it.”
In the general election race for Position 7, Kahler will be up against incumbent Bob Baggett, who has already announced his intention to seek reelection.
Given that retail managers are among the most-hands on of any supervisor in any business, Kahler said, his background would be a unique and helpful addition to the City Council.
“People don’t see their city council members out talking to people, but they would see a lot of me,” Kahler said.
The problem of homelessness, Kahler concedes is enormously complex, but he has a plan.
“We have that shelter – Ray of Hope – but it’s not functioning properly,” he said. “We have to have a bigger shelter. We should’ve had a 100-bed shelter two years ago, and once we have a 100-bed shelter, we can start telling people where they can’t be. The top priority is along the (Green) River; it’s all environmentally-sensitive property, and we just can’t have people there. It’s a big salmon river, and this is just wrecking it.”
First step, Kahler continued, is to get that 100-bed shelter in place, and once it’s there, the city can then divide itself into four sections.
“You start with Section 1 or A or whatever, and you say, ‘Hey, you can’t be here. You can go to our shelter, but you can’t be here.’ The folks you see making these big messes, they’re not the families, they’re not the laid-off truck drivers, they’re drug addicts, plain and simple,” Kahler said. “Estimates are that almost everybody that’s living on the streets of Seattle either has some sort of substance or mental problem, or both.
“When I was running that thrift store, I had a chance to meet a lot of homeless folks, and not a lot of them were the down-and out families,” he said. “When those families get down and out, they look really hard and fast to find a solution. But if you’re just living in the filth by the river, and you can do your drugs on any schedule you want, that’s just the lifestyle they’re choosing, and that just doesn’t benefit anybody.”
Also of concern, Kahler said, is the city’s precarious financial situation, which has hit the news lately with a prediction of going seriously into the red by 2024.
“How can a city this size be in the hole? I don’t understand that,” Kahler said. “The first thing they need to do is say, ‘No city travel, shut it right down.’ That doesn’t affect any programs, it doesn’t affect anybody working here. And the City Council itself has 45 grand budgeted to it. It’s a start, but it starts adding up.
“Next step is I grab a clipboard and a piece of paper and a pencil, go down to the motor pool and say, ‘What do we really need here, apart from emergency vehicles?’ The third thing to do is to email every city employee and ask them if they have any ideas on how to save money, You would get good ideas,” Kahler said.
Whatever the pressing issue, Kahler said, the solution, is not, and never will be, to raise taxes on the people of Auburn. And if the question of raising taxes should be in the air, for whatever reason, its proper place is the ballot.
Kahler and his wife, Cindy, moved to Auburn from West Seattle 36 years ago to escape, he said, the exorbitant rent they were paying. The couple raised their children here.