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Q & A

There's an unfortunate amount of negativity in this year's campaign, especially on Facebook. I'm proud that my supporters have focused on the positives, avoided personal attacks, and always stuck to the facts. After all, at the end of this campaign, we all still need to get along here in this community. On this page, I'll address some of the claims my opponent's supporters have made, and I'm also happy to answer any other questions you have about my candidacy! Please don't hesitate to reach out.

What are your plans for the Parks Department if elected?

Anacortes's parks and forestlands are its crown jewels. I will strongly support the Parks Department in keeping up with first-class maintenance of our parks, effective protection of our forestlands, and opportunities to enhance our existing parks. For example, I'll prioritize:

Would you quit your day job if elected mayor?

Yes. Being mayor of Anacortes is a full-time job. I'll work tirelessly for the people of Anacortes.

Do you have a conflict of interest with the Samish?

No. I currently earn my living as Planning Director for the Samish Indian Nation. But if elected, I will resign my position with Samish and devote myself fulltime to the job of mayor and to the people of Anacortes.

As Samish planning director, my duties have included remodeling the Samish Longhouse (which provides Head Start and childcare services to many Anacortes children), buying and remodeling office spaces for their Health and Human Services department, improving their water and sewer infrastructure, updating their tribal codes, designing a new infant and toddler daycare center (which will also be open to the whole community), and a new affordable housing development.

The Samish Indian Nation has a long track record of partnership—never conflict—with the City of Anacortes, including on infrastructure, environmental cleanup, and most recently offering free COVID vaccines to all City, Port, and school district employees. And like other councilmembers who have day jobs or serve on volunteer boards, I never vote on any City Council matter involving the Samish and—other than from my opponent's supporters in this political campaign—no one has ever accused me of a conflict of interest.

What's the source of your campaign donations?

I'm funded by the people of Anacortes. As of this writing (10/12/21), I've collected $41,633 from 328 donations. My opponent, by contrast, has collected $47,972 from 167 donations. I've accepted no cash from businesses, developers, tribes, or construction companies. My donations include support from unions—both those that do and those that don't represent employees of the City. I'm proud of my union support because it shows their confidence in me to treat them fairly and to follow the law, and because they support my vision of a strong middle-class Anacortes that working people can afford to live in. Similarly, I'm proud of my support from environmentalists, because environmental protection is one of my firmly held values, but I've received no donations from environmental groups.

Are you non-partisan?

Yes. The office of mayor is a non-partisan position, and local government issues don't generally break along party lines. However, in this campaign I am endorsed by the Skagit County Democrats, and my opponent Matt Miller is supported by the Skagit County Republicans.

Regardless of party, I’ll be a mayor for everyone in Anacortes, not just the people who vote for me.

How do we improve our relationship with the Port of Anacortes?

The Port-City relationship can be strained at times, but is still infinitely better than it has been in decades past. The Port is a critically important actor in Anacortes, both as a driver for economic development but also as a landlord, and I'd make nurturing the Port-City relationship a high priority. I've been endorsed by a majority of Port Commissioners, who have confidence in my ability to help build that relationship and my reputation for fair dealing. I'd set a standard for open communication and collaboration and coordinate staff communications to the Port through the mayor's office so that the City speaks to the Port with one voice.

Do you support the 1% property tax increase?

Yes. I've always supported the allowed 1% annual property tax increase. The City's property tax revenue in real dollars is constantly eroded by inflation that is generally more than 1%, and the 1% increase allows the City to make up a bit of that ground. The total impact of the increase is about $5 annually for the average Anacortes home. It's important that city leaders understand city finances and their various constraints, because the services we enjoy (including police, fire, and EMS services) depend on it.

Although it's commonly misunderstood, the City's total property tax revenue does not go up when your assessment goes up. The City collects about $5.5 million annually from property tax, and the 1% increase is 1% of that total amount. The 1% increase is not 1% of your property tax bill; the City only receives about 15% of the total tax you pay on your bill. By contrast the state collects about 30% and the school district collects 25%. The big drivers of increases to your property tax bill are voted measures like the new high school, not the City.

My opponent opposes the 1% property tax increase, and City Council candidate Jeff Graf recently claimed that the 1% property tax increase is unnecessary because the City is forecasting a $11 million increase in revenue for 2022. This claim is not correct in any relevant way. The City's draft 2022 budget actually projects $36 million more "revenue" in 2022—but that's not local tax money and it cannot be used to pay for the same kinds of things that the property tax can.

The City budget is complicated, and we don't do a great job of communicating either its complexity or its fundamentals to the public. It's important for elected officials to understand it, however, because it funds services that are critically important to our residents. I'm always available to help people work through the budget, or to connect people to our expert Finance staff for their assistance. The Anacortes American also covered this issue quite well.

Property tax ($5.5 million), sales tax ($5.5 million), and utility tax ($4 million) are the main sources of general revenue, but they only add up to $15 million. These three funding sources pay for the vast majority of funding for police, fire, emergency medical service, parks and recreation, library, and museum, along with facilities maintenance, and (usually) street maintenance. By state law, other source of revenue (for example, utility fees) can only be spent on the utilities that generate those fees. If we want (as I do) to preserve those services and programs and not see them eroded by inflation every year, and speed up the repairs to our streets, we need to keep taking the allowed 1% property tax increase every year.

The City projects next year's property tax revenues to be the same as last year's (that's how the property tax system works) plus the 1% increase and revenue from new construction (together they total about $110,000). In 2021, we expect to bring in $1.2 million in general sales, public safety sales, and utility taxes over 2020, almost all of which is attributable to a projected $770k in additional sales tax—while that's good news for city revenues, sales tax revenues fluctuate and were down significantly in 2020; for example, our 2021 projection is only $330k more than 2018's receipts. Utility tax is expected to bring in only 5% more revenue than projected for 2021. Property tax is our only stable source of general revenue.

The big additional dollars in the draft 2022 budget are largely a result of $6.8 million in loans to support the fiber build-out and $330k in fiber user fees; $1.5 million in an expected low-interest loan from the state to purchase a replacement ladder truck for the fire department; $650k from our voter-approved affordable housing sales tax; various other smaller amounts in grants and donations; and our $20 million sewer outfall project that will be funded by a FEMA grant. All of that is restricted funding; none of it is property tax.

While ideologues like to focus on the property tax increase, voting it down wouldn't provide any substantial relief to our residents. (Remember, it's only $5 annually.) I'm more interested in where the real costs to our residents are—City utility bills, where costs have risen substantially in the last eight years and can be hundreds of dollars per month. That's why I've promised since the beginning of my campaign to use the power of the mayor's office to seek utility efficiencies and bring down utility bill costs, especially for struggling families and seniors on fixed incomes. It's important we elect leaders who really understand our City's finances and are interested in making real improvements for our residents.

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