2019 City Council Candidate Questions – Anthony Oddo, District 1 At-Large
1) What inspired you to run for a position as City Council member?
Before my husband and I decided to move to Bainbridge Island, I received some prescient advice from a long-time Islander who sensed that my apprehension about building new friendships echoed her own fears and concerns about moving to a new community long ago. This friend told me to “get involved” and “to throw every log in the fire and see what catches – that’s how you will come to know your new community.” I am so happy that I took her advice, because almost immediately, I found a City and welcoming citizens open to sharing what is truly a remarkable place.
From my first days on Bainbridge Island, I was struck by the immense social and intellectual capital that exists among our neighbors, in all facets of their lives. I also came to discover a place of extraordinary natural beauty and an ethos of conservation and environmental protection that ran deep within the community. Over time, I felt compelled to put myself forward as a candidate in an effort to find additional ways to give back to a place that has already offered me so much.
Looking ahead, I sense that, as in our community’s past – and like many other communities before us – we are at an inflection point. The climate crisis demands our immediate, undivided attention as we look for ways to mitigate and reduce damages associated with rising sea levels, longer dry periods, and stresses to our native vegetation. And yet, we must not lose sight of our other ecosystem – the human one – that is essential to who we are. A lack of affordable housing, our car-dependent transportation system, and a rising level of distrust and incivility at City Hall all cry out for solutions that are worthy of our Island community.
We do have something remarkable on Bainbridge Island, and I believe that we have the capacity to take on the problems before us. I remain optimistic about what is possible to achieve as a City and hope to add my voice to our Council’s important work.
2) What are your top priorities that you would work to have the city accomplish during your term in office? For each identified priority that requires the expenditure of money, please state how you would fund it.
Foster community and respect: One of the primary reasons I decided to run for City Council is because I was disappointed by the lack of civility and thoughtful articulation of process by a few members of Council. Too often, this behavior becomes a distraction to the public and staff, which prevents us from solving the issues at hand.
But, with few exceptions, I have been struck by the good intentions shared by citizens both for and against proposals that have come before the Council. If elected, I will work constantly to seek out, understand, and articulate the common purpose of the community. From the dais, I will attempt to ensure that our community does not succumb to what ails us at the national level: our voices divided as two bell curves – at the extremes – separated by a deep and bitter divide. Although civic involvement will always bring diverse ideas to each conversation, I will work to ensure that everyone always receives the respect they deserve from our City Council.
Expand options for affordable housing: This is an issue close to my core. Only by acting now, coupled with an honest conversation about the demands on our community and region in 15 or 20 years, can we avoid becoming an exclusive community that uses income as the gate to exclude our neighbors. In my responses below, I lay out my plans for expanding options for affordable housing, including policy tools and projects like Suzuki, which represent our opportunity to take a bold stance and craft a unique solution for Bainbridge.
Implement a climate change adaptation certification process: I believe that switching out the lens through which we evaluate and approve fiscal expenditures, capital planning, permitting, and infrastructure design is crucial to having Bainbridge Island lead in preparing for and mitigating the effects of climate change. The purpose of establishing a climate change adaptation certification process is to move away from business as usual. Instead, it asks policy makers, permittees, and others to understand the long-term sustainability of a project and make modifications as a result of climate models.
Create options for more sustainable transit: In the coming weeks, the Council will receive the greenhouse gas inventory as part of the work of the Climate Change Advisory Committee. These data will be important for policymakers as we look to reduce our single occupancy vehicle trip around the Island. For example, I am a strong supporter of the Core 40. As the husband of a bike commuter, I have a personal interest in making sure we have infrastructure that is safe for all ages and abilities of bicycle riders. However, best practices for traffic safety have improved rapidly since Bainbridge Island developed the Core 40 vision. I believe that we need to set our sights higher than simply paved shoulders, including buffered and protected bike lanes for appropriate areas around the Island.
In conjunction with the current Sustainable Transportation plan, I support returning to the voters for a levy in order to increase funding for a prioritized list of non-motorized transportation projects. I would like to see a dedicated revenue stream to complete a bicycle-friendly network around the Island, including a spectrum of paved shoulders (such as on Miller Road), climbing lanes (as on NE Wing Pt Way), buffered and protected bike lanes (at this point, only in Seattle), bike boxes (as in the Olympic Drive Project), and separated paths, depending on the context for each site.
3) Describe your relevant previous experiences that prepare you for the Council role. What skills, training, resources and expertise will you bring to the Council?
Public policy is my personal and professional passion. I have over 10 years of experience working in the public and non-profit sectors. After completing my BA in Philosophy, Politics & Economics from the University of Pennsylvania, I was hired into the Honors Paralegal Project at the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. After working on a variety of Clean Water Act enforcement cases across the Midwest and Southeast, I sought out a master’s degree in public policy from Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy.
While completing my MPP at Duke, I worked for the Office of Management and Budget at the White House in the Water & Power Branch. There, I conducted budget analyses for the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bonneville Power Administration. After graduation, I spent almost five years in the Federal and State Government Practice with Deloitte Consulting, where I worked on budget optimization and research projects for a variety of clients. I was also fortunate to spend a year in Brussels with Deloitte’s Global Public Sector Practice at NATO headquarters on an infrastructure operating budget project.
I currently serve as the Policy & Programs Coordinator for Housing Resources Bainbridge (HRB) supporting affordable housing and home ownership on Bainbridge Island. At HRB, I am responsible for the organization’s grant writing and advocacy efforts, including efforts to secure funding at the local and State levels for low- and moderate-income households. I also serve as the Vice President of the Bainbridge Ometepe Sister Islands Association and was the past Chair of the City’s Marine Access Committee.
4) Islanders consistently identify water quantity and quality as top community priorities. Recent city studies (Water Resources and Groundwater Monitoring) show that our water resources are resilient, however some of our streams are significantly polluted. What ideas do you have for improving the health of island (and our surrounding) waters?
Many of the debates surrounding water quantity reflect that fact that everyone agrees clean water is essential, but people do not always take the time to look past sound bites about our aquifers. Bainbridge Island has been designated as a sole source aquifer – which simply means that we get a majority of our water from underlying aquifers (e.g., both deep-water and surface) AND there are no alternative sources that might be physically or economically viable. Past studies (e.g., the USGS survey) noted that the large Fletcher Bay system – from which many of the high-capacity wells in Winslow and the County draw – is likely to drop by four to 10 feet by 2035. Other, more shallow aquifers, are stable or slightly increasing.
Nevertheless, regardless of the data, the community often hears that Bainbridge Island is running out of water, without understanding that we share our water sources with other communities in Kitsap County. If elected, I would look to reframe the discussion around quantity toward increased conservation along with continued study and collaboration with other entities (e.g., KPUD) about the availability of water supplies across the County. On the first point, it is increasingly acknowledged that the Puget Sound region will receive more precipitation in a changing climate. And yet, the precipitation will fall in heavier deluges, which our soils are not equipped to absorb. Thus, we must look to incorporate better storage and retention of rainwater in our physical infrastructure so that the water can be held on the land to refresh the aquifers rather than running off into the Sound. On the second point, I support the current Council’s efforts to move forward with a groundwater management plan and believe that the City must work with the varied water service providers across the County to continue studying and understanding the complex issue of aquifers that serve our community and the larger County.
As for water quality, City studies show that fecal coliform and nitrogen are the primary pollutants in the Island’s water systems. Both are almost certainly the result of aging septic systems across the Island. We must remember that nearly two-thirds of Islanders utilize septic systems to treat their waste and many of these systems are aging, poorly maintained, or both. Looking ahead, we have to prepare for these systems’ eventual failure as well as better manage future population growth. The latter is most easily dealt with by concentrating future growth in areas of Bainbridge Island served by sewers (i.e., Winslow). The former requires more innovative thinking, but also the development of strong partnerships with KPUD, which has successfully implemented new wastewater treatment technologies in Port Gamble and soon in the Indianola Spit. I would like to see the opportunity for something similar to come to Bainbridge Island.
5) How do you think growth (economic and population) on the island can best be managed? In light of the dictates of the Growth Management Act and the private property rights of landowners, how can the City create a proper balance between building housing and preserving our natural resources? How should we address the issue of code enforcement?
On economic and population growth
In order to create a proper balance between affordable housing and preserving our natural resources, we should implement what is stated in the Comprehensive Plan’s Housing Vision 2036, specifically that “the residential land use pattern outside of designated centers remains at much lower densities and constitutes almost 90% of the Island’s area. Houses built . . . in the vicinity of designated centers and elsewhere in the Open Space Residential zones are compact, energy-efficient, and well-integrated in their landscape.”
I would like to see the future growth on Bainbridge concentrated in Winslow and the other designated centers. By focusing our growth in these areas, we will avoid sprawling out into the more rural areas of the Island. I also believe that for the designated service centers, in particular, we need to focus our attention on connecting them to Winslow with nonmotorized and shared/public transit options. In that way we will continue to realize the vision established in the Comprehensive Plan.
As for managing our economic growth, a healthy (and diverse) economy requires us to include a range of affordable housing for the people who live and work here. The scale of Bainbridge industries is another unique aspect of our community. The vast array of non-profits, coupled with everyday commercial activities alongside a few business/industrial parks, keeps Bainbridge alive and humming. Our charming downtown is also what draws tourists to our restaurants, shops, and galleries, and those same tourists support the businesses we enjoy as well. I believe we can support all of these small business owners by making our Island a welcoming place for the employees that are at the heart of their operations. Allowing employees to live close to their jobs increases morale and the sense of community that we treasure on Bainbridge Island.
On code enforcement:
Over the past few years, I have seen how hard the City staff and Council have worked to bring the City’s code more in line with the Comprehensive Plan. Yet, these new codes are only as strong and innovative as the enforcement mechanisms behind them. Our current complaint-based system may not be adequate or appropriate to enforce some of the ordinances that have arisen since the inception of the moratorium. I would like to see additional resources allocated to document code violations and the provisioning of staff with the tools that they need to make enforcement decisions, when necessary.
6) What does the term “affordable housing” mean to you? Is the subject important to you, and if so, why? What are your thoughts about the affordability of housing on Bainbridge Island? What policies, if any, would you like to see our City implement to increase the inventory of affordable housing?
To me, affordable housing must provide a spectrum to match the needs across a community, starting with those units that are heavily subsidized and highly regulated all the way to homes serving households composed of teachers, paraeducators, firefighters, and the like. We need homes at every point on this spectrum, so that people have a place to move up—and down—as their needs change, due to age, changes in income and family size, and the many unexpected events that affect our lives
At the base of the income scale, a strong, diverse, and vibrant community should advocate for the preservation and creation of new housing for those who are on fixed incomes – including seniors or individuals with disabilities. At the other end of the income scale, the City government plays less of a role with direct subsidies, but choices about codes and zoning have unintentional impacts on housing size, type, and location that are directly related to the cost of our homes. The City should encourage the use of creative policies for innovation, smaller housing sizes, etc., that will lead to the preservation and construction of affordable homes.
I believe that all neighbors should be able to see a place for themselves on Bainbridge Island– in their own community – to move up or down as their life circumstances change. In this, I believe we have failed. However, I am encouraged by the work of the Affordable Housing Task Force workplan and, if elected, would be an advocate for the tools below.
Implement an inclusionary zoning ordinance: I support the Council’s current work to begin studying IZ as a powerful policy tool to extract some level of community benefit in the form of affordable housing units from developers. I believe this will be particularly beneficial in the Winslow Master Planning Area as a way to ensure my vision articulated in Question #5.
Develop a strategy to preserve (or transfer ownership) of current affordable properties: I was fortunate to play a role in my professional work to initiate a partnership between a non-profit and a private developer to preserve existing, affordable housing in Winslow. I support directing Staff to begin analyzing other voucher-based or private affordable properties to understand the terms and length of their affordability contracts. In this instance, the City may also look to leverage HB1406 funds as they become available in the coming years.
7) Kitsap PUD is soliciting indications of interest in expanding broadband access to neighborhoods on the island. What should be the role of the city in assisting with this expansion?
The City can play an important role of facilitator in the process of expanding broadband access to neighborhoods across the Island. Over the past few months, I have been encouraged by the road signs that have appeared near new housing or construction that highlight that the community is part of KPUD’s broadband service. I would like this to go further with the City and KPUD collaborating (even if only through raising a level of awareness) whenever there is new construction or public works improvement projects. As the population of telecommuters grows, along with the ever-increasing number of devices that require internet access, this is an easy and sensible step toward improving City-wide connections.
8) What do you think is the appropriate role for City Council in responding to the climate crisis? What is Council already doing in this area, and what additional ideas do you have for how we should be reducing our Island’s greenhouse gases and adapting to the changes we expect to see in the coming years and decades?
I believe that the City Council should play a vigorous role in responding to the climate crisis. The creation of the Climate Change Advisory Committee in 2017 was an important first step in responding to the crisis and leveraging the deep intellectual capital that exists among experts in our community. In addition to those ideas articulated above in Question #2, I would like to see the Council focus on the following priorities in the coming years:
Develop Green Building standards for new private and municipal construction: It is likely that after power production and transportation, our buildings on Bainbridge Island contribute the next most amount of GHGs to the atmosphere. Beginning in 2020, I would like to see Council work with the Design Review Board and Staff to create green building standards for new construction. I would also like to see incentives or financial assistance for modifications and green retrofits to existing homes. Money for such a program could come from permitting or impact fees.
Incentivize reduction in propane use in new construction: As more municipalities move toward banning natural gas (e.g., Seattle, Berkeley) because of concerns about GHGs and the use of combustion in homes, I would like the City to begin exploring incentivizing reductions in use of propane across the Island. For new construction, perhaps this could come in the form of fee waivers or some other monetary incentive to install electric ranges, home heating systems, and fireplaces.
Develop more community solar projects and increase renewable energy generation: The City has a role to play as a facilitator of increasing the number of community solar projects on Bainbridge Island. This could be as easy as offering space on City-owned property or requiring new multi-family construction to include solar power.