2019 City Council Candidate Questions:
Grayson Wildsmith, Central Ward Candidate Answers:
1) What interests inspired you to run for a position as City Council member?
I have lived on Bainbridge Island my entire life, and during my formative years I developed a deep passion for service. After graduating from Gonzaga University with a degree in political science I saw this as an amazing opportunity to serve a community that has done so much for me. I love this community and it would be my honor to serve it ethically and responsibly.
2) What are your top five 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.
Climate: My top priority on the council would be the preservation of Bainbridge Island’s environment. Climate change is not something that can be disputed or argued over, it is a very serious reality that deserves our focus. We must prepare for the impacts of climate change by reducing and mitigating the risks that our island community would face. Currently the Climate Change Advisory Committee, a group of local experts are, putting together a work plan for how our city council can respond to climate change. As your city council member the goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect our trees, water, and ecosystems would be priority number one.
Good Governance: As a student of government and one well versed in the diversity of thoughts and opinions on our island, I understand that transparency and accountability are two of the most sought after qualities from City Council. As your representative I intend to embody these, while working diligently and professionally. I will always respect and listen to the opinions of others. I understand that one can always learn more, and I will continue learning. I have the ability to make sound decisions in a timely manner, and will use it when appropriate on the Council.
Housing: Affordable housing is not a new issue to our community but it is a pressing one. According to the City of Bainbridge Island Housing Needs Assessment, too many of our citizens living in owner-occupied or renter-occupied homes are cost burdened. In 2018 the Affordable Housing Task Force issued their report to the city, recommending the adoption of code changes, including tax exemptions for multi-family properties, pursuit of opportunities to partner with private and nonprofit sectors, encouragement of Accessory Dwelling Units, and adoption of an “Innovations Program” that would allow staff to permit experimental affordable housing projects. On City Council I would continue to work toward these goals with vigor. The burden of housing costs should not be forcing our citizens to leave our island. Nor should it prevent future islanders from joining our community
Transportation: Public transit, ride shares, bikes, and walking should all be available to our citizens. Our island needs multi modal transportation. The Comprehensive Plan aims to improve transportation on the island and I support that plan and will create new and better policies to implement the Plan. Currently the city intends to create a board that would finance the “build out” of transportation infrastructure, maximize parking in the downtown sector, and add bike lanes connecting Winslow and the Ferry (which is happening right now). As your Representative I will support this work and create new ideas to improve road shoulders, sidewalks, our public transit, and help to educate our citizens on the services provided to them
Seniors and Youth: By 2020, 43% of Bainbridge Island citizens are expected to be over 55 years of age and almost one in four (24%) will be over 65. As our population ages the need for more services will increase. On City Council I would work to provide programs, increase services, and educate our population about the services available to them.
Our youth cannot be forgotten either; they comprise 24.4% of our population. The social and emotional wellbeing of those growing up in our community should and will be a top priority if I am elected. We need to support our schools and improve opportunities for our youth to be heard and helped.
I will work diligently to partner with local organizations dedicated to serving these populations.
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?
As I mentioned earlier I have a long history involved in service within this community as well a degree in political science from Gonzaga University. My commitment and experience particularly relevant to this position can be reflected from my government internships. My first was with the City of Bainbridge Island where I worked in all of the different departments, learning the ins and outs of our local government, and got to know our expert staff. Also I completed an internship in Washington D.C. at the United States Agency for International Development in the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance. I have served with groups like Habitat for Humanity, Helpline House, I was the founder of the Social Justice League at Bainbridge High School, and I received the Paul Harris award from the Rotary Club of Bainbridge Island for my service to the community.
4) Islanders consistently identify water quantity and quality as a 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?
I think there is good info that a well-functioning septic system is more environmentally friendly than a sewer system, where the former is practical. Also, since we don’t depend on riparian water for drinking, the question seems a little fraught. Knowledge of where we get our water and how we monitor the adequacy of its supply would be interesting.
Environmental concerns are my top priority on the island. That includes preparing for rising sea levels and salt-water intrusion into our streams and aquifers. When I interned for the City of Bainbridge Island I participated in a study for the city’s Water Quality and Flow Monitoring Program. This annual program tests the types, quantity, and quality of our streams bugs, as well as taking numerous measurements of the water to infer the overall health of our stream ecosystems. As your representative I would listen to our local experts on ways that the City Council can provide for and increase programs like these to help keep clean Bainbridge.
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 effect create a proper How would you address the balance between building housing and preserving our natural resources? How should we address the issue of code enforcement?
Bainbridge Island is growing, there is no doubt about it, and at the end of the day our City Council needs to focus on good governance to manage this growth. Between the Growth Management Act (GMA) and the Comprehensive Plan our city has plenty of goals outlined for how we should manage our growth. On City Council I would work to adhere to these goals and incorporate the Comp. Plan and the GMA into city code. I am all for creating more affordable housing on the island, preserving our rural sectors, and maintaining Bainbridge culture. However, none of this can be achieved unless our city code aligns with what we as a community have agreed to (the Comp. Plan) and what our state legislature (GMA) has outlined.
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?
Affordable housing is incredibly important to me. The cost of living here on Bainbridge has grown so high that not only are new families discouraged from joining our wonderful community but current islanders are now choosing to leave as well. The Comprehensive Plan and the Housing Needs Assessment outline where and how the City Council should propose affordable housing. We have designated development centers and recommendations from the Affordable Housing Task Force on how to create more affordable housing on Bainbridge. The time for research and planning is over, the time for policy action is now.
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?
City Council should partner with Kitsap PUD in this venture to provide better telecom service to our community. The Council can assist in the targeting of low service areas and the laying of new fiber optic cables to increase coverage. As a lifetime islander I am well versed the in poor connectivity and service “dead zones” that Bainbridge has. I would be in full support of expanding broadband access to neighborhoods on the island.
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 think the experts on the Climate Change Advisory Committee are going to produce a great work plan for the City Council to work off of. As your representative you know that environmental concerns would be my top priority. On council I would institute innovative ideas to accomplish the CCAC’s goals. Some of these ideas would involve green development measures, making sure that all of our new development on the island meets LEEDs certifications as set by the U.S. Green Building Council. We also should think of how the city contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and consider the electrification of city vehicles as a step in the right direction.