Matthew Tirman, City Council Candidate
Candidate Questions posed by Quality Bainbridge
1. What interests inspired you to run for a seat on the City Council?
I entered the race for South Ward because I know I can bring rational decision-making and a focused agenda to our local government. Anyone that steps up to run for elected office is doing so because they believe in their community, and their ability to make it a better place for all. I do, however, feel as though our City Council has lost its focus. While many Islanders are feeling the stress of mounting property taxes and rising rents, our Council signs off on spending $1M on a bridge over 305. In 2017 we have a public transportation infrastructure that favors only those with predictable commutes, leaving many seniors, youth, and hourly workers dislocated and single vehicle dependent.
We need City Councilmembers that will champion housing affordability, and environmental preservation, limiting sprawl and the potential negative impact on our aquifers and natural environment. These are tough decisions, but they need to be taken now. I am running because our community needs someone that does not have the ear of niche interests, can act decisively, and help prioritize the Council’s agenda for the Island.
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.
Affordable housing & development
Multi-Family Tax Exemption: Revenue neutral as far as the General Fund is concerned. I would ask that the Affordable Housing Task Force study this potential policy.
Inclusionary Zoning in the Winslow Core: Revenue neutral.
Comprehensive SEPA Review: Consultant agreement paid from General Fund. Critical for amending Comprehensive Plan to conduct a proper land use and growth policy.
Core 40 & Shoulder Widening: Funded through long-range Infrastructure Ballot and General Fund reserves as well as State transportation grants.
Subsidized Rideshare: A pilot program with Lyft would come from the General Fund and go toward subsidizing rides for seniors and youth and lessening the transportation deficit on the Island, especially on weekends and non-commuter hours.
Environmental preservation and energy grid reliability
Renewable Energy Fund: We must do everything within our power to combat the negative impact of climate change, and that means going beyond rhetoric. In coordination with the Climate Change Advisory Committee I would propose an annual fund to be administered by the Council and Advisory Committee that would support renewable energy efforts by citizens, neighborhood groups, and local businesses on the Island.
Green Procurement Program: A modest education and public information campaign to support my proposal for the City to switch toward the use of Green Procurement standards. The medium-long range cost-benefit analysis of lessening harmful exposure to the environment and people far outweighs any modest increase in procurement costs.
Transparency in City Council operations
Councilmember votes and stance on issues published on COBI website bi-weekly: Revenue neutral.
Allow individual Councilmembers to utilize public figure profiles on social media as allowed by public record laws:Cost for public records keeping funded out of General Fund, allocated to Council budget.
I would propose raising the biennial amount allocated to Bainbridge Youth Services by an additional $50,000 ($200,000 in total) a year from our General Fund.
3. What skills, training, resources, expertise and relevant previous experience will you bring to the Council?
If elected, I would bring to the Council much needed experience in technology, leadership, and long range planning having run businesses here at home as well as abroad. I hold a BS in Political Science from East Carolina University, a MA in International Relations from Lancaster University in the UK, and a Certificate in Venture Capital from the London Business School.
I began my professional career as an Environmental Advocate with the US Public Interest Research Group first as campaign lead in Colorado for the Renewable Energy initiative and then leading the organization’s efforts in Washington D.C. to push Congress to fund Superfund budgets. I have worked as a consultant to the US government, and as a Civilian advisor to US Generals in Iraq and the Middle East and understand what it takes to collaborate and reach broad consensus in a diverse and multicultural environment. I have started and grown technology and service businesses from two employees to more than 400 worldwide. I currently run the commercial business for a data analytics company. I believe these skills will be of tremendous value in bringing a fresh look and set of problem solving skills to the City Council.
Finally, I have been Approved by the Kitsap Democrats and 23rd Legislative Democrats, and I am the only candidate in my race to have been endorsed by two of the largest unions in Washington: the International Association of Machinists (IAM) and Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters; demonstrating my commitment to working families, strong wages, and livable communities.
4. Islanders consistently identify water quality as a top community priority and yet a City study shows our streams are significantly polluted with fecal coliform, nitrogen and phosphorus.http://www.bainbridgewa.gov/516/Water-Quality-and-Flow-Monitoring-Program What ideas do you have for improving the health of island waters?
Preserving the health and safety of our Island’s waters and streams is of the utmost importance. On Bainbridge Island we are fortunate to have an abundance of natural wildlife, small farms that contribute to our Island’s economy and rural nature, and a healthy dog population. All three are primary sources of fecal coliform pollution in our streams and the responsibility of our City. The County has responsibility if it is identified to be human fecal coliform, primarily from septic leaks, and I believe they do a good job of identifying and remediating. Our City needs to do more to quickly identify, via now readily available DNA tests, the source of the pollution and engage appropriately the source.
Bainbridge Island City government also must have a Green Procurement program and create stronger public information campaigns educating homeowners, farmers, and small businesses on the dangers of nonpoint pollution and runoff into our streams. Further, our City needs to utilize the current inter-governmental working groups to its advantage to ensure that there is standardization with the Parks Department, Schools, and Fire when it comes to protecting our Island’s streams, waterways, and the Puget Sound.
Finally, Bainbridge Island requires a comprehensive Groundwater Management Plan. We need to protect our sole source aquifer and use the City’s Comprehensive Plan as a guide to limit development in recharge areas, institute wellhead procedures, and have a stronger City focused program to reach out to exempt well owners. This would be an excellent issue for our highly qualified community members to weigh in on via a City Council created Task Force. Utilizing a Task Force structure where appropriate is a great approach to ensuring we are pulling from the best subject matter experts available to our community.
5. How do you think growth (economic and population) on the island can best be managed? How would you address the balance between development and preserving our natural resources?
I believe that the City Council needs to push back against Washington State’s one-size fits all approach to Bainbridge Island’s growth model. I would recommend that we conduct a proper environmental review of the Comprehensive Plan, previous SEPA reviews have been a rubberstamp and that needs to change, that honestly looks at the infrastructure needed to support land use and all of the goals and policies with land use implications. We are likely to find that we will require significant additional capacity in our capital facilities, mainly in transportation facilities. If that is the case the City Council could decide to amend the Comprehensive Plan to fit the amount of capital facility improvements that are both affordable to the community and fit the community’s vision for the future.
I feel that that we can maintain our natural resources and Island way of life, while at the same time broadening economic opportunities for our residents. Our City needs to continue to support those public service employees, teachers, artists, small business owners, and craftspeople that choose to work and live on the Island. That means that we need to strengthen the dual use purpose Neighborhood Centers, to reduce congestion and the impact on climate change, and have a strong commitment to low impact affordable housing in line with a revised Comprehensive Plan so these individuals can live where they work.
Finally, if elected, I would work with Kitsap County business stakeholders, unions, local governments and other stakeholders to explore the idea of a countywide living wage. I feel that this issue merits deep discussion, which could likely produce other benefits for working families across Kitsap, as well as Bainbridge Island.
6. How should we address the issue of code enforcement?
Code enforcement must reflect the unique needs and characteristics of a community. I believe that our current See, Click, Fix web based tool is an excellent way to crowd-source and involve the public in identifying potential code violations. It does, however, need to be better publicized and marketed to Bainbridge Island residents. Keeping with the theme of code reflecting the unique needs of our Island, I believe that we need to rethink our ADU codes. It is far too costly and time consuming, as well as restrictive under the current square footage allotments, for property owners to build out ADUs. With a growing senior population and move toward multi-generational living and a critical need for more rental properties on the Island, rethinking our approach to ADU codes is necessary for the City Council to tackle in the short-term. In tandem with rethinking our codes and perhaps streamlining our application process, we have too few qualified staff, resulting in lengthy delays in processing.
7. What are your thoughts about the affordability of housing on Bainbridge Island? What policies or actions, if any, would you like to see our City implement to increase the inventory of affordable housing?
I believe that Bainbridge Island should be a community where people of all incomes and backgrounds can live, raise a family, and work. It is not right that people who provide some of the island’s most important services are not able to afford to live here. While our island is fortunate to have organizations such as Housing Resources Bainbridge, this alone isn’t enough.
Affordable housing solutions are rarely met by building new developments, but rather by allowing property owners to improve existing infrastructure or land, whether by adding ADUs or through more innovative options; such as micro-homes and tiny houses.
Bainbridge Island civic leaders need to advocate on behalf of island taxpayers. Our state’s regressive property tax regime is hurting homeowners, and the city should be doing more to highlight and remediate the current tax burden. We should look at enacting a Multi-Family Property Tax Exemption (MFTE) program, as recommended in our Comprehensive Plan. The MFTE allows local governments to exempt multifamily housing developments from property tax for 12 years, so long as 20% of the units are rent restricted for low-income residents. I will be a proponent of inclusionary zoning in the Winslow Neighborhood Center to spur affordable housing.
8. Kitsap PUD is soliciting indications of interest in expanding broadband access to neighborhoods on the Island. What role, if any, should the City have in assisting with this expansion?
The City’s primary role is as a regulator and collector of taxes. While a neighborhood collective can band together to create a Local Utility District and through long term financing through taxes can fund the build out of the network. KPUD recently reached an agreement with PSE, as an offshoot of the electric municipalization discussion, which gives the PUD much better access to PSE’s infrastructure for the purpose of installing fiber optics and other broadband related equipment.
The City should investigate working with KPUD and PSE to create a broadband retail market that would be open to multiple retail providers using the same infrastructure. This would create greater competition, reduce prices, and enhance service.