Questions for Woodinville City Council Candidates

On November 5, 2019 there will be elections for four of the seven Woodinville City Council positions…

Residents inside the Woodinville city limits can vote on each position. Given that the Council has a significant impact on development in and around the Sammamish Valley, the FoSV leadership team requested responses to five questions from the six candidates. No response to our emails was received from Les Rubstello, Elaine Cook, Al Taylor or Gary Harris despite repeated inquiries.

Nicolas Duchastel

Q1) What role do you believe the Woodinville City Council should have with regard to land use and development decisions in the unincorporated areas surrounding Woodinville? If none, please identify considerations you feel are important when thinking about this issue. If the City Council should have a role, what are some of the objectives you feel should be pursued? How would you go about achieving these objectives?

A1) The role and duties of the Woodinville City council is for the good administration of the city. As such, I strongly believe that our first priority is to “Keep Woodinville” – i.e., protect our environment such that we can keep our small town feel. Our environment does not stop at city limits. What happens in the surrounding areas has and will continue to have a direct impact on Woodinville. Furthermore, we need to consider the wider “Woodinville Community” since our neighbors outside the city are part of our community; they shop, work, study and play in Woodinville; they also need to be considered; and what they do can also impact the overall community.

Considering all of these things, Woodinville’s City Council needs to adopt two main roles:

1. Maintain good relationships with neighboring jurisdictions (cities, counties, school districts);
2. Use that good relationship to advocate for better outcome.

Specifically, land use right outside our city limit will have a direct impact onto the city. The City of Woodinville should take a position and advocate strongly and consistently for that position.

Q2) What have you already done, as an individual or as a participant in an organization, to influence land use and development decisions in and around Woodinville?

A2) I have been on the Woodinville Planning Commission for almost two years. As such, I study and learn about land use issues. As a member of the commission, I help advise the City Council on land use issues. Also, as a citizen, I have been active in various groups around the community (e.g. 350.org and People For Climate Change) to learn more about land use and the impact it has on our environment.

I have participated in meetings with Friends of Sammamish Valley (FoSV). I was present at King County Council meeting in June when we needed to show our presence. I even brought a colleague to shore up our numbers. I have donated and will continued to donate to FoSV if needed. I am in agreement with FoSV’s mission, position and efforts: We need to protect the Sammamish Valley.

I am a member of the 45th Legislative District Democrats which are committed in protecting our local environment. I also continue to advise the Northshore School District on issues related to transportation.

Finally, throughout my advocacy work, I have maintained good relationships with many elected officials. I strongly believe that an active and positive relationship with various elected officials is key to getting things accomplish to protect our environment. I am very proud to have earn the endorsements not only of Woodinville City Council members, but also of mayors or deputy mayors of most cities surrounding Woodinville: Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Bothell, Deputy Mayor of Kirkland, Council President of Redmond, former Mayor of Bellevue. I also have the endorsement from a King County council member and both Senator and Representative from the 45thLegislative District. I am endorsed by the Sierra Club and various other groups. I am also an active member of the Woodinville Chamber of Commerce and always keep asking about perspectives from businesses in our area.

Q3) Does the City Council have an obligation to hear and consider the needs/desires of nearby unincorporated residents? If no, please explain. If yes, please identify how you have previously accomplished this objective, or describe how you would accomplish this in the future.

A3) Yes, the City Council does; probably not from a legal perspective, but at least from a moral perspective. And, at the very least, just from a practical perspective, listening to our neighbors in the nearby unincorporated areas is useful to the residents in the city.

We must consider more than just the City limits. Woodinville is a thriving community which extends outside the city limits. From a purely practical perspective, as stated above, our environment does not stop at the city limits and many people from outside the city limits come to Woodinville for various reasons. Actions taken by other jurisdictions (e.g. King County, Bothell, Redmond, Kirkland, Washington State,…) have and will continue to impact us directly. And, finally, these are our neighbors, we should have compassion and treat them with respect.

The City Council and its commissions needs to make people feel welcomed at our meetings: e.g. putting less emphasis on asking if people are strictly within city limits; and rather asking them if they are “within city limits, within the broader Woodinville community, or a visiting guest” – a few welcoming words can go a long way!

Throughout my volunteering work at the Planning Commission, the school district and other organizations, I have always tried to gain more insights from my neighbors – be it within or outside the city limits.

I will continue to always be respectful and welcoming to all who want to participate in the debate; be it in or outside the city. We must also consider those who cannot attend city meetings; let’s find ways to make sure all can be heard. Finally, we must all realize that the challenges brought by growth in our area are not limited to one city; but are truly regional; we must act accordingly.

Q4) What has the City Council gotten right in the past and what do you wish was done differently?

A4) The City Council has maintained a good financial balance sheet; and as started some actions in protecting the Sammamish Valley; but more must be done.

Historically, the City Council has taken a conservative approach when managing the city’s finances. This is why we have relatively low city taxes and a reserve of funds. The city has also taken decisions to protect the special nature and feel of our small city. This usually includes taking position to protect our environment: e.g. sending letters to King County Council regarding the Sammamish Valley proposed changes. These are all good first steps which the City Council has done.

The first thing that I would do differently is to have the city take a stronger position in favor of protecting the Sammamish Valley (and other surrounding areas), and bring it before the County Council more persistently. This part of the Sammamish Valley is part of the Woodinville Community, we should be leading protecting this environment.

We are at a key moment for Woodinville and we need a steady hand at the wheel. Some recent discussions and decisions by the Council indicate a change from past policies. For example, discussion of changing zoning in downtown from multi-usage to simple one story strip malls will put other areas of the city at risk: reducing high density downtown will force us to up-zone other areas.

Also, the difficulties getting the County Council to see the immediate danger to the Sammamish Valley with its new proposed ordinance is a direct consequence of lack of good relationship building by our City Council. Another example is the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project for 522 which does not fully go into Woodinville. Our neighboring city of Bothell advocated at both Sound Transit and at the State and got what they needed for their citizens. The kind of relationships we required to accomplish our goals are built over years. We need a City Council willing and able to engage regionally.

Q5) What would your top priorities be as a member of the City Council?

A5) City Council does not run day-to-day activities. It must rather set clear policies and priorities for the City Manager and staff to run the city. Our first task should be to establish a clear set of priorities for staff to follow, and a process to change these priorities: Council shouldn’t be proposing new endeavors which distract staff from our top priorities. This includes an ordered list of capital projects, and long-term issues which the City needs to manage. Top of this list are issues which have a direct impact on our city’s environment. These includes protecting the Sammamish Valley and our R1 areas.

The second priority is to establish strong and resilient relationships with our regional leaders. Council needs to attend various committees and groups such that when we need to partner up with our neighbors, they know us and are willing to help us.

Paul Hagen

Q1) What role do you believe the Woodinville City Council should have with regard to land use and development decisions in the unincorporated areas surrounding Woodinville? If none, please identify considerations you feel are important when thinking about this issue. If the City Council should have a role, what are some of the objectives you feel should be pursued? How would you go about achieving these objectives?

A1) Cities, including Woodinville, cannot operate in a vacuum. Our community is dependent on those around us, and what happens in the surrounding areas will have a significant impact on the City of Woodinville. It is important then that Woodinville City Council actively engage King County Council to ensure protection of agricultural lands, open spaces, and resource lands. It is also important for Woodinville City Council to work with the county and surrounding municipals to promote cohesive zoning, transportation, and land use. Abdicating responsibility is the wrong tact. Instead we need to engage in the process and dedicate ourselves to working collaboratively with other governing bodies. A top priority should be protecting the agricultural land and the buffer zones in and around our community. While it is true that Woodinville City Council cannot dictate what King County Council does, the City Council can and should take steps to influence the process. First, Woodinville City Council should begin by passing a resolution asking King County Council to uphold the protection of agricultural and buffer lands. Second, City Council should open talks with the County Council to fully participate in the discussion about how best to protect these lands. Because Woodinville is a growing city with space in its downtown corridor, there is room for businesses, tasting rooms, restaurants, and parking there, sparing our precious farmlands and preserving the connection that our community has always had with agriculture. Protecting farmlands isn’t just good for farmers and the environment, it’s also good for business, tourism, and the future of our community. City Council must take the lead when it comes to questions of land use both in the city and in the surrounding areas.

Q2) What have you already done, as an individual or as a participant in an organization, to influence land use and development decisions in and around Woodinville?

A2) As the former Vice Chair of Woodinville’s Parks and Recreation Commission and a current Public Spaces Commissioner, I have dedicated significant time and effort to the preservation of public spaces and park lands. During my tenure on the Parks and Recreation and Public Spaces Commissions, I have advocated for better accessibility to parks for all community members, the protection of city owned public resource lands, the preservation of and increase in our city’s tree canopy, the creation of multi-use parks, and the addition of new parks, public spaces, and resource lands as the city grows. Additionally, as an engaged resident I have advocated for a dense, pedestrian-friendly downtown corridor, with mixed-use buildings, affordable housing, a network of sidewalks and bike paths, and protection of agricultural lands. This vision for Woodinville’s downtown will protect our neighborhoods from up-zoning, will ensure ample space for businesses in our downtown, will protect farmlands and buffer zones from future development, and will ensure that Woodinville is a leader in sustainability. Beyond this work, I have also been active as a volunteer for Washington Trails Association, 21 Acres, Mountains to Sound, and other service organizations dedicated to protecting our environment, building trails, and preserving natural spaces.

Q3) Does the City Council have an obligation to hear and consider the needs/desires of nearby unincorporated residents? If no, please explain. If yes, please identify how you have previously accomplished this objective, or describe how you would accomplish this in the future.

A3) City Council should absolutely consider the opinions and suggestions of those who own businesses in the city, visit Woodinville, and especially those who live outside of the city limits but call Woodinville their hometown. Any community is stronger when many voices are heard, and Woodinville City Council should listen to all community members—in and outside of the city limits—who have an opinion to share. One of the chief responsibilities of councilmembers is to listen to residents, community members, and those who care about Woodinville, so I am always surprised and disappointed when councilmembers avoid engaging with the public. We can do better than that. One of my top priorities should I be elected is to ensure that the City Council is accessible and responsive to all. Obviously, City Council represents the voters within the City of Woodinville, but that should not prevent councilmembers from considering the opinions, ideas, and concerns of those who live outside the city limits as well. I am proud to be engaged in community discussions about all topics that impact the city. Let’s listen to each other and build our community together!

Q4) What has the City Council gotten right in the past and what do you wish was done differently?

A4) We just received the tree canopy report this week and learned that Woodinville’s tree canopy covers 45% of the city’s surface area, which is an increase of 3% in the last ten years.

City Council has supported our status as a “Tree City USA” and has done a nice job of celebrating that distinction and increasing the tree canopy in the city. This is a trend I hope will continue moving forward. We have an opportunity to increase our city’s tree canopy by up to 11% in the coming years and I would like to see the City Council take the lead in doing just that.

I was disappointed that City Council did not respond as forcefully as they should have to King County in response to the proposed beverage ordinance. City Council should have passed a resolution denouncing current code violators and the proposed beverage ordinance which would threaten currently protected agricultural lands and buffer areas. We can do better.

Q5) What would your top priorities be as a member of the City Council?

A5) Woodinville is at a unique moment in its history and development, and we need clear vision, cohesive planning, and strong leadership. We are in the fastest growing region in the United States and without foresight we will fail to meet the challenges that we face.

My priorities include sensible growth, environmental sustainability, and a city government that works for all of us.

We need to develop a sensible, long-term plan for growth and development within the city that takes into consideration transportation needs, housing, storefront and office space, community gathering spots, and public spaces. We need to invest in a dense, mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly downtown corridor, protect the charm of our city, increase public transportation options, bike lanes, and sidewalks, and preserve our forests, farmlands, and rivers.

Additionally, we need to protect our natural environment and commit to sustainability. We are lucky to live in such a beautiful environment; one that is worth fighting to preserve. Through careful land management, thoughtful city planning, green codes and zoning, and investments in sustainability we can and must do our part to protect the environment.

Finally, I would work to ensure that Woodinville City Council is accessible, responsive, and effective. We need a City Council that works for all of us, not just the select few. We can no longer afford to have a Council that is insular, petty, and ineffective. Instead we need a City Council with the vision, judgement, and experience necessary to come together and get things done for the community. We cannot revert back to spiteful, personal politics. Instead we need to embrace the challenges we face together, calling on all the skill and experience we can muster to overcome the challenges we face. Together we can do better. Together we can build a bright, prosperous, and sustainable future.