- About Us
Q&A with Bothell City Council candidate Tris Samberg | Vote 2013
The Bothell Reporter newspaper conducted a Q&A with all the city council candidates for a story that ran in the newspaper published July 19. Here is the Q&A with Tris Samberg in its entirety:
What do you see are the top three issues facing the city of Bothell?
The single-biggest issue facing Bothell is its looming debt crisis. Bothell is struggling financially, and yet the city continues to mortgage its future on excessive capital projects, while it is unable to pay for critical city services.
The latest biennial budget reveals deep cuts in maintenance and operations that affect our daily lives: continued underfunding for first responder training; significantly reduced park maintenance; and the inability to maintain failing streets, to name a few.
At the same time, council is planning mega-projects that have no identified funding, including a new City Hall ($45 million) and multiway boulevard ($30 million). These projects add to the $43 million we already owe and the $52 million coming our way because the city is not maintaining our streets.
If we stay on this course, taxpayers will see continued deterioration in services with an increase in taxes. My top priority is to rein in the unnecessary and reckless spending and refocus our budget on the services our citizens truly need.
The debt and interest portion of Bothell’s budget used to be less than 1 percent; now it is 17 percent and growing. Our reserves, which used to be 20 percent, are now 9 percent, the lowest amount to preserve our bond rating and ability to borrow money at low rates.
To put all this in perspective, our annual general operating budget is $35 million and our debt is projected to be $170 million. Our sister city, Kenmore, has virtually zero debt. You need an experienced council member who digs into the facts and is realistic about what Bothell’s taxpayers can and should afford.
I am running because I believe I am the only candidate who has the experience to uncover the city’s growing debt crisis, the courage to tell the truth about it and the ability to change the course of excessive city spending.
All other priorities – public safety, streets, parks, taxes – will be impacted for years to come if the city continues its unsustainable spending.
Other issues include:
• ensure adequate staffing and training for first responders;
• develop an ethics code for elected and appointed officials that describes prohibited conflicts of interest beyond those provided in state law; and
• increase recreation opportunities, including an off-leash dog area, as identified through the park planning process.
How do you feel the city has handled development of the downtown core and what would you do differently or work to change?
The city should not be in the real estate development business. As I did with the land purchases for the proposed new City Hall, I will vote against any more property purchases by the city.
I will work to re-establish the city’s true role - establishing zoning – while allowing private investment to mitigate the risk of development at no cost to the taxpayer.
The McMenamins' project has turned into a raw deal for Bothell’s taxpayers. With the property sale approved in 2010, McMenamins was supposed to open in February (four months ago) and catalyze the rest of downtown development.
The city sold this property at 37 percent of what we paid for it, with the promise of community “amenities.” The community was led to believe that McMenamins would provide free use of the city pool for programs, such as school team practices, lap lanes, swimming lessons and water aerobics classes.
In a bait-and-switch, the deep end will be filled in and converted into a 4-foot-deep wading pool. Your city council should require that promises made to the public for a full-service swimming facility are kept as payment for the significantly reduced price of the property.
Right now, the single most important project in Bothell is the realignment of State Route 522. When the road is built, it will be critical to attract new businesses to Bothell so they can generate new revenue to pay back the $30 million loan we borrowed to realign SR-522.
We need to attract businesses that will create a daytime population to purchase goods and services. A large daytime population, combined with a residential nighttime population, will naturally attract retail redevelopment. I will work to bring in new businesses to grow downtown, which will generate sales tax to pay off our debt and benefit Bothell taxpayers.
What is the best way to spur growth in the city and build a sense of community between businesses and local government, especially with so many potential new businesses moving into the downtown area?
Bothell already has a great sense of community and many amenities to offer new businesses: a charming, historic downtown; two college campuses; a beautiful urban environment; vibrant neighborhoods; and expanding business parks.
The best way to spur growth in the city is process development applications in a timely, predictable manner, with clear and consistent building requirements, and fair development fees. Businesses also need confidence in their local government’s financial stability. A financially stable city can provide and maintain public services, such as fire, police, streets and infrastructure which attract the best developers.
I will work to finish the SR-522 realignment, stop work on projects we don’t have money for (City Hall and multiway boulevard) and start saving money for projects that truly improve our quality of life, such as the redevelopment of the Park at Bothell Landing.
If you have an issue that is important to you, please tell our readers about it and what you would like to do about it as a council member.
We can’t continue to spend money we don’t have. Diverting our attention away from completing the SR-522 realignment by starting other major public works projects is a mistake. The city needs to table all unfunded projects, like a new City Hall.
Financial schemes, such as leasing the City Hall from a private, non-profit entity, are bad for Bothell taxpayers.
The city needs to scale back the concept for the multiway boulevard in downtown. It has turned from a pretty picture in the Downtown Master Plan into a $30 million-plus unfunded nightmare. The 203 feet needed for the right-of-way is exorbitant to build, takes away valuable, tax-generating buildable land, has already-identified fire access challenges and will serve as a barrier (not a connection) between the east and west sides of Bothell.
The choice is clear for Bothell taxpayers – do you want to go further into debt to build a big road, or do you want to pay for police, fire, parks, streets and other important city services?
What is your campaign website address for residents to learn more about you?
Visit www.trissamberg.com and Facebook