Melanie O’Cain and Suzanne Greathouse. Courtesy photos
                                Melanie O’Cain and Suzanne Greathouse. Courtesy photos

Melanie O’Cain and Suzanne Greathouse. Courtesy photos Melanie O’Cain and Suzanne Greathouse. Courtesy photos

O’Cain and Greathouse face off for Kenmore council Pos. 1

The candidates address affordable housing, transportation and community character.

  • Tuesday, September 24, 2019 8:30am
  • News

Candidates seeking Kenmore City Council Pos. 1 are Melanie O’Cain, the accounting and financial reporting records and administration manager with the Port of Seattle, and business owner Suzanne Greathouse.

How will you support affordable housing for residents living in the community?

Melanie O’Cain: Over the course of 19 months during 2015 and 2016, my rent was raised $450 a month. I was priced out of my home and my two children had to change schools due to excessive market-driven rent increases. I was fortunate and found a safe landing place in Kenmore, my hometown. Not everyone in my situation lands as softly as I did. Affordability is a complex issue and one of the primary reasons I have chosen to run for office. As a councilmember I will give voice to the affordability issues that are impacting us all. My firsthand experience helps me to understand the urgency of addressing affordability. I will work with our community and include people most impacted by skyrocketing rent and housing costs to implement real solutions and improve affordability for Kenmore residents. I will also work with the council to continue passing positive measures such as the protections given to our mobile home park residents and 90-day notice for rent increases 10 percent and above in Kenmore. My life experience and ability to connect with community members coupled with my understanding of economic systems make me the best candidate for council Pos. 1.

Suzanne Greathouse: I’m a Kenmore planning commissioner, a housing assistant at Mary’s Place, discuss housing strategies at Northshore Senior Center, and recently moved my dad into senior housing. It’s critical we have an affordable housing policy that addresses Kenmore’s specific challenges. Zoning changes that protect affordable manufactured housing communities is a good start. We also need to consider amending regulations to encourage additional inventory. We need to review property tax impacts on those with fixed incomes, and we need to develop high density, affordable housing along transportation corridors.

I support partnerships with A Regional Coalition for Housing, homeless shelters and transitional housing. I support developers who can deliver profitable mixed-income housing, and government agencies offering incentives or assistance for affordable housing projects. I want proof that needy individuals are occupying this housing, and that support systems are in place to enable them to retain the housing.

I understand the importance of educating the public about issues, barriers, need and possibilities. I want citizens to contribute ideas through forums and listening sessions, demonstrating support for their neighbors, especially if solutions challenge the way they’ve viewed their community in the past.

We need to look for solutions where innovation, modified building requirements, new building types like tiny homes and accessory dwelling units, incentives, plus tax relief/rebates have increased community affordable housing stock.

How do you intend to contend with traffic and other transportation concerns?

O’Cain: Traffic is a known concern of Kenmore residents. One that has been validated time and time again as I’ve been doorbelling. The impact of 405 tolling is still hitting our community along 522 and 68th/Juanita Drive. Our residents are particularly concerned about the upcoming 68th Street Bridge repairs which will increase the difficulty of crossing between north and south Kenmore. Residents would like expanded sidewalk and bike networks to allow them to get from place to place without their cars. There is so much to do. As your councilmember I will work to ensure that the 522 Bus Rapid Transit is done in a way that best serves Kenmore residents heading to Bellevue and Seattle. In addition, as your councilmember I will use my budget experience from the Port of Seattle to ensure transparency and reduce waste when implementing traffic and transportation improvements. I will listen to your concerns and solutions. I will share your input with our council, neighboring cities, King and Snohomish counties, and state and federal legislators to do everything I can to help improve the bottleneck that is Kenmore every weekday during rush hour.

Greathouse: Through Kenmore Business Alliance and Incubator, I’ve connected with entrepreneurs – people with creative ideas for Kenmore problems. I’ve seen trends toward home business, working from home, alternative work schedules, and side hustle entrepreneurship – the way we work has an impact on transportation needs. Concerns will evolve.

Current traffic/transportation policy and plans aim to address safety and concerns. I support regular review/analysis to see if we are doing enough. I recommend assessing initiatives like Target Zero and Walkways & Waterways to ensure they reflect the changing needs of the community and citizens.

I support regional involvement to stay informed of plans and unanticipated consequences/impacts to citizens or local business (i.e. Yakima Fruit Stand). Kenmore’s mayor is on the Sound Transit Board – I favor this involvement; our voice is heard, and concerns are communicated.

In my work with vulnerable populations I’ve experienced challenges finding transportation for non-English speakers and those with mobility limitatio ns or developmental disabilities. I support public, alternative and non-traditional transportation models. This includes car share, ride-share, independent transportation services, and ad-hoc community transportation. Our taxes pay for transportation initiatives — we need to monitor fees and ensure we get promised benefits.

How will you foster secure housing for vulnerable populations?

O’Cain: How can we thrive as a society when there are people in our community whose basic needs are not met? When seniors have to decide between paying their heat bill and taking their prescribed medications? When parents don’t have secure housing, their children don’t have a stable environment to grow and flourish. This impacts all of us, now and into the future. We are living through a housing crisis. Urgent attention and support for low-income and impoverished members of our community are necessary. I will work with our exceptional police and fire departments, outstanding senior center, Mary’s Place, and other community and religious organizations that are dedicated to assist the vulnerable in our community. As your councilmember I will listen to these organizations and people in need to help improve conditions for all people living in Kenmore. When the most vulnerable people in our community’s needs are met we all benefit.

We want this to be a safe place for all residents. Fostering secure housing for all Kenmore residents makes us all safer.

Greathouse: My experience shows secure housing challenges aren’t caused by a single occurrence; they must be addressed by looking at all contributing factors. Community partnerships are successful in undertaking complex issues surrounding vulnerable populations. I will promote programs that create a supportive infrastructure for our citizens, and include collaboration with social service and medical providers, public transportation, inter-faith organizations, shelters, community, city and county agencies.

Education contributes to collaboration. I’ve attended public meetings for Mary’s Place and temporary winter shelters — I’ve seen concern and apprehension on both sides. I support the city’s role in providing a forum for these discussions, and their role in providing thoughtful and compassionate law enforcement. Citizen safety is my primary concern and careful decision making is required around policy to safeguard all citizens. As our city continues to grow, we’ll see an increase in vulnerable populations. We need to be poised to meet that growing need.

As Kenmore undergoes renovation, how will you preserve what makes the city distinct?

O’Cain: It is possible to grow and maintain our unique identity. Two important pieces of Kenmore’s character are our natural habitat and our small businesses. Environmental stewardship is a priority of mine. We are fortunate to have an abundance of beautiful waterways, wetlands, lakefront and open spaces in Kenmore. Protecting our natural habitat while we grow is critical today given all that we know about climate change. Human connection — sharing ideas, concerns, and building trust — are components to building healthy communities. I’m a fan of Charles Marohn’s Strong Towns philosophy. A scientific, incremental, community-based approach to building communities. I am hosting a get-together at 192 Brewery from 7-9 p.m. on Oct. 1 to continue the conversation that was started when he visited Kenmore. My Inglemoor High School classmate Cary Westerbeck started BO-POP, Bothell’s Strong Towns group, and has offered to help keep the Strong Towns momentum going at the grassroots level in Kenmore. The key to Strong Towns’ success is bottom-up engagement from the people who make up local communities. On the council, I will take action and vote for measures that support our small businesses and protect the ecosystems that keep our city distinct.

Greathouse: Folks have told me they don’t want to leave Kenmore to shop or dine out, they’d like services here. I believe their vision, and the preservation of “hometown” Kenmore was successfully interpreted and is currently being delivered in our Town Square. The Hanger, hot rock/splash pad and SeaPlane restaurant have exceeded expectations. What happens next?

I’m committed to helping citizens understand costs associated with maintaining what we have, and costs required to meet expanding needs. I’m an advocate of community involvement, participation in government, and of co-creators. Citizens can make a difference in how ideas are implemented, how we retain the heart of Kenmore and how Kenmore evolves. I’m committed to retaining the safe, small-town feel by partnering with the community to create a sustainable plan the city can implement while also staying within budget.

Kenmore is known as a place where “courtesy is contagious,” nature is celebrated and access to parks and waterways is a priority. It is known for encouraging the arts, promoting business innovation, and for superior schools. Families want to move here, seniors want to retire here and others enjoy the peace and beauty after a hectic workday. I pledge to keep it so.

The general election is Nov. 5.

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