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Gary's View on the Issues:

Seattle's Infrastructure

Infrastructure is the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities (e.g., buildings, roads, and power supplies) needed for the operation of a society or enterprise.

I know, sounds boring. But it is vitally important and Seattle has some pressing needs that must be addressed. And who better to do it than a business person who is used to working on projects that aren't sexy or exciting. That would be me.

On my first week in office, I intend to sit down with the DOT and all related Seattle Departments to get an update on progress on on-going projects. These would include light rail, bridge repairs, the tunnel project, road construction and everything like that. The problem with addressing infrastructure issues is that virtually every one is time consuming - taking multiple years to start and finish.

My goal is to understand where we are on each existing project and what we have coming up that must be done. In order to have an impact, decisions will have to be made early in my administration and I will make those decisions based on urgency and where we get the most 'bang for our buck'.

 


Seattle Traffic

Seattle's population has grown by 33% since 1990 and clearly our infrastructure is not designed to handle the corresponding increase in road traffic. At the current time, traffic in downtown Seattle becomes gridlocked every weekday during rush hour. And rush hour lasts 120 minutes or more now.

What has City Hall done to alleviate this? Very little. In fact, nearly everything they have done has exacerbated the problem. In waging their war on cars, they have taken lanes away and made them 'Bus Only" lanes and they have added bike lanes on many primary arterials which have effectively eliminated car lanes unnecessarily and made the traffic far worse for everyone except the 2% of commuters who ride bikes.

As mayor, I would bring in an expert to be the Transportation Manager and have him or her focus on replacing some of the latest changes made with less obtrusive solutions. I would work on synchronizing the lights (which clearly is not happening now), focus all efforts on limiting trolley cars and other 'last century' solutions. This would be one of my highest priorities as the traffic situation is negatively affecting virtually every Seattle citizen.

 


Fiscal Management

The City of Seattle is currently bringing in more tax and fee revenue than ever before in it's history. Yet City Hall still has their hand out, asking for every citizen to 'step up' and fork over more of their hard-earned money.

Many of these requests come in the form of ballot issues that have been craftily misrepresented in an effort to separate you from your money. ST3 is a fine example of that, causing significant increases in car tabs (another volley in the war against cars) and in property tax.

Most of these new assessments are regressive in nature, hitting the poor and lower-middle class where it hurts the most. Sales tax increases and issues like ST3 create more problems than they solve, and ironically, add to the homeless problem. The homeless deserve a hand up toward a better life, but with an eye to spending dollars that actually deliver better results.

I believe that the problem lies with politicians who have never met a payroll or had to manage a budget. Whenever they want to do something, they try to throw money at it. Consequently, they attack the top lines of the budget first - that would be revenue and say, "We have to grow this!" As a business owner for the last 40 years, I would attack the expense side and look for opportunities to redirect expenses out of failing programs or programs that do not give us enough bang for our buck, and into new solutions. This city needs to operate within its budget and cease constantly asking for more tax monies. My experience in business will help me reevaluate how the city is spending its money, cut unnecessary expenses, decrease costs and do more with what we already have - which is more than enough.

 


Cleaning up our City

When I talk to people all over the city, they state that they prefer not to shop downtown because it's not safe there anymore. Whether that is actually true or not is open to debate, but it doesn't matter - perception is reality and if that is what they think, then it's true for them.

A large part of what leads people to that conclusion is the city's appearance. There are parts of downtown that are dirty and displaying garbage on the streets. Police presence appears to be down and more panhandlers and homeless have set up camps on the sidewalks and open city spaces.

Several nationwide polls have dropped Seattle down their list of attractive destinations for travelers due to the perception that Seattle is not family-friendly, not safe, and not nearly as attractive as it once was.

Tourist dollars are important to our community and City Hall needs to take action to clean the city up and improve it's image.


Seattle Police

I believe that Kathleen O'Toole has performed admirably as Commissioner in a very difficult role during trying times. I do not pretend to be an expert on police tactics or management, but I have been successful before when I place good people in positions of authority and then give them the green light to make improvements.

The Mayor, whoever it is, needs to surround himself or herself with competent, capable managers who are on the same page with City Hall and act accordingly. That should never be interpreted as awarding carte blanche and allowing them to do whatever they want. Each significant act would be discussed at length prior to taking action.

That being said, my feeling is that the police are somewhat unnecessarily restrained due to the federal involvement here. I believe that the police have a very difficult and dangerous job and they certainly need City Hall's backing and support in order to do their job properly. If it is possible, I would like to see the city invest more in better tools for the force and add more officers to work with. I'd hope to see improved response times, higher presence in downtown, more police dealing with the public and less with paperwork, and a decrease in property crimes.

I would be proud to work very closely with the fine men and women of the Seattle Police Department to make that all come true.


The Business Community

Keeping my opinions short here will be difficult. Over the years I have dealt with the city and taxing agencies and have applauded some actions and decried others. I've paid my fair share of taxes and up until about five years ago, I was proud to do so. Now, the pendulum has swung a bit too far the other way and it seems that business is viewed as a culprit, an instigator of problems rather than the lifeblood of the city, which it is.

This year, many small businesses paid their Business License fee and were stunned to see a monstrous hike in the yearly charge that was as high as 900% more than the year before. This was done with virtually no notice. If a private enterprise did that to the city, they would be branded as profit-mongers. The action was not only disgraceful, it was a slap in the face to most business owners.

That attitude would disappear under my leadership. I believe that business is more than inundated with paperwork to do and my interest in adding more is nonexistent. I would like to see City Hall work far more closely with the Seattle Chamber and other business organizations. I would do all in my power to not pass any legislation such as the sick-time rules for Seattle businesses placing restaurants, in particular, in a losing battle for customers with their competition outside the city limits.

I find the idea that politicians should try to schedule employees for all companies in the city absolutely nonsensical. We did not elect the City Council to micro-manage our businesses. That should not be their function. Generally, I am opposed to the new $15 minimum wage law and I know that is a very unpopular position to take. The problem, though, is that the free enterprise system cannot embrace that kind of control without many other issues changing. I wrote several Op-Ed pieces to the Seattle Times on this topic that were never published. In those letters I predicted that any increase in the minimum wage would only result in a dramatic rise in prices (particularly in fast food) and a fast bump up in rent. Those changes alone would act to eliminate any advantage an extra $2 or $3 would generate since most people on minimum wage both rent AND buy fast food. That is an oversimplification of my argument but now that it is done, I would not try to repeal it.

My main point is that government should not be trying to make rules that tie business-owner's hands or attempt to micro-manage their business for them.

I also want to be on record as saying that I believe that a strong, vibrant, active, and safe downtown is absolutely essential to any city's long-term success. I would do all in my power to help downtown retail business draw more people back to Seattle to boost the local trade. I would also make every effort to encourage tourism and bring the tourist dollars into town.


Helping the Disadvantaged

It is not possible to see someone living on the streets, or struggling with drug addiction, or unsuccessfully seeking employment without feeling the tug on the strings of your heart. Without a doubt, these people need to be helped. I believe nearly everyone has that attitude and a sincere willingness to assist others in need.

I do as well. The issue here is that we are all in favor of helping, but we differ on the approach. Let's look at each major group:

The homeless are a prime target of the current administration and they definitely need to be. However, so far, the solution seems to involve a heavy reliance on enabling the homeless by allowing them to set up their tents anywhere there is an open space. I don't know about you, but every time I've enabled someone, it has not turned out well. I don't think it will this time either. Additionally, as we allow the homeless to park on our sidewalks, under bridges or the freeway, or on any open city land, we mar the city and make it both less safe and less attractive. That makes the police officers' job more dangerous and citizen and tourist perceptions more unfavorable. So as we enable them to camp anywhere they want, we make things worse in three ways - for safety, for local and tourist perception, and for the homeless themselves. Why? Because the current tactics do not attack the root of the problem. We must turn our attention to providing more shelter space under a real roof for them. Mini-homes have a very high success rate so far, "graduating"  more people into regular jobs. I believe that concept has paid off and earned the right to expand. I think we should also improve the level of counseling to help the homeless right their lives, and give them a real opportunity to rejoin society.

The drug addicted people of Seattle face a terribly difficult uphill climb. I will not pretend to be able to relate to that as I know they are sick and afflicted with a dark enemy that never wants to let them go. For decades cities have struggled with this problem and had very little success. I cannot tell you I have an answer to this issue, but I am sure of one thing: It is NOT going to be solved by the creation of drug safe sites that assist the afflicted in injecting themselves. I believe that this effort to let Seattle be the guinea pig and vote in this new concept is merely an attempt to do something different because everything else hasn't worked either. I am not at all convinced that it saves lives and/or turns them around. Again, I see this as an enabling measure and I don't believe there will be a good ending to it. I would rather see us attack the root of the problem than spend money on something that enables the afflicted more. For the estimated 5 to 6 million dollars required for each center, I believe we would be far better off paying full and partial fees for enrollment of the afflicted into rehab centers. For that same $6 million, established, reputable rehab centers could save hundreds of lives and have a much higher chance that the afflicted could move on to a normal life.

The young and the unemployed now have even a more difficult time of finding their first job in Seattle than they have ever had before. With the $15 minimum wage, young people now find themselves competing with older, more experienced applicants for the same jobs.

I believe the city can take the lead in rectifying that situation. In tandem with certain companies, I believe we can create more jobs that pay fairly and give our young people the experience they need to gain to become more employable. I envision solving two city problems by hiring teams of young people to spend each day "attacking" one block or park or area of the city to clean it up and improve it's appearance. This could be managed by the city but sponsored by civic-minded corporations who want to improve Seattle's image, assist young people as they prepare for life in the workplace, and gain some positive corporate recognition for their actions. I believe we could employ hundreds of young people at a very low cost and help them get their foot in the door.

Overall, I am optimistic that together we can find new ways to help the homeless right their lives, the drug afflicted escape their situations, and the young find work and learn that working a job they can be proud of is better than joining a gang or going down the wrong path.

 

 


OTHER ISSUES IN BRIEF

In answer to your questions, I am adding the following:

 

My Party?  Republican

Sanctuary City?  No. We should not be deciding which Federal laws to obey and which to break. I am not in favor of sanctuary city.

Drug Injection Centers?  No. Absolutely not.

Sports Arena?  I prefer SODO over the Center due to the traffic headaches the Center would present but I am not opposed to considering a site in South Seattle or even Bellevue.

Youth Employment? Yes! I'd like to see the city take the lead at finding and creating paying jobs for the 16-21 year olds in Seattle, particularly those in lower income families.

Pedestrian Assistance? Yes, I think Seattle needs to have more pedestrian bridges in key locations such as over the new waterfront over Alaskan Way; key downtown intersections, and at busy school sites such as at 90th and Aurora North.

 



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