Candidate Questionnaire: Grayson William Wildsmith, Central Ward, Dist. 4

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Grayson William Wildsmith is running for the city council’s Central Ward, District 4. He opposes incumbent council member Leslie Schneider. Her questionnaire appeared yesterday.

Candidate Questionnaire

Grayson Wildsmith
Grayson William Wildsmith

Candidate:  Grayson Wildsmith

Position #: Council District 4: Central Ward

Your Website: wildsmith4council.com

Your Email: wildsmithgrayson@gmail.com

Ward of residence:   Central Ward

Representation: Which Ward or At Large:   Central Ward

Are you an incumbent?  No

Current occupation:   Full Time Candidate

Previous Civic Activities: US Agency for International Development, Disaster Relief Division/Military Liaison Team; Founding Member of Bainbridge Mayor’s Youth Advisory Board and Police Youth Advisory Board; Bainbridge representative for Kitsap Commission on Children and Youth; City of Bainbridge Island Intern with Executive, Finance/Administrative Services, Municipal Court, Planning and Community Development, Police, and Public Works.

Why you are running:  

Our island is growing and we must prepare. We have the guiding data and we know what our community is telling us they need when it comes to designing a better tomorrow. The ideas are reflected in both our Comprehensive Plan and Community Needs Assessment. I am motivated to build consensus and mobilize the great work of highly qualified city staff and the abilities of our Islanders. 

It’s time to get things done, making environmental, transportation, and affordable housing improvements that benefit the Central Ward.  With everything we do, we must consider the economic effects on our businesses, the potential impact on our environment/climate, the rising service needs for our seniors, and the mental health and education needs of our youth.

Our City Council should be transparent and follow governance best practices.  We must listen, seek diverse constituent input, and educate ourselves.  Then we must act.

There is no higher honor than service to others.  I’ve lived that ideal on our island my whole life and pursued a degree in political science to prepare for a future in public service. It would be my honor to serve you ethically, represent your interests, and produce positive results. Change starts now.

Issues

Issues are listed alphabetically and not in any suggested priority.

Downtown parking

There is broad agreement that parking downtown is inadequate. The lack of parking spaces is probably costing businesses patronage. You were asked at the Chamber of Commerce candidates forum how you would solve parking. One candidate noted a lack of support from business. Another suggested creating a one-way street to add parking. Neither solves a problem.

Q.  How would you solve the parking problem downtown so that both residents and tourists have sufficient places to park and shop?

Downtown parking is a problem for everyone (tourists, residents, and business patrons/employees). I have visited each business downtown with a storefront and have verified these concerns. Inadequate parking is an economic development constraint for the businesses in Downtown Winslow. We want to assure our businesses thrive.  Therefore, we need to identify short-term, medium range and long-term parking/access solutions, and work them all into reality.

Short-Term ideas include: on-street angled parking, shared parking lots like the one behind Columbia and Chase banks, better signage directing drivers to existing parking opportunities off Winslow Way, encouraging tourists to walk from the ferry to Winslow (which most seem to do) and lastly, educating Islanders/patrons to utilize BI RIDE and other mass transit opportunities that currently exist.

Medium Range ideas: Become a “walk friendly” community where walkability is enhanced and pedestrian safety is prioritized.  We should install solar powered active crosswalk lights that are visible to cars at all times of day.  We also need to shift emphasis to more remote parking opportunities like the park and ride lots and provide shuttle services.

Long-Term Solution:  Transform the current Police Station into a Business and Convention Center with capacity to stage 500 + person events, and an ample parking garage.

I will work with constituents to make sure we find collective solutions that will satisfy the parking needs of our downtown area and achieve buy-in from residents.

Q.  Would you support a program that would incent tourists to leave the car at home while creating more transportation options when visiting the island?

Yes. The easiest and most inexpensive incentive is to provide an electric shuttle from the ferry to Winslow (like the Sweet Deals shuttle). I would also like see more electric charging stations in the downtown corridor so tourists can bring and charge their electric bikes.   Last, I would design partnerships with the Downtown Association and the Chamber to provide tourists with a “walking tourist” coupon book, offering discounts at downtown businesses for those who walk to Winslow.

For the larger Island explorations, we need to advertise the existing Frog Hopper shuttle program through the Chamber. However, if I were to support a program like that, first I would want to make sure that all of our roads on the island were safe for tourists to explore. As of right now there are roads on the island that do meet minimum safety standards. Public safety is one of my biggest priorities and I intend to improve our roads through road shoulder improvements, sign replacement and enhancement, more sidewalks, and increased public safety facilities. 

Environment

Islands are inherently fragile ecosystems that show stress quickly and have limited capacity to recover from environmental impacts.

Q. What grade would you give the current City government on environmental protection and sustainability?

I am proud to have lived in this community for my entire life. One of our best qualities is our green culture where environmental preservation, sustainability, and reduction of harm are core beliefs. I am an advocate for environmental policies because I believe that protecting our environment and climate are not matters of political debate, but scientific requirements. If I were to give a grade to our City on its job done thus far it would be a B-. There is room for improvement.

Q. What would you do the same or differently?

The Climate Change Advisory Committee (CCAC) is a great example of the good work that the Council has done towards combatting climate change. I support enlisting the help of our expert citizens in matters where they are experienced and passionate. I am in full support of the workplan and recommendations put forth by the CCAC. One of the major changes that I would like to see is in the development sector. A measure to ensure that all future developments meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards would be of great benefit to the community and the environment. The largest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the USA is the burning of fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation. A LEED requirement policy would ensure that we are reducing our GHG emissions and bringing down our energy consumption.

Q. Do you think the current City government is doing enough to protect our island ecosystems for the long term?

No, we are not doing enough. Increased vigilance is necessary, and every growth step we take needs to be measured against its impact on our environment and climate. When I interned with the City I participated in the Water Quality and Flow Monitoring Program to measure the health of our island streams. The test taught me a lot about how we monitor and work to protect our island ecosystems. And because the island is growing, new challenges will arise and need to be addressed and fixed. I promise to be a vigilant and prepared leader addressing such issues on Council.

In the immediate future the City budget must fund one of the greatest dangers to our water quality.  That danger is water run-off from our roads.  The pollution from cars is captured in the water and then it runs directly into our water source.  There is no current adequate funding to address this.  As roadside improvements are made, this would need to be addressed at the same time.

Q. Do you think the island residents would support stricter protections? Please explain.

I can tell you from speaking to many island residents that the answer to this question is yes and no. Many islanders are fully supportive of environmental protection, and there are those who do not want to pay for it. There are those who believe environmental protections on the island are already too high and restrict what they wish to do on their property. As your Councilmember I intend to always listen to, learn from, and work with my constituents. Everyone’s voice matters and I want to learn all that I can before I assume what island residents want and don’t want.

Q. How do you think the City needs to prepare for climate change for the near term and long term?

The City needs to implement (first and foremost) the recommendations from our expert Climate Change Advisory Committee (CCAC), consistent with the elements of the Comprehensive Plan. Additionally, citizens should be encouraged to:  use mass transit, switch to an electric car, let your children walk or bike to school or use the school bus (do not drive them), take the free PSE home energy assessment and implement suggestions to reduce your own energy consumption, and drink water from your tap, stop buying bottled water.

Finance

Voters rejected recent levies for the new police department building and roads.

Q. Why do you think voters rejected these levies?

The public lost faith due to the City Council’s waffling on whether a station was required and where it should be placed.  Likewise, they waffled on road maintenance and upgrades.  The uncertainty from the Council resulted in uncertainty with the voters.

When I was an intern for the Police Department it was plain to see that the existing station is unsafe, lacks protections for victim privacy, has no ADA accessibility, and does not have a secure evidence locker. The need for a new building is uncontestable. Island resident consensus also broke down in the past in relation to location. People had countless reasons for why one spot was better than the other or why certain areas should not be used. My conclusion is that the voting public was not educated early enough concerning appropriate locations, and that the Council did not give clear guidance. Today, there seems to be consensus that a new police station and Courthouse combination is logical, economical and efficient.  The time to upgrade our police station is long overdue.

Our roads on the island do meet minimum safety standards. It is a public safety issue. The levy failed because it was non-specific and open ended; it did not tell the voters how the levied funds would be used. The Council needed to do a better job of educating Islanders about what was possible to achieve through the levy. 

Q. What message would you convey to the citizens in support of future bonds?

Using the transportation levy as an example, I would provide the data proving our roads are unsafe and which roads create the greatest risk.

Our City, unlike other Cities, does not need to spend money on fire, library, parks or schools.  They have their own revenues streams.  That frees our City’s budget to focus heavily on infrastructure enhancements and public safety. However, we are a small island with over 140 miles of roads to maintain and improve. There simply isn’t enough money in our budget to accomplish all our road improvement needs and goals, and yet it must be a priority.

Clear communication (in numerous ways and over many months) with the voters on the specifics of what the levy will do, and the benefits to our safety, is what I would promote.

Informed citizens will make the right decision for the community. While I can lobby and endorse, my main job as a representative is making sure that all work done at my level is transparent and ethically sound.

Q. Tim Eyman has another $30 car tab initiative on the November ballot. If it passes, Bainbridge Island will lose hundreds of thousands of dollars annual from its Transportation fund. How would you deal with this significant shortfall of transportation dollars in the Bainbridge budget?

First of all, we need to educate everyone to vote NO on I-976.  Our island would lose $600k of revenue where $400k is used for road maintenance and $200k (as earmarked by the City Council) is used for slow traffic near schools and businesses and to expand public transit services.

According to National benchmarks, proper road maintenance for a City of our size should require an annual budget between $1.5-$2.5 million annually.

We currently spend less than $1 million for this work each year.  And, of the amount we spend, we receive $400,000 from the Transportation Benefit District fees (a fee I-976 seeks to repeal). Loss of $400,000 would cripple our progress towards making our roads safe. Our City would be unable to continue road maintenance efforts and would likely need to redirect funds from other island services.

If I-976 passes, I would look to where we could cut costs effectively.  I would start by reducing our expenditures on outside consultants.  I would assure our Council behave ethically and transparently to avoid unnecessary lawsuits against the city.  And, I would re-evaluate if we are spending money in the right places.

Growth and Development

GMA

City governments often use the GMA as a reason for increased growth and density, while authors of the GMA insist that the GMA provides tools with which to guide growth to be sustainable and in some cases, limit growth. 

Q. What’s your view of the GMA?

Growth is happening.  People from Seattle are moving here for our lifestyle, environment and schools.  Additionally, Kitsap County has growth targets that are required by the GMA.  Kitsap County works with our island to determine where growth should take place.  The City of Bainbridge Island is responsible to allocate land at sufficient density to accommodate the forecasted growth through our Comprehensive Plan.  Density forecasts are being re-evaluated and we may be looking at 3,000 more people moving to Bainbridge in the near future.

Growth management is essential to ensure that as the population grows, there are services available to meet its demands.  These include: government services, natural spaces, affordable housing, utility delivery, preservation of historic buildings and places, and sufficient places to conduct business.

Q. Do you think the City of Bainbridge Island is using the GMA wisely to make growth sustainable?

Our Comprehensive Plan is an award-winning plan built to satisfy the requirements of the GMA and ensure our community maintains its values, culture, and environmental stewardship.

We need to focus on its implementation.  To do that, we need City Code alignment (so we actually do the work), City Council preparation (so they come to decision making sessions educated and ready to actually make decisions), and far less delays (like more consultant spending to tell us what we already know).

Our adherence to the Comp Plan assures our quality of life will continue as we move into the future and confirms we will continue to receive government funding available to us, so we don’t have to keep asking for more money from island taxpayers.

Q.  Do you think Bainbridge Island has room to grow?

Yes.  We’ve already identified the areas for this growth.

Q.  How much and where should this growth be channeled in order to preserve the more rural nature of the majority of the island?

The Comprehensive Plan does a fantastic job of identifying the goals and priorities of Bainbridge Island. Within the Plan, the areas designated for development and increased density (Winslow, Island Center, etc.) are the ones most suited for that managed growth. The Comp Plan also details how the majority of the Island, and its rural nature, should be preserved and maintained rather than developed. We know what we need to do and it is time that we do it. 

Housing

Q.  Do you think the City should allow Tiny houses, ADUs and carriage houses to provide for more affordable housing while being more sustainable?

Yes. It is also a solution that was identified within the Comprehensive Plan.

Q.  How would you regulate these housing options?

Our Comprehensive Plan explains how these housing options should be regulated. For example, Goal HO 3 outlines numerous regulating policies for various housing options including: innovative zoning regulations for numerous types of housing, partnering with non-profit housing organizations, and development standards.

Q.  Do you believe RVs should be allowed as permanent housing?

Yes.  We have to have flexible housing options.  I understand that a person can live functionally and even comfortably in an RV as a permanent home. It is not the place of government to interfere with a person’s housing choice. It is our place to assure RVs don’t negatively impact our environmental safety or public health.

Q.  Where would these RVs be allowed to park, and in what numbers, so as not to negatively impact adjacent neighborhoods?

Wherever private property owners permit it.  This would be a good opportunity for businesses to offer their parking lots.

Q. How do you answer the concerns expressed by the Fire Department over the potential use of RVs as permanent housing?

Safety comes first. I mentioned earlier that I am a huge proponent of public safety. As your representative I would address any concerns or recommendations brought forth by the hard working staff in our safety sector.

Q.  Given the problems Seattle has over the use of RVs as housing and the impacts on neighborhoods and business areas, why do you think RVs for Bainbridge may be a good idea?

Seattle’s problem exists due to unmonitored and unregulated parking of RVs on public lands. RVs on Bainbridge should only be able to park (with permission) on private lands. 

Social Services

Q.  What do you propose to combat drug abuse, depression and suicides for young teens and high schoolers?

I grew up here and witnessed drug use, alcohol abuse, high peer anxiety, friends with depression, and the loss of a friend to suicide. 

The data from the Healthy Youth Surveys and information shared from my work with the Bainbridge Island Healthy Youth Alliance and Kitsap Commission for Children and Youth, tell us things are escalating.

Our youth live in a pressure cooker of expectation. They want to understand life’s authentic journey. Life is not a straight line from childhood to success. Life is full of disappointments and struggles. Our children need to understand that, and learn how to be resilient and move forward as healthy adults. We also know from the past five Healthy Youth Summits that youth also want to have their voices heard, to be celebrated for who they are, not what they achieve, and need help finding their passions.

There is no single solution. We need a community-wide collective impact approach in both prevention and intervention efforts to change the tide.

On prevention, our schools have implemented a social and emotional learning fabric throughout the school system. And, our Island is lucky to have Bainbridge Youth Services where youth can go to just “talk” with a trained counselor to work through life’s issues. 

Our Island needs more counselors for youth, not less.  The demand is there. 

On intervention, our Island is in desperate needs of more child psychiatrists and we need a drug and alcohol treatment clinic for our youth.

You were asked at the Chamber of Commerce candidates forum about the need for senior citizen housing and services. All agreed that there is a need but all were short on specifics, including how affordable housing would be paid for.

Q. Please detail how you would address these issues. Consider this a two-part question, allowing 250 words per part.

By 2020, 43% of Island citizens will be 55 years and older, of which 25% will be 65 and over.  As the population ages, senior services must increase to meet increasing demands.  And, as we address these increased needs, our goal should be to allow seniors to age here and not have to leave the Island.

Nearly 1/3 of households on Bainbridge Island qualify as cost burdened.  A survey conducted by BI Village of 176 seniors found that 33% of them had less than $50,000 annual household income.  And, in turn, home values on Bainbridge have increased 129% more than Kitsap County.

 I have personally experienced the slow degradation of my grandfather’s health resulting in death from dementia.  At each stage, we searched for the resources to support him. Hospice care was intermittent (b/c demands for their services is so high), and in home assistance had a steep hourly price tag. After his death, and the rising cost of living, my grandmother had to sell their home and move into a condo.

Through this experience and the stories I hear from my grandparents and their peers, the demands are increasing in number ways.  They include: higher rates of disability, increase in medical conditions, lack of affordable housing due to fixed incomes and rising taxes, lack of transportation (which includes the unintended consequence of isolationism),  affordable at-home assistance, assisted living when needed, and better road lighting for those with night vision problems.

Solutions:  More parking spots downtown for disabled, better education of resources available (like BI Ride and Island Volunteer Caregivers), aligning more funding to senior needs, community organization collaborations, greater housing options for seniors (including innovative zoning regulations), work with mental health providers to accept Medicare/Medicaid and adding more providers, accessing grant opportunities for affordable housing, and more tax exemptions for seniors.

Transportation

The city has had a transportation concurrency update on its “to-do” list for two or more years.

Q.  What is your understanding of concurrency?

Concurrency is the timely provision of public transportation facilities and services relative to the community demand for them. The GMA outlines the need for concurrency in transportation.

Q.  Why hasn’t an update been prioritized and completed?

I believe that the update has not happened because of a lack of uniformity in our development and transportation regulations and guidelines. However, the current Council has chosen to pay outside groups to “get us all on the same page.” Stopping this unnecessary spending for plans and advisory groups that will tell us things we already know, like the sustainable transportation plan, is one of the main reasons I wish to be on Council.

Q.  What do you hope to see as a result of a transportation concurrency update?

I would hope to see alignment between development and transportation regulations and guidelines. The City should be ready to focus its energy on island infrastructure.

Q.  Concurrency and Level of Service is based on traffic counts that date citywide to 2012-14. Do you think this is appropriate?

We can use this data and extrapolate our growth from the information that already exists. 

Water

There is conflicting information and opinion on the state of the island’s water resource. Some research says there’s plenty and enough for future growth, while other water experts strongly disagree and point to the fact that the island is a sole-source aquifer and with finite capacity, especially given risks posed by climate change.

Q.  What’s your position on our island’s water capacity and quality? Please provide facts and research to support your views.

I support all efforts to maintain and restore healthy water on our Island, and to meet all environmental and public health standards. Groundwater is the sole source of drinking water on Bainbridge Island. 

Currently, the City collects monthly water level data (to determine the quality of water) and annual chloride measurements (to determine seawater intrusion). We have 59 streams on the Island, 12 watersheds, 178 storm water discharge outfalls, and 54 storm water best management practice facilities. Our City’s 2019 State of the Island’s Water report shows 87% of our sampled streams fail the standard for water quality and temperatures of our streams have increased slightly.

In our county the primary cause of pollution in water systems is “non-point source” pollution (including wildlife & pet waste, farm and road runoff, sewer spills, failing septic systems and drainage pipes) (Kitsap 2018 Annual Water Quality, Kitsap Public Health District)

Sixteen streams (in our State of the Island Water report 2019) received grades measured against Washington’s Water Quality Index standards. They were: one B, three C+s, four Cs, one C-, two D+s, 2 Ds and 3 Fs.  Likewise fecal coliform bacteria was measured in the 16 streams, showing bacteria trends improving in 10 sites, staying steady in 4 and worsening in 2.

Stream temperature increases are occurring due to changes to streamside vegetation (e.g., landscaping and garden areas) that allow more sunlight to reach the surface. Increases in warm storm water runoff from roofs and hard surfaces add to the problem. Temperature increases impair fish and organisms and stimulates bacteria growth.

And we may have a water level problem. Over a ten year assessment (2007-2017), the water levels were relatively steady, with one well (KPUD Island Utilities #1) appearing to exceed the EWL safe yield and some individual wells showing some decline. (Groundwater Monitoring Program Early Warning Level Assessment, 2017).

Q. Do you believe there should be a building moratorium until a consensus understanding on water aquifer viability is reached and a determination is made whether there is a long-term problem?

No. A building moratorium does not address non-point source pollution. And extending the moratorium to wait for another study sounds like same type of business our current City Council has been doing.

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