Chris Stearns is running for Auburn City Council Position No. 1. Stearns is running unopposed. Though Stearns is not on the Primary Election ballot, we asked all City Council candidates our primary questions to allow voters to gather as much information as possible to be informed voters when casting their vote.
Auburn Examiner: What part of Auburn do you live in and why did you choose to live there?
Chris Stearns: My wife and I live in North Auburn because we’re near the beautiful Green River and we can walk our dog along the trail. Auburn has a lot of nice, peaceful neighborhoods and we’re lucky to live in one.
AE: Where are your favorite places to spend time in our town?
CS: Definitely walking along the Green River trail with our dog Lovey. My wife and I also like to go Game Farm Park and shop at the Outlet Collection.
AE: Where do you do your grocery shopping?
CS: Mostly at Fred Meyer and Safeway.
AE: How do you plan to involve residents in the decision-making process in our city?
CS: I hope that we can encourage participation through attendance at City Council meetings, at town halls, and by conducting one-on-one meetings. I believe the City has a great website and media presence which really helps too.
AE: What are your main infrastructure goals for Auburn?
CS: Job number one is to make sure our roads are in good shape. Our roads and water systems also have to be maintained and possibly expanded to handle the expected growth in population for our City.
AE: How would you evaluate whether a new piece of public infrastructure in our city (road, bridge, etc.) would be worth implementing?
CS: The key criteria will be whether the project improves the living conditions of our residents, whether a project helps out an underserved area, and whether the costs are reasonable or too high.
AE: If elected, what steps would you take to put our city on a firmer financial footing?
CS: I believe that our City is already on sound financial footing but a key challenge will be to bring in new business, increase partnerships with our neighbors and adapt to 21st Century technology and business.
AE: In looking at the city’s budget, what portions of the budget would you advocate to be increased, and which would you advocate to be decreased?
Candidate declined to answer
AE: Peirce county (and South King County) has the fastest-growing housing markets in the state. As housing prices continue to rise, what is your plan for providing affordable housing?
CS: Requiring developers to either set aside a percentage of housing stock for afforable housing or pay into an affordable housing fund is one approach. Other cities around the country are also investigating the value of directly subsidizing affordable housing. As new home-buyers in Auburn, my wife and I understand how important it is to have affordable housing. It’s what keeps our community together.
AE: Should Auburn offer developers incentives to build affordable housing? If so, what kind?
CS: See above.
AE: The city recently unveiled a public art installation at Les Gove Park, ‘Crow with Fries.’ How do you feel about public art?
CS: Love Public Art!
AE: Some residents feel the amount spent on this sculpture was too much. Do you agree, if so, why?
Candidate declined to answer
AE: There are several empty commercial spaces available throughout the city. Should Auburn offer incentives for businesses to come to Auburn? If so, what kind?
CS: Auburn has substantial job capacity in its industrial and commercial zones, plus added capacity in its downtown urban center mixed-use zones. I would certainly want to continue the work the City has done in the past decade to upgrade our water, sewer, and storm systems to accommodate commericial growth, continue street improvements, and the buildout of pedestrian-friendly sidewalks. A diverse economy is critical for sustained economic growth and to that end I support targeting the growth of four key sectors: Manufactuing, Distribution, logistics & transportation, Corporate businesses, and Retail businesses.
AE: Do you think our Main Street/downtown is healthy and attractive to consumers? If not, what would you do to change that?
CS: I think our historic Main Street is rapidly growing and meeting the consumer and retail demand of our citizens. Of course, there’s plenty more growth ahead in the near future thanks to sound planning and new developments in the downtown core. It is important for the City to maintain a vibrant and attractive downtown core and that will remain a priority for me.
AE: How would you assist small businesses in Auburn?
CS: Business incubators such as Auburn’s IPZ program are great ideas, and the City’s 2015 Core Plan lays a solid foundation for steady, increased business growth. Small business provide direct local benefits and instill a civic pride, so I will be proud to do what I can to help them out. Improving transit so that people can easily access business corridors is important, as is working with local partners and employers like the Muckleshoot Tribe. Finally, most Auburn residents commute to jobs outside the City, while most people who work in Auburn arrive here from other locations. Shifting this pattern will help small businesses.
AE: The Auburn Police Department recently had two fatal officer-involved shootings. What changes, if any, would you make to how these incidents were handled by both the police department and city officials?
CS: The normal procedure is to involve the Valley Investigations Team. My experience with the Seattle Human Rights Commission during the US Department of Justice investigation and consent decree process has led me to conclude that transparency, accountability, and equity are three of the most important qualities for investigations and for justice.
AE: If elected, what would be your suggestions to best address resident and business owner’s concerns related to crime?
CS: Adaptive use of smart policing and community policing programs have benefited residents in other cities. Smart policing is data-driven, while community policing emphasizes building relationships with the local residents of an affected area.
AE: Auburn’s homeless population is a concern for many residents and business owners. What are your suggestions to address these concerns, while also meeting the needs of these often vulnerable members of society?
CS: Homelessness is a problem that has multiple causes. No one just wakes up one day and says they want to be homeless. Lack of affordable housing is one cause. So is unemployment and, of course, mental health and behavioral health issues. There is no silver bullet that will fix the problem. The reality is that reducing homelessness takes time, money, and care. I have learned in my experience that there are many people I know who have been homeless at one point or another in their lives. I have also learned that there are also good men and women who have mental health and addiction issues who just need the chance to enter into recovery and rebuild their lives. Homelessess can seem like an overwhelming issue to solve but I remain optimistic that Auburn can be a leader in reducing its causes and effects.
AE: If you are not elected, what would you do to try to help work on ideas or issues that are important to you?
Candidate declined to answer
We’ll be asking questions again in the general election. Is there something you think should be asked of the candidates? Email [email protected] to let us know and we’ll do our best to include your question!