James Jeyaraj is running for Auburn City Council Position No. 3. His opponent is Kenneth (Ken) Pearson. Though Jeyaraj 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?
James Jeyaraj: In the last couple of week’s we moved to Lakeland Hills, though we have lived in Auburn for the last 12 years. We used to live on 17th St SE right across the street from Holy Family Catholic Church. We chose to live in Auburn when we moved from Spokane to the greater Seattle area because of a job opportunity.
We did not know the area well enough and decided to find a place in Auburn because of the affordability and the ease of jumping on to I-90 to head to Spokane. The last 12 years has made us appreciate our community here, got involved in the Parks and Recreation Board and various community activities, there is so much going on for a mid-sized city. The ease of accessibility to jump on I-5 head north to Seattle or South to Tacoma and the Sound is only a few minutes away. Those some of the reasons why we decided to stay in Auburn as it is now our home.
AE: Where are your favorite places to spend time in our town?
JJ: There are multiple places we enjoy spending time at, for me it is the Community Center, I have made a lot of friends there. They have a gym which I used to use religiously and for the high impact activities. The other place is I used to go for walks and runs at Lakeland Hills, that is one of the main reasons why we moved to this location. It gives me the space to spend time and to be able to use the hill to keep myself healthy. My wife and I like to have dinners at a couple of local restaurant’s and bistro by Main street.
AE: Where do you do your grocery shopping?
JJ: We mainly used Fred Meyer and Safeway on Auburn way and Albertsons on A Street. Now in the last week we have been going to Haggen on Lakeland Hills.
AE: How do you plan to involve residents in the decision-making process in our city?
JJ: In the city council or not, I believe in grassroots activities. I will continue to work residents in my community and friends, talking to them about kitchen table issues. My long-term goal is to bring the concerns of the residents to the City council so they get a deeper understanding of the issues around the city. In a democracy we belief in listening to everyone’s opinion good or bad.
AE: What are your main infrastructure goals for Auburn?
JJ: Besides maintaining our roads, bridges, sewer, police and all the other things a city does and has, I think our main infrastructure goal should be to have homeless shelters or expansions of the ones we have. Besides the shelter I want to see them get the basics like hot meals, shower, good decent clothing and medical care. I know our city has done a lot to help the homeless, but we need to do more. As I want to see them gain their dignity back in their own lives which will help them become productive citizens. They are part of our community and have fallen on hard times and need our help. The next infrastructure goal is affordable housing, I would like the city to work with developers to provide affordable housing and hold the builders accountable if the city provides grants or tax relief. I would also like our city to a be a safe and welcoming city for all people and to do that we need a well-trained police force, which I belief we do, but our city is growing and as we grow we need to grow our police force to keep the city safe from crime. Finally, I would like to see our internet be part of our utility infrastructure, it is important for our young children to have access to the internet so they can do their school work in the safety of their home, especially for those families who cannot afford the high cost of internet service.
AE: How would you evaluate whether a new piece of public infrastructure in our city (road, bridge, etc.) would be worth implementing?
JJ: I will have to listen to the residents, business community, the city council and the study on any given project to hear the pro’s, con’s and the impact it will have on our community. We have to be wise about building any public infrastructure if it meets the needs of our residents and business community to have a safe and easy access to a new public infrastructure, I will be all for it.
AE: If elected, what steps would you take to put our city on a firmer financial footing?
JJ: I belief our city is currently on a firm financial footing and I want to continue being a good steward of the city’s financial well-being.
Staying within the assigned annual budget and keeping us in the black and I also want to see we as a city are also saving for a rainy day fund, like the Snowmagadon, like the one we had earlier this year.
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?
JJ: As our city is grows, I would advocate we continue to increase our budget for our police and to update their equipment and facility. With the manpower and equipment, I would also strongly emphasize on training on how to treat and deal with our residents and local business. I want to see our police force open its doors for more to community activities especially for young children as they should learn that they are public servants and not people to fear.
I don’t think there is a particular portion of the budget I would decrease at this time.
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?
JJ: There is no easy answer to this question. Housing is driven by the market and new residents moving into the area. I would like to see the City working with the developers and providing tax incentives for a number of years in exchange for multilevel apartment buildings and offering affordable housing for those who really need it especially for young families and couples.
AE: Should Auburn offer developers incentives to build affordable housing? If so, what kind?
JJ: Yes, and they should build quality multilevel apartments or condos and have an agreement by the City and the developers for a number of those units allocated for affordable housing. The developers will have to be accountable to the city for those incentives.
AE: The city recently unveiled a public art installation at Les Gove Park, ‘Crow with Fries.’ How do you feel about public art?
JJ: I love it, it is fun piece of city art. It is symbolic of Big Daddy’s drive in, now it’s a park and a sculpture people seem to gathering around taking pictures and kids playing near and around it.
AE: Some residents feel the amount spent on this sculpture was too much. Do you agree, if so, why?
JJ: I drive by the crow every day and I see kids playing around it, since it landed, to see their smiles is priceless.
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?
JJ: I would be open to give tax incentives to small business for a number of years to get their business growing and to create jobs. As for established businesses coming into our city to make money it will be open for discussion, as far as how many fulltime employees they will hire and provide benefits for. It has to benefit both our residents and the businesses; it must be a partnership or it will not work.
AE: Do you think our Main Street/downtown is healthy and attractive to consumers? If not, what would you do to change that?
JJ: I think it is becoming attractive as far as healthy it could be better. I would like to see more business and residential building around that whole downtown area and evening vendors selling their wares something similar to the famers market, especially during the summer months and during holidays. That would help our city be more attractive to tourist from nearby cities.
AE: How would you assist small businesses in Auburn?
JJ: As our city grows, we need to partner with small businesses to promote their business as we need our residents spending their hard-earned money locally on quality items and services that they need. Part of a city’s infrastructure are businesses providing for the need of the residents and it is important that we also listen to business owners and their needs to service the residents. We can partner with the local business and promote them on the local TV stations and events or celebrations, so they do not have to bear the cost all on their own.
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?
JJ: This is a very hard question and there is never an easy answer because it involves both the residents of our city and public servants charged to protect our residents. I truly belief our police force is continually and constantly being trained to protect our residents and to deal with criminals. We live in a country where all lives are equal. I welcome body cameras on police officers, so it protects both the residents and the police officers. As for the City officials, we must be transparent to our residents. Police and City officials are here to serve the community and its well being.
AE: If elected, what would be your suggestions to best address resident and business owner’s concerns related to crime?
JJ: If elected, I would suggest the police department not to just do patrols in all areas but to also provide public service seminars on how to protect ones residence and business. During the seminars they can suggest types of safety and monitoring equipment residents and business owners can purchase to keep themselves safe. This way the residents, business and the police officers will get to know each other and build partnerships. Next having the police do patrols in all areas especially in higher crime areas. I would also like to see police sub stations in certain areas of our city, that way we can have quick response when there is an emergency.
JJ: 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?
JJ: As indicated earlier, I want to help our most vulnerable residents, it is my top priority. I would like to see the city partner with organizations that provide shelters or expand the ones we have, to accommodate more of the less fortunate among us. I want our city to be able to provide not only shelter but hot meals, shower, good clean clothing and medical care if needed, it is important these folks gain their dignity back and just maybe move them towards becoming productive residents of our city once again. I want our residents and businesses to know we as a city are taking care of our less fortunate folks.
AE: If you are not elected, what would you do to try to help work on ideas or issues that are important to you?
JJ: I will continue to work and talk with residents in my community to find out what their main issues and concerns are on a regular basis and work on ideas to bring to the City Council as I already know the Mayor and some of the City Council members.
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!