Ryan Burnett is running for Auburn City Council Position No. 5. His opponents are Anthony Ase and Robyn Mulenga.
Auburn Examiner: What part of Auburn do you live in and why did you choose to live there?
Ryan Burnett: We live in Lakeland North just above the Centennial Viewpoint Park with the sculpture of the deer on a log overlooking the valley. We originally chose this area due to its proximity to three of the major highways in the area and to my work. We have stayed because it offers a good balance of affordability and access to many recreational activities. I like having my children grow up with diversity and our neighborhood offers that.
AE: Where are your favorite places to spend time in our town?
RB: I love to take my kids to the movies down at The Outlet Collection as well as spending time at Les Gove Park during the summer months. I also take them fishing at many of the local lakes and rivers.
AE: Where do you do your grocery shopping?
RB: I generally do my grocery shopping at Safeway or Fred Meyer on Auburn Way.
AE: How do you plan to involve residents in the decision-making process in our city?
RB: Social media, awareness promotion in regards to important discussions, the city does offer a live feed of the city council meetings online. We could discuss the use of live online surveys. The city puts on social events throughout the year, these could be platforms to open plans to meet to discuss important issues. More current marketing efforts should be employed to engage our citizens and include them in the decision making process.
AE: What are your main infrastructure goals for Auburn?
RB: We need to bolster our services designed to prevent crime. We need these services to be working hand in hand with services designed to help our citizens in need of assistance with their mental, physical and spiritual health. Our city also needs to clean up and upgrade the existing downtown area while maintaining a sense of its history. Additional crime prevention services need to be made a priority. Cultivating a strong small business economy as well as maintaining the larger businesses in the area is important to the future of our city. Adding taxes will only exacerbate the issues when the businesses move to avoid the new taxes.
AE: How would you evaluate whether a new piece of public infrastructure in our city (road, bridge, etc.) would be worth implementing?
RB: Without having experience in these civic matters, it seems to me that I would like to measure a number of points including frequency of use, the current level of deterioration, cost of implementation and budget availability amongst other factors.
AE: If elected, what steps would you take to put our city on a firmer financial footing?
RB: In order to right the ship financially, step one should be presenting a long term plan for the city taking into account growth, age of infrastructure and the economic climate. This long term plan is the basis for a financial plan that is earmarked with shorter term goals that are achievable. The plan needs the input of all of our citizens, all with unique points of view. Our city council needs to seek the voice of our people while using our collective wisdom to make informed decisions. We should not be afraid to seek guidance from multiple sources or to learn the lessons of the past from others locally and worldwide. Personal agendas and feelings need to be cast aside to collectively agree on a vision, a vision that leads our city to sustainability.
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?
RB: Having only the ability to read the fiscal report without talking to the individual department heads, it would be irresponsible of me to comment on exactly where there may be imbalances and where decreased spending would have the least negative effect. I will say that identifying imbalances in the city’s budget would be a top priority for me and should be addressed by the city council.
AE: Pierce 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?
RB: I am in the process of reading a report (Off the record, I am not sure if I am able to quote this publication so I will summarize briefly. I found it via Google search on ways cities can help promote the growth of affordable housing) summarizing the results of a global conference of experts on the subject. The techniques outlined include solutions for both the supply side and the demand side, arguing that that is os a collaborative effort. These concepts require the cooperation of local (state and federal) government, private sector and civil society. I think the social and economic climate dictates that we open a discussion about the possibility of “unzoning” single family zoning, maybe not city wide but in specified areas. Tiny homes are providing solutions all over the country. We should look at the benefits of 3D printing in regards to construction.
AE: Should Auburn offer developers incentives to build affordable housing? If so, what kind?
RB: The government can provide tax incentives, grants or exemptions for private developers to target specific types of properties designed at increased density. Many cities use inclusionary zoning. Mandatory inclusionary zoning requires developers to build a specified number of homes, negotiated with the planning authorities or as a proportion of development value. An alternative is incentivized inclusionary zoning, where incentives for developers to build affordable housing could include, modifying planning standards based on performance criteria (e.g. increasing site yield to encourage low cost housing such as boarding houses, student accommodation and retirement homes in designated areas). – Bonus systems that relax development controls such as height, density, building setback or parking controls in exchange for constructing dedicated affordable housing. – Fast-track planning approval, or reduction, exemption or refund of planning application fees, infrastructure charges or rates (AHURI, 2017)
AE: The city recently unveiled a public art installation at Les Gove Park, ‘Crow with Fries.’ How do you feel about public art?
RB: After reading about the artist’s inspiration, I was able to gain some appreciation and perspective on the project. My personal opinion is that I would have liked to see something with a bit more historical or natural relevance to our city or maybe something dedicated to the future vision of what we want our city to become or even a combination of them both! That site is alongside a highway that is a gateway to some of Western Washington’s most beautiful recreational country and tens of thousands of visitors every year pass right by that very site on their way to enjoy these areas. It would be nice for them to be able to learn about our history as well as celebrate our present and the vision of our future.
AE: Some residents feel the amount spent on this sculpture was too much. Do you agree, if so, why?
RB: I did a brief search for the cost of the project and came up empty. I will say that if it falls within the budget than we are ok, and the city was under budget in Community Development operating expenditures. I would like to see a bid process done so as to give the city’s residents options on cost and design.
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?
RB: The city absolutely needs to incentivize owning a small business here. Raising taxes is probably not the best answer to financial issues considering potential business owners will be looking at the facts of the cost of owning a business in Auburn. Perhaps tax credits for the first year in business, allowing a business to establish themselves and then working with them to help budget for after the credit expires. Could we offer something similar to the building owners to negotiate lower leases for potential businesses? Are there any opportunities to discuss setting lease limits to avoid them reaching unaffordable levels? Bottom line is, that I don’t know what all of the other possible solutions are that are available as plausible options. That is why I believe bringing diversity to the council with the goal of providing a sustainable future for our city for small businesses, large businesses and our residents needs to be Auburn’s priority. Collaborative effort from individuals with varied backgrounds is the basis for finding solutions to these issues. There is also something to be said for seeking expert advice from outside authorities or even asking for advice from other cities who have successfully achieved their goals.
AE: Do you think our Main Street/downtown is healthy and attractive to consumers? If not, what would you do to change that?
RB: I really think the area has great character and charm, and that this could be better utilized for the city’s overall image and I think that we need to have it cleaned up and upgraded. I did some research and the issue may be as simple as accountability. Working with the downtown area business owners as well as the property owners that lease to the business owners is the key to getting this cleaned up, no pun intended. Just look to the south in Sumner where there downtown area is just as old, but is clean, attractive and pleasant for visitors and the city’s residents.
AE: How would you assist small businesses in Auburn?
RB: I see that the city has some good resources to assist small businesses already, but if the council decides to implement the proposed city B & O tax, it will defeat the purpose of the other incentive programs designed to attract small businesses. Using a business diversity ordinance might help, as well as an adaptive reuse program to help utilize and revitalize some of the historical buildings in Auburn. The city should also make sure to give preference to local businesses when purchasing. Some cities have developed public partnership banks to help with funding.
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?
RB: The police have a very difficult job to do, and there needs to be an appropriate number of officers on the force. I believe that we need to make sure the police have the absolute latest in training as well as technology to assist them in their jobs. I hate to make judgements when I have never walked in a police officer’s shoes, especially one who is in a situation as delicate and dangerous as the two you are referring to.
AE: If elected, what would be your suggestions to best address resident and business owner’s concerns related to crime?
RB: Let’s work with the police to create solutions! We need community involvement to tackle this issue. Perhaps access to private surveillance records so police have more coverage, watchdog groups set up in the neighborhoods with residents/business owners, a Dog Walker Watch program to help provide more eyes and ears on the streets, mentoring programs to help our youth find their way and supporting programs like the National Crime Prevention Council are ways we can improve our crime rate.
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?
RB: Our city can support developers in producing permanent supportive housing by zoning higher density levels and providing incentives to build specific types of housing. We can look at ways to integrate the residents of this type of housing into the community. Providing services upon appointment to include physical, mental and spiritual health check ups and support. Some cities around the world are solving homelessness by providing homes first as a stable foundation to address other issues that may be holding a person back.
AE: If you are not elected, what would you do to try to help work on ideas or issues that are important to you?
RB: I will continue to serve on the Jobs Task Force and hope to provide valuable insight and creative solutions to support workforce growth. It is my goal to continue fundraising to help wipe out childhood hunger. The event being organized now to support the Auburn food bank will be an annual event. Volunteering around the community to help bring awareness to existing solutions to affordable housing. If not elected this year, I will continue to raise support throughout the community to make a run in the next election. I intend to make a difference.
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!