During the council interview process, we asked seven questions of our eleven applicants. Rich Zwicker submitted his answers in writing, as well as providing the verbal response.
So, I am able to share them with you so that you may get to know him a little better.
He’s agreed to answer some additional questions for me, so that we can all learn even more about his plans/hopes for council. I’m developing these questions now. Please let me know if you have specific questions you would like me to ask Rich.
Meanwhile, here are the answers he provided to our interview process:
1. What do you believe Renton’s priorities for services should be? In what areas do you think Renton should provide more or better services than are being provided now?
I believe Renton’s top three service priorities are:
1) Public Safety
2) Managed and Sustainable Growth
3) Economic Development
I believe that the City of Renton is an excellent service provider and does a very good job. I am not ashamed to state that I am a huge Renton booster and that I believe we have a very effective administration, that our parks are the best in the State, that our police department and the fire and emergency services department are second to none and that we have some of the best public employees I have ever met in my 17 years as a public servant. There’s not much I would change, but I do have a passion for the neighborhood program and I would like to see more resources directed to that program. This is because I believe that the neighborhood program can be a great tool to inform residents of issues that impact them and it allows our residents to feel they are a part of city government.
2. You have been provided a copy of the City of Renton’s current 2008-2013 Business Plan (also included on the City’s web site). Please tell us what portions of the Plan you would emphasize, any portions of the plan you might change, and why.
As I stated before, I’m very happy with the direction of the City. I think the 2008-2013 Business Plan is strong. I believe that through the representation of my neighborhood and the technical college, I help to implement this plan in areas such as Promoting Economic Development; Promoting Neighborhoods and Influencing Decisions that Impact the City. There’s not much I would change in the plan. I would just like to be able to do even more as a city councilmember.
3. One of the opportunities a Council member has is participating in regional groups that attempt to influence public policy, spending and legislation in areas such as regional utility systems, road and transit systems and services, land use, salmon recovery and other environmental issues, providing human services and solid waste services. Are there areas in which you would like to participate at a regional level and do you bring any special expertise that might benefit Renton?
I’ll make it easy on all of you and take any committee that meets in downtown Seattle. Seriously, because I believe that transportation and growth is such a pressing issue for Renton I would like to serve on regional transportation committees. Because I would be chairing the Utilities Committee, I would like to gather more experience on regional utilities committees.
I bring quite a bit of special expertise to this position having served on various committees as a governmental employee and RTC trustee. For instance, today I have been in Olympia serving as the Chair of the Legislative Steering Committee for the Trustees Association of Community and Technical Colleges and I will head back tomorrow to do it some more. I have been participating in crafting and promoting the legislative agenda for not only the Renton Technical College, but also the entire state-wide community college system. These skills will easily translate to service on regional committees.
4. One of the adopted 2008-2013 Business Plan goals is to “manage Growth through sound urban planning”. What ideas do you have regarding growth and annexations? What concerns do you have?
Growth is one of the most important issues facing the City of Renton right now. Even without additional annexations, it is anticipated that in the next decade or two there will be 10 to 20 thousand additional Renton residents. This will continue to stretch even the most basic services and I believe it will be one of the most pressing issues facing council. That is not to say that I am against additional annexations or growth; I believe that all annexations should be considered, including the West Hill, as long as the community wants to be annexed, the annexation is financially feasible in the short and long term, and the City can maintain its services to current residents. At this point in time, I would like to see Renton take some time to evaluate the impacts of our recent annexation of the Benson/Cascade area before seeking another large annexation. Also, I would be curious to see a comparison of anticipated fiscal impact versus actual fiscal impact. Finally, I would also like to learn more about the cumulative effect of the smaller pocket annexations. A little here and a little there soon adds up to a pretty big impact on City services.
5. If you were a Council member, how would you handle this situation? A citizen calls you at home and complains about the condition of a house in their neighborhood. The house has junk in the yard and tall grass that “has never been cut”. The citizen also thinks “there must be something illegal going on there” as they’ve called the owner but never get a response. The citizen also complains that their neighbors have called about this nuisance before, but no one ever seems to do anything about it. They ask, So, what are you going to do?”
I would give them Don Persson’s home phone number. Actually, I would handle it much the same way I handle complaints I get as the President of the North Renton Neighborhood Association. I would ask them to review what steps they have taken: I would ask if they contacted our REACT Code Compliance team about the junk in the yard and the unkempt lawn. I would ask if they have they contacted the police. I would ask if they’ve filed an on-line incident report about the suspicious activity. In my experiences, that is usually enough to solve the problem.
But if they felt that they’ve done those things and still have not received a satisfactory response from someone, I would contact the appropriate department head and advise them of our citizen’s concern. I would leave it to the department to handle the issue, but I would hope that our administration would understand that I support them as much as I support our Citizens and they would be willing to contact me if I could in any way assist them in addressing this problem.
6. In your opinion, what are the most critical challenges Renton will face in the next five years?
Growth and Transportation.
7. If selected, will you run for election in the fall of 2009 (the end of the unexpired term of this office)?
While you were considering questions for this interview, I found it interesting that Randy considered this simply a yes or no question. To me it’s a little more than that. If the question’s intention is to see if the candidate understands the election process and what it takes to retain a council seat, then I obviously do because I have run for office and have worked on various campaigns. But to directly answer your question, yes, next year I will begin my campaign for 2009 if three conditions are met: 1) I enjoy serving as a councilmember; 2) I am an effective councilmember; and 3) at least a majority of the council is happy with their decision to appoint me and will endorse me in my bid to retain my seat. If those three conditions are not met, then there is no reason for me to run to be retained—let’s get someone else in here.