The Tacoma Sun

LIGHT FOR ALL
 

City Council Candidate Anders Ibsen Answers Tough Urban Questions From the Tacoma Sun

By Erik Bjornson

Introduction:

Below are the questions and responses sent to Anders Ibsen, candidate for Tacoma City Council District #1. This district is current represented by  councilmember Spiro Manthou who is retiring from the council.  Thus, this is an open position.
The questions being asked to Tacoma City Council candidates this year from the Tacoma Sun are very specific and address such issues as the Winthrop Hotel, Parking Requirements, Tacoma Streetcars, and Felon Dumping Ground Issue

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Q I: What education and experience do you have to qualify to be a member of the Tacoma City Council? What books have you read that you believe that would give you insights as to how to be an effective council member?

Answer: I am a lifelong Tacoman with a direct stake in my neighborhood’s success. Through my work on the North End Neighborhood Council, Pierce Conservation District, and my service as a Safe Streets neighborhood watch organizer, I developed an intimate awareness of my district’s needs, and forged strong connections with civic leaders, business organizations and law enforcement officials. I look forward to bringing that same level of energy and civic dedication to City Hall as District 1’s elected representative.
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My education is similarly rooted in our community. I attended St. Patrick’s School, Truman Middle School, Stadium High School, and graduated in the first-ever class of the Tacoma School of the Arts. I achieved my Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Sociology from the Evergreen State College.
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To find out more about my professional background, accomplishments, and vision for Tacoma, feel free to visit my website at http://www.andersibsen.com
Some of my favorite books that have influenced my public service career include “Politics” and “Rhetoric” by Aristotle, “The Worldly Philosophers” by Robert Heilbroner, and “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by Paulo Freire.
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2) Growth management
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Q II: Over the last 30 years, Pierce County has been known for suburban sprawl which has caused the loss of farmland, pollution, traffic congestion and disinvestment in Tacoma. During the last 10 years, Tacoma has grown less than 5000 residents while Spokane grew by 13,000 and Pierce County grew by 95,000. If you are elected, would you work to add more density to the City of Tacoma? How would your plan, if any, be different from what is in place now?
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Answer: Sprawl is a complex trend with multiple causes. Suburbanization results from most well-paying jobs being in urban centers, while urban centers are progressively becoming more expensive to live in; the development of a transportation infrastructure exclusively devoted to the single-occupancy vehicle; and the commuter culture that results from both of these developments.
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Our solutions must be equally multi-faceted. We need to invest heavily in our mixed-use centers and downtown core, to both provide an excellent quality of life for the people who live and work in our city, as well as meaningful transportation options for Tacoma residents. In addition, we need to address the economic aspect to the problem of sprawl, namely by growing more living-wage jobs for Tacomans, and embracing a balanced approach to housing that encourages Tacomans of all income levels to choose to live in the same neighborhoods together.
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Pierce County Felon “Dumping Ground” Issues
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Q III: As you know, Tacoma and Pierce County have a disproportionate number of released felons placed by the Department of Corrections as described in the Tacoma City Club report: 30 Years of DOC in Pierce County, Was It worth It?. Have you read this report? What specific steps would you take, if any, to reduce the number of felons being placed in Tacoma and Pierce County?

Answer: Yes, I generally support the City’s Club’s recommendations. We must continue working with state stakeholders to ensure a “fair share” of released offenders across the state, and continue to use zoning to ensure that offenders are not disproportionately concentrated in certain areas of our community.
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Restoration of Winthrop Hotel
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Q IV: A great many Tacomans would like to see the Winthrop Hotel restored as Spokane has restored the Davenport Hotel. What is your position on this issue? What plan would you support, if any, to restore the Winthop Hotel back into a hotel? What ideas do you have to make this goal of Tacomans a reality?
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Answer: Our city, like many others, has learned the hard way that high-rise, low-income developments are a poorly planned hazard to the community – and to their tenants. The Winthrop is gorgeously constructed, and would make a wonderful hotel again. I support taking long-term steps to revitalize the Winthrop, provided we can ensure that 100% of its tenants find affordable housing in the community. Our prosperity should not come at the expense of our most vulnerable citizens.
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5) Rebuilding Tacoma
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Q V: Despite the progress made, Tacoma still has a large number of vacant lots, and empty and blighted buildings relative to other west coast cities. In fact at least two new surface level parking lots have been created downtown in the last couple of years (the Sauro site and the site where the Luzon building was). What role can you and the City of Tacoma take, if you are elected, to support the rebuilding of downtown Tacoma and Tacoma’s mixed use centers?
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Answer: Making our urban core and mixed-use centers open for business means providing quality infrastructure and public services that will make them attractive to investors. Business owners will not decide to move into an area unless they feel the surrounding area is safe, clean and accessible. Removing burdensome and outmoded regulations like the off-street parking requirement for downtown is equally desirable.
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Building Walkable Neighborhood Centers and Downtown
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Q VI: Cities such as Portland, Seattle, Bellingham, San Francisco have removed their off-street parking requirements to allow parking to be built based on market demand. This also has the benefit of reducing sprawl, reducing the cost of housing, reducing pollution and allowing the construction of walkable neighborhoods. Do you support removing the off-street parking requirement in downtown Tacoma and in Tacoma’s mixed use centers?
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Answer: Yes, absolutely. Off-street parking requirements are a destructive anachronism that contributes to sprawl, and limit the growth of livable urban communities.
I support an immediate removal for the downtown, and a pragmatic, case-by-case removal for our neighborhood districts that takes local concerns and conditions into account.
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Restoring Tacoma’s Streetcars
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Q VII: Many Tacomans support restoring Tacoma’s streetcar system. Gas prices are now at record levels. Do you support restoring the streetcar network in Tacoma? What steps would be needed to be taken to make this happen?
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Answer: I definitely support the expansion of our streetcar system into our neighborhoods and mixed-use districts. In particular, I support expanding the Link through the 6th Ave District and connecting it with the TCC transit center.
This will be a significant capital investment upfront, but the long-term dividends will eclipse the short-term costs, and I think the voters will come to the same conclusion if the city requires their support. If the funding comes to a ballot measure, I will be an eager and vocal supporter of it.
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Pollution Issues in Tacoma
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Q VIII: The City of Tacoma is currently failing the pollution criteria set by the State of Washington. If elected, what specific measures would you take, if any, to reduce pollution in the city limits of Tacoma?
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Answer: When it comes to ensuring a clean, healthy environment for Tacoma, I believe our biggest challenge is simply implementing and expanding on the progressive policies we already have.
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In 2008, our Climate Action Plan identified three areas of emphasis for combating climate change and ensuring a healthier environment for all Tacomans: offering transportation alternatives to single-occupancy vehicles; finding new ways of conserving energy through our infrastructure and day-to-day activities; and encouraging the development of dense, walkable and livable neighborhoods.
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We have begun to address these priorities through policies like the establishment of the Office of Sustainability, the Mobility Master Plan, and the increased height limit in mixed-use centers. Implementing and refining policies like these should be strong priorities in order for our city to meet the state’s standards.
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When it comes to new policy, areas for improvement should definitely include a removal of the off-street parking requirement for our downtown core and our mixed-use centers. I also support the creation of a municipal Transfer of Development Rights program to further encourage density. Finally, I am highly interested in exploring the possibility
of a retrofitting program to help homeowners and businesses conserve energy in a cost-effective way.
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Crime Reduction Proposal by City Manager Eric Anderson
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Q IX: A few years ago, City Manager Eric Anderson set a goal to reduce crime in Tacoma by 50 percent in 14 months. Unfortunately, the goal was not reached. What can be done in your opinion to reduce crime in Tacoma?
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Answer: I subscribe to the “Broken Windows” school of thought on public safety, which stipulates that crime is merely a byproduct of social disorder. In other words, crime doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Deeper environmental factors like unemployment and blight negatively impact social norms, which makes criminal behavior more likely.
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A successful public safety strategy has three components: prevention, intervention and suppression. Prevention simply means addressing the root causes of social disorder by providing more decent-paying jobs, cleaning up our neighborhoods, and in general providing a decent quality of life for every citizen. Intervention means reaching out to at-risk individuals (particularly children) to offer constructive alternatives to crime. And suppression means working with law enforcement to apprehend offenders and secure our neighborhoods. A balanced approach that takes all three factors into account is key.
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In many respects, Safe and Clean has laid a solid foundation for future work, even if its initial efforts fell short. I am a big admirer of the Community Based Services program (a streamlined delivery of city services like police protection and code enforcement based on local input), and believe in expanding it to every neighborhood in our city.
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Q X: Tacoma’s Central Neighborhood Council has posted dozens of articles on the electronic billboard issue located at : http://cnc-tacoma.com/proposed-electronic-billboards. What percentage of these articles do you estimate that you have read?
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Answer: I have read easily more than half. I applaud citizen leaders like Doug Schafer and R.R. Anderson for their advocacy on this crucial issue, and for investing so much time and energy into educating the public.
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Q XI: What is your position in relation to the settlement proposal that the Tacoma City Council is considering regarding electronic billboards? Do you support it? If you were elected to the Tacoma City Council, would you authorize the City of Tacoma to expend financial resources to defend the Tacoma’s current 1997 billboard law?
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Answer: As an executive board member of the North End Neighborhood Council, I voted with my colleagues last March to oppose the current settlement decision. I am disappointed that the city did not choose to defend a clearly constitutional law against Clear Channel’s baseless accusations. If elected, I would support a full legal defense of our 1997 billboard law.
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Q XII: Many cities near the City of Tacoma such as Fife and University Place as well as unincorporated Pierce County do not have a B&O tax which many people allege has caused businesses to move out of the City of Tacoma. Last year, the City of Tacoma raised the B&O threshold to $250,000. Hence, businesses in Tacoma grossing less than $250,000 pay no B&O tax. If elected, would you support further raising the B&O tax threshold as a number of current council members have suggested? If so, how far would you raise it?
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Answer: I think the city is moving in the right direction on the B&O tax. Because it applies to gross earnings, the B&O tax can be very regressive, as businesses can still technically owe the tax even if they are losing money.
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That said, a narrow emphasis on tax breaks as an economic development strategy can be problematic. For one thing, there is no guarantee that the savings produced from a tax break will be spent on hiring new workers, spent in the city limits, or even spent at all. For another, less revenue means less services. That means less street repair, police protection and code enforcement for neighborhoods struggling to attract investment, for example.
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We need to adopt a pragmatic tax policy that can successfully balance our immediate needs with our long-term priorities as a city. While I am not opposed to raising the B&O threshold further, I would only support moving further in that direction if the changes were revenue-neutral, would not impact the delivery of city services, and could be connected to a measurable economic benefit.
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For more information see Anders Ibsen Facebook Page

published April 26th, 2011

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