TILLAMOOK COUNTY PIONEER’S QUESTIONS FOR THE CANDIDATES – Nov. 2022: Manzanita Mayor & City Council

It’s election time – and in Tillamook County there has been an increase in participation in our government process with many races have multiple choices.  The Pioneer is proud to provide this opportunity for our community to make informed voting choices and learn about the candidates. Tillamook County Pioneer’s Questions for the Candidates – November 2022. We will post the candidate’s answers (that we received) in all the national, state and local races, including those from candidates in uncontested races. These questions were gathered from a diverse array of Tillamook County citizens, and provides an opportunity for constituents to compare candidates answers directly.

Here are the candidates for  Manzanita Mayor and City Council:  Mayor – Deb Simmons (uncontested); City Council (2 seats) – Brad Mayerle, Linda Kozlowski, Mark Kuestner

 

Mayor – 2 year term

Deb Simmons, Mayor Candidate Manzanita 2022Deb Simmons

1. What is your vision of a thriving community? If elected, what would you do within your position to advance this vision?
Ernesto Sirolli, noted authority in the field of sustainable economic development said, “The future of every community lies in capturing the passion, imagination and resources of its people.”
As a tourist destination, Manzanita welcomes thousands of visitors who feel a close connection to our way of life here. The challenge, though, is to find a balance so residents can maintain those pieces we hold dear.
Traditions such as the Friday Market and the Fourth of July parade are important, but so is supporting our commercial sectors on a year-round
basis.
Community involvement advances a wide variety of visions. Seeing residents pulling weeds at the post office — warms my heart. Setting up flower sales to fund community projects and building a volunteer base that is active and well-equipped will foster many needed changes.

2. SWOT analysis of municipality:
Strengths – talented, curious and intelligent community members
Weaknesses – some find it difficult to accept differences of opinions
Opportunities – educate to meet in the middle of “hot-button” issues
Threats – climate change / dangers to our natural and built environment.

3. Let’s focus on the positive things going on. What you will do, if elected to make positive contributions to the community.
The first step in building trust is to provide a transparent process of governing, encourage debate and discussions on issues and taking seriously the fiscal responsibility of the city’s administration. Community members, despite our median age of 65.5 years – are no longer complacent. Neighbors are gathering to fight for their rights. More and more people are researching facts and writing articles to help us better understand the issues. Communication is the key. Education is part of that process. One of my contributions as mayor will be to throw open both of those doors.

4. There are many challenges facing our community. What are the issues you think are NOT being adequately addressed? If elected, how would you work to address these issues?
A healthy community is one of all ages. Neighborhoods have to be maintained to attract families. Affordable housing is sorely lacking here, but
it is not the only thing keeping families from moving into our neighborhoods.
Although the transient lodgers provide a significant portion of the city’s income, STRs have not been managed to attract families and little effort
has gone into maintaining affordable housing. There should be a variety of services offered for residents that includes the needs of families with young
children as well as our aging population. A plan needs to be developed and put on a fast track.

5. What is your experience in municipal government service?
I have no experience in elected government office.

Educational Background:
BS from Oregon State University
MAT from Lewis & Clark College

City Councilor – 4 year term, vote for 2

Brad Mayerle

My Vision of a Thriving Community

I envision a thriving community where neighbors know each other and can rely on each other, where there is housing available to all income levels, a variety of businesses that serve the needs of the residents, and a place where you can easily get around on foot. I envision a community that has planned for its current and future growth and needs, which is supported by an updated comprehensive plan that is reviewed regularly and expresses the desires of residents. And the community’s zoning ordinances, transportation plan, and dunes management plan reflect this comprehensive plan and provide protection and support for the future.

SWOT Analysis of My Community

Strengths

We are fortunate in Manzanita to have an educated, well-informed, and engaged community. We have fantastic support for the arts, the environment and social justice causes. An exceptional level of volunteerism helps ‘power’ the town. We have an outdoor paradise of natural beauty that attracts a constant influx of new residents from many places.

Weaknesses

We face the challenges of a city that has three times as many second homeowners, short-term rentals (STRs), and investment properties as it has residents. Our property tax rates are some of the lowest in the state and cannot be raised. Couple that with high property values and limited housing options for varying socioeconomic status levels. This results in a lack of affordable housing for work-age residents and families with young children. Most of our businesses primarily serve visitors rather than residents.

Opportunities

There are opportunities for revenue diversification. Diversification of SDC (System Development Charges) should be considered as we are likely to continue high levels of development. The increase in post-covid remote workers attracts more second homeowners to transition to residents, which could result in more businesses that service the needs of a larger resident population. The constant flow of day trippers could provide revenue opportunities as a tax revenue source.

Threats

Manzanita is overly dependent on STR revenue. This limits the city’s ability to regulate how STRs impact the livability of our neighborhoods. We have an aging population with an inadequate workforce to support the needs of residents.  There is palpable tension between residents and other community stakeholders regarding some city issues.

If elected, I would address these issues by:

If elected, I would bring fresh eyes and new energy to tackle the threats and seize the opportunities I outlined in the SWOT analysis above. The challenges we face are not new; they just have not been prioritized or addressed by previous city councils. The priority is to get our house in order. I would fully support the work already started by our city manager—specifically, updating the comprehensive plan and ordinances. These documents are vital to managing the vision for our future. As part of this process, I feel we need to continue to find consensus on ‘livability,” as it means something different to everyone. And our city manager is doing an outstanding job of gathering this information. I would also encourage implementing the findings by the first Short Term Rental (STR) Committee and will welcome the findings by the second STR committee. Updating the SDCs is also a priority. The failure to update the SDCs in the past has resulted in a significant loss of revenue that can never be recovered. Once we have these guardrails in place, the rest will follow. Helping to lead these efforts is second nature to me. I bring the skill set of both a small business owner and a medical professional with a proven record of success. I understand the problem-solving methods needed to help manage our growth, as well as provide a leadership style involving community participation and education that will lessen the divides among us.

What is your experience in municipal government service?

None.

 

Linda Kozlowski City of Manzanita City Council Candidate 2022
Photo credit Megan Adamcin

Linda Kozlowski

What is your vision of a thriving community? 

A thriving community is:

  • Focused on sustainable growth, is responsive to change and has a vision for the future.
  • Open to free and honest conversation, embraces debate, and listens with a goal of consensus.
  • Motivated by a wide variety of citizen ages, backgrounds, experience.
  • Focused on what is best for everyone in it: residents, second homeowners and visitors alike.
  • Committed to planned and managed growth, and where everyone can find a suitable and affordable dwelling.
  • One that encourages a strong partnership/relationship between City Council, City staff and the residents, and where Council policies are conceived only after careful consideration and community dialogue.
  • Has a centralized city office space where citizens, second homeowners and visitors are welcome and can feel supported

If elected, what would you do within your position to advance this vision?

I am looking forward to continuing the work I have already started with the City Council.  Working on the Manzanita Comprehensive Plan will help us manage the building boom; support a strategy limiting/eliminating view-grading of our dunes, balance the need for Short Term Rental (STR)revenue with resident priorities to help conquer livability issues; and aid us in finding new, additional sources of revenue to take the pressure off our need for STR dollars.  In partnership with the other Council members and the City Manager, I will work to develop a strategy to encourage development of workforce housing and make sure we have a safe, central, and usable space for City government staff members to interact with our citizens.

Please provide a SWOT analysis of your municipality/district:

Strengths – Manzanita has an excellent and committed City Manager who has the experience to guide us through the list of issues on our agenda.  She leads a strong city staff who have proven they can respond to the city’s needs.  Having both current and new city councilors means we have solid leadership succession in place while welcoming innovative and fresh ideas.

Weaknesses – Some would say that Manzanita is not facing its development issues and it has been slow to react to the inevitable growth that has become our reality.  We are a city heavily dependent on Short Term Rental (STR) revenue, while the existence of some STRs appears to adversely affect livability.  Our current lack of a central city government location makes it difficult for employees to do their best job and it does not allow citizens easy access to staff.  The price of real estate has put workforce housing out of reach. Lack of housing has limited the number and types of individuals who can live here and has had a dire effect on our small business community’s ability to hire staff.

Opportunities –The City Council has laid a strong and effective framework for new council members to begin work in January.  An updated Comprehensive Plan is a high priority

and it will act as the roadmap for many of the issues that concern us all.  We are close to beginning work on the new city office building, and we are looking at tax abatement strategies that can help us find ways to create workforce housing.

Threats –The community has engaged in more than usual debate in the past few years and has created enough divisiveness that it has the potential to adversely affect the new City Council.

Let’s focus on the positive things going on. Tell our readers about what you will do, if elected to make positive contributions to the community.

My reason for serving on city government has always been my deep affection for the community I have made my home.  I want to do what is best for everyone here.  I bring a depth of knowledge about how government works, what the issues are, and how we can best turn hopes and ideas into action and success.  I know how to get things done!  I am a consensus builder, I love working as part of a team, and I am a good listener.  I have proved that I will work hard and that I am an experienced leader.

There are many challenges facing our community. What are the issues you think are NOT being adequately addressed? 

We are currently working on updating our STR Ordinance 10-3 with a focus on livability.  Some changes have been recently implemented, so it will take time to see those results.  We need to continue to update our System Development Charges (SDC) to help cover the costs of new development. We are almost done with our storm water SDC study and scoping out our water SDC update study, which I anticipate will start soon. One of our biggest unresolved issues—and they are ones facing all of Tillamook County—are a lack of workforce housing and managing growth to be consistent with our vision of the community.

If elected, how would you work to address these issues?

I will work to make the construction of workforce housing as easy as possible in the City and to encourage a regional response to this issue.  The cost of land in Manzanita is a significant challenge when it comes to workforce housing.  I will do anything possible to support new housing approaches: update our zoning regulations, abatement of property tax, and any other creative way to make it easier to build affordable workforce housing.  An updated Comprehensive Plan will be an important tool in managing community growth.  We will be seeking input from our citizens and, as we work to complete the Plan, we will be updating Zoning Ordinances.  Having carefully thought-out Zoning Ordinances in place (reviewed often and updated as needed) means future decision-making will not be hampered by protracted debate and we will be able to quickly and efficiently turn vision into reality.  Continuing to update our SDC charges to help cover the costs of new development will be important.

What is your experience in municipal government service?

I started my work in government sixteen years ago when I was elected to the Manzanita City Council and I am currently Council President.  I am the Vice Chair of the Governing Board of DOGAMI (Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries).  I have been Chair of CARTM’s Board, and Chair of the Tillamook County Solid Waste Advisory Committee.  I have also served as President of the Emergency Volunteer Corps of Nehalem Bay for 15 years.  During this time, I have worked Statewide to ensure our region has the resources to respond to any natural emergency.  This exposure to state, regional, and local government has given me the tools, relationships and understanding of how to get things done in a positive and cooperative way.

Deborah Boone, retired State Representative wrote: “Linda understands how governments work from local to federal levels and she knows how to get things done.  She was often in the committee rooms during legislative sessions helping to shepherd legislation through the process and serving as an expert witness. Her ability to grasp the details of the issues of concern to Manzanita citizens make her valuable to the City Council.”

 

Mark Kuestner

What is your vision of a thriving community?

Living in Manzanita, I don’t have to look far to envision a thriving community. We enjoy a beautiful natural setting, a wonderfully diverse group of people, a broad range of activities, and a financially sound city. A sparkling ocean stretches for miles before us, with forested mountains soaring upwards at our backs. We can smell the briny breeze with onshore winds, and then the next day know the winds have shifted offshore, as the loamy rich scent of the forest floor sweeps downhill.

Our neighbors come from all walks of life, and invest their experiences actively throughout our village, creating art, working in many local businesses, and supporting nonprofit enterprises. They participate in city government at all levels making sure Manzanita has the highest quality representation. We have one of the lowest property tax rates in the state, and visitors who come to share our gorgeous environment help keep our city budget healthy.

If elected, what would you do within your position to advance this vision?

As a councilor, I want to see that our village’s natural beauty is nurtured and enhanced and that our city government acts to improve livability and sustainability. Updating the Manzanita Comprehensive Plan will lay out directives to encourage dynamic landscape plans for new residential and commercial developments: I favor an annual competition/award for best-executed sustainable landscape design in Manzanita. Creating and enforcing new Zoning Ordinances will help us achieve environmental goals by requiring larger open spaces on lots being developed. I will be an active participant in helping our Revenue Diversification committee find new sources of income, especially from “day tripper” visitors. In addition, I will work with the new Short Term Rental Committee to limit negative impacts on our neighborhoods from overnight visitors, while assuring that our fiscal stability is not only unharmed, but improved.

Please provide a SWOT analysis of your municipality/district:

Strengths –

Manzanita is not only a beautiful ocean town, but one that boasts services that make life here enviable: grocery stores, restaurants, banks, a library, an Arts Center, bookstore, and many robust and valuable volunteer organizations. We have stable municipal finances and one of the state’s lowest property tax rates. Our strong financial management has allowed us to maintain an enviable local police force. On top of this, we have ocean and mountain views and hikes at our doorstep that are the envy of the country.

Weaknesses –

Some of our strengths can also be considered weaknesses. The beauty of our community makes Manzanita a desirable destination for residents, businesses, and visitors. This can cause damage to the very environment we are all here to enjoy. Increases in the number of residents has increased the cost of living. Local business attempts to serve an ever-increasing number of visitors are strained by the dwindling pool of workers who can actually afford to live here. This high cost of living also stunts our ability to attract a residential base that is diverse in age, education, and socio-economic status. Our municipal government is financially sound thanks to hospitality tax revenues but we have become so heavily dependent on this tax that it limits our ability to insure that neighborhoods remain adequately residential in character.

Opportunities –

There are current opportunities for positive change in Manzanita. I want to help update our Comprehensive Plan and local ordinances to address strains of property development, and also make sure we maintain our financial strength. I want to make it possible for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) to be built in Manzanita. Many of our residential properties already are zoned for two units per lot (R2). Nationwide, ADUs are being built to offer lower rents to workers of all kinds, including care-givers who can help our local aging population remain in their homes longer. We already allow ADUs in the Manzanita Urban Growth Boundary, it’s time to change our ordinance to allow them inside our village as well.

Threats –

Economic and Development-

We are currently watching development proceed at a more and more rapid pace: we need to decide as a community how to develop both residential and commercial spaces, while respecting the natural barriers to infrastructure. Residents do not want to live in a tourist town,  but we need to safeguard and strengthen our central commercial core to serve both demographic groups. Increased population, both transient and permanent, decreases pedestrian and community safety. Lack of affordable housing for service workers and lack of parking are frustrating to business owners, residents, and visitors. Dune grading and accessible beachfront access are important challenges to be faced as well.

Environmental-

The Oregon coast, like the rest of the world, is vulnerable to potential ravages due to climate change. With our trees and vegetation, drought and subsequent wildfires are a real danger. Conversely our wet, stormy winters leave us prone to landslides. These dangers all increase as our weather swings become more volatile. Earthquakes are an ever-present danger, as we will be cut off from the rest of the state due to our remote location. We will be forced to survive on our own for lengthy periods of time. Our water sources need to be as secure as they can be, to serve us well into the future. We need to continue or increase the current practice of adding funds annually for emergency preparedness and resilience into our city budget.

 

Let’s focus on the positive things going on. Tell our readers about what you will do, if elected to make positive contributions to the community.

As we make specific updates to the Comprehensive Plan, I want to encourage the council to immediately start work on creating and implementing concurrent zoning ordinances that will make the Plan operational and quickly enforceable.

I want to keep a Master Trails Plan on the agenda so that we don’t lose sight of the importance our highly valuable natural spaces have for residents and visitors.

I want to be an active participant on Short Term Rental issues because they drive our livability and financial security.

I will encourage the city council to make regular communication with citizens a permanent strategy of city government. Our City Manager has already been successful with this model on a limited basis and I hope to see it continue and broaden beyond single issue communications.

 

There are many challenges facing our community. What are the issues you think are NOT being adequately addressed?

Workforce housing has not been addressed with meaningful ordinances or incentives.

The implementation of the new procedures to appoint citizen volunteers to City Committees has not been smooth.

The Master Trails Plan was established over a year ago, but no action has been taken to form the  Master Trails Committee.

The Manzanita City website is not a reliable go-to source for up to date city information.

If elected, how would you work to address these issues?

I will encourage the council to conduct timely and thorough follow-through interviews as committee openings occur so that committees can get down to work more quickly.

I will encourage the city to find and offer financial incentives to developers who will combine commercial and residential construction. Some buildings on Laneda Avenue have already successfully integrated residential space above business space, and I want to see us expand it: moderate density with less real estate “spread.” I believe this is one excellent way to start identifying affordable housing options for service workers.

What is your experience in municipal government service?

I have been an active citizen participant in our municipal government for many years by attending City Council meetings in-person and via zoom. I regularly attended the Short Term Rental Workgroup, and continue to participate in the Planning Commission, the newly formed Short Term Rental Committee and various Budget and ad-hoc city meetings (such as the “Manzanita Listens” and “Envision Manzanita” to provide input on the proposed construction of a new City Facility and updating the Comprehensive Plan).