Decision 2013: OP&L Candidate Questionnaire, Olympia City Council, Pos. 4

News Politics

Who are these people? And why are the running for local office? To help find out, we wanted to give every candidate a chance to speak directly to you, our wise and discerning readers. Thus, this candidate questionnaire. Some of the questions were submitted by readers. Some were prepared by OP&L. (Disclosure: OP&L co-publisher Matthew Green is working with the campaigns of Sue Gunn for Port of Olympia Commissioner, and Darren Mills and Julie Hankins for Olympia City Council. Matthew did not determine the questions for those races.) The answers are straight from the candidates. We did not edit them, except to fix a few typos and grammatical errors. (Because OP&L never prints typos and grammatical errors. Ever. So shut up.)

General election ballots will be mailed on October 16, and must be postmarked or dropped in a ballot box by November 6. For more election information, visit


Position: Olympia City Council, position 4

Candidates: Cheryl Selby, Darren Mills

1.         Where do you see the art of civic responsibility playing a role with all the stakeholders in downtown Olympia?

CS:     This (feminized) Wendell Berry quote works for me. Hint – just be a good neighbor. “While the government is “studying” and funding and organizing its Big Thought, nothing is being done. But the citizen who is willing to Think Little, and, accepting the discipline of that, to go ahead on her own, is already solving the problem. A woman who is trying to live as a neighbor to her neighbors will have a lively and practical understanding of the work of peace and brotherhood, and let there be no mistake about it – she is doing that work…” (The Agrarian Essays)

DM:   Elected officials have a responsibility, not just to represent constituents and set policy, but to engage all parties in a way that is inclusive and moves the city forward.  Wanting better communication between  city hall and the public isn’t just a snappy campaign theme.  I believe that in order for us to live up Olympia’s enormous potential we must create a city structure that fosters effective communication and trust and includes the public’s input early in the decision making process.

2.        Please speak to the Olympia Downtown Association’s influence on City of Olympia policies and decisions.

CS:     Since I serve on both boards I’ve seen situations where simple miscommunications were overblown. I’m looking forward to the upcoming joint ODA/PBIA board retreat. Both groups bring something important to our downtown and sitting around a big table together will help dissuade the perception of distrust between the two. Members of both organizations are stretched thin with community work in addition to running their own businesses. Creating a road map for cooperation going forward is exciting, timely and quite honestly a big relief. We are all neighbors right? Let’s pull together people!

DM:   One could argue that ODA’s influence on city policy has fluctuated, depending on who is on city council.  For example, in 2006 ODA endorsed the then council’s proposed high rise condo project on the isthmus thus giving the appearance that downtown businesses supported it.  Many, myself included, did not.  That said, ODA (which is membership based) and the downtown business owners who are members should have an equal voice in policies that affect downtown.

3.        What is your position on graffiti and street art?

CS:     I would quantify street art as something that’s been coordinated between the artist and the building or business owner and results in a mutually gratifying product. Graffiti is malicious mischief and sucks (in general) but also sucks a huge amount of time and energy away from good folks like the Downtown Ambassadors, the Clean Team and other stakeholders who have limited resources.

DM:   First, a distinction should be made between graffiti which (when realized in sanctioned areas) is an art form and tagging, which is vandalism.  Unfortunately graffiti artists have been grouped with taggers.  I love and welcome graffiti and street art just as I love many different art forms.  Public art in our city should be a reflection of the diversity within our local artist community.  What one person may consider unattractive, another may love.  Art is subjective!  That’s the true beauty of it.

4.        What is your position on the future of Capitol Lake and the empty properties nearby?

CS:     As you know, this isn’t just Olympia’s issue. It includes many public and private parties. If elected, I will challenge the Council to take a leadership role and: • Reconvene a stakeholder group to lead the discussion on the lake and isthmus properties.             • Lobby the legislature to dredge the lake as quickly as possible and return access to this community asset. • Push for the creation of a public-private management team including: Thurston County, Tumwater, Lacey, The Port, DNR, Ecology, Department of Fish and Wildlife, Marinas and the public to share the costs equitably.

DM:   The Lake vs. Estuary issue is a polarizing one with both sides providing compelling arguments but unable to come to the table.  We need to bridge this gap.  I support the hybrid vision of a free-flowing Deschutes and Artesian fed reflecting pond on the east side of the lake.  The empty isthmus properties acquired by the city present a fantastic opportunity for a community gathering space.  I envision a hardscaped plaza with greenery and seating where the city can create an incubator program and give entrepreneurs the opportunity to create a start-up in the form of food carts, kiosks and vendor booths.

5.        What is your position on the People’s House low-barrier shelter, and what would you do to address the needs of this population? Would you support a moratorium on the creation of low-barrier shelters?

CS:     I feel that the emphasis on a low barrier shelter is distracting us from what’s also needed – rapid rehousing and permanent supportive housing. I look forward to working with organizations like Sidewalk to bring private sector support for their mission to align people with housing. That said, we do need a highly functioning emergency shelter system that meets the needs of our whole community. I’m pleased the council is directing staff to address zoning issues so the siting of future shelters aren’t a stress on one area of town or placed in a residential, school or dense commerce zone.

DM:   I would never support a moratorium on social services, regardless of the specific project.  I support The People’s House and their effort to create a low barrier shelter in the downtown core, but this is beside the point.  Attempts to successfully address homelessness in Olympia have fallen flat, yet we all want the same thing: a solution.  We cannot let fear and misinformation dominate this conversation.  A community-wide one, rooted in research and data will move us forward and bring us closer to solutions.

6.        What is the appropriate role for your jurisdiction in working with others – such as the County and Intercity Transit – to meet the goals laid out by the Sustainable Thurston Task Force?

CS:     Density is our destiny. The City of Olympia is compelled to address the fact that we will be absorbing thousands more people in the next 50 years. We are fortunate to have the leadership of the Thurston Regional Planning Commission to shepherd the discussion of where these people will land. Obviously, the goal is to lessen the impact on our earth by planning for transit corridors along densely populated residential areas. The Sustainable Thurston Task Force is currently developing guidelines that will impact how Olympia should plan for preserving spaces and creating spaces for future generations.

DM:   I’m particularly excited about partnering with TRPC and working towards more high density housing downtown in an effort to ease urban sprawl happening on the outer edges of the city.  This would not only get more people out of their cars and utilizing public transportation, it would be a huge economic benefit to downtown businesses and the city’s revenue base.

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