Get to know who’s running for Blaine City Council

With November 7 just days away, The Northern Light reached out to candidates running for a seat on the Blaine City Council. Positions serving Ward 2, 3 and at-large are contested. Incumbent Bonnie Onyon is running unopposed for a position serving Ward 1.


Charles Hawkins

Q: What inspired you to run again?

A: I have been in
public service for around 20 years and I want to continue to guide Blaine in the right direction. My family has been here for generations and my grandkids live here now and I want to help make Blaine the best it can be for them. The city of Blaine is a complex organization that has a budget of millions of dollars a year. It is important that the people involved in its leadership understand the way the city runs, which is why I spent years volunteering for different civic organizations before I ran for city council.

Q: What make you the right person for the position?

A: With the city heading in a positive direction, I believe I have the experience necessary to keep us on the path to success. I try to put the needs of the community foremost in every decision I make, even if I disagree with that decision on a personal level. We faced some very difficult times during the last recession and if you were here during that time, you have seen how much Blaine has improved and grown since then. I fought for funding for the new Marine Park Playground, I was the main voice of opposition on the council during the name change debate and I opposed the all-out fireworks ban proposed by the city that led to an agreeable compromise. My ability to plan for the future, while respecting Blaine’s past makes me a valuable contributor to the city council.

Q: What are your priorities if elected?

A: I think our first priorities will be focusing on and finishing projects that are already in motion; we need to continue to expand utility service to east Blaine. We need to continue road and infrastructure improvements all over the city. We also need to keep developing a strategy to change to a biennial budget to improve efficiency and time management.

Q: With the city in the midst of its Strategic Economic Initiative (SEI) what steps do you think it should take to revitalize the economy and incentivize development?

A: In the last five years, dozens of new businesses have opened and existing businesses have expanded in Blaine. I know there’s always room for improvement and everyone wants more businesses downtown. Growth in the downtown of Blaine has been, and will continue to be, the focus of the council. If you drive through Blaine, the buildings that are vacant are the same ones that have been vacant for years.

We need to be careful and really try to understand the unintended consequences of development incentives. The last time the city tried to give incentives for development, it burdened everyday taxpayers $1.3 million in connection fees that the developers didn’t pay. I’m not sure it’s fair to give a new business a break when they’re going to be competitive with a business that already exists and have paid their fair share.

Write-in, Rachel Hrutfiord

Q: What inspired you to run?

A: As a lifelong Blaine Borderite, I am passionate about our town! It is time for a change on city council. For years I have been involved in this community and care deeply about its future. My knowledge of Blaine’s history and vision of what’s ahead will be a benefit Blaine.

Q: What makes you the right person for the position?

A: I will bring fresh ideas and a new perspective to council. I have a young family and we utilize every part of this community. We spend time in local businesses, the library, parks, schools and in church. The ideas from our local community members are absolutely endless, but you won’t necessarily hear them inside the council chambers. I will bridge the gap between Blaine families and Blaine city government.

Q: What are your priorities if elected?

A: Creating a prosperous economy in Blaine is my first priority. We are at a crossroads when it comes to the financial stability of our town and the time for change is now. Blaine is growing in size but shrinking in resources. Real estate is booming, rental prices are high and Blaine isn’t keeping up. We have no options for shopping or entertainment and are forced to spend our money elsewhere. I’m all for Shop Blaine First, but we’ve got to have somewhere to shop! While I appreciate the city’s desire to attract Canadian business and tourism to our town, we must focus first on our residents. Blaine needs to have a friendly and sustainable business culture for the nearly 5,000 (and growing fast) current residents of our community. Living wage jobs are necessary and industry is just begging for a home in East Blaine. Proceeding with the sale of the Gateway Zone property is vital to our city and to our citizens.

Q: With the city in the midst of its SEI, what steps do you think it should take to revitalize the economy and incentivize development?

A: Update and streamline downtown development guidelines. The most current information I could find on the city of Blaine website was from 1999. In researching other cities, they have easy to find, read and follow instructions on building restrictions, themes, zoning and signage. They outline requirements for buildings, signage, landscaping and parking in an easy to find document on their website. People interested in starting a business or new development know exactly what is required of them. They can plan more efficiently thus saving them and the city time and money.

Find creative incentives for building owners to fill their empty storefronts.

There should be an infrastructure plan built in so that when new development comes, we know that the extra toll on our roads, sidewalks, trails and parks are taken into account. The easier we can make It on new merchants, developers and investors, while maintaining our vision here, the better!

Justin Ledesma

Q: What inspired you to run?

A: I chose to run for city council because of the recent election. I am tired of just sitting on the sidelines and complaining about government. Policy at the federal level is important, but policy at the state and local level directly impact the communities we live in. I saw how our elected council had no one running against them and were just being handed seats even though we are currently tapping into city reserves to maintain city expenditures. My running is to either take the seat and bring my talents to the council, or to make the city council accountable to voters who have now
voted for them.

Q: What makes you the right person for the position?  

A: I think the council can greatly benefit from a fresh and young perspective, something that it is currently lacking. I am the general manager of a profitable small business in Whatcom County, I am a veteran and still serving in the United States Army Reserves as a budget analyst and I am attending Western Washington University to become a social worker. I have the business experience, the military experience and the experience of serving communities.

Q: What are your priorities if elected?

A: I am not going to give the typical politician response promising things that cannot actually happen. My priorities are to work with my fellow council members to make sure Blaine does not go bankrupt. It’s time we start asking the hard questions and actually follow up on those answers. I will use my budget experience to make sure the city is properly and justly using city resources. I plan to have discourse with the county council to make sure Blaine does its part within our larger community. I want Blaine to become more business friendly, but it will take the whole council.

Q: With the city in the midst of its SEI, what steps do you think it should take to revitalize the economy and incentivize development?

A: What we are doing is obviously not working. I plan to work with the rest of the council to start incentive programs to get small businesses started. I also would like to see a penalty program on landlords who are not renting to businesses and just rotting away. This penalty could be monetary or allowing murals to be painted on these building. This would create a new culture, and a reason to pull off
the freeway.


Eric Davidson

Q: What inspired you to run? 

A: After helping start our local neighborhood watch program and becoming a founding member of the Public Works Committee, I saw a real need for more proactive, long-term solutions for our city’s growth. I feel decisions made by our city council affect families’ quality of life in Blaine more than decisions made at the state and federal level; this is where I want to be – to work hard for those families and to be a part of positive change in Blaine. I want to ensure the families and businesses in Blaine are being fairly represented and future needs of the citizens of Blaine are being addressed, as well as to give back to the community I have come to appreciate and hold dear.

Q: What makes you the right person for the position?

A: I believe my work/volunteer experience in the private and public sector gives me insight into ongoing problems that Blaine is facing both in the short term and for decades to come. As chairman of Blaine’s Public Works Committee, I have gained valuable insight regarding the ongoing budget crisis that our city government is facing, currently and in the foreseeable future. I recognize the need for a more proactive approach working with existing businesses to improve job growth in Blaine and recruiting new businesses to our city.

Q: What are your priorities if elected? 

A: My first priority is balancing our city’s budget. Quality of life is one of the main reason families move to and stay in Blaine, and I believe a balanced comprehensive budget will help provide a great quality of life. However, balancing the budget can only be done through careful, responsible and long-term planning; it requires a proactive approach by the city, its citizens and the businesses in town willing to invest in Blaine’s future. Within our budget we must look at retaining a well-trained police department, building and repairing roads and sidewalks and allocating funds for public amenities that everyone, both residents and tourists, will enjoy.

Q: With the city in the midst of its SEI, what steps do you think it should take to revitalize the economy and incentivize development?

A: The city council has been passive regarding the hard choices needed to ensure not only city government can run, but that we can afford to pay for needed city improvements. Our city’s budget is closely tied to growth and jobs and if elected, I will push for the city to partner with the Blaine Chamber of Commerce and with citizen volunteers to actively recruit new businesses to our city. I will first push for the council to establish standardized impartial business economic model that will attract new businesses to our city and retain them. This model will also help ensure our current Blaine businesses thrive. My plan to bring businesses and jobs to Blaine will increase revenue, ultimately helping shift some of the burden of taxes away from the backs of citizens and families.

H. Paul Greenough

Q: What inspired you to run again? 

A: The strong desire to continue my efforts to make Blaine a better place for all of us to live.

Q: What makes you the right person for the position?

A: Twenty-five years of experience working in the field of economic development for the U.S. government, including significant experience in the areas of budget planning and implementation, project design and management and project evaluation.

Twelve years of experience working for/with the city of Blaine, first as a member of the Planning Commission, and then as a member of the council.

A strong sense of fairness that leads me to protect the environment for our citizens, our children and our grandchildren – while encouraging equitable and sustainable development to ensure our future.

A solid education in physical and natural sciences.

A deeply curious personality that delights in ferreting out the details of how the city works.

Q: What are your priorities if elected?

A: Encourage fair and equitable development, balancing the rights and desires of all our residents with creating a climate that encourages new investment and residents.

As one example, I remain adamant that any uses of the old airport land be well-chosen both with respect to its location next to our school and with respect to both the number and quality of the jobs proposed developments would create.

Q: With the city in the midst of its SEI, what steps do you think it should take to revitalize the economy and incentivize development? 

A: There is no silver bullet that will revitalize the economy. Any successful, sustainable and equitable solution must depend on the city government, the business community and the Blaine citizens – all working in concert.

There are three things our city government can do to facilitate revitalization – make the legal framework transparent and fair to both our citizens and to potential investors, ensure the city staff is courteous and responsive and make the appearance of Blaine as tidy and welcoming as possible.

We are doing well in each of these areas and we will continue to build on our successes. Our current zoning and regulatory environment achieves a balance between preserving the life-style we cherish and keeping Blaine competitive in the struggle to attract new industry. Throughout my tenure on the council, I have asked investors to tell me about their experience working with city staff and the responses have been uniformly positive. We must continue to monitor this.

More than a year ago, Blaine hired a code compliance officer to work with local property owners to encourage compliance with our ordinances. She has made significant progress in making our city a more attractive place to live, invest, and do business.  We need to build upon her successes.

The next step is to find out what investments are most important to our citizens – and what we are willing to pay to finance these investments.


Harry Robinson

Q: What inspired you to run again? 

A: I was inspired by my love of Blaine and my desire to continue to be of service to the citizens of this wonderful city. The next few years will bring many opportunities and challenges. The decisions that will have to be made will greatly impact Blaine’s future. I believe I have the background and experience required to make recommendations which will be best for the citizens of Blaine.

Q: What makes you the right person for the position? 

A: I am the right person because I have the background, experience, knowledge and relationships to be an effective council member. The following are my qualifications for the position: I am a longtime resident of Blaine; I was a marketing executive for 40 years; I was a founding member of the Peace Health St. Joseph’s Hospital Foundation and on their committee for 10 years; I served on the Whatcom Museum and Whatcom Transit Authority boards; I served on the Blaine Planning Commission for 10 years; the Blaine City Council for 10 years and as mayor for the last six years. Presently I am serving in the Washington Coalition of Governments, the Small City Caucus and the Whatcom County Housing Advisory Committee. All of these experiences give me the qualifications to serve Blaine.

Q: What are your priorities if elected?

A: My priorities if elected are: jobs, jobs, jobs; particularly in the Gateway District (the former airport); revitalizing downtown; strengthening the city’s finances; providing ongoing support for the Boy’s and Girl’s Club, the senior center and the library; continuing the beautification of the city, providing ongoing support for parks, trails, playgrounds and streets; bolstering citizen involvement in local government; supporting the chamber of commerce and their initiatives and selecting a new police chief.

Q: With the city in the midst of its SEI, what steps do you think it should take to revitalize the economy and incentivize development?

A: I believe the following steps should be taken to support the Strategic Economic Initiative: We need to work with developers to increase the population, particularly in east Blaine, to support and maintain existing businesses, increase marketing and advertising for new businesses and tourists, continue efforts to attract new businesses with well-paying jobs in the Gateway District, support the chamber of commerce and their initiatives and finally, we need to increase the number of initiatives to attract tourists, like the Fourth of July parade.

Alicia Rule

Q: What inspired you to run?

A: I have always been an active member of my community. Through volunteering, community organizing, running a small business, social work and event planning, I have been continually inspired by the community leaders and members that I work alongside. I was raised to believe that each of us have a responsibility to contribute to our community. When I arrived back “home” after some years away, I found running for local office a good way for me to give back.

What makes you the right person for the position? 

A: I do all of life wholeheartedly and with the strong work ethic that my local Whatcom County parents passed down to me. This role will be no exception to that. I am approachable and responsive, a critical thinker and I always keep an open mind. This is the mindset, grit and creativity it takes to lead Blaine into a successful future. Additionally, I had a front row seat to the successful revitalization of my last town, which started out very similarly to Blaine and is now repeatedly named in the top 10 lists of best small towns in the country. The experience I’ve garnered, coupled with a fresh perspective and open mind, make me the right candidate for this position.

Q: What are your priorities if elected?

A: Overwhelmingly, the citizens are clear in their desire for downtown revitalization as their main concern. As a leader, I will work tirelessly to make that happen. Increased community engagement and making the residents’ voices heard are critical to our collective success. I aim to open City Hall so that everyone feels welcome and a part of what happens there. I consider city council members to be direct representatives of the people of our town and am committed to communicating with the people who live here regularly. I am committed to encouraging new business growth in a thoughtful way, weighing in at every juncture to ensure balance with preserving our unique history and natural beauty.

I will work to continue to support and improve our local schools, public safety, parks and recreational opportunities.

Q: With the city in the midst of its SEI, what steps do you think it should take to revitalize the economy and incentivize development?

A: Revitalization of our downtown waterfront needs to be at the core of our long range economic plan because research shows us it works. A thriving downtown uses a very small physical space, but brings in exponential taxes per square foot. Our beautiful waterfront lends itself well to tourism, which contributes to our bottom line without overly burdening our local residents. When a downtown is successful, the surrounding community becomes successful. It attracts other “bests” in various fields such as teachers, police officers, fire fighters, artists, medical professionals and all the other people you need to make the healthy community we all envision.


Bonnie Onyon

Q: What inspired you to run again?

A: The city has been working on some exciting projects that I want to see through to completion. But mostly, I just love Blaine and want to continue doing my part in helping to shape it into a more dynamic and vibrant community.

Q: What makes you the right person for the position?

A: Council experience is a key asset I bring to the position; but more than that, I have an enthusiasm and drive to explore possibilities and facilitate community projects to fruition. We have done the planning, and now we need to start doing. Change is good and necessary to prevent a stagnant economy, as well as a stagnant mindset. Change brings growth, which supports existing businesses and new ones to come. I think most of Blaine’s citizens are behind responsible, positive growth and I look forward to being part of a team moving forward to an exciting future for Blaine!

Q: What are your priorities if elected?

A: For several years, I have been promoting economic development as a top priority. This includes bringing in more living wage jobs and creating a more vibrant downtown. We have made recent strides in this direction. There is strong interest and potential sale of several parcels on the former airport property (Gateway Zone), as well as development of some properties downtown. I want to make sure these transactions are successfully concluded, with uses of the land that will benefit the citizens of Blaine. Also at the top of my list is keeping the city financially sound, while knowing when to invest our resources in the right direction, for the benefit of all.

Q: With the city in the midst of its SEI, what steps do you think it should take to revitalize the economy and incentivize development?

A: We should start implementing the results of the recent community survey and continue listening to community members about what’s important to them in making Blaine a more vibrant community that serves citizens of all ages. We need to be sure that our building codes and fees are fair and competitive, as well as streamline our permit processes for the fastest turnaround possible. The city can create the infrastructure needed and the best climate for growth, but it’s up to the private sector to step up, take a risk, and make an investment. We should make sure investors and builders feel appreciated for their efforts in contributing to our community.

 

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