The City of Sandpoint will hold elections for three vacant council seats on Nov. 7, 2017. The seats of three council members — Shannon Williamson, Robert Camp and Stephen Snedden — will be filled by the three declared candidates who receive the most votes. The six declared candidates were sent a questionnaire with questions designed to outline their position on key issues for the town of Sandpoint. Here are their responses, listed in alphabetical order. This information was coordinated with SandpointOnline.com. Don’t forget, a Candidates’ Forum will take place Monday, Oct. 30 at Sandpoint Community Hall at 5:30 p.m.
Questions for the Candidates
To view candidates’ responses to the questions below, please refer to each candidate profile and match up the number of their answer to these questions.
1. Among the myriad issues facing the city at present, what do you consider the most important issues, and why?
2. The University of Idaho has announced that it intends to sell its undeveloped 77-acre property on North Boyer alongside Sand Creek. The city is currently conducting workshops and meetings to collect input on possible changes to the comprehensive plan to guide future development and use of the property. Do you have a position on the use of this property or the process the city has initiated?
3. The new grandstands at Memorial Field were completed this year, but with the dedicated five-year, 1-percent sales tax for their construction producing revenue for additional projects the city is now considering a replacement of the turf with either upgraded grass turf, artificial turf or a hybrid. What is your position on the turf question?
4. A follow-up on parks: If additional funds are available for park projects, do you have projects you would want to pursue? The city is exploring a new master plan for City Beach; do you have a position or ideas for potential changes, additions or development of City Beach?
5. Jobs and the local economy are always an election issue. How would describe the economy of Sandpoint today? What role do you see for the City Council/Mayor to play in creating a healthy local economy to foster growth of living-wage jobs in Sandpoint?
6. The city has moved toward construction of fiber optic or high-speed internet in Sandpoint in order to attract and retain companies as well as benefit residential users. Do you feel this is an important project for the city to undertake; if so, do you feel the process to launch the service is satisfactory?
7. Related to the economy is the matter of affordable workforce housing. Do you feel affordable housing is an issue? If so, do you have plans to address it?
8. Sandpoint’s downtown has undergone a major realignment of traffic patterns to remove one-way streets and convert virtually all streets to two-way. A downtown redesign to widen sidewalks, add stormwater swales and other changes carries on next summer starting with Cedar Street. What is your position on these changes to downtown? Corollary question: As downtown parking is a perennial issue, how do you view changes instituted by the city in the past year concerning the management and enforcement of parking? Do you have other ideas concerning parking issues?
9. Increasing train traffic, specifically trains transporting coal and volatile oil, has become an issue locally and regionally with citizens who identify environmental and public safety threats. Do you feel this is an important issue for city officials; if so, what actions to you advocate?
10. Here’s a final three-part question:
a)How much time will you devote to your position?
b)How many City Council meetings have you attended in the past two years?
c)Why are you running for public office?
•Name: Joel Aispuro
•Years of residence in Sandpoint and Bonner County: Over 20 years
•Marital status/family: Happily married with three beautiful daughters
•How can the public contact you?
Email: [email protected] Facebook: www.facebook.com/JoelForSandpoint
•Education: Sandpoint High School graduate.
•Recent or pertinent employment history: Joel’s Mexican Restaurant.
•Public offices held: None.
•Nonprofit groups, service or professional organizations to which you belong: This will be my eighth year coaching a nonprofit varsity basketball team. I also coach the Kick Start Soccer program for 2 to 4 year olds.
•Other experiences or skills that qualify you for office: I am friendly and available.
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS:
1. As a city, we should continue to focus on our roads, sewer system, water system and emergency services. We should be getting five stars in these areas.
2. The property is a beautify property, and I hope that whoever purchases the property keeps it beautiful.
3. As a former Sandpoint Bulldog athlete, I prefer natural grass.
4. The City Beach is a beautiful beach and great for families. At the very least, we should keep it clean and family friendly.
5. Town was very busy this summer, and we should seek to keep town busy all year round. The city should focus on the basics: making sure that the city has clean water, working sewers, nice streets. We should continue to cultivate a business- friendly city.
6. I would like to see fiber optics in Sandpoint. I would like to see a private company come in and undertake this project. I would also like to see this private company pay back the city for the process they have already started.
7. I believe it is an issue, and I would certainly like to look into the issue more.
8. In regard to the two-way streets, I will wait at least a whole year before I come to a final judgment. I would also like to see if the new layout presents any challenges in the winter.
9. I would certainly like to look into this more. As a city we should always be aware of what’s being hauled through our city, whether by train or truck. Also, we should always have a plan in place for worst case scenarios.
10. a) Whatever it takes.
b) Quite a few.
c) Because it is time for me to serve.
•Name: Jeff Bohnhof
•Years of residence in Sandpoint and Bonner County: My family and I moved to Bonner County from Minnesota in 1974. I’ve lived in Sandpoint for the last ten years.
•Marital status/family: Single
•How can the public contact you? I can be contacted on my Facebook page.
•Education: I graduated from Newport High School in 1979.
•Recent or pertinent employment history: My employment history has been in the manufacturing industry at various companies, ranging from electronics and plastics to sheet metal fabrication. I have worked for locally-owned Encoder Products Company for the past seven years.
•Public offices held: I have never held a public office.
•Nonprofit groups, service or professional organizations to which you belong: I and a group of friends resurrected the current PFLAG Sandpoint, and I have been a member since 2015. I am also a member of the Bonner County Human Rights Task Force.
•Other experiences or skills that qualify you for office: As president of PFLAG Sandpoint, I learned an invaluable skill: listening. Being president of a nonprofit-affiliated group required me to listen to members to determine people’s needs and wants and figure out a way to make that happen. I feel this is excellent training and preparation for being a member of our City Council.
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS:
1. Affordable housing, or the lack thereof, is an issue that definitely needs to be addressed. Many people who want to reside in the community are having a hard time finding affordable housing. I have friends and co-workers who commute to Sandpoint or Sagle from Priest River, Coeur d’Alene, Rathdrum and even Post Falls.
One option may be offering discounts for mother-in-law cottages (auxiliary dwelling units) or relaxing the zoning rules and compliance rules to allow additional units — these units are currently popular due to the tiny house craze. You can position them as great for elderly who may need home maintenance assistance and general help. This keeps them living in their homes longer. These units are also an option for adult kids coming home with student debt as a way to live with mom and dad, yet be on their own.
2. I would like to see the property developed with a mix of single and multifamily units, and yet keep as much of it available for a multipurpose rec center type of facility like the Kroc Center in Coeur d’ Alene. One suggestion I heard from a citizen was to develop a “destination community” complete with shops and restaurants and green spaces. A bike path was also suggested to connected with the Dover Bay Trail, which ends near Larch Street, and extend it through the property.
3. This is one issue that I will have to do more research on before I make a definitive answer. I need to look at a cost analysis, see what other options are available for using that tax money, and consider all the options, while weighing what city residents want.
Regarding turf specifically, I was a band kid in school back in the day, so I can’t say what it was like to play on artificial turf versus natural turf. There are pros and cons to the maintenance and upkeep to both natural and artificial turf which will have to be weighed carefully before a final decision could be made.
4. As a dog owner, one project I would like to see is the addition of a dog park somewhere in Sandpoint. One thing that has been brought up to me is the need for additional parking at City Beach, although to do that some green space may have to be given up. City Beach is definitely a significant icon of Sandpoint and any development or additions would have to be studied carefully. I think one great addition to City Beach would be the carrousel that is being restored.
5. For the single mom — or just a single person — it can be difficult making ends meet. Does that mean Sandpoint’s economy is struggling? No, however, bringing more good sustainable jobs that pay a living wage is something that we as a City Council should constantly be working on. Improving the economic base of our community should always be in the forefront. Whether that means helping with tax breaks, or finding other incentives to bring companies into the area, full-time, living-wage employment opportunities always need to be pursued.
6. The technology and information age is booming and growing; improved internet access will benefit everyone, from store and business owners to the students in school and the public itself. I haven’t really been watching how the process to launch this project has been going, but it is something that I will be researching further.
7. Yes, affordable housing is an issue. Being single myself, finding an affordable place to live was a challenge when I first arrived in Sandpoint. Some people I have talked to in the past have stated that they have had to look in the surrounding communities because they could not find affordable housing here in Sandpoint. As stated in my answer in question one, it is definitely something that needs to be addressed.
8. Creating a downtown core that is both pedestrian and car friendly will only add to the charm that is Sandpoint. Yes, it will be an ongoing, lengthy project, but one I believe will benefit everyone. As with the U of I property, community involvement is essential.
Parking has always been an issue that many people have an opinion about, and is an ongoing issue when there is limited space. One idea that I have always thought about is building a multi-story parking structure at the current city lot next to the U.S. Bank building.
9. Yes, it is definitely an important issue that city officials need to be aware of and deal with. Especially with the train track running along and over the lake and local streams. Does the railroad reroute their tracks to suit our needs? No, of course that is not going to happen. However, we do need to have an action plan in place in case of any kind of derailment accident. We as a city need to work with the railroad on an emergency plan in regard to potential evacuation and clean up.
10. a) Holding a city council position is an important endeavor. I will do whatever research and spend as much time as needed to become familiar with current and future city issues. I feel that as a council member it is important to be connected to the citizens of Sandpoint. My Facebook page will stay active. The public will be able to contact me through city hall. I welcome the involvement of everyone.
b) Two or three dozen, becoming more involved in the recent months.
c) Sandpoint is an amazing, eclectic, vibrant community. A wonderful place to raise a family. I feel that as a community, we need to continue to work on creating a strong stable economic base on which to build our future by working toward a stable and sustainable economy and using tax breaks and other incentives to bring in good, viable, living-wage jobs as well as affordable housing for everyone.
John E. Darling, Jr.
•Name: John E. Darling, Jr.
•Years of residence in Sandpoint and Bonner County: 37 years.
•Marital status/family: Married with 3 children.
•How can the public contact you?
•Education: Sandpoint High School, US Navy
•Recent or pertinent employment history: Sandpoint Furniture Carpet One Floor and Home
•Public offices held: Ponderay City Council — 2 terms
•Nonprofit groups, service or professional organizations to which you belong: Panhandle Building Contractors Association, Friends of Pend d’ Oreille bay Trail, Youth Sports
•Other experiences or skills that qualify you for office: Business-minded, military attention to detail, patient, caring father and husband
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS:
1. Improved streets and infrastructure, high speed internet, affordable water.
2. I believe this would be a great site for a community involvement center, youth sports training facility or future site for additional schools.
3. Growing up and playing in this stadium, I believe this should stay a natural grass field.
4. Being born and raised in Sandpoint, the City Beach was my social lifeline as a youth; I would love to see dedicated funds to improve the features and uses for this park.
5. Sandpoint’s economy appears to be on the steady climb. I believe that the mayor and council can focus on improving Sandpoint’s tourism attractions which supports our local economy.
6. I believe this is the number-one thing that the city can focus on to attract new companies and rural commuters that bring in high paid incomes to our economy.
7. I believe that affordable housing is important. I do support LOCAL affordable building developments and apartment projects.
8. I believe the realignment of the downtown traffic patterns was great. I have noticed increased available parking and better flow patterns through the down town corridor.
9. I am an advocate to hold the railroads accountable for their impacts on small communities.
10. a) As much time as needed.
c) I am running for office to give our community a clear option for an unbiased, consistent, good-listening, and compassionate, progressive, honorable candidate.
•Name: Rob Jediny
•Years of residence in Sandpoint and Bonner County: two years
•Marital status/family: Single
•How can the public contact you?
•Education: BS Communication Arizona State University
•Recent or pertinent employment history: Federal employee 24 years
•Public offices held: None.
•Nonprofit groups, service or professional organizations to which you belong: Big Brother/ Big Sisters
•Other experiences or skills that qualify you for office: Condominium Board Member two years, lived in multi-cultural environment overseas, operated multi-million dollar projects within allotted budget, directed large groups to work as a team and accomplish difficult missions, entrusted with national security issues for past 24 years.
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS:
1. a) Employment opportunities: There seems to be a shortage of above-average jobs in the Sandpoint area. This is nothing new, but we need to address what we can do to improve wages and the number of better jobs for the citizens of Sandpoint.
b) Entry-level housing: There seems to be a shortage of affordable housing in the community.
c) Traffic congestion: There also has been recent increase of traffic congestion. Some of the congestion may be alleviated when the road construction is complete. We can have a better idea if the downtown road design has caused the surge in traffic or some other factors play a part.
2. The Boyer property would be great for entry-level housing. It would be nice to incorporate facilities that would benefit the community.
3. There are benefits to both options. I would need to review the benefits analysis to see what is best for the community.
4. City Beach is a fantastic park, but I would need to review any of the potential options as well as a cost-benefit analysis.
5. Sandpoint’s economy shows signs of growth and help-wanted signs are starting to become more common. Steady growth of the economy is a key role of the city Council and mayor of Sandpoint.
6. Technology is important to stimulate growth. We need to integrate the input of local businesses, the public and city to access viability.
7. Affordable housing is a challenge in desirable areas. People need to be creative in finding ways to offset the cost by sharing living space with roommates or family members until they can afford more comfortable options.
8. As the city grows traffic and parking issues become more common. Riding a bike or walking just once a week can have an impact on getting around downtown. I personally don’t have a problem finding a parking space, and the traffic in Sandpoint is a whole lot better than Coeur d’Alene or Spokane.
9. I have not seen any impact studies that would allow me to make an informed decision on this issue.
10. a) I’ll spend enough time to understand the issues and make informed decisions on what is asked of me.
b) I’ve attended three meetings due to working in the evenings.
c) I love Sandpoint, which is my new home, and want to give back to the community.
•Name: Shannon Williamson
•Years of residence in Sandpoint and Bonner County: I have lived in Sandpoint for 6 years.
•Marital status/family: I am single but in a long-term relationship. I have two wonderful children. My son is 10 years old, and my daughter will turn 8 years old in November.
•How can the public contact you? I can be reached at [email protected] I can also be reached through my webpage ShannonForSandpoint.com and Facebook page.
•Education: Ph.D. – Marine Science (Biological Oceanography/Microbiology), University of South Florida, 2003
B.S. – marine biology, University of North Carolina, 1996
•Recent or pertinent employment history: Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper – executive director, 2011-present
J. Craig Venter Institute – director of environmental virology, 2005-2011
University of California, San Diego – adjunct professor, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, 2009-2011
•Public offices held: Sandpoint City Council – City Council president, 2016-present
Sandpoint City Council – City Council member, 2014-present
•Nonprofit groups, service or professional organizations to which you belong: Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper, Waterkeeper Alliance, I support a variety of non-profit organizations in Sandpoint and Bonner County through their fundraising initiatives.
•Other experiences or skills that qualify you for office: I currently lead a local nonprofit organization that is dedicated to protecting the water quality of Lake Pend Oreille and its associated waters. My responsibilities as executive director are diverse and include organizational management, program development and implementation, budget establishment and reconciliation, fundraising and award management, as well as education, outreach and advocacy efforts. As the executive director of a non-profit, I have a deep appreciation and clear understanding of how to balance project development and growth with fiscal responsibility.
I developed and led a dynamic environmental virology program at the J. Craig Venter Institute with research primarily focusing on virus-host interactions in the marine environment. In this role, I directly supervised and managed laboratory staff, students and interns, led regular meetings to monitor project progress and address program goals, performed annual performance evaluations, fostered open communication with team members and solicited feedback, prepared and submitted grant proposals, managed multi-million dollar budgets and presented the results of peer-reviewed research to global audiences.
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS:
1. I consider protection of natural resources, economic development and affordable housing among the most important issues currently facing the city.
Sandpoint is blessed with an abundance of natural resources that provide for a diversity of recreational opportunities as well as clean water for swimming, drinking and fishing. It’s important to manage our natural resources in ways that preserve their integrity so that they continue to support their beneficial uses long into the future. For example, Sandpoint recently received a new, more stringent permit to discharge treated wastewater to the Pend Oreille River, which will require a series of upgrades to our wastewater treatment facility. We must be forward thinking and strategic in our decision making about these improvements to achieve the goals of protecting water quality, preserving waterfront property value and stabilizing taxpayer rates collectively.
Economic development is intrinsically linked to the resiliency of our natural resources. Most of us know someone who’s moved to Sandpoint after experiencing “the Long Bridge effect,” and they’ve figured out how to make a living here. This phenomenon, in part, is responsible for diversifying our current economy. Growth is inevitable, but smart growth is not. We need to encourage economic development that contributes to the vitality of our city while preserving its unique character. Increasing local educational opportunities, including post-secondary and technical training is also key to creating a talented workforce that can make a great living right here at home.
Economic development without access to affordable housing doesn’t work. Affordable housing means different things to different people. It can mean subsidized housing, or affordable rentals for those that don’t qualify, or affordable inventory for the first-time home buyer. It’s a supply-and-demand issue, and as we stand right now, we have high demand and low supply across most of these categories. My suggestions for addressing this issue are outlined as part of a subsequent question.
2. I believe that the city is doing a good job at making the process of evaluating potential changes to the comprehensive plan, which directly impacts land use at the university property, as open and inviting as possible. It’s been fantastic to see a high level of involvement by the public and I hope it continues as we move forward.
Based on the outcome of the workshops so far, there is strong support for preserving the recreational uses of the property. I agree with this objective. At this early stage in the evaluation process, it’s not yet clear which types of recreational uses resonate with most participants. I’m optimistic that this picture will resolve itself as we dive deeper into the details of the comprehensive plan review. Deeper discussion will also help bring about a better understanding of how it’s possible for this property and the surrounding area can support multiple uses that complement one another.
3. The workshops the city has held to date on this issue have demonstrated that there are strong opinions about natural versus artificial turf, and I’ve heard the pros and cons of both. Natural turf is a desirable option for activities like the Festival at Sandpoint since it remains cooler for participants and anchoring tents is a much easier task. However, natural turf requires a lot of ongoing maintenance that can be costly. On the other side of the coin, artificial turf comes with a higher upfront price tag, but maintenance costs are lower, and it will extend the athletic seasons for numerous sports that are typically shortened due to wet spring weather. There has been discussion of combining the two options, which could provide a happy medium. However, without fully understanding all the details that are associated with each option, I have not yet decided which would be the most beneficial.
4. As a council, we decided during our strategic planning session to focus our time, energy and resources on existing projects, or those we have already committed to, to deliver the best possible outcome(s) for the residents and visitors of Sandpoint. I’m excited that we’ve committed to looking at the possibilities for City Beach through the lens of a master plan. We haven’t yet begun this process as a council, but I look forward to objectively considering at all the ideas that come forward. I personally like the idea of an ice skating rink and carousel, but these would have to fit in with the overall collective vision and budget for City Beach.
5. I would describe Sandpoint’s economy as diverse. We have transitioned from a historical economy dominated by the timber and railroad industries to one that supports numerous types including tourism, biomedical, aerospace, software development, analytics, food production, timber, light industrial and more. The council has a responsibility to review existing policy and procedures, and/or create new ones, that encourage smart economic development that supports a living wage. The city currently works with a variety of local and state partner agencies to facilitate job growth and retention. We need to ensure that our relationship with these agencies are productive while also seeking new opportunities to leverage.
6. High-speed internet is critical to the success and satisfaction of our businesses, students, residents and visitors. The process for bringing high-speed internet to Sandpoint has been well thought out and deliberate. The city has worked together with the Sandpoint Urban Renewal Agency and Bonner County to create a high-speed fiber optic network throughout downtown Sandpoint to connect public facilities and services. This has, and will continue to be, an ambitious project with the goal of bringing Sandpoint’s services up to par with larger communities. With several internet service providers setting the groundwork for “tapping into” the fiber backbone, high-speed internet will soon be a viable option for the residents of Sandpoint.
7. As mentioned in an earlier response, I feel that affordable housing is an issue in Sandpoint. I personally had a difficult time finding an affordable rental home before I could buy. I have heard the same story from many others here in town, whether they are looking to rent or buy their first home.
Before finding viable solutions to address affordable housing, we need to first define the scope of the problem. Are we talking about affordable rental housing or affordable homes for sale? Or both. Each scenario could elicit different pathways to solving the problem. For example, we can explore concepts such as density bonuses, permit fees and other associated costs to help us get closer to making affordable housing a long-term reality for Sandpoint.
8. I know it’s been a tough adjustment for many of our residents and visitors to Sandpoint as we’ve reconfigured the traffic patterns of our streets. There are still kinks to work out, as would be expected with such a large project, and I’m confident that the result will be beneficial to our downtown businesses and their patrons. I’m looking forward to the pending improvements to our streets as they will enhance the directional changes and improve the downtown experience.
As for parking enforcement, I never heard a positive comment about Diamond Parking while they oversaw enforcement. I’m glad that we’ve returned this job to the city’s hands, and I’m optimistic that we will have much smoother sailing in this department. As Sandpoint grows, we will have to continually evaluate how we regulate parking and make adjustments that are mindful of our downtown businesses. I know that a parking structure is very desirable and would help address what many perceive as a parking problem. A project of this scale must be carefully planned and accounted for financially.
9. I do feel that fossil fuel by rail transport is an important issue for the city to consider. The council has already adopted resolutions on this topic, expressing concern for substantially increased rail traffic through Sandpoint and potential impacts to human health and safety and the safety of our environment.
Each new proposal for a coal or oil export terminal, refinery or mine has consequences for Sandpoint since our city is the “funnel” for all rail traffic traveling to our east and west. These proposals, if permitted, all bring a heavy price tag to Sandpoint in terms of increased rail traffic and associated consequences. In addition, the proposed second rail bridge over Lake Pend Oreille will bring similar consequences. The city should weigh in on any proposal that will impact the health, safety and overall well-being of its residents and visitors.
10. a) As much time as it takes. It’s not enough to just show up at council meetings. Council members must take the time to research, talk to staff, listen and educate themselves on topics they may not be familiar with (which is inevitable) before making decisions.
b) To the best of my recollection, I have attended all council meetings since I joined the council in 2014, unless I was sick or attending a conference.
c) I’m running for re-election because I love Sandpoint. It’s been a true honor to serve as a council member and as City Council president. I can’t think of a better place to raise my two kids. I’m running because I’m committed to keeping Sandpoint a great place for families.
Mose Dunkel did not respond to questionnaire in time to make the print deadline. You may, however, view Mr. Dunkel’s answers online at SandpointOnline’s Election Central page when they have been sent.