It’s been an unusual few weeks for me since the last major posting here, which has included two rounds of eye surgery, dealing with two family deaths in three months, as well as embarking on a major political journey. In case you aren’t aware, after a brief flirtation with a legislative run last year, I’ve decided to run for Mayor of Port Orchard.
I’ve lived in South Kitsap since moving here from South Florida in 1975. I started my business in Port Orchard in 1979, and lived on Long Lake for about nine years before moving to Manchester in 1986. Deciding to do this about a year and half ago, I moved into the city early last year and have purchased a residence here.
So why do I want to be mayor?
Frankly, I’m worried about the future of the city and what it means for the long-term safety of my family, my business, my investments here, but most of all, what it means for the future of my 3-year old grandson Bryce, whom Dee and I are raising.
I want for Bryce to want to come home to Port Orchard when he graduates from college. But for that to happen, there needs to be something for him to come home to — family wage jobs and affordable housing for example — not to mention being a safe place for him to live and to raise his family. None of that exists today.
Quite frankly, in surveying the local political landscape, I don’t see anyone else stepping up that has the absolute unbridled passion about the future of Port Orchard that I do.
The mayor’s race is non-partisan. Considering how much I've managed to piss off both parties writing about them over the years, that's probably a good thing for me — and was a major consideration in my decision. However, I’ve been extremely encouraged by the high level of bipartisan support I’ve received since I began sharing my intentions with people about a year ago.
Since announcing publicly a couple of weeks ago, that support has blossomed with endorsements across the political spectrum from groups as diverse as the traditionally Democratic Kitsap County Central Labor Council, Retired Government Employees of Kitsap, and Olympic Peninsula Building Trades Council, to high-profile Republicans like Dino Rossi, Former Secretary of State Ralph Munro and County Commissioner Jan Angel. My kick off event included a highly diverse group of 227 people — and campaign contributions from people of all political beliefs from the most conservative to the extremely liberal. It was an extremely pleasant surprise.
My goal is for Port Orchard to become the safest city in Washington to live, raise your family and own a business.
Without going into a lot of detail, we’re raising Bryce as a direct result of the city’s drug and crime problem. We also know, as grandparents, we're not alone in this situation. In spite of the Port Orchard Police Department doing a great job with its very limited resources, in recent years we’ve gone from having one of the lowest crime rates for cities our size, to 6th highest in the state for violent crime. For Port Orchard to have a higher per capita violent crime rate than Seattle, I believe is simply unacceptable.
I’d like to implement new ideas such as using the RICO statue to encourage building owners not to allow drug activity on their properties, as well as Police Chief Al Townsend’s suggestion to adopt a crime-free multi-housing ordinance similar to the one being used very successfully in Lakewood and Tacoma.
On the business front, it’s been proven lowering crime rates positively impacts a city’s ability to attract families and new businesses to the community. Putting more cops on the street will not only reduce our crime rate, but spur economic development as well.
It only takes a walk down Bay Street to realize what needs to improve in Port Orchard. Developers are lining up to buy downtown buildings and redevelop the last, reasonably priced waterfront in the Puget Sound region. Residents are understandably concerned, yet many still don’t realize that development isn't the cause of growth, but is the response to its consumer demand.
Whether we like or not, change is inevitable. Responsibly managing that change within the narrow confines of the state’s Growth Management Act (GMA) is our key challenge. However, we’re only going to have one opportunity to get it right!
The GMA mandates accepting taller buildings and mixed-use redevelopment as a way to keep the expanding population within the confines of the Urban Growth Areas. Quality development along Bay Street of retail and shops at street level, with a variety of living spaces above, will help retain our small-town ambiance, while complying with the GMA and meeting the housing needs of a growing population.
As Bremerton has proven, urban parks make cities much more livable, and a more enticing place for business. I’d like to create desirable amenities by increasing the size of the existing park between the waterfront and Bay Street and expanding the Boardwalk from downtown to the Annapolis ferry terminal, as well as explore the possibility of building a conveniently located parking garage with a walkway to the downtown waterfront.
Annexation is another issue that must be addressed head-on. If Port Orchard doesn't deal with annexation and expanding the city's boundaries, we will become little more than a suburb of an aggressively expanding Bremerton with a shrinking tax base.
Also on my “To Do” list is upgrading the city’s Web site to make it possible to pay city bills (water, traffic fines, etc.) online. Interactive crime mapping and on-line reporting tools are available for municipal websites so citizens can report minor crimes. These also track where sex offenders are located and allow citizens easy access to this information.
There are a lot of other things I want to accomplish, but this isn’t meant to be a full-blown campaign piece. If you want to know more, visit www.electlary.com.
However, after writing my Business Journal column for more than 19 years, I’m going to take a sabbatical during the campaign. I believe it would be inappropriate to continue to observe and comment upon local politics while running for office. Beginning next issue, we will publish provocative guest editorials for the duration of the campaign. The guest editorials will continue until the election is decided. Contact me directly if you think you'd like to write one.