BurienCity emailed these questions to each of the 17 candidates for Burien City Council seats. Gary Wood, who is running for Position 1, recently got back to us. We will post answers from each candidate as they respond.
Name: Gary Wood
I work on Windows 10 for Microsoft as a Senior Development Engineer accessing telemetry that offers insights on which features users use most, detection of update and reliability issues and helps to increase customer satisfaction.
Where are you from?
I grew up in small town in Arkansas called Heber Springs with a little over a thousand people. After college, I lived in Little Rock, Arkansas until 2000 when Microsoft recruited me to come to Seattle.
How long have you lived in Burien?
July 2014, I moved to Burien with my wife, Mika and her cat Puny.
In your opinion, what is the best thing about Burien?
The best thing about Burien is the people and small-town feel. I find the people living here to be inclusive, diverse, friendly, and proud to be a resident of Burien. I love a small town-feel as it was part of my roots.
– How will you encourage this aspect of our city?
We need the City Council to promote a vision, strategy, and tactical plan for Burien that will sustain this small-town feel and culture while encouraging economic development that doesn’t undermine what makes Burien special.
What do you think is the most important issue facing Burien today?
The most important issue today is the lack of unity of our residents that are being divided by race and economic means by a dysfunctional City Council and political environment coming out of our last Presidential election. Burien seems to be a ship adrift with no leadership that can steer our community to solve increased crime, homelessness and have policies that protects the small-town feel from developers.
– How will you address this issue?
We need to bring in new City Council members, such as me, that are not aligned with creating political division that know how to create and sustain a great community. The City Council needs to have a 20-year vision and plan that makes Burien the most envied community in Washington State where people and businesses want to be part of Burien’s future.
What else could we improve, as a community?
People in Burien are not feeling safe living here. There are people that loiter around the library, at park benches, drug dealing, and more neighborhood & gang crime is occurring. We need the police and City Manager to make it a higher priority to address the fact that Burien is becoming less safe for our residents and children.
How will you support the growth of small businesses?
We need to improve the small business environment in Burien where opening a new business is not as expensive and complex as it is today. The permit process and criteria needs to be reviewed and changed to assure small businesses are being encouraged to locate in Burien. The B&O taxes should be invested back into the community that visibly improves the business environment and is directly attributable to increased small business net revenues.
I would personally recruit high tech giants Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Adobe to create a technology center in Burien. Also, I would be recruiting health services giants Virginia Mason and Swedish to build health centers in Burien.
What is the best way to reduce crime and improve safety?
Crime can be reduced by a more visible police presence in our community, neighborhoods, and downtown area. Combined with increased police presence, neighborhood watch, a community policing strategy and an unyielding prosecution of criminals. We should provide the police officers the tools, and support to reduce crime and improve safety; as I know they can do if City Council lets them do it.
How should we address the issue of homelessness?
First, we need to all accept that homelessness is a chronic issue that will continually get worse. It’s not going away, and government will not come in and solve it alone. That said, the city needs to do more than give $300,000 a year to a few non-profits. First, any non-profit getting funds from Burien for human services must show measurable progress yearly to help homeless become self sustaining. I propose that city contracts with businesses encourage local businesses to hire or help the homeless. We should provide B&O tax credits or as a preferential provider of city services if you hire someone that’s homeless or is under the poverty level. We should fund the Parks and Recreation department to use day labors that are homeless or pan-handling; provide them lunch and connect them to a private non-profit homeless shelter.
What steps should we take to become more environmentally responsible?
The Burien Economic Development Strategy (http://www.burienwa.gov/DocumentCenter/View/4902) emphasized a scope of vision including increasing “Quality of Life” within Burien, not solely economic development. Therefore, I would propose that scope of the economic development staff be chartered to include being environmentally responsible to reduce pollution (including noise and air pollution from SeaTac Airport.
What other goals do you have for your 4 year term, if elected?
Other than what I mentioned in the questions above.
I would make the City Council meetings more interactive between the council-members, staff, and residents; more as a conversation then the soulless sounds-bites we hear and extended unproductive meetings we have today.
We should be working actively with SeaTac, Normandy Park, and De Moines on a joint strategy to deal with Port of Seattle on economic development and decreasing noise/air pollution from airport operations.