The candidates in two contested Pullman City Council races told the audience at a Thursday night forum they see communication with the public and ensuring Pullman grows responsibly among the most important issues facing the city.
The League of Women Voters of Pullman organized the forum at the Neill Public Library featuring at-large candidates Francis Benjamin and incumbent Eileen Macoll, as well as Ward 1 candidates Chris Johnson and incumbent Ann Parks. The other Pullman city races for the Nov. 5 election are uncontested.
Many topics were addressed, but candidates discussed the significance of how the city communicates with the public multiple times.
Benjamin said communication is the most important Pullman issue the council should be addressing.
“If I look at things that need to change in order to help with the (city’s) responsible growth, communication is an area that as a city we need to move into more,” he said.
To keep the public informed of what is happening in Pullman, Benjamin said the city should update how it uses technology to communicate with the public and hire a communications director to handle the public relations responsibilities.
Macoll said Councilors Parks and Dan Records sketched out a communication plan that was introduced at Tuesday’s city council meeting.
“They’re putting a communication plan together so people can get the information they need because when people have the information they need, then they can come back to me and say, ‘Yes, I like this. No, I don’t like this. How are you going to vote on this?’ “ Macoll said.
Parks also pointed to communication as one of Pullman’s most important issues, and Johnson suggested the city council needs to clarify to the public the role of city government.
“There’s some very basic things that we need to do to better communicate with the public, be transparent and hold the City Council, the city staff and everyone accountable,” he said.
Macoll said the most important issue is addressing the vacant properties downtown. She said the city is exploring city code from Everett, Wash., that could set an example for Pullman to properly maintain and even beautify those buildings.
“That I think is the number one thing because we spent $127,000 on the (BDS Planning and Urban Design) downtown consultant study,” Macoll said, referring to a consultant Pullman has hired to develop a master plan for the future of downtown. “We need to have building blocks in place to use those information wisely, use that money wisely.”
She said the city needs to have a downtown that attracts people to visit and spend money.
As Pullman looks toward developing downtown and the rest of the city, Johnson said it needs to update its master plan and also give developers clear, concise development standards before they begin construction.
Johnson said he and his neighbors brought up concerns regarding the housing development Sundance South, specifically their desire for parks, bike paths and proper grading. He said the developers instead decided not to include those concerns in their plans.
“It’s a problem and it has to be addressed by having clear, concise development standards,” he said.
Parks said the city is developing in a responsible manner, even though it may not seem like it at times. She said sometimes it is easy to be distracted by short-term problems, and forget the city has a long-term vision for the city’s future.
“We didn’t get where we are today without long-term vision,” she said.
Benjamin said it is the council’s job to set that vision for Pullman, and it must plan for 5 to 15 years down the road.
As for other topics brought up during the forum, all the candidates expressed Pullman needs to do a better job of addressing flood risks, work to make a Colfax-Albion-Pullman trail a reality and reduce carbon emissions.
The League of Women Voters of Pullman is expected to post a video of the forum online in the next 48 hours.
Anthony Kuipers can be reached at (208) 883-4640, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.