Candidate Q&A: City of Walla Walla Position 3

This Q&A is part of our ongoing coverage of the 2013 elections. For a complete list of races, endorsements and other candidate Q&As, please visit our Elections Center.

Walla Walla faces a number of social, finance, infrastructure and spending issues its City Council must address. On Nov. 5, voters will elect council members in three contested races.

Mayor Jim Barrow and challenger Paul Mobley are running for Position 1; Robert Smith and Richard Morgan are in a contest for Position 2; and incumbent Conrado Cavazos is facing a challenge from Allen Pomraning for Position 3.

The Union-Bulletin submitted six questions to all six candidates. Below, we have printed biographical information and responses from Conrado Cavazos and Allen Pomraning, the candidates for Position 3. Please see our Position 1 and Position 2 pages for information on other candidates.

Conrado Cavazos

Age: 70

Education: Associate degree in Sociology/Psychology from Walla Walla Community College; bachelor’s degree in sociology from Whitman College; and juris doctorate from Gonzaga University Law School, Spokane

Personal Statement: I have been a member of the City Council since 2010 and have learned much in three years and 10 months. .

Allen Pomraning

Age: 59

Occupation: Professional project manager

Education: Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, graduate studies in leadership at Albers School of Business within Seattle University, Army Management Staff College, and PMP from the Project Management Institute

Personal Statement: I am an honest, open, intelligent, caring person. I have over 30 years of successful experience in technology, roads, water, parks, public safety, budgets and community outreach. I look forward to working hard for you.

Last year, voters defeated an $8.7 million aquatic center bond measure, which was criticized as being too costly and too much like a waterpark. Please explain why you would or wouldn’t support the construction of a municipal pool in Walla Walla? If you would support it, what would that facility include? How much should it cost? How would you fund it?

Cavazos: The scope of city swimming facilities should be determined in advance of ballot measure by learning what the citizens want ... and what they are willing to pay. We can make that determination much like the Walla Walla School District did to learn what Wa-Hi improvements voters will support by considering the results of statistically valid resident surveys; the ideas generated in public meetings; the lessons learned by other cities with such facilities; and the recommendations of city staff. It has not worked for either the city or the school district to simply put a plan together and hope the voters will approve of the bond to fund it.

Pomraning: My oldest daughter was and continues to be a competitive swimmer. I believe the silent majority of citizens would support the design and construction of a community pool that is a ‘profit center’ for our taxpayers. Years ago when I worked on the pool committee we discovered a few community pools that made an annual profit for their taxpayer owners. A successful pool business model taken from a profitable city pool should drive our pool design.

Last year, City Council narrowly approved tapping into the city’s banked levy capacity to raise an additional $185,000 in annual funds through property taxes. Please explain why you would or would not support any future uses of banked levy capacity.

Cavazos: Prior instances of levying banked property tax capacity include 2007 levy of $150,000 for street repairs and last year’s $185,228 for maintaining service levels in police, fire, streets, library and parks. The Council used banked levy capacity only in times of clear and critical need with genuine regard for the priorities of the city and the impact of property tax increases on city taxpayers. Those should remain the Council’s measures of support of the use of the banked levy capacity in the future.

Pomraning: From the City of Walla Walla’s 2011 Citizen Survey, page 9: ‘The repairing of streets is a top priority ... The most supported of the four funding strategies, with respondents saying they would definitely or probably support it, was the property tax increase (56 percent).’ I will always listen and respond to well documented citizen mandates. I will bring fair, thoughtful balance to Council negotiations. Frequently, the council becomes aware of new unfunded community efforts by citizen subgroups. The Council exists to balance requests against the negative impact of additional tax burdens on the entire city. I have common sense.

The $16,000 Go Walla Walla program has been perceived as wasteful government spending. How would you defend, support or change this program?

Cavazos: The results of city’s 2012 citizen survey showed that 42 percent of residents believe that street improvements should be the number one priority for the city government; they rated streets as the fifth most important city service behind fire, police, water and ambulance. Only half of the survey respondents gave the city better than a C grade in communicating with them. These results strongly suggest that the citizens want their streets fixed and they want to know about it. While some have criticized the Go Walla Walla information program, others have praised it.

Pomraning: The professional project management community has a saying: ‘Communicate, communicate, communicate, until the customer says stop! Too much.’ I am hearing from many taxpayers the city has found the ‘too much’ level with the signs. Lesson learned. The business owners I have talked to do appreciate the ‘businesses are open’ project yard signs. The associated website is a valuable information source for citizen involvement and government transparency for our public works projects present and future.

The city has not funded the Pioneer Park Aviary out of its general funds for three years, and next year will be a fourth year where the facility is funded by donations. Please explain why you would or would not fund the aviary with general funds in the years to come.

Cavazos: A group of citizens stepped forward and offered to try and raise the necessary funding to help keep the aviary open. The Council agreed to allow them some time before a decision is made as to whether the city will continue to to fund or close the aviary’s doors. With changes in the economy and the city budget, it could be possible that continued funding may be available to keep the aviary open. For now, The Friends of Pioneer Park Aviary should be commended for their efforts in trying to raise the funds necessary to keep the aviary open.

Pomraning: I enjoy and frequently visit the aviary and the rose garden with my family. City aviary funding is a new topic to me. I have no information about the specific issues leading up to the city decision to defund it three years ago. To improve my knowledge, I will seek mentoring by Council members present three years ago. I will also consult with the city manager and his staff. In addition, I will ask my friend on the aviary committee to teach me about the issues from committee’s viewpoint. After that I will attend an aviary committee meeting to listen and learn.

How should the city move forward in dealing with the new state law legalizing recreational marijuana? [Responses were submitted before the state on Wednesday announced rules for the growing and sales of marijuana.]

Cavazos: Consideration will likely be given to putting a moratorium in place to allow sufficient time for the state to finalize its implementation of the measure and the city to determine its response in a way of zoning; enforcement and to other issues related to legalization in our community.

Pomraning: (1) Form an ad hoc joint Walla Walla City and WW County I-502 implementation Citizens Advisory Committee. (2) Begin the committee work with facilitated fact finding public meetings. (3) Get a meeting facilitator and report writer. The facilitator shall draft the state-mandated work plan report. (4) Appoint and recruit stakeholders to the I-502 Citizens Advisory Committee. (5) Track the status and outcomes of I-502 city policies external to Walla Walla County. (6) Budget for 2014 Washington State I-502 implementation training. (7) Research city municipal cannabis policies in the Netherlands. The Washington law is directly based on the Netherlands law.

The city has witnessed the growth and success of the wine industry. How else can the city help promote more economic diversity?

Cavazos: It was the efforts of our city manager that managed to get the current owners of the Blue Mountain Mall to come to Walla Walla and eventually buy the property. They plan to have businesses in place by 2014. Our deputy city manager is now responsible for future efforts dealing with economic diversity and development for the city. Council will continue to be supportive for all efforts that will help develop our economic diversity and development.

Pomraning: (1) Pay attention to the city infrastructure and services needs of existing business. (2) Focus on providing business-friendly inspection consultation and permit approvals. (3) The 2013 Washington State Modeling Cannabis Business and Legal Compliance report states, page 4: ‘statewide producer market of $500 million [annually].’ The City of Walla Walla has $3.3M in small business opportunity pending. (4) Continue to collaborate with the Port of Walla Walla. They have business vision and resources. (5) Protect our downtown legacy and improve our downtown tourist zone by daylighting the Mill Creek Flood channel. My vision is ‘Fly-fish Downtown Walla Walla.’