Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

"Next City Council faces variety of issues, challenges"

From last Thursday's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Both Al Sorensen and Nathan Weller applaud Pullman residents' efforts to play a part in their community to improve the quality of life.

Neighborhood identity is becoming more common across Pullman: The College Hill Association has been an active voice for several years, and the Pioneer Hill Neighborhood Association was established during the summer.

"If that's what residents of Pullman need to do to convey their issues with the city, that's a good thing," Sorensen said. "We want people to correspond with us and share with us. We can't do anything about it if we don't know about it."

Sorensen, 45, is vying to retain his seat on the Pullman City Council for another term against newcomer Weller, 25. Ballots for the mail-in election were sent out Oct. 19.

Weller said residents should do whatever they can to communicate with each other, and issues should be brought to the council in an act of unity.

"It's important for us to be able to find a consensus," Weller said. "Communication is my big thing. Without communication, we're going to get the wrong feeling across."

Weller said all Pullman residents have valid ideas. Washington State University students, he said, should be considered key players in how Pullman - and its neighborhoods - develop and grow.

"No one person or organization has all the answers," he said. "Only with communication can these issues be dealt with."

Sorensen said recent ordinances - such as a code that makes it unlawful to be in a public place with an open container of alcohol, or the updated nuisance code meant to curb noise and litter problems - are a result of residents pinpointing issues and making moves to have them corrected.

"It has to do with people and entities coming to us with questions, concerns and suggestions," Sorensen said.

Also on this year's ballot, Mayor Glenn Johnson, Ward 1 Councilman Benjamin Francis and At-large Councilman Keith Bloom are running unopposed for reelection.

Devon Felsted - who was running unopposed to replace Councilman David Stiller - has removed himself from the election due to conflict of interest issues, though his name will appear on the ballot.

Benjamin said he knows that when issues arise on one hill - such as the parking problems afflicting College Hill - other neighborhoods could be similarly affected. Citizen input is helpful to the council, which will work with necessary departments or agencies to correct the problem, he said.

Neighborhood groups, he said, help to self-police the area and create a sense of identity in Pullman.

"It shows they have an interest in where they're living," he said. "They're helping to identify areas and issues. They're saying, 'We're expressing a concern.'"

On the issue of parking, Benjamin noted that he hopes to see a park-and-ride program developed that could relieve traffic and parking woes on all of Pullman's hills and surrounding communities.

Bloom said the proposed ordinance that would require all rental property owners to apply for a business license is designed to preserve neighborhoods and protect renters. The ordinance could require rental properties to be inspected periodically for code violations and conditions that make the dwelling uninhabitable.

"We've lost the art of being neighbors," he said.

Johnson said he hopes to see neighborhood organizations developed on all of Pullman's hills.

"We have a lot of other issues we're trying to deal with it," he said. "It would be really great if we had volunteer participation from everyone on the hills, but that just hasn't happened yet."

Johnson said people should know that their valid suggestions don't go unnoticed.

"For many years, people have been pushing certain things ... sometimes it takes a while to get to it," he said. "Considering how we have to go through every hoop to get people involved, we've done a lot."

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