1009 cleland-mcgrath

Christine Cleland-McGrath

Christine Cleland-McGrath

Age: 34

Residence: 1600 block of 41st Street

Occupation: Realtor, Windermere Anacortes

Education: Anacortes High School, 2003; B.A. Art History, Whitman College, 2007; Visual Communications, Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, 2008

Elected offices held: None

Community involvement: Anacortes Planning Commissioner (2015-present), Anacortes Arts Festival board member (past president) (2013-present), Anacortes Rotary (2016-present), Fidalgo School volunteer (2007-2013), Port of Anacortes Convention Center Advisory Committee (2019), Anacortes Landlord Tenant Coalition (2019), department head for the City of Anacortes Hiring Committee (2018), Fidalgo Dance Works Gala Celebrity Dance Off Winning Couple (2017), supporter of Island Hospital, Anacortes Family Center, and MoNA (Museum of Northwest Art).

Campaign website: ChristineForCouncil.org

What are the most important issues facing the city today? As a young family in Anacortes, the biggest issues facing the city today are affordable housing, living wage jobs, and early childcare. The only thing more disappointing than seeing changes to our wonderful neighborhoods, is the displacement of longtime residents who cannot afford to raise their families or enjoy retirement in their hometown. The Comprehensive Plan and Development Regulations included extensive involvement from the public. As a planning commissioner, I read and listened to each concern. While the regulations are now in place, it is clear that they will need refinement as code is applied to new projects. Thoughtful, environmentally responsible growth requires infrastructure planning and implementation. This includes utilities, transportation, and our emergency services.

Living wage jobs and early childcare are the two other components to the affordability equation. It is the city’s responsibility to have clear, consistent guidelines for potential businesses and adequate infrastructure. The municipal broadband is a great addition.

Finally, early childcare is the hidden obstacle. It is expensive and lacking. It is my priority to work with a variety of stakeholders to tackle this challenge. Whether it is regulations or underutilized city space, it is our responsibility to make sure the next generation is prepared to learn.

By the time your term is ended, what would you want to say you accomplished? I would like to see responsible management of our city’s inevitable growth through public involvement. Infrastructure improvements to support the changing climate and increased demand of services. The critical areas and shoreline management plans will require updating. They are important to our ecological health and must be consistent with best available science. I would also like to see the implementation of the South Commercial Corridor Plan. While funding is a challenge, we can slowly work towards its completion. It will be a benefit to adjacent businesses and help connect Ward 2 with our downtown. This will promote walking, cycling, and a sense of community. Finally, the completion of the Guemes Island Trail needs to be a priority. The environmentally sensitive urban trail will link significant neighborhoods to the Central Business District.

Growth in median wages is being outpaced by growth in home prices and rents. What should the city do to attract businesses here that pay wages that lead to home ownership and rental affordability?

Anacortes has appeal. People want to live here and businesses want to locate to this area. The city has a responsibility to provide reliable infrastructure, clear consistent regulations, and predictability. Applying for a business license should be straight forward and swift. The municipal fiber optics network is an important utility that will benefit business, citizens that telecommute, and the general public. I will actively facilitate positive working relationships between the City of Anacortes, Port of Anacortes, Anacortes Chamber of Commerce, and EDASC that will foster the growth of environmentally sustainable industry. Our light manufacturing and industrial zones are underutilized and could benefit from a concerted effort by the city to recruit businesses that provide sustainable manufacturing jobs in the marine and aerospace sectors, among others. For example, Lavle has offices in Anacortes, but production will be at the Port of Skagit. This company is at the forefront of marine battery design. It is the kind of manufacturing that aligns with the values of our community — environmental sustainability and living wage jobs.

What does the city need to do to ensure infrastructure and level of service keep pace with growth? Infrastructure is key to the continued success of Anacortes. This last year we have seen improved roads, sidewalks, and the replacement of a water reservoir. The city is nearly ready to connect the Central Business District to the municipal fiber network and further deployment is slated. Infrastructure planning and maintenance needs to be thoroughly strategized, so that the city can responsibly budget long-term for necessary projects. Council must be accountable for the responsible expenditure of our citizens’ tax dollars. Finally, there needs to be a focus on concurrency of city infrastructure and new development. During my time on planning commission, one of the biggest frustrations for citizens is the impact on traffic and safety with the addition of new homes in a neighborhood. We also need to assess our emergency responsibilities. With an increase in population, there has been a significant increase in demand for our fire and police. We must support them through appropriate staffing and functioning equipment. They are the human element of our community that comes to our aid in our most vulnerable moments.

Anacortes’ population is growing and diversifying. What would you do to engage residents and ensure all feel they have a voice in the city? As a lifelong resident of Ward 2, there are neighbors that knew me when I was my daughter’s age. They are seeing the next generation learn to walk in the backyard, trick-or-treat in her Halloween costume, and play in the snow. We also have new neighbors who have chosen to live next door. I am pleased that they found our little area of town a place that they would like to call home.

City Council members have a responsibility to be accessible and receptive to community members. Elected officials should attend neighborhood meetings, such as the informational session that I attended with Skagit Co-housing in July. Officials should frequent our small business, events, fundraisers, public spaces, and service groups. It is important to be visible in the community and meet folks. These experiences and perspectives will have a meaningful impact when making decisions on Council.

Finally, our city website could use a major overhaul. It is not user-friendly. Frequently, people ask me where to find pertinent city information because it is not easily accessible. Due to my time on Planning Commission, I am usually able to find it, but not always. This is a detriment to transparent and fair government. Our citizens should confidently find information on the city’s website regarding projects, public comment, plans, and fees.

Provide some examples where you’ve worked with others of opposite views to achieve a compromise. The reality of a family business is both emotionally fulfilling and incredibly frustrating. I was a fourth-generation owner of Similk Golf Course. My grandmother is 99 years strong and she was there when the course was built in 1930. Through family tragedy and expansion, each generation made a positive impact on the business. Even though members were emotionally and financially committed to its success, there were many times where dealing with how to approach an issue caused strife. Concentrating on our shared values, focusing on solving the problem, and a little humor was key to moving forward. When business and family are intertwined, there is no quitting or walking away. I have learned to fight fair, articulating one’s argument while simultaneously listening and understanding opposing views. Tough decisions must include all the information, diverse perspectives, thoughtful reasoning, and empathy. I believe I will bring these skills to City Council.

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