Shannon Williamson

Shannon Williamson
Candidate for: Sandpoint City Council

Age: 38
Years of residence in Sandpoint and Bonner County: 2.5
Marital status/family: Single mother of two children, ages 6 and 3 years
Contact information:
    E-mail: shannon.j.williamson@gmail.com
    Phone: 208-920-9449
Education: Ph.D. Ė Marine Science (Biological Oceanography/Microbiology), University of South Florida, 2003; B.S. Ė Marine Biology, University of North Carolina, 1996

Recent or pertinent employment history

Public offices held:
None

Nonprofit groups, service or professional organizations to which you belong:

What particular experiences or skills qualify you for office?
Experiences: I currently lead a local non-profit organization that is dedicated to protecting the water quality of Lake Pend Oreille and its affiliated waterways.  My responsibilities as the Executive Director are diverse and include organizational management, program development and implementation, budget establishment and reconciliation, fundraising and award management, as well as education, outreach, and advocacy efforts. As the Executive Director of a non-profit, I have a deep appreciation and clear understanding of how to balance project development and growth while staying fiscally responsible within our organizational guidelines.

I developed and led a dynamic environmental virology program at the J. Craig Venter Institute with research primarily focusing on virus-host interactions in the marine environment. In this role, I directly supervised and managed laboratory staff, students and interns, led regular meetings to monitor project progress and address program goals, performed annual performance evaluations, fostered open communication with team members and solicited feedback, prepared and submitted grant proposals, managed multi-million dollar budgets and presented the results of peer-reviewed research to global audiences. 

Skills:

1. How many city council meetings or city committee meetings have you attended in the past year?
Iíve attended 5 City Council meetings in the last year, either as a presenter or to answer questions raised by the Council regarding water quality related issues. When Iím not at work, my time is dedicated to raising my two young children as a single mom. My children are a major driving factor behind my candidacy for City Council. Sandpoint is a great place to raise a family and I would like the opportunity to make it even better.

2. Among the myriad issues facing the city at present, what do you consider the single most important issue, and why? Please describe any other issues you feel are important.
Itís very clear that our local economy is struggling based upon the many empty storefronts we have downtown. We need to create an atmosphere that attracts new businesses and incentivizes them to remain operational throughout the entire year. I think that serious efforts to revitalize the downtown area are important and can yield productive results. While less significant, another issue that I feel deserves attention is support for working moms and dads during the summer months. Itís difficult for households with two working parents, or single parents, to take advantage of existing youth enrichment opportunities since these normally take place during typical work hours. I would help identify new opportunities in this area.

3. The city contributes funding for the SPOT bus, which provides daily free transportation between Sandpoint and Dover, Ponderay and Kootenai. SPOT officials this year have asked for a larger contribution from the city; do you favor or oppose increasing the cityís contribution to the SPOT bus?
The SPOT bus provides a much-needed service to residents and visitors to Sandpoint and its neighbors and is highly valued by the community. Itís a great example of how collaborative actions can positively impact quality of life. Without intimate knowledge of the Cityís budget, itís hard to say whether I would favor or oppose an increase in the Cityís contribution. However, I would work to establish creative funding solutions, including identifying viable grant opportunities, to help sustain SPOT services in the future.

4. In August the City Council approved a resolution calling for a study of the impacts on the city of an increase of coal trains from Wyoming to the coast, projected to add 40 more additional trains through town daily. What is your position on the coal trains?
I support the Cityís three resolutions that recognize the risks of increased coal train traffic to Sandpoint. Coal transport through North Idaho poses a direct threat to human health and safety, the environment and the local economy. Sandpoint has nothing to gain from proposals to export Powder River Basin coal to Asia and everything to lose. I donít believe that our tax dollars should go to support the inevitable upgrades that will be needed to the rail infrastructure in response to a dramatic increase in coal train traffic. The railroad itself is responsible for less than 5% of these expenses, which places a disproportionate responsibility on taxpayers.

5. The city of Sandpoint in September facilitated in the Idaho Rural Partnership Community Review, in which a team of rural development experts from around the state surveyed town and is preparing recommendations for enhancing local resources and fostering economic vitality in Sandpoint. Did you personally attend any of the review sessions?
I was out of town when the review sessions were held, so I was unable to attend personally. However, I was asked to provide input on what the visiting team should focus on with respect to sustainability, which was one of the three primary categories that the review was focused on. The City Council will be receiving a full report from the Community Review, with specific recommendations regarding downtown revitalization and economic growth. These two components contribute substantially to a healthy local economy and I believe that the City Council should implement the recommendations to the best of their ability.

6. As of October 1, the Downtown Sandpoint Business Association was dissolved and the city awarded the Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce the contract to manage the downtown Business Improvement District. Do you have a position in regards to the management of the BID?
From what I understand, the consolidation of the DSBA into the BID Council working with the Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce will reduce administrative costs through resource sharing. Since the money collected through the BID was used to fund DSBA-related activities with the purpose of administering downtown improvement efforts, consolidation should result in an increase in the overall amount of money that can be used in ways that will benefit downtown businesses. I think that the BID Council will be in a position to responsibly manage these funds and will work in alignment with the Chamber to allocate them appropriately.

7. Seeking to revoke a decade-long joint powers agreement, the Independent Highway District has begun withholding an estimated $370,000 per year of tax money paid by city residents that has been going to the Sandpoint street department for maintenance. The city has filed a lawsuit to have the joint powers agreement declared valid. Do you support the city's position in this case?
Itís important for the City to receive the full extent of the tax revenue that was defined in the agreement between the City and the Independent Highway District, established in 2003. The loss of these funds will jeopardize essential services, like snow plowing and other critical street maintenance projects that residents cannot afford to lose. I donít think that the City is being litigious just for the sake of being litigious. The lawsuit has a very specific intention, which is to recover funds that the District originally agreed to allocate to the City for street maintenance.

8. Many streets in town have no sidewalks, or only partial sidewalks, and require pedestrians to walk in the street. The city's Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee has proposed a long-term plan for sidewalk improvement that would require installation and repair of sidewalks when residential properties are sold. Do you favor or oppose this proposal? What solution would you propose for construction and maintenance of safe sidewalks through town?
Pedestrian and bicyclist safety is a very important issue. Walking and biking as modes of transportation are highly valued by residents and visitors, so the condition of sidewalks around Sandpoint need to be taken into serious consideration. There are pros and cons to this proposal. On the one hand, the proposed plan would result in consistent sidewalk improvements over time. On the other hand, sidewalk improvements can be an expensive undertaking that could place a significant financial burden on certain homeowners. In order to create a long-term solution it will require compromise from both the local residents and the City of Sandpoint. As a solution, local improvement districts could help more evenly distribute the costs of improvements and spread them among various households over time. In addition, the City should also consider replacing sidewalks that pose an immediate hazard to safety as high priority improvement projects. 

9. The aged Memorial Field grandstands face likely condemnation within a few years. City Council has approved final design for a $1.2 million grandstand reconstruction project, with fundraising undertaken by the nonprofit Friends of Memorial Field. Would you support allocating city funds for the grandstand project?
I have a great deal of confidence in the Friends of Memorial Field and their ability to raise the necessary funds to support the improvements to the grandstands without additional assistance from the city. As the director of a local non-profit, I know that organizations with non-profit status can submit grant proposals to a much wider variety of funders than municipalities can. This type of project will be very attractive to foundations invested in preserving historical landmarks. The community also recognizes the importance of Memorial Field to the vitality of Sandpoint and I believe that many individuals and families will step up and help contribute to the project in any way that they can.