Jeff Rands

10-15-2007

Jeff Rands
Age
: 44
Years of residence in Sandpoint and Bonner County: 5-plus
Marital status/family: Married, 3 children (2 boys and a girl, all under 12)
How can the public contact you?
Office phone, 255 1791; or e-mail jeff.rands@sothebysrealty.com

Qualifications
Education: MBA University of Chicago; BA Brigham Young University
Recent or pertinent employment history: Real estate sales and investments, (agent with Tomlinson Sothebys). Before that, strategic planning and consulting with Andersen Consulting, Rockport Shoes, and Lavastorm (Internet startup).
Public offices held:
• Board Trustee, Lake Pend Oreille School District
• Congressional Liaison, US Dept of Housing & Urban Development
Nonprofit groups, service or professional organizations to which you belong:
• Boy Scouts of America (scoutmaster)
• LDS Church (youth leader)
What particular experiences or skills quality you for office?
My background in strategic planning will help me guide the decision-making process related to core city issues, such as growth, budgeting, comp planning, with a perspective of long-term community goals in relation to city resources and abilities. My real estate and HUD experience will help guide decisions related to Sandpoint’s identity and the ongoing balancing act between business and community needs.

Candidate Positions
1. Among the myriad issues facing the city at present, what do you consider the single most important issue facing the City of Sandpoint?
Growth is what’s on people’s mind. And it’s related to the transition from a more rural trade town to a more upscale resort community. Sandpoint is at a real crossroads. And I’m thrilled to see such a strong level of town participation in the ongoing comp plan development process. The mix of broad-based involvement and sound leadership will get us through the many difficult decisions that we’ll have to make in the process.

2. Housing prices have increased dramatically in Sandpoint, while local wages are increasing far more slowly – effectively precluding many residents who work in the local economy from purchasing a home. For the past year city staff and a group of local employers have been searching for housing solutions. What are your ideas for creating affordable housing for our residents who work here?
The good news is that our real estate market is lending a hand in the short term. Inventory has increased so much that buyers have some choice and some price flexibility.

But more long term, there are really two core means of changing the affordability dynamic. Zoning and infrastructure extension. Higher density—smartly applied—can do wonders to bring down prices and help accomplish many of the goals under consideration in the comp plan process. And as much as many of us hate to see it, extending sewer and water service (saying nothing about how to pay for it) beyond city boundaries will relieve pressure as well.

I reject the notion that affordable means slum-like. We just have to work together—developers, city, business, citizens—to make this comp plan process work. The implementation will take enormous effort and will require some difficult trade-offs. But until we embrace density and infrastructure, affordability problems will not be solved.

The other side of the issue is making Sandpoint such a compelling place to live, play, and work, that companies will want to relocate here. Like it or not, businesses will pay the salaries that fund most everything we do. We need to look at our city as if it’s in competition with surrounding towns, the county, and other regions—because it is. Let’s make it a positive business climate for relocating AND retention.

3. Two resort city tax proposals will be on the ballot in November. Do you favor or oppose continuing the existing 5% tax on lodging? Do you favor or oppose the new proposed 2% tax on liquor by the drink? And in each case, why?
I have always liked lodging taxes, within reason. Travelers are quite used to paying a little extra on the hotel room and it translates into a nice revenue generator for locations that use them. I don’t see any reduced visits coming out of it. So let’s do it.

As for the drink tax, I take the unpopular approach. I think it will work without hurting anyone. While I’m generally opposed to new taxes, this one doesn’t sound too bad. The tax will be a very slight deterrent to consumption, because 2% is barely registered in the minds of drinkers. And in a family and health-conscious place like Sandpoint, the worst case scenario is that we purchase a few less drinks. We’ll get over it.

4. What conditions – for example, impact fees or provisions for affordable housing – should the city place on requests by adjacent property owners for annexation into the city?
I think most everyone agrees that requesters should shoulder much of the burden. The problem is that the home buyer, not seller, is the one that will end up paying for it in the price of the home, be it “affordable” or not. So without rushing to conclusion, I think we need to take a hard look at how the process should work.

5. Downtown traffic and parking are two oft-cited city ills. There are efforts currently under way by the City and the DSBA to improve parking. Do you think these efforts are on the right track? What would you do to improve parking downtown?
I think DSBA is under very sound leadership. Let’s continue to work with them and then make decisions when we have specific recommendations in front of us. As for parking, I don’t feel the passion as much as some do. I come into town daily and don’t see the problem like others might. The city lot and city beach lot are not always full.

Since those are two places the town already owns, if the parking gets too bad, would it be that crazy to consider building above-ground garages in either or both places? It goes without saying that we’d require smart design to ensure aesthetics and functionality. And we could perhaps finance them via user-fees dedicated directly to pay down the cost—eliminating the fees when paid for.

6. Although the Idaho Transportation Department was recently granted a permit for the Sand Creek bypass, it has conditions to meet and also faces a lawsuit from opponents. As the bypass will have major impacts on the city, voters want to know where candidates stand.
First: Do you favor or oppose the Sand Creek route for a bypass, and why?
Barring the unexpected, the Sand Creek bypass is going to happen. So while we can vent our spleens all day over whether it should or should not be built, we really ought to focus on making it the best possible solution, given the difficult environmental, economic, business, and community tradeoffs. I don’t like the notion of a concrete jungle in between the train tracks and town. But it’s obvious that we need something major to stem the tide of growing traffic congestion. And the trains already come through town. Building next to the tracks seems like a better option then dramatically upsetting the city topography elsewhere. It’s my opinion that the other proposals don’t seem as economically feasible and don’t hit the core problem as directly.

Second: Among the issues involved, an offer by ITD to give the city land alongside the bypass in exchange for maintaining a new park has been a matter of contention; do you favor or oppose that proposal?
We’ll be hard pressed to find serious opposition to receiving land in exchange for maintaining whatever we decide to build. This might be the best way to have a direct impact on the final bypass look and feel. A park with creative landscape design featuring trees, vegetation, a walking/bike path, light recreation areas—even some outdoor artwork—might make an otherwise difficult-to-swallow necessity into something quite usable and palatable.

Third: ITD has made no commitment to turn control of the Highway 95 route along First, Cedar and Fifth back to the city after the bypass is built; do you believe that should be a condition for the city to support the bypass?
I don’t know all the facts, but I gather that ITD is making strong indications that they will do so. Let’s ask them to be more definitive, and if they won’t, we can explore making it a condition.

7. On traffic issues: even if construction of the bypass begins soon, ITD says it will take several years to build. Do you believe the city should seek traffic solutions more immediately – and what would they be?
Construction of the bypass will indeed create some interim traffic problems—to say the least. Something should change at our major chokepoints and perhaps elsewhere. But I’m not a traffic expert. I would love to help analyze recommendations that qualified engineers and road and traffic professionals could produce as we get closer to byway construction.

8. Why are you running for public office? If you are elected, how much time will you be able to devote each week to your position?
As my background suggests, I’m committed to public service. I want to make my children’s hometown the best possible place in which to live, work, and play.

I would serve with a key aspiration of finding balance in our city. I’m intrigued with the notion of creating balance between strong business needs on the one hand, and a sense of community on the other. Between development and the environment. Between the trades and tourism. Between the old and the new. Too many people see things in opposites. I believe they can be mutually reinforcing. It has to be.

I also think it’s a good idea to have broad based representation on the council. To have three or four councilpersons living within earshot of each other isn’t quite balanced. Living in Northshore, I can at a minimum represent how that part of our city sees certain aspects of city government. And I don’t think much of the notion that only “local” people—those born and raised here—are best suited to serve. Diversity of perspectives is very important in the proper functioning of a council system. From the Seattle area, I’ve worked and schooled all over the country and can at least be a reference to how things are done in other communities.

As a candidate, my platform is less about opinions on issues and more about quality governance and inclusion of diverse opinion. I’m the type of person who wants facts and an understanding of issues before deliberating on a given proposal. My agenda is to seek the best information from a variety of sources, then to solve problems based on a solid understanding of the how things work. There will be times we need to take very difficult, honest decisions that will not please everyone. I did this while serving on the school board. I’ve done it in business and in government. I’d like to do so on the council too. 

As for the time required for service, I’d just say that I wouldn’t sign up if I didn’t think I could spend the requisite time to do an admirable job.

9. Describe any other issues you believe are important; why you consider them important; and your position on these issues.
Comp Plan Communication. I’m excited to see the comp planning process working. I’d like to make sure that the public has multiple opportunities to review and provide input—beyond what’s statutory. As we go down the path toward adoption, we need to reach out in some ways that are outside of city council sessions. Before final adoption, we could strategically locate mini kiosks throughout the city with volunteer representatives to interact and explain the significance of proposed changes. While the public meeting was well attended, I’d like to see some time dedicated to explaining to and soliciting feedback from as many people as possible. This could go a long way to really educating people about what is planned and how we will get there. Only with buy-in can be succeed.

Strategic Review. The city council could benefit from conducting a top-down strategic review of city operations with an eye on goals, performance, and means of accomplishing them. From my years in consulting, it’s clear that much of government is good and effective. But much can be improved. This is not code for head-count reduction. To the contrary. It’s about ensuring that we allocate our resources smartly to accomplish our agreed-upon goals. Some of this already happens in budgeting. But performance and strategy review can go deeper and help make operations more efficient and effective.

Revenue Maximization. The other night we had a chance as candidates to ask questions of the city leaders. I was very encouraged. But it’s pretty clear that there are grants and revenue opportunities that we have not yet considered. Having worked at the US Dept. of HUD, I know of several grants that might benefit our operations (like the Community Development Block Grant, or CDBG). I think it’s worth looking into.

Emergency Planning. Each department has its own emergency plan. I’d like to review what each area of Sandpoint has to say about emergencies. Perhaps our plans are fool proof. But I doubt it. There’s always room for improvement and perhaps we can find an aspect of emergency planning that has slipped by.

Regional Services. Like so many others, I’m a little frustrated with multiple jurisdictions, operating models, and service performance across different town infrastructure and comp plans. Can we explore ways of combining at least some areas of service? Is it that crazy to have a coordinated plan and community identity beyond our respective jurisdictions?