Kate McAlister

Kate McAlister

Age: 60

Years of residence in Sandpoint and Bonner County:

Marital status/family:
married, 4 grown children, 8 grandchildren

How can the public contact you?
[email protected] or on Facebook at Kate for Sandpoint

: Boston College (Corporate Community Relations education), Buccaneer Scholar – lifelong learner, life.

Recent or pertinent employment history:

10 years as President/CEO Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce

Public offices held:
Commissioner on the Urban Renewal Agency 2013-2017, Human Relations Review Board – 2012 - present

Nonprofit groups, service or professional organizations to which you belong:
Angels Over Sandpoint, 2001 to present
    Board Member 2005 & 2019
    President – 2003/04, 2018/19
International Selkirk Loop Board of Directors, 2011 to present – USA Board Chair
City of Sandpoint Human Relations Review Board, 2012 to present
Forest Bird Charter School Board of Directors, 2014 to present – Current Secretary
Kaniksu Health Services Board of Directors, 2017 to present
Panida Theater Board of Directors, 2011 to 2014
Sandpoint Airport Planning, Advisory Board, 2013 to 2015
Bonner and Boundary County Economic Summit Steering Committee, 2015-2018

Other experiences or skills that qualify you for office:
I spent most of my working years in corporate America as a Community Investment Manager, which afforded me great experience in marketing, strategic planning, project management, public relations, and working with teams of individuals literally across the world in various communities. I commuted for fifteen of those years to Spokane. When I turned 50, I was tired of traveling and wanted to work and live here in Sandpoint. Then along came the job at the Chamber of Commerce. By virtue of my job these last 10 years with the Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce, I have gotten to know and be involved in Sandpoint and the region. From business development to tourism the Chamber has given me insights into who we are as a community and how we are doing. The Chamber Board of Directors encourages me to be involved with the City and County in various capacities. The more I know, the more I can help and inform local business owners. I’ve lived in Sandpoint for almost 27 years and have also enjoyed giving my personal time in service to a number of local non-profit organizations. I would like to think I’m well-versed in Sandpoint.

Candidate Positions
1. Among the myriad issues facing the city at present, what do you consider the 2-3 most important issues, and why?
I’m sure everyone has an opinion on the ‘top three’ here’s mine:

Affordable housing:
I hope to collaborate with all participating groups regarding housing. There are, and have been, concerned citizens already working to begin solving this issue. I’ve heard from many different sources there are no long-term rentals, and if there are, they are very expensive and often restrictive. In addition, the price point for purchasing a starter home is well beyond local wages. We all need to work together to figure this out. In the long run, it effects all of us.
All voices matter:
One of the things I hear on a frequent basis is “only the voices of the rich matter”. To me, this is very disheartening and a signal we have a disconnect somewhere. All of us are a part of the community. I understand what it is to feel disenfranchised and feeling like your voice doesn’t matter. It does matter. It matters because we all make up the fabric of our community, every unique one of us. I have always been a warrior for those who feel left out and unheard, and will continue to do so. I talk to a lot of people on a daily basis, I want to know what they are thinking and how best we can all work together and be heard, socio-economic status should not matter. In my opinion, inclusion means all of us who are already here as well as welcoming any new person who wants to join our culture and embrace our long held values of believing in education for our future, caring for our environment, problem-solving together, and mostly caring for and listening to one another. Let’s talk.

Educational choices with better funding:
This is the foundation for our future and generations to come. Supporting education is the key to growing our economy and qualifying the workforce for better-paying jobs. In seeking other opinions, I’ve received some really great input and hope to start working on some educational issues benefiting our community. We should be looking at how to create educational programs via NIC or Lewis-Clarke, to fill the jobs we need here in our community and our region.

2. The University of Idaho is in the process of selling its 77-acre property on North Boyer alongside Sand Creek to a private developer and builder. The city has conducted workshops and meetings to collect input on possible changes to the comprehensive plan to guide future development and use of the property. Do you have a position on the use of this property or the city's role in its development?
I understand the private developer is working on a traffic study and several other items in regards to development. I am disappointed the city was unable to purchase the property. I thought it would have been a great place for some affordable housing as well as a venue for recreational pursuits. A number of community recreational groups have been using the property for years, from bikes, to golf, to cross country skiing. It has been a great place to walk your dog.

With the property being privately owned and developed, I’m not sure what the City’s role will be in the development. Currently I don’t believe there is anything regarding development to look discuss.

3. The city right now has a master planning process under way for the city's parks. Recently its consultant, Green Play LLC, unveiled recommendations for major changes at City Beach, Memorial Field, Travers Park and the Sand Creek Landing. What's your take on this master plan process, and do you have an opinion on the changes recommended in their draft plans for these parks?
A lot of thoughtful work has gone into the new parks master plan. There is a lot to think about in regards to the plans, but again, it is up to the community as to what they would like to happen. 

Personally, I am not convinced about the Farmin’s Landing plan. I would rather put these funds towards another park project. I understand, with the byway, it is considered Sandpoint’s ‘front porch’, just not convinced it’s the best use of funds. If business owners are willing, and can afford to upgrade the backs of their buildings along with the facelift to Farmin’s Landing, then that’s another story. I would not vote to make it a priority.

4. Two specific follow-ups on the parks plan:
• The initial conceptual plan presented for City Beach is dependent upon the City being able to negotiate a land swap with the Best Western Edgewater Hotel property owner. What is your position on the proposed land swap?
I feel if it is equitable for both groups, great. I would like to see a nice hotel and keep the restaurant in the same area.

• The initial concept for the Memorial Field plan would replace the grass playing field with artificial turf. What's your position on the grass vs. turf question?
I have talked to quite a few people on this subject. Those who have kids in sports want turf, and I’m told turf is a much better product in today’s market. Others definitely want grass for the Festival.

With sports events, my question would be, does it pencil out? Would the sports events bring in the economic vitality the Festival currently does? It is my job to think about our businesses who rely on this almost $3 million dollars that comes into our community during the first two weeks in August, just before school starts and tourism declines for the season.

My personal opinion, I would like grass at memorial field. However, if I am elected to City Council, my opinion holds no sway, it is the citizens of Sandpoint who will need to decide. I will abide by their wishes.
5. Bonner County has initiated a lawsuit against the city of Sandpoint over its lease of Memorial Field to the Festival at Sandpoint, which bans guns at its concerts. What is your take on this, and what action do you think the city should take?
I don’t like my tax money being spent on this! This could have lasting repercussions on our community. I’m a supporter of the 2nd Amendment, my husband was a hunter in his younger days, we have guns in our home. I have a child in law enforcement and one who is a veteran, both feel there is no need to bring a gun to the Festival. Most importantly, this will be devastating to our community if this causes the Festival to shut down.  It IS in the contracts of most of the performing musicians there can be no guns. Just because you CAN do something does not always mean you SHOULD. Think about the local businesses who might have to close because of the lack of revenue during this time. What about the people whose jobs depend on the income of this event? Think about our community and the unintended consequences this could bring.

I feel the City is doing exactly what it should, listening to those of us who live in the community. I’m sure the County feels they are doing the same, but again, just because you CAN do something does not always mean you SHOULD. What about the greater good?

6. Jobs and the local economy are always an election issue. How would describe the economy of Sandpoint today? What role, if any, do you see for the City Council/Mayor to play in creating a healthy local economy to foster growth of living-wage jobs in Sandpoint?
Sandpoint has a diverse economy and it serves us well. Tourism is only 35%-40% of our economy, despite what it feels like in July and August. Headwater Economics did a study in 2015 and we were pleasantly surprised at the results, including the tourism findings. We were compared to other communities such as Bend OR, McCall ID, Leavenworth WA in regards to tourism. McCall and Leavenworth are both completely tourism driven and have to work on it all year, Bend is more diverse like Sandpoint. We have great diversity in workforce in the area. With all our large and small employers we have great companies here providing stable jobs and benefits, from aerospace to technology, outdoor recreation food to items. 

As the governing body for Sandpoint it is important we keep the lines of communication open with local business to provide what we can to help them succeed. Whether that is simplifying the permitting process, which is being studied in the Master Planning process, or helping to find partners for funding projects. 

As to wages, as a City we cannot raise the minimum wage, this has to happen at the state level. Idaho adheres to the national minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. That being said, local businesses know they cannot pay minimum wage and keep good employees. This is a struggle we continue to have. The bigger question is, are our state legislators looking out for us on this topic?

7. Related to the economy is the matter of affordable workforce housing. Do you feel affordable housing is an issue the city council can tackle; if so, do you have plans to address it?
According to a 2019 ESRI study of Sandpoint, 46.5% of our community are renters (compared to 32.5% nationally. 37% are home owners). Why is it so cost prohibitive to get into a starter home? Is it overinflated home prices, or low wages? Or both? What are the barriers for developers in creating affordable housing? There are a lot of questions and as a community and region, we all need to have a seat at the table and figure out what will work for our community.

I hope to collaborate with all participating groups regarding housing. There are, and have been, concerned citizens already working to begin solving this issue. I’ve heard from many different sources there are no long term rentals, and if there are, they are very expensive and often restrictive. In addition, the price point for purchasing a starter home is well beyond the local wages. We all need to work together to figure this out.  In the long run, it effects all of us.

This is also an important issue when thinking about attracting young people and families to the area to keep our economy growing. They are looking for economic opportunity, affordable housing and a great community to raise their family. It will take more than just myself to address this issue, but I am looking forward to being a part of it, and the ability to affect change.

8. Downtown Sandpoint is in the midst of a multi-year revitalization project, that last year rebuilt Cedar Street and right now is rebuilding First Avenue with wider sidewalks, new parking schemes and new furniture. Do you support this, or is there anything you would do differently? One concern that has been voiced in the face of these and other changes brought about by growth is their impact on the character of our town. Do you share that concern; if so, do you see steps to take to help Sandpoint retain its small-town character?
I like and support what has been done to date. I went to all the community meetings and felt like my opinion was heard. This plan, and the current planning, is based on community input. The city does not operate in a vacuum, we drive the decisions. I am not an urban designer so I look to the experts to give guidance as to what can and cannot be done. Again, based on community input.

Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, famously said, “change is the only constant in life”. Change is difficult but in order to move forward we must evolve and grow, and this includes the infrastructure of our town. As to character, the character resides in our people and our culture, who we are at the core. Acceptance and problem solving together, keeping our eye on our common values of educating our children, caring for our beautiful environment, being an independent resilient community - solving our own problems, moving at our own pace. I will do what I can to keep us moving forward and not digressing. However, I am just one person, this will take all of us. As a community we should never give up our own power and rely on one, or six, people to do all our thinking and work.

9. Generally speaking, do you feel the city council and the mayor have been taking the city in the right direction at present? Anything you would want to do differently if elected?
Leadership and governance are not easy. If they were, everyone would do it, right? Cognitive diversity is important in every organization and elections bring about the change in thought and governance according to the citizens will and voice. You never know where new ideas can take us. This council and mayor have brought us a long way in regards to transparency and moving our plans forward. We need to also keep in mind, a lot of the information for decision making is based on citizen led committees and commissions. As citizens, I feel, we have accountability in the decision making process as well. We tend to give our power over to others and hope for the best.

As to what I will do differently, I don’t know what I don’t know. It certainly won’t be up to me alone. The one thing I know I will do is listen to the voices of the people. This community belongs to all of us no matter your socio-economic status. This will be my guiding thought should I be elected and throughout my term. As a community, ALL voices need to be heard and if some don’t know how, it is my job to show them how.

10. Here's a final three-part question:
- How much time will you devote to your position?
Whatever is required of me. I do not take leadership lightly, if I’m in, I’m all in.
- How many City Council meetings have you attended in the past two years?
Since the meetings have gone to live streaming, I have been a fan of watching them at home. There is still something to be said for being there in person. I’ve attended my fair share of meetings in the last couple of years. The sad news is, sometimes it is just myself and maybe one more person. Hopefully others are watching it live streaming like I do. Again, we citizens are also accountable for being informed. Don’t place blame if you aren’t paying attention.
- Why are you running for public office?
I love where I live and am inspired by those who serve our community on a daily basis, especially the unsung heros; teachers, servers, nurses, those who work retail, foresters, landscapers, office workers, all the worker bees who don’t get much recognition but continue every day so our community keeps going. Earlier this year several local business owners approached me and asked me to consider running, they felt they needed someone to represent them and their employees in an official capacity. It is a natural extension of what I do every day at my job at the Chamber of Commerce. I am a solutions driven person who likes being part of the process of change and helping everyone move forward. It is my time to step up and stand up for our community.