Doug Hawkins, Jr.
City of residence: Sandpoint
Years of residence: 19 years prior to college; returned to Sandpoint 2 1/2 years ago.
Marital status/family: Single; I have a lot of family in the Greater Sandpoint Area (four living generations and about 40 relatives).
How can the public contact you?
Masters of Business Administration (MBA) – completed on Election Day of this year
Bachelor of Science in Economics, University of Idaho (May 2003)
Bachelor of Science in Marketing, University of Idaho (May 2003)
Graduate of Sandpoint High School, Sandpoint Middle School and Washington Elementary
Recent employment history: Product Manager for Litehouse, Inc.
Public offices held: Appointed to the Sandpoint City Council in September of 2007
Nonprofit groups, service or professional organizations to which you belong: None
What particular experiences or skills qualify you for office?
I have undergone extensive leadership and management training. I grew up in Sandpoint and have seen it grow over the years. As well, I have had the fortune to travel frequently and have lived briefly in five other states. These experiences have allowed me to see how things are done elsewhere, what to do and what to not do.
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. Sandpoint has been and will continue to grow. Pretending that we will not or fighting it will only make things worse. We need to plan for the growth and act proactively to make sure we maintain the essence of Sandpoint while absorbing newcomers and providing efficient ways to get through around town.
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?
As one that moved back to Sandpoint recently, I have directly experienced this. I have a professional job and until recently have been shut out of the housing market due to cost. Basic economics teaches that price is set by the relationship between supply and demand. Right now we have a huge demand for homes and developers are filling the demands for large/expensive homes. This leaves the demand for homes in the price range of first-time homeowners, young families, retirees and others unmet. The City Council and surrounding cities should work together with developers to increase the supply of homes affordable to these individuals. This is not to say that developers will not be allowed to continue building large homes. We need good relations with our developers and do not want to be harming their businesses. Rather, the cities and county can offer incentives for developers that are willing to include provisions for affordable housing in their projects. The city can also change zoning in various areas to allow for more housing options, such as condos or apartments above businesses downtown.
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?
First regarding both taxes, I like the idea of the people being able to vote on taxes in general. It is rare that citizens get a direct impact on the taxes they have to pay. In this case, they can vote to either put some of the tax burden of the city on those that use certain services in our community by taxing the users, to pay for those services themselves by having the citizens of the town pay the equivalent in taxes instead or to cut the services.
As one that stays in at least ten hotels a year, I can say that a 5% lodging tax would not deter me from staying at a certain hotel. In fact, this is low compared to many of the places I stay. Visitors to our city put a financial burden on our town (police for traffic control, use of parks, etc). Likewise, they bring money to our town that helps fund a lot of our businesses. It is my belief that a 5% lodging tax does not deter these visitors from coming to our city. I am in favor of such a tax because it helps shift some of the costs tourists place on our city back on the tourist without pushing them and their dollars out of our town.
The new 2% tax on drinks is interesting. While a large number of tourists to Sandpoint will be paying this tax, many local residents also order drinks at bars and restaurants (not just citizens that live in Sandpoint's city limits but also people that live in the Greater Sandpoint Area and use the services the tax payers of Sandpoint pay for). Bars and restaurant generally run very tight budgets. A tax like this puts an administrative cost on top of these businesses' tight budgets. As well, many build taxes into the price of their drinks. They will be faced with either raising the price of their drinks or eating these new costs. If this tax drives bars and restaurants out of town, it will have a negative effect on Sandpoint. If the bars and restaurants are able to make it work and stay in business in town, it will help fund some of the services these businesses use more heavily than the general citizen (like police responses to fights around closing time and patrolling for drunk drivers) and allow for the city to either decrease taxes on general citizens or fund projects that help us all. There are a few caveats with such a tax. In general I have to say I am in favor of it because those that put these burdens on our services will help pay for them rather than have the town as a whole subsidize their use of the services.
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?
Any property owner annexed into the city needs to pay for their actual impact in being annexed. This could be in the form of an immediate payment or that their tax revenue over a few years would more than pay for the cost of their annexation. The reason for the city to annex surrounding properties is so that we can spread the cost of our services over a larger base, which decreases each citizen’s per unit costs for these services. Adding properties to our city that have a negative economic impact (the services they use cost more than the taxes they pay) is counter to this idea. Impact fees should be placed on new developments and annexations that directly correspond to the impact these areas have on the city.
Provisions for affordable housing should be something that the city uses to determine the impact of a new area on the city. It should not be a flat rule that every new area must have provisions for this, but the city can reduce the impact and hook up fees for an area if it is going to positively affect the supply of affordable housing. I don’t believe such provisions should be mandated, but if shaped correctly developers would be foolish to not take advantage of them.
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 don't have a perfect answer for this issue. Increasing the number of parking spots downtown will require finding land on which to put them. There is not a lot of land downtown. The other way to increase the number of spots is to decrease the amount of time one car spends in the spot. This is done with meters or shorter lengths of time that one can park in a particular spot. This is not a very attractive solution as it could definitely hurt the businesses that need the additional parking.
Small things can be done to increase the number of traffic spots, like decreasing the length of red curbs on the up side of traffic on one way streets. The red curbs are there so that pedestrians can see if cars are coming. On one way streets, cars should only be coming from one way. Why do we need red curbs that are the same length on both sides? Only one side needs them. This would only add a handful of additional spots and may not be possible due to various codes (which if they are city could be changed), but small changes can be made until a better solution is found, and I am all ears as to what that solution may be.
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? 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? 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?
First question: I am on record as saying that I cannot think of any other place on earth that has waterfront on both sides where the best thought of what to do with it is to build a road. I see so much potential for this land. If the peninsula between Sand Creek and the lake could be another set of shops like First Street, but this time with waterfront on both sides, it would be a huge draw for tourists and could be a money generator for the city.
Regardless, the railroad is already there and the Idaho Department of Transportation is in charge. My dream of having a little commercial district is an impossibility. It is a fact that there is going to be a road there. The City needs to do what it can to make this area as nice as possible. This helps me answer the second question. I believe that the City should work to put a park and parking lot in the provided area. This will help with downtown parking and a park that is connected to a bike path along Sand Creek could be an excellent feature. There has been some controversy about what the costs of such a park will be and what the costs to maintain it will be. If the City gets to choose what goes on this land, the City will know what it will cost before they build it and will be able to approximate the cost of maintaining this property. As long as the City has say on what goes in, I can’t imagine anyone opposing it.
Question Three: unless I am mistaken, in the October Public Works Committee meeting Councilman Lockwood's line of questioning led the ITD representative to all but commit to reverting the city streets that are currently a part of Highway 95 back to the city. This will allow the city to adjust the parking on these streets and change the schedule on the traffic lights to better allow for the flow of traffic into and through town in the morning and through and out of town in the evening. Improving the flow of traffic and additional parking will be a few positive impacts of the bypass.
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?
Yes. Construction of the bypass will take two to three years (so we should plan on a minimum of three) and will cause more problems during this time than it will solve. Even once completed it will not fix traffic in town. Most cars in the morning and evening are still going to come into town (at least if I was a business in town I would hope so). We have a few significant bottleneck in town, namely Cedar and Fifth, First and Pine, and Fifth and Larch, with the latter two being the bigger problems. There are things we could and should do to improve traffic now. It seems that if we were able to increase the length of time the major throughways stayed green at peak traffic times we could increase the flow of cars through and out of town. I am not a civil engineer, though. We should get with one of our state entities, like the University of Idaho, that has civil engineers on staff who study our traffic flows and make recommendations to the city and the ITD. The City should work with our State Representatives to makes sure we get a response and get the best solutions we can.
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?
It may seem odd for someone to be running for office that does not have a particular agenda they are trying to push, but that is the case with me. My reason for running is a feeling of obligation to the city that has been so good to my family over the years. Sandpoint is my home and I fear that people that take radical stances on issue will prevent us from doing what needs to be done and stopping what should be stopped. I offer my services to the City with a promise to let common sense and a desire to do only do what seems best for the City in the long-run guide my decisions. I feel I can offer the perspective of one that has spent twenty plus years in Sandpoint as well as the perspective of someone that is starting a new life in the City.
As far as time goes, I do have a day job. I think this is an asset and brings a perspective to the Council that more closely represents the general citizens of the city. I feel I will have plenty of time to commit to the City if elected. For the last two and a half years I have been spending somewhere between 20 and 35 hours a week finishing my Masters at Gonzaga in Spokane. At the same time I was working fulltime at Litehouse, 40 to 60 hours a week with 50 being the average. I am busy and I have found a way to get a lot done with the time I have. At a minimum, I will have an additional 20 hours a week that will become free in November when I complete my Masters. From conversations with most of the council members, this is more than is normally required. This makes me feel confident that I will be able to more than meet my obligation if elected.
9. Describe any other issues you believe are important; why you consider them important; and your position on these issues.
A general statement would be how encouraged I am by the number of people running for office this year. It is proof to me how most people feel we are at a critical time as a city. It will be essential that Sandpoint have good city officials with a servant's hearts that do what is best for the city's long-term future.