Candidate Rob McFarland submitted answers to four questions we posed to him. Below are his unedited responses. After the Q&A, you will find his bio (also unedited) and links to his website for additional information.
The summer primary was held on August 1st. Ballots will be mailed out on October 18th, and November 7th will be the general election.
Question 1: How do you plan to balance the need to keep infrastructure current and growth in the City of North Bend?
Balancing the need and timing of building new infrastructure is an almost weekly conversation between staff and your elected officials. A common misperception is that new infrastructure should be built before new homes are built. This frequently is mentioned related to roads and traffic, so let me use that as an example.
If we built before new homes and businesses were underway, you, the current resident, would pay the higher taxes to finance those improvements. In WA state, our state laws are set up to ensure that the builder, whether new home or business, pays their share to offset any increase in traffic. Often, they are required to build specific features such as widened roads, intersection improvements, walkways, and trails. They also pay “impact fees” for each new home or sq ft. of buildings built. Those fees are based on the list of city identified transportation improvement projects (TIP) required to be approved by council, that is used to calculate the fee.
Finally, by thoughtfully accommodating the required growth, we are eligible for federal, state, and regional grants to make these improvements. In fact, most of the money spent bringing new trails, sidewalk connections, and road improvements comes from grant money we are able to bring back to the community from tax dollars you paid out in income, fuel, and sales taxes. The same is true for other infrastructure, including sewer, water, and storm treatment facilities.
Question 2: Our aging citizens and workforce have very few options for housing in North Bend. Do you have plans to facilitate affordable housing for these segments of our population?
Meeting the needs of low to moderate income families and our senior citizens is perhaps the most difficult task facing us today, and we must find ways to improve housing options for all. We do not have enough modest cost housing to meet our needs and too many of the existing modest cost housing is in poor shape. As I’ve visited with residents in apartments, condos, and townhomes around town, I hear from them the struggle to make ends meet as rent has increased significantly these past few years. I have also spent a lot of time in workshops, committees, and meeting 1:1 with other leaders exploring options for improving on this gap.
I’ve come to believe several things. One, we can make a difference, and to do so means elected policy makers must commit real dollars directly into projects. Two, the “tool box” of choices is big. Our city commitment can take many and multiple forms including direct land purchases, reduced or waived building fees, relief from some code requirements (such as the degree of building finishes), or tax abatement among others. By policy makers, I mean the state legislature, the King Co. Council and right here at home, our North Bend Council. With the input of experts, they will decide if we invest in our seniors and underserved or not.
There is good news and hope. Over the past four years we have done the due diligence. Council adopted my proposal to accept the state offer to share sales tax revenue specifically for affordable housing. That fund has now grown to over a million dollars, and it’s time to leverage it to get one or more affordable home projects built. We showed we can help with the success of the Habitat for Humanity project. It is also time to dust off the concept vision for a new senior citizen center and housing project that I first presented to Council when I was still a Planning Commissioner. We have a few ideas percolating and a few interested partners. I’m hoping you will continue to support me in bringing solutions to completion.
Question 3: What do you value as the top five priorities for the community in order of importance & vision for North Bend in the next four years?
My vision for the city remains my commitment to the city’s collective vision – one to preserve our natural beauty and small-town character while we enhance our downtown, riverfront access and our many community parks. My priorities in the coming term reinforce what our community has identified as its priorities:
- Meeting citizen’s expectations for high levels of service provided by our police and emergency fire and medical service. Policing services have had a hard go of it the past several years due both to vacancies on the force and to state legislature and court actions making it hard to do their job. I’m pleased to say that North Bend has police officers specifically assigned to our city and while getting back to full force has been a challenge, we are closing in on being fully staffed. A shining light has also been the exemplary service we receive under our contract with Eastside Fire and Rescue. Our teams of local fire fighters and emergency responders consistently receive high marks for responsiveness, professionalism, and quality service. Both police and fire were highly rated by you, our citizens, in the recent community survey.
- Continue to build and maintain healthy and quality infrastructure. I am very proud that Council approved multiple projects that I proposed during my first term. We worked effectively together to adopt a water conservation policy that included replacement of nearly all water meters in town and hundreds of feet of aging, leaking asbestos lined water mains. We doubled down on trail and sidewalk programs when council adopted the proposed “gap” program which included extending the trail along North Bend Way and added signalized crossings at both Stilson and Maloney Grove Aves on Cedar Falls Way, to a vigorous program of repairs including downtown and the Forster Woods and Si View neighborhoods. This spring we will complete the construction of our $30M+ new sewer treatment plant, a milestone achievement decades overdue. Three new traffic improving roundabouts have also been completed in the past few years. We’re only getting started on improving your safe passage in town, whether walking, biking, or riding.
- As our town has both grown and diversified, the expectations of our citizens have grown with it. We will need to continue to beef up our attention to the aesthetic elements of our community including downtown lighting and landscaping, the landscaping along and in our main roadways, and the amenities in our parks and along our trails. Arts and culture are also a big part of a vibrant and active town and as resources allow, we need to ensure we are investing in our public spaces and in those community organizations that bring us so much pleasure through cultural opportunities and art. That is why I’m proposing to council for their consideration a specific budget program for arts and culture in this year’s budget update.
- Continue attracting businesses and services that meet the needs of our residents. One of the few pleasures I get is the honor of attending the ribbon cutting opening for new businesses, and I’ve done over a dozen this year alone. Both merchants new to town and expansions by existing business owners have been strong the past few years. I am continually working to support them while facilitating bringing the services we are still in need of. The ribbon cutting at the end of that process is the easy step, yet it belies the work done by so many to create the right conditions that bring new jobs and new services to town. Central to a strong local economy is finding the right mix of regulations, opportunities, and yes, even housing choice to ensure our merchants can thrive and meet your needs for decades to come.
- Ensure fiscal sustainability now and into the future. While we were experiencing a single-family growth period, city revenues reflected that as income from development fees and taxes associated with the homebuilding. We are now entering a slower new home period, and while I welcome the pause, we need to ensure we are prepared for the shift down in revenue while experiencing an increase in service level. We need to ensure we will have appropriate revenues to meet the expenditures required to meet the expectations for service from our citizens. This was anticipated, and we have contracted with a premier firm serving the Northwest to develop an objective, sound picture of our current and future city financial picture. This study, done right, will also examine several scenarios on future revenues and expenditures, including bond service, that could be realized depending on the policy choices of council. Our new and modernized facilities and infrastructure will require regular upkeep and maintenance; and big-ticket items like the sewer plant require bond service payments as well. The policy choices made in the next few years will greatly determine the level of taxes and fees our residents will experience. With your input, I’ll work to find the best level of service to meet constrained revenues.
Question 4: What would you say is the biggest misconception about you as a candidate in the community?
We are all aware of misconceptions about others that circulate on social media. Whether the person posting truly believes what they post or are being purposefully misleading, these posts often circulate without full knowledge of the information needed to make a true assessment.
This is a challenge that I navigate through, both as your Mayor and as a candidate for re-election. I choose not to respond in social media forums but instead reserve my time and energy to utilize my knowledge and skills in a positive way to maintain our sense of community and our character as a highly livable small town.
Although I do not comment, I do care deeply that citizens have the information they need to make informed decisions. Many of the concerns I hear do not lend themselves to quick posts or a couple of sentence statements. I do, therefore regularly make myself available to the public to meet with me directly. Please know that I will continue to be available in this way to have an honest conversation with you about any questions or concerns you may have.
Candidate Bio with Linked Website
Rob McFarland (click blue lettering to go to McFarland’s website): This summer marks my 26th year as a resident of North Bend. I love our community and all that it offers. My daughters grew up along the South Fork of the Snoqualmie River, exploring the woods as Girl Scouts, rafting the Middle Fork as high schoolers tend to do, and creating many lasting friendships.
My wife, Roberta, and I had a wonderful time raising our daughters while also pursuing satisfying careers. We made many lifelong friendships by getting involved in our community. Roberta recently retired from the Highline School District as Director of the locally well-known Camp Waskowitz Outdoor Education Center. As a retiree, Roberta is applying her experience to expand outdoor education programs statewide.
I’ve been involved in our community since I arrived. Prior to becoming your mayor, I volunteered my time and expertise to various commissions and organizations, including the Parks and Planning Commissions, the Meadowbrook Farm Preservation Association, the Encompass Board, and the Snoqualmie Valley School Foundation.
- Master of Arts in Public Administration. Bachelor of Science in Natural Resources
- Built and operated the largest organic cotton clothing retail catalog company of its time supplying top notch products for environmentally minded and chemically sensitive customers throughout all 50 states and many foreign countries.
- Guided design and construction of parks, trials and affordable cottage housing for Snoqualmie Ridge neighborhoods.
- Owner of a business consulting firm.
- College instructor of Sustainable Practices, Social, and Political & Government systems.
Service to Community
- Served ~10 years on the North Bend Planning Commission, including 6 as Chairperson, providing leadership and insight to the City’s Comprehensive Plan, Development Standards and policies.
- 3 years, Snoqualmie Valley Schools Foundation. I worked to support teachers and staff in our local schools to supply teachers what tax dollars do not by improving donation funding and updating criteria for awarding grants.
- 5 years, Board of Encompass, 4 years as President. I provided leadership to our premiere child and family support agency through a refresh and renewal period that modernized agency governance, the funding model, and ultimately led to its new “encompassing” mission.
- 4 years, Meadowbrook Farm Preservation Association Board member leading the association through adoption of the Master Plan and the 1st Inter-local agreement with Si View Parks District for programming management of this open space.
- 7 years, North Bend Parks Commission, providing guidance on future planning for our wonderful park and trails system.