Q&A with Snoqualmie Mayoral Candidate Peggy Shepard: Qualifications, Revenue Shortfalls, Property Taxes and City Challenges

Candidate Shepard submitted answers to four questions we posed to her. Below are her unedited responses. After the Q&A you will find her bio (also unedited) and links to her website for additional information.

The summer primary was held on August 3rd.  Ballots will be mailed out on October 13th and   November 2nd will be the general election.

Question 1: What are your qualifications to be the Mayor of Snoqualmie and how will you be different from the current Mayor?

Peggy: Qualifications

  • City of Snoqualmie – population 13K, 4 years as a city council member
  • City of Hayward, CA – population 160K, 7 years in Building and HR departments, participated in negotiations with 13 bargaining units; identified functionality for the Human Resource Management System.
  • Certificate of Municipal Leadership, Association of WA Cities 2018
  • Member of the Washington Coalition for Open Government 2020
  • Certificates in Business Intelligence Analytics and Data Analysis, Bellevue College 2017
  • Business analyst, program manager – for Microsoft, AT&T, T-Mobile and more.
  • Business start-ups for electronic hardware and publications for industry engineers.
  • Bachelor of Science from UC Davis
  • Lived in Snoqualmie for 15 years, 4 grandchildren who attend schools here

Different

  • Implement more effective review and oversight of land development projects.  Enact “sunshine” policies to make planning and development processes fully transparent to the public.
  • Review and Update the Comprehensive Plan in order to better harmonize the fiscal demands from new growth with the City’s financial ability to support that new growth.
  • Review and Update zoning and development regulations to protect the integrity and livability of existing neighborhoods and commercial areas.  Update design review standards in order to enhance the quality and livability of development projects.
  • Reform records policies to provide maximum access to public records.
  • Reform public hearing processes in order to remove burdensome restrictions on public participation.
  • Create citizen advisory commissions to ensure that all residents are treated with respect. Adopt financial control policies that are fully compliant with guidelines and recommendations from the Governmental Accounting Standards Board and the Washington State Auditor.
Mayoral Candidate Peggy Shepard

Question 2: As mayor how do you specifically plan to fix the revenue shortfall created by the loss of the Salish expansion?

Peggy: My Administration will learn from the mistakes of the prior Administration. 

We will not rely on speculative land development schemes, such as the Salish Expansion or the Hotel, to maintain quality basic services to residents. 

We will use conservative revenue projections and will not commit taxpayer funds to support development projects without a positive cost/benefit and long term sustainability.  We will respond quickly to economic factors such as the pandemic that are headwinds to revenue projections.  Other cities and state agencies quickly responded to the pandemic, but my requests as a Councilmember to control spending were met with denial and rosy projections.  The prior Administration, and many members of the Council, relied on the “strategy” of spending down reserves and when those are gone taking on debt and increasing taxes and fees for residents.  My Administration will recognize that the more you deplete reserves and the longer you wait to prepare for an economic downturn the harder it is to make it through. We will adopt policies that will reduce costs.  For example, we will consider reducing truck traffic on the Snoqualmie Parkway.  The Parkway is not a truck route and was never designed for such use.  Heavy trucks cause 90% of the damage and residents pay 100% of the cost to maintain it.  Other policies that will control costs and save taxpayer money include:

  • More accountability for overtime and stricter review of payroll documentation. End the practice of across the board pay increases where some positions are underpaid, and some are overpaid compared to other agencies.
  • Review the practice of paying city employee bonuses and consider the experiences of most other cities who do not offer bonuses.
  • Place more effective controls on travel budgets, including the current practice of paid out of state and even international travel. 
  • Not taking on bonds without a specific plan for their use
  • Not building infrastructure for growth before it is required
  • Make sure that all expenses related to growth is detailed
  • Review and adjust impact fees for developers to be comparable to other cities

Question 3: The city’s general fund is dependent on property taxes so what is your plan to bring in new business to increase sales and business tax revenue?

Peggy: First, Snoqualmie’s Local Retail Sales and Use Tax were $3.24K for 2019 and $3.22K for 2020. Nationally ecommerce sales have skyrocketed at 44 percent growth in 2020, offsetting lower sales tax from brick-and-mortar businesses. All local governments are challenged by this phenomenon, and my Administration will be more active in identifying ways to make our taxation system more fair and productive.

My Administration will create avenues for better participation by all businesses as stakeholders in the City’s economic development plans.  We are fortunate to have small businesses that have learned to promote and benefit from our regional natural assets.  We must not allow incompatible development to damage the unique character of our historic business district. 

On the Ridge, too, we need to be cautious about national chains.  Other Washington Cities have adopted policies and regulations to promote locally owned businesses.  Snoqualmie has unique assets that are vulnerable to exploitation by national chains.  The full range of businesses in our community need to be actively consulted and supported, including home businesses, consultancies and other creative economic activities that are often overlooked, I want to encourage businesses that locals will frequent, encourage an environment where goods and services are close, and businesses can succeed in the long term. I would not depend on just a small number of people to get a sense of community preference, but look for more input on a larger scale.

Question 4: What do you feel are the city’s biggest challenges and how do you plan to address them?

Peggy: Hazardous Contamination from the Snoqualmie Mill Site

The Snoqualmie Mill operated for the better part of a century, and the site is considered one of the most contaminated in the state. According to the state’s EPA, it can take many years to clean up a contaminated site. There is documented contamination in the soil and ground water. https://apps.ecology.wa.gov/gsp/Sitepage.aspx?csid=10346

The City needs to become a full partner with State and Federal Agencies and be proactive about the management of this site.  We need to be thorough and comprehensive in the application of regulatory tools so that we don’t make a bad situation even worse.

Irresponsible and Unsustainable Growth and Land Development

The city has been at loggerheads with the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) regarding concerns about Snoqualmie growing too fast. The City’s growth plans far exceed the PSRC’s growth projections, but the City has refused to bring its plans into compliance with regionally adopted growth forecasts.  This is jeopardizing the City’s ability to support its residents with water, roads and other services.  PSRC goals, not the city’s projections, are used to determine building roads in the region, and water availability for the region.

My Administration will review the Comprehensive Plan and bring all of our growth forecasts, plans and zoning into better balance with neighboring cities and regional plans.  This will also ensure that services for existing residents are not jeopardized and that the City’s finances will not force higher taxes and fees onto residents in the future.

Financial Management Policies and Practices Not Adequate

The City is not in compliance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and does not follow important guidelines from the Governmental Accounting Standards Board and the Washington State Auditor.

The following reforms need to be instituted:

  • The City’s Budget Documents need to clearly show spending and revenue on a line item basis, set out in well delineated departmental categories.  The prior Administration greatly reduced the level of detail in budget documents, and the Council allowed the mayor to get away with it.
  • Depreciation of city assets needs to be considered in budget documents.
  • The City’s $70M water and $50M sewer plans need to be reconsidered in light of existing economic circumstances and informed by realistic growth assumptions.
  • The City’s Capital Improvement Plan needs to be re-evaluated and better prioritized.  Currently, projects are listed with only very speculative funding sources, and priorities are not clearly set out.
  • The oversight of the Council over contracts and spending needs to be re-established.  My Administration will cooperate with the Council in exercising its legislative duties in this regard.  As a Councilmember, I was denied reasonable access to important supporting documents such as payment vouchers and check registers.  My Administration will fully support all Councilmembers in their reasonable requests for financial accounting information.
  • More accountability for overtime and stricter review of payroll documentation. End the practice of across the board pay increases where some positions are underpaid and some are overpaid compared to other agencies.
  • Review the practice of paying city employee bonuses and consider the experiences of most other cities who do not offer bonuses. ; most cities do not offer bonuses
  • Place more effective controls on travel budgets, including the current practice of paid out of state and even international travel.  Not taking on bonds without a specific plan for their  use
  • Not building infrastructure for growth before it is required
  • Make sure that all expenses related to growth is detailed
  • Review and adjust impact fees for developers to be comparable to other cities

Candidate Bio with Linked Website

Peggy Shepard: Peggy is running to transform City Hall with open and responsive government.

As a four-year City Council member, Peggy knows our city government is about you, not special interests.

Peggy’s professional background is in IT systems. She has a Bachelor of Science in engineering from UC Davis, as well as certificates in Business Intelligence, Analytics and Data Analysis from Bellevue College. Her technology career included work at Microsoft, AT&T, and T-Mobile.  Prior to that she worked for the city of Hayward, California in the Building and Human Resources Departments.  Prior to that, she started several small businesses.

This background of broad experience has prepared her to step into the role of mayor with actions that will result in cost savings, transparency, and accountability.

Peggy has lived in and loved Snoqualmie since 2006. In her free time she pursues environmental interests, and talks frequently to local residents to keep in touch with their observations of the City. She and her husband Dick have a blended family with four grandchildren in the Snoqualmie Valley School District, which gives her insight to our families with school-aged children.  She welcomes information from you about your experiences with our City and City government.

Comments

  1. I love what Peggy stands for! Open and honest government that serves the public first and foremost!

  2. These are great answers, especially compared to the previous candidate’s Q&A. Thank you for providing these.

  3. Neither candidate mentioned their position on the city mandate to require vaccines for all city employees. Will they maintain or eliminate this mandate?

  4. Lisa Abram Nelson says

    I admire you, Peggy for your steadfast effort to right our current dysfunctional city government and have often been shocked at the brazen bullying you have endured by the mayor and other council members. I also find it abhorrent that in Bob Jeans’ own words the city has a “vitriolic” relationship with the tribe. This must be fixed.

  5. Peggy speaks honestly and openly. She has real answers for real people. I am tired of hearing the same old rhetoric, which is what her opponent delivers.

  6. Good answers. Night and day between you and your opponent. I have been paying attention so your responses speak directly to my frustration with the city. You have this household’s vote.

  7. Kudos to Living Snoqualmie for publishing both candidates’ platforms. In Peggy Shepard we finally have a mayoral candidate (and former corporate analyst) who understands the value of fiscal discipline and fiduciary responsibility. The past several years of “tax and spend” behavior by this Mayor and most other Councilmembers like Katherine Ross and Jim Mayhew (with Peggy Shepard often the sole dissenting vote of sanity) have resulted in ongoing budget deficits and way too many failed promises. Enough is enough! A vote for Ross is a just another vote to continue along Matt Larson’s pathway to red ink and sweeping the toxic dump Mill Site under the rug. This household is voting for Peggy and we’re all for draining the swamp on the special interest-entrenched City Council.

  8. Monica Lowney says

    I have known Peggy for many years and fully support her as Mayor. Peggy will do an excellent job reining in the out of control spending at city hall. She will look out for Snoqualmie residents from an environmental, economic and financial standpoint. Whereas her opponent will be four more years of continued lack of transparency, overspending of tax payer funds, and disrespect toward citizens who question poor city management decisions. Peggy is by far the superior candidate with decades of knowledge with city government, budgets and environmental issues. Her experience will be applied to the best interest of Snoqualmie residents. Vote for Peggy!

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