Kidd looks back at challenges, successes during two years as Port Angeles' mayor
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Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Mayor Cherie Kidd complained about the financial threats to Port Angeles because of unfunded state and federal mandates in an article in the November/December issue of CityVision magazine.

CityVision is published by the Association of Washington Cities, a lobbying group that represents all 281 Washington's cities and towns before the state Legislature, the state executive branch and regulatory agencies.

“Unfunded mandates can no longer be funded by taxpayers,” Kidd told the magazine.

She particularly targeted environmental programs ordered by the state Department of Ecology.

“. . . Of course we want clean water, but we have to work within our ability to pay for it,” she said.

“The state Legislature has to really pay attention to this.”

Kidd also talked about her job as mayor and industries in Port Angeles that are driving the local economy.

Kidd, an elected City Council member, is finishing up a two-year stint as mayor of the North Olympic Peninsula's biggest city.

The City Council picks the mayor from among its members.

The seven council members will elect a new mayor and deputy mayor for 2014-15 in a vote before the public at their first meeting of the new year on Jan. 7.

The mayoral job is a largely ceremonial position since City Manager Dan McKeen runs the day-to-day operations. He reports to the council.

But council members still lobby their colleagues for the job because the mayor chairs the council meetings, is considered the public face of the city and plays a large role in shaping the council's agenda.

Kidd has given thousands of hours to the city, representing the city at community events and championing economic development and tourism.

Here's the Q&A done with Kidd for the CityVision article, headlined “Manifest Destiny”:

You've been mayor of Port Angeles for two years. What made you want the job?

I'm the third generation of the Port Angeles Kidd family.

My grandparents on both sides were pioneers who came out here and homesteaded, and what they taught me is to get involved in building community.

They didn't just build homes; they established our schools, our Granges, our community. That's who Port Angeles is: the spirit of neighbor helping neighbor and building a community together.

Besides running the city, you help your husband run the local U-Haul franchise.

We have our pulse on who's coming and going. My husband primarily runs the business, but I do work in the office, and whenever someone brings in a U-Haul truck, I always ask, “Are you moving to Port Angeles?”

And I extend my hand as mayor and officially welcome them. I have so much fun!

What initiatives have you championed as mayor?

One of the main projects is to update and improve our waterfront. We just finished Phase I of a new development project, $4 million to put in a beautiful promenade and overlook — not only for people who live in Port Angeles, but for people coming into the United States from Canada.

Being on the northern border, we're an international host city.

How did you manage to pay for that?

With economic development funds and working in conjunction with the Black Ball Ferry Line, which also spent $4 million on improvements to their Port Angeles terminal.

We look across the water to Canada, but in our backyard is a million-acre national park that gets 3 million visitors a year.

Other than tourism, what's driving the economy of Port Angeles?

My grandparents and my father used to be involved in the timber industry, but that's changing.

Now we have a high-tech corridor of companies that make composites used in the aerospace industry and yacht-building, making lots of new jobs.

Nippon USA made an $85 million investment in a biomass generator at its paper mill here that will produce green energy.

We're trying to create diversity and encourage economic investment.

What's the biggest challenge you face as mayor today?

Unfunded mandates from the state and federal government.

For example?

We have a $42 million combined sewer overflow project that's mandated by the state Department of Ecology and is being paid for by stormwater surcharges.

We're a town of 19,000 people, but we have only 8,000 ratepayers.

Everyone's utility bill has DOE taxes, $20 a month for the combined sewer overflow, and 25 percent of our ratepayers are running behind in paying their bills.

So when DOE comes to us with a new harbor cleanup study — at another $4.60 a month — that's a significant concern.

Some people might not consider $25 a month to be a hardship.

That's above and beyond water, sewer, garbage and electric bills.

The BPA is hiking our energy rates by 10 percent.

We have no options. I feel like this is the perfect storm.

Many of our seniors are on fixed incomes, and next year Social Security will only increase by 1.5 percent.

And many of our residents are below the state average on income. We have to be fair to our citizens and make sure their utilities are affordable.

What needs to change?

Unfunded mandates can no longer be funded by the taxpayers.

They cannot bear any further burdens.

Elected officials need to talk the DOE as I'm doing and write to the DOE as I'm doing.

It's a partnership: of course we want clean water, but we have to work within our ability to pay for it.

The state Legislature has to really pay attention to this.

What can the Legislature do?

We just finished the $20 million Phase I of our combined sewer overflow project, and we're going into Phase II, which will cost another $26 million, but the Legislature just swept the rug out from under us by sweeping the Public Works Trust Fund.

We were absolutely counting on those funds for our combined sewer overflow project, and now that we're halfway finished, they've taken away the tool we need to finish it.

The state revenue forecast came in $358 million over what was expected, so I'm hoping the Legislature will take another look at the Public Works Trust Fund and maybe reinstate it.

Any regrets about running for mayor?

I had no idea that being a small-town mayor would bring so many challenges, adventures and opportunities.

I'm working hard, and I'm very happy and proud of Port Angeles.

We are growing, and we are working through these obstacles together.

One thing hasn't changed: we are still a town with the pioneer spirit of neighbor helping neighbor.

Last modified: December 28. 2013 6:11PM
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