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Race for open council seat pits Avery vs. Pavone | ELECTION 2013
Ballots are headed to voters this week for the Nov. 5 general election and in Renton and the candidates for city council are headed into the home stretch.
In the battle for the seat being left open by Councilman Rich Zwicker's decision not to run for re-election, local businessman Armondo Pavone and community activist Stuart Avery are squaring off to take his place on the dais.
Pavone, 51, lives in the Renton Hill neighborhood with his wife, Angela, and two boys, Roman, 5 and Dominic, 3. He is a Renton High School and Shoreline Community College graduate and restauranteur who is the past president of the Downtown Renton Association and current member of the Renton Hill Association, Renton Blue Ribbon Panel, Renton Rotary and Chamber of Commerce.
Avery, 52, live in the Windsor Hills neighborhood with his wife, Shannon and two sons, Forrest, 18 and Garrett, 13. Avery is a graduate of Lake Washington High School and studied creative writing at Bellevue Community College and mechanical drawing at Lake Washington Technical College. He is vice president of operations at MIE Corporation and is perhaps best known as a former leader of the group that led the petition drive to place a vot eon the downtown library location on the 2012 ballot. He also volunteers with Renton's Community Supper and was recognized as New Life Church's Volunteer of the Year 2012.
The Renton Reporter submitted the same set of questions to each candidate. Their answers are printed here. Answers may be edited for space and style, but the content was not changed.
Avery's answers are presented first because his name is first alphabetically.
1.What do you think are the two most pressing issues facing Renton?
AVERY: A.) Budget deficit. Although latest figures have us ahead of forecasts, we have a long way to go before we are again fully funding public safety, transportation and community services without adding more taxes or fees. B.) Our current unsustainable appetite for annexing additional communities. Are we adding financial risk, while failing to support existing economically depressed areas in our city?
PAVONE: Continued funding of vital city services and economic revitalization of the downtown core.
2. How will you work to solve them?
AVERY: Budgeting is the toughest task, but it can be done. Our family raised ourselves out of years of living in debt and credit dependency. We learned to live a life we could afford, and not the one we thought we should afford. I will work hard to be a part of budgeting decisions that preserve health and human services, public safety and infrastructure. New revenues should not be dependent on additional taxes but rather more people and employers paying existing taxes. That means attracting more employers, and more residents of all income levels who seek good homes and safe neighborhoods within our current boundaries. Expanding boundaries increases revenues, but not without similar high costs, leaving us weak in the face of eventual economic downturns.
PAVONE: In order to continue funding of vital city services I believe we need to work closely with administration and council members to continue budget practices that look toward the future. To revitalize downtown in an proactive and integrated manner we will need to work with the Community Economic Development Department and the community at-large to develop an integrated Downtown Redevelopment Plan that will serve as the ‘roadmap’ for downtown revitalization efforts. This cooperative effort will address the need for a more vital downtown district through a combination of business development activities and physical improvements to maximize downtown’s unique assets. The key to the success of this plan will be to create classic public/private partnerships that continuously and systematically improve every aspect of the downtown from its land uses to its infrastructure to its image. The outcome would create an active, pedestrian-friendly environment that includes a range of residential, retail, service and dining options.
3. Why do you want to be on the council?
AVERY: I want to be on the council because Renton residents have asked me to run. Change is needed. Status quo isn’t working anymore. Renton needs a fresh breath of reason and humility on the council. To put it simply, we need more "Cowbell." Humor aside, I want to serve and be part of Renton’s future.
PAVONE: I have lived in the Renton community my entire life. My family has been here for generations and my father retired after a career with the Renton Police Department. I have owned and operated businesses in the downtown core for the past 30 years. Over the years, Renton has been extremely good to my family and me. My wife and I are raising two young boys in this community and we have a vested interest in the future of our city. We have watched as Renton has evolved into a very desirable city that is safe, progressive and provides residents with quality parks, schools and other family amenities. I believe our community has a bright future and I look forward to representing the interests of our citizens as a member of the city council.
4. What do you believe is the role of the city councilmember (please share a little of your philosophy of governance)?
AVERY: The role is to represent Renton residents in policy decisions, taking into account both the objectives of the city administration and the needs and desires of the community when moving on any issues. Councilmembers need to be engaged and seeking input. Listening is the key. Finding sensible common ground is the objective. I appreciate strong conflicting points of view. I enjoy an environment where ideas and perspectives can be challenged, respected and considered.
PAVONE: City councilmembers are elected by the citizens of Renton. The council should be dedicated to protecting the interests of those citizens. The council is the legislative forum for the city. The council discusses and may adopt ordinances of all kind relating to municipal affairs. The council also has the authority over the city’s powers of taxation. I believe the most important duty of a councilmember is to represent the citizens of their community including city employees and local businesses.
5. What are your top budget priorities?
AVERY: Our budget must be crafted to overcome cyclical economic downturns, and become less dependent on State and Federal grants to fully fund some critical services. I want to see the Police able to once again send officers back into our schools to mentor and build positive relationships with students. I want to see more of our decommissioned parks buildings utilized for the communities good. These programs pay for themselves in the most valuable way, human success. I’m concerned about debt spending. I want to see a budget neither lean on public safety nor weak on maintaining infrastructure. Strong enough to assure the most vulnerable are not forsaken. Your tax dollars are hard-earned. They shouldn’t be spent with any less regard. Strong budgets come from sensible spending and sound stewardship.
PAVONE: Fire/Police emergency services; Infrastructure maintenance and essential services; Parks and recreation
6. Perhaps the biggest issue the council has dealt with in the past two years has been the library annexation and rebuilds. What are your thoughts on this process and would you support de-annexation if the issue arose?
AVERY: That’s a loaded question. The 76.4 percent vote for the Cedar River library location was an affirmation that all the sacrifices made by many were indeed merited. But the effort should never have been necessary, and had the Administration and Council done a better job, it wouldn’t have been. I would not consider de-annexation moving forward. KCLS brings a lot of good things to the table, and to unwind it would lead to another avoidable disaster. I believe Renton lost as much as it gained from annexation. It was a poorly and hastily written deal, which left us holding the financial bag for far more than it ever should have. The eventual silver lining? We will have two beautiful new libraries at the best possible locations and people in Renton are now paying attention to what’s happening at City Hall.
PAVONE: As a child I remember visiting the Cedar River Library and have wonderful memories. My family frequents this library on a weekly basis and we are excited to have a wonderful new facility over the river. In terms of the process, I truly believe all city projects should be completely open and inclusive and I would not support de-annexation.
7. If money were no object, what would be at the top of your wish list for the city?
AVERY: I would like to see the Renton’s Arts and Culture master plan expanded and fully funded. With that in mind, a significant redevelopment of the downtown core into a walkable, working and living community for all ages, all income levels, and all cultures.
PAVONE: If money was no object, I would like to see the revitalization in three of Renton’s core neighborhoods: The Renton Highlands, Downtown and Cascade.
8. You and your opponent both obviously care very much for the city. Why should voters choose you over your opponent?
AVERY: Yes, we both care very much about Renton. It’s really about leadership. We need council members on the ground engaged in action and involved. It’s not about who you are or whom you know, it’s about what you’re doing and the efforts you’re willing to put into making a difference. I believe it takes a servants heart and a results oriented mind to be a good leader. I have demonstrated both through my own, and my family’s involvements in Renton over the past years.
PAVONE: I have been involved and serving the community for the past 30 years. As a business owner, I have collaborated with management teams, created budgets and understand fiscal responsibility. I am a creative problem solver that looks for solutions, not blame.
9. Finally, what is the current council and administration doing right?
AVERY: Renton is the best city bar none. That says a lot about past and current city leadership. There are far more right things happening than wrong. We have much to be thankful for and proud of because of our past and present leaders. Renton is full of amazing people; many of them work for the city, and serve the people of the city. I can only see it getting better and hope to be an active part of it.
PAVONE: The city has performed well during a very devastating economic time and still the city continues to provide quality service. I believe the council and administration have worked well together to protect the interests of Renton citizens.