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Ashley Eckel Candidate Questionnaire

Candidates were asked to try to keep each response to 150 words.

Position: City Council, Pos 2
Opponent: Steve Sinwell

Why did you choose to run for council?

I am running because I want to maintain a safe and beautiful environment for my neighbors and my family. But, for me there is something else. Here in Clyde Hill, I saw a City Council composed of all retired men and a competent female mayor who was not willing to continue to serve the City for her stated reason of continual harassment from members of the Council. I was interested, and I thought I could help.  

I have an education (BA, MD, PhD), financial experience (in both private business and public institutions), and the ability to think rationally and research all issues before I vote. But certain differences separate me further from my opponent. I want to help by lending a mom’s view of issues before the council that impact the lives, tranquility, and safety of families here. I also enjoy drawing people together for positive outcomes. In my work, I have found that a reputation for careful and consistent medical research practice has allowed me to collaborate with researchers around the world as we diagnose and treat pediatric blood cancers. At home, my husband and I enjoy volunteering at events, or inviting friends and neighbors to our house, to build community. 

I was appointed to the Clyde Hill City Council earlier this year by a unanimous vote of the council.  The person currently running against me also sought to be appointed, but didn’t receive any votes at the appointment. One must ask: what changed in such a short time? I thought my commitment to researching complex issues put before the Council, before I voted on them, would result in a stronger Council and could help to advance sound decisions for our City. What I learned is that I underestimated just how serious some of the nonsense going on actually is. When I saw some members manipulating facts, wasting finances, or pushing self-serving conflicts/decisions, I spoke up. I will never regret being honest with our community.

What is your plan to solve the budget crisis?

I will continue to review the budget in terms of both expenditures and sources of revenue. I oppose raising taxes unless it becomes the last available solution to balancing our budget. One way to prevent an increase in taxes is to more carefully review our expenditures. We are in budget ‘season’ right now. Our budget shortfall is around $450,000; one must understand that our police cost is roughly 55% of our total budget, and our “legal fees/records requests” costs have been exceeding $200,000.  Both budget items warrant review. I have supported carefully considering options for a Stormwater Utility fee, which would generate directed money for infrastructure costs. Growing our grant funding using the skills of the City Staff is also a viable, albeit variable, source of revenue for our City.

How would you handle conflicts of interest?

Our State maintains specific laws related to conflicts of interest, which primarily deal with financial matters. Chapter 42.23 RCW prohibits municipal officers from using their positions to secure special privileges or special exemptions for themselves or others, and from entering into certain contracts or having other personal financial interests with their jurisdictions. Nevertheless, locally, it appears that certain past, present, and potentially future Councilmembers may lead debate and support specific matters which directly affect their sole property ownership. These issues may include viewsheds, gates, roadway turnarounds, fire hydrant relocations, hedge heights and locations, pickleball courts, and others. I believe these issues are also conflicts, and I will support the City Council to more strictly monitor and enforce violations of the Conflict of Interest Code and State laws.

If you could wave your hand and make one change to the city code, what would that be and why?

There are necessary City Code updates I have discovered, ones that the Council over the last few years have failed to address, in part due to their prioritizing of certain special-interest code changes. One single code change does not move to the front of the line for me. A rational approach to each code change is paramount. The codes must be clear in order to be easily understood and properly applied. Privacy, views, and street safety are priorities to me; residents have advocated for addressing tree policies, and I am willing to research and consider options. 

What is the top concern you’ve heard from residents?

From residents who have lived in Clyde Hill for decades, I hear concerns such as, “We got along for so many years until about two years ago, what happened two years ago?”“There seems to be so much fighting now since that Prop 1 battle.”,and “Why is the all-male Council now opposed to having you, the only woman, on our City Council”?I don’t know the exact answers, but I have ideas from my research and my experience since May on the Council. I can tell you that since joining the Council, I have diligently investigated every issue that has come before Council with care to evaluate for goals of our community, the financial feasibility of each project, self-interested motivations by any party pushing the issue, and any inconsistencies in the projects/proposals. And, I refuse to be intimidated by any member of the Council. I will focus on getting results for residents.

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