Hardin is part of a crowded field for OS City Council Position 5, up against Lisa Scott, Patrick Daugherty, Edgar Schroll and Robert Doering. Hardin was the second candidate to answer the North Beach News’ questions. Her answers in bold:
-What, if any, do you assess to be major areas of concern in OS — and what if any are your plans to fix them?
Lack of focus by the Mayor and staff regarding budget and contracts. Budget overruns are seemingly continuous in some departments, with the expectation that Council will always agree to pay after the fact. Contracts; whether with builders, developers or city property leases, are ignored for the most part, or amended to absolve the lessee from responsibility if the lessee asks. As a council member I will work to help the mayor find the tools to monitor these issues responsibly or stop the flow of money until the problems are identified and solved. Council needs to stop the cycle until the problem is solved.
-OS looks to be on pace for record revenues — what should the money be spent on?
Not just record revenues, but a large Federal grant for pandemic relief are putting OS in a very healthy financial state. There are many large ticket items that could be addressed, but I would begin by setting up financial incentives to small businesses; existing and new, to help them staff and succeed. Some of these incentives could involve working with builders to push new multi-family building in front of new single-family homes for the next two years so that our businesses can promise housing to their employees. I would like to see a fully funded Parks Department that would take the fresh waterways management over, as well as responsibility for Youth Programs during the summers, All-Age programs year round, and maintaining the City Parks to a higher standard. Money should be spent to provide more trash and toilet options throughout the downtown tourism areas. Ocean Shores Blvd is becoming a washboard again, like it was before the last major road improvement LID. Let’s get out ahead of that and use some of the money to fix it without a LID. Obviously, there are plenty of places to spend the money. A reasonable list of priorities has to be developed before a dime of it is spent.
–What are your thoughts on the firing and subsequent lawsuit of former OS Fire Chief David Bathke?
I think it is appalling that a licensed attorney did not know how to execute a contract she had signed. If, as the judgement stated, the Union members claimed they would go to the press with something, we deserve to know what they thought they had on her and why she caved in to their demands. If there was any trust in her decision-making abilities before the lawsuit, I find it impossible to place trust there now.
–What “fresh” ideas do you have to tackle the weed/algae problem on the city’s fresh water system?
I only know what I learn from listening to others with more knowledge on the subject. I agree that mechanical vegetation harvesting along with smarter management is the only way to create a long-term success in keeping the waterways viable. The community should come together to decide what the priorities of the waterways are: fishing, boating, swimming? Then responsible management goals can be set in motion.
–What is your track record as far as listening to and responding to complaints from citizens (and/or customers)?
I spent my career listening and responding to complaints from customers. I learned to listen for what the actual complaint was, despite what might initially be said. I learned to ask what solution they were asking for in their complaint, and I learned to work with them to define a pathway to that solution. Sometimes they didn’t want or need a solution, they just needed to be heard. I know that many of our citizens feel as though the City refuses to hear them. I try to make sure they know that not only I, but several of the current council members really do hear them.
-What are your thoughts on the golf course?
The golf course is a foundational bedrock of Ocean Shores. I was extremely offended when the GM of the course sent a letter to his members that indicated I, as one of the seven candidates he was not endorsing, had somehow endorsed taking away the back nine and letting homes be built there. That was an ugly lie that has painted his three candidate picks with an ugly brush.
-With a strong field of candidates — why should someone vote for you?
I have been involved with various nonprofit groups in OS for 7 years. I have met a wide variety of residents and learned what people are asking for to live here happily. As a natural leader, I will take on the job of providing a voice for the community to the city government and I will work hard to keep the spending of community money to the expectations set when budgets are approved. I will work to make finance committee meetings transparent as well. I do work well with others, directing live theater has given me many tools to use for that. However, I also speak truth to power, which is something we will always need more of.
-How would you communicate with residents especially in times of crisis like the pandemic?
Phone, text, email, Zoom, in person with the appropriate protective protocols.
-What is your vision for the town? Another Seabrook? Add marina like Westport? What do you picture the future to be?
Ideally? I love the idea of a beach-themed look throughout the downtown business corridor, with Point Brown Blvd closed to traffic from Magellan and OS Blvd NW to Chance A La Mer. I’d like to see businesses working together to all succeed. I have not given up on the idea of a ferry to Westport again someday.
Realistically, I want to see the City slow down and catch its breath. Start putting people first. Talk to the community about priorities and how they will be planned and funded. I want to see dedicated green space planning, fresh waterways management planning, and overall planning to include working families and youth engagement programs. The City needs to stop panning over the current growth phase as “12,000 lots were platted, and we haven’t filled them all up yet”.
-How do you feel about dumpsters on the beach and affordable housing?
Affordable housing means different things to different people. For someone retiring here from Seattle or LA, our housing is more than affordable. However, for our working families, finding wage-appropriate housing is difficult, if not impossible. The City absolutely must find a way to mandate building and development agreements that offer incentives for building lower-income housing. This does not mean ghetto or slum, this means safe housing for the people who work in our shops and restaurants, etc. Without taking care of them, we eventually have a town with zero amenities for residents OR tourists.
Dumpsters or some other trash receptacles are necessary; however, the beach is a State issue and we need to pressure the State to provide more services.
What do you think about more crosswalks in the business area?
I think that horse left the barn decades ago, when there was no planning of easements and parking and pedestrians. The easiest answer is to close Point Brown to traffic and make the area a boardwalk.
-How do you feel about off-leash dog parks?
I want one, and my dogs need one. It is time to make it happen.