Editor’s Note: Courier-Herald reporter Ray Still interviewed Bonney Lake residents David Baus and Justin Evans, who are running for Position 2 on the Bonney Lake City Council.
Ray Still: What do you do for a living, and what experience do you have that qualifies you for City Council?
Justin Evans: I am a production manager of a machine shop in Sumner.
Prior to that, I worked for a construction manager building Starbucks.
Before that, I used to work in campaigns. I volunteered. I really got into it in 2000 when I worked for the “Get Out The Vote” campaign. I worked for the Gore campaign, Cantwell’s campaign, and couple local ones like Senator Jim Kastama from Puyallup.
Jim was elected and his legislative aide asked me to come on and be their session aide, so for the year 2001 and the two special sessions, I was working down in Olympia with the senator and his group.
I learned a lot of hands-on politics. Jim was on the transportation, education and judiciary committees, so I would go to those committees and sit in on all those meetings and research all those things he’d be voting on.
RS: So how does this all boil down to you having experience to be a council member?
JE: Really, it’s just passion to work with the people. It’s a similar feel, but it’s not the same. Most of the stuff that I did was direct communication with constituents, so hearing what they have to say – that’s a lot of what of the City Council does.
It’s not my opinion going towards a vote, it’s the voice of the constituents. Maybe it’s something I personally agree with, but if the majority of people that I am talking to and hearing from believe otherwise, I will do what’s best with the people, not what is best for me.
RS: What is one of the biggest issues you see the city tackling in the next year or so, and what are your proposed solutions?
JE: When I was a firefighter five years ago, I was out in Covington and I lived at the firestation. That was my residence. That was right when Covington was booming. It grew out of hand way too fast. The same 272nd Road that runs through Covington is the same one as 20 years ago, but having added 60,000 people.
It’s managing the growth. Growth is inevitable. Some folks would like to keep it a small town, but it’s bound to happen. So controlling the growth to be what is going to be most beneficial, not just thinking about the growth.
It would be great to build out the Eastside, and it’s going to happen. But making sure that is planned for accordingly, even ahead of schedule. Transportation issues need to be resolved before they happen – we may have five lanes out there, five years before a building goes up. But something like that needs to happen.
RS: So you think Bonney Lake is heading for a huge boom in its economy and population?
JE: I would say yeah. It’s such a reasonably priced area and it’s pretty convenient towards everything. We have a Walmart, Starbucks, Target, Fred Meyers, Lowes, Home Depot – what do you want? We have it. And for 18,500 people, that’s a lot of convenience, and at some point, that’s going to draw more and more people into the area.
So yeah, it’s going to continue to grow as long as school districts tend to be better and the conveniences are out here.
RS: You see growth, but a lot of cities are dealing with minimal budgets. It’s not as bad as it was a few years ago, but they’re still getting by on the bottom line. So when it comes to managing growth, what are you looking at cutting in the budget in order to keep things flowing?
JE: Honestly I haven’t looked at that, so I couldn’t give you an honest answer.
RS: Bonney Lake has been criticized for not having enough parks on a national standard. Right now, the city is going to develop the WSU forest park and revitalize Allan Yorke park. Is this something you support, or is it something that you think should be lower on the list of the city’s priorities?
JE: It’s not one of my top priorities, no. I take my daughter to a different playground almost every day. It’s amazing how many little city parks are around here, and just by driving around you’ll find a new one every week or so.
As far as that goes, there is a large amount of parks. I know they are working on the trail as well, that is going to be great when that finishes up. It’s important, but I wouldn’t put that as a major emphasis on what’s next for the community.
Phasing with the growth is going to go, and eventually parks are going to have to jump back up to match that. But I wouldn’t put it as one of my top priorities.
RS: What are your top priorities?
JE: 50 percent of all the jobs in Bonney Lake are retail. Low wage retail. Part of that is the convenience. Because of the convenience, there is a lot of retail and restaurants.
It would be nice if we could get an industry in here that could bring in some higher wage jobs. We are too far off the beaten path to really bring in what Sumner did. They did an amazing job developing their north end. They have a revenue stream for the city for decades to come with those warehouses that are there. Amazon’s got a couple locations down there, Costco and Swift Trucking and Green Valley Roasting, they’re all down there, and it’s super convenient with the highway. You jump on the freeway and make a right and you’re heading northbound and you can take I-5 or make a left and head southbound and catch 512. You can be anywhere quickly.
It’s not the same down here. So I don’t think we have the infrastructure to support the industry and warehousing and manufacturing that Sumner has, but we do need an industry of some sort to bring in here.
The flip side to that is, when you look at the income of the residents, the average income for a resident of Bonney Lake is well above the income for that of Pierce County. So those that live here don’t work here, and those that work here probably can’t afford to live here. So affordable housing to bring in those lower income workers, to at least allow them the stepping stone they need, and a good sustainable industry.
Bringing in higher paying jobs and some sort of sustainable industry. I’m not sure where that lies yet, whether it is in the tech field, in higher medicine or something along those lines. It probably won’t be manufacturing or warehousing but something along those lines.
We got a lot of land to develop down east and we could probably house some pretty significant businesses out there.
And affordable housing for residents, or for those who want to be residents.
RS: The city has already put into the works funding a new Public Works center and redesigning the Justice and Municipal Center. Is this a priority for you, or should these projects also be put lower on the priority list?
JE: I wouldn’t put them on the top of the list. The justice center we have is pretty beautiful, and I wouldn’t go renovating that right away.
Just being conscious of what we need and what the priorities of the city are, it may be a priority. I know we just struck a deal with Sumner to start taking on some of their municipality jurisdictional stuff, so as that grows, maybe that might be the case.
But schools are great here, and at some point we are going to need another high school. That’s probably going to be needed in the future sooner than later.
RS: Speaking of needs of the city, where do you stand with the Senior Center and the Food Bank? Should the city continue to help fund these public services? Increase support? Decrease?
JE: I know the city has helped out both, and I was at one of the city council meetings when the food bank president was there talking about relocating.
The food bank provides an amazing resource for those in Bonney Lake and the area. I would definitely keep supporting that to the best of the city’s ability.
RS: Would you want to keep them in the middle of the city or move them somewhere else?
JE: Location wise, wherever they can be the most beneficial and service the most. I would reconsider some of the proposals for using older buildings, but I know as a non-profit you take what you get. There might be some other locations out there that might suit them best that doesn’t require relocating some portable buildings and actually get them the resources they need to serve the community as best as they can.
I know where the Senior Center is at. I haven’t been in it, so I don’t know what the current status of it is. Having not looked into that, I don’t know that the city’s contribution is to it.
It’s definitely vital, so whatever the city is contributing, I wouldn’t decrease that. I would like to find out if it’s enough and what the Senior Center needs.
RS: Speaking of bringing in new business, just recently, Bonney Lake passed a marijuana shop ban. Where do you stand on this?
JE: I’m not is support of that. If it’s a legal business in the state of Washington, regardless of what it is, they should have the ability to set up shop and provide a service to whoever wishes to use the service.
It’s not fair to someone who wants to set up a legal business, state-wide anyway, to earn an income and help produce revenue for the city. In 2014 I believe Washington received $75 million dollars in taxes alone from the revenue in marijuana sales. I may be wrong on the statistic but I believe its pretty close.
That’s money that can be going back to the city in B&O taxes and employment. It would be a lower wage job, but employment.
RS: Why should Bonney Lake voters vote for you instead of your opponent?
JE: Either one of us is going to be a good fit. I met Dave quite a few times. We’ve talked often, and we did the Beautify Bonney Lake together in the same group.
We have a lot of similar ideas – either way, it’s going to be a good fit for Bonney Lake.
I have also been endorsed by the Pierce County Young Democrats.