SEASIDE — Mayor Jay Barber is stressing continuity as he seeks election in November to the post he was appointed to in 2016, while his challenger, John Chapman, is offering what he calls a common-sense leadership approach.
Barber, a former city councilor who filled the vacant seat of former Mayor Don Larson, has lived in Seaside for 11 years. The former president of Warner Pacific University and pastor of a community church in Red Bluff, California, Barber and his wife, Jan, have four grown children and five grandsons.
Chapman, owner and operator of KSWB Productions LLC/Radio Clatsop, is a 27-year Seaside resident. He is married and the father of five children.
With three city councilors running unopposed, Barber said he looked forward to the potential of working with the same group to finish projects.
These include overseeing the $15 million Seaside Civic and Convention Center remodel and moving schools outside the tsunami inundation zone.
Major issues in Seaside include reducing homelessness and improving the stock of workforce housing. “I’m the only candidate who has done something tangible,” Barber said.
The mayor pointed to his record as a seven-year member and president of the Helping Hands Re-Entry Outreach Center’s board of directors.
Because of the organization’s efforts, “we’re housing over 200 people every night that would otherwise be on the street,” Barber said.
Chapman counters that Barber is not the only candidate who helps with the homeless. He and his wife and friends “have paid for many hotel rooms and helped many friends get back into housing,” he said.
Barber described affordable housing as requiring a “multicity solution,” with mayors in Astoria, Warrenton, Gearhart and Cannon Beach teaming for regional solutions. “You get things by studying them and bringing people together,” he said.
Affordable housing can be accomplished without raising taxes by bringing builders, developers and nonprofits together, Barber said.
System development charges — fees paid by developers for infrastructure like roads and sewers — may need to be deferred or reduced to encourage new housing. Federal or outside dollars may also be available.
“There are some innovative ways to address that,” Barber said. “We’ve got some ideas, but we have to work together. That’s why continuity is so important.”
Chapman said for the community to grow in positive ways, it must be affordable for people to live here.
Developers who receive breaks must be accountable, he added. “If you build something for affordable housing, you must keep that property at the price point so you don’t out-price that market.”
Hood to Coast
In 2015, after high winds drove runners onto Broadway, merchants petitioned the City Council to reschedule or move the finish of the annual 198-mile Hood to Coast relay from Mount Hood to Seaside.
Chapman was among the voices calling for change.
This year, Barber and city councilors signed a five-year deal with Hood to Coast to keep the race finish in Seaside.
While Chapman said he thinks the event is “brilliant,” the organization is not paying its fair share for city infrastructure and police.
“In my opinion, Hood to Coast holds Seaside to the rails, where we should be holding Hood to Coast to what we need as a community,” Chapman said.
Each runner should be assessed a fee, Chapman said, to cover sewer, water, police and garbage pickup. “I would say: ‘I don’t want your donation, but I want you to pay for services and amenities.’”
Hood to Coast revenues already pay for city services, Barber said, and the event raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for cancer research.
The Seaside Chamber of Commerce operates with earnings from the event’s beer and wine sales, Barber added.
Barber said he will vote for the rec district’s bond. The facility could enhance services to tourists and people living here.
“Health and fitness are important for people to support,” Barber said.
While Chapman said he “loved the concept” of the expansion, “it’s too soon, too quick.”
The city’s older population fears losing money for retirement, especially after the 2016 passage of the $99.7 million bond to relocate schools, Chapman said.
“Every time you take tax money and add it on to something you have to evaluate its effect,” Chapman said. “Do I think (Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District) would deserve something like that? Yes. Is the timing right? No. There are still questions: pricing, parking, property lines, and what’s going to happen with the middle school property when that comes up for sale?”
Both the jail and rec bonds have an uphill battle with voters, Barber said.
The mayor will vote “yes” for a new jail, motivated by safety concerns and the need to replace the outmoded facility in Astoria.
“My reluctance is the tax issue,”Barber said. “But you can’t stack criminals on top of each other.”
“I 100 percent back up a bond for a facility that should have been there 20 years ago,” Chapman said.
Seaside’s position in the Cascadia Subduction Zone leaves the city vulnerable to an earthquake and tsunami.
Chapman said residents choose where to live and “hopefully don’t live in fear.”
In a devastating tsunami, the likelihood is “there won’t be a Seaside anyway,” he said, as the city would be decimated.
Chapman questioned whether to devote funds to replace aging city bridges vulnerable to collapse during an earthquake. Even if replaced, a bridge may still be standing after a disaster, but the road could be gone, he said.
Chapman sought “common-sense solutions” to emergency preparedness and would seek greater communication between neighboring cities in when to sound tsunami evacuation warnings, he said.
Barber said the first step to survival is mapping routes out of the inundation zone. That could mean replacing bridges, including Avenue U, budgeted at about $2 million and considered “shovel ready.”
“That’s about a $2 million project,” Barber said. “We’re working to identify those funds.”
Barber will propose bringing in a professional firm to develop a strategic plan, he said. “I want authoritative assessments of those bridges to determine which will stand a 9.0 (earthquake) and which won’t so we can begin to educate people, so we have a process.”