Walkable West Palm Beach candidate Questionnaire – Twelve questions with Katherine Waldron
Many thanks to Katherine for taking the time to answer the questionnaire.
- What is your approach to economic development? Do you favor ‘economic hunting’ or ‘economic gardening’, and which approach or combination of approaches would you pursue if elected to office? Would you consider certifying West Palm Beach as a Level II economic gardening program to support existing businesses and entrepreneurs?
As an owner and co-founder of a small business, I have a special passion for economic gardening. Through economic gardening, local entrepreneurs can create the companies that will bring new wealth and economic growth to our city, i.e. new jobs, increased revenues and a more vibrant local business community. The major engine for economic growth in our country has always been small businesses. This will also be true for our city. Therefore, economic gardening will offer West Palm Beach larger rewards over the long-term.
We should also have an “economic hunting” approach. These projects bring businesses to our area and bring major job growth spurts as they tend to be bigger projects. A recent example of this is the Palm Beach Outlet Mall. The downside is when we offer subsidies, special treatment or government intervention to bring these projects to our area. We must be careful not to fall into the Digital Domain trap, where we were so mesmerized by what was promised, we were not paying attention to the reality. In terms of having WPB being certified as a Level II Economic Gardening program, if an additional designation will be helpful, we should do it.
- How would you remove impediments and make it easier to build small projects, rather than the half or full city block development that is prevalent?
We need to ensure that zoning, permitting and regulations are as business friendly as possible to enable small projects to take place and be sustainable. However, the overall development goals for our city should not be piecemeal. Development should be viewed comprehensively and should include both short-range and long-range strategies and should be balanced with our community development goals. We should focus particularly on new businesses with local ownership and roots.
- A City committee recently listed 17 action items that are ‘ready to go’ in the Jeff Speck study. Would you commit to implementing at least one of these ideas in your first 60 days in office, or do you believe more traffic studies are warranted before anything is implemented?
Several of the 17 action items are fairly easy to implement, not costly or disruptive and I would be in favor of implementing those immediately. However, in some cases, the city does not have control for these items. If the county controls these items, the changes may be more complex and take more time.
- Is transportation planning best in the engineering department, or under Planning? Which department leads in the vision for street design?
If properly organized and managed, the communication between the two departments would be such that it would not matter where they are housed but how the two departments are able to work together.
- In his downtown Walkability study, walkability expert Jeff Speck states that while palms can be beautiful, in an urban environment they do not provide the many benefits of street shade trees and therefore we should focus on street trees that provide shade in downtown. Do you agree with this assessment? How would you respond to the diseased palms on Clematis that were planted two years ago?
The trees that are planted downtown need to provide proper shade. In addition, the shade trees that are planted must be chosen so they do not cause undue damage to the sidewalks in the future because of their root structure. If trees are diseased and dying they should be replaced.
- Street trees often suffer from maintenance neglect, despite the fact they are one of the highest returning investments a city can make in its urban infrastructure. It is common for city departments to ‘pass the buck’ in order to avoid responsibility. How would you correct the issues with maintenance neglect and ensure this valuable civic infrastructure is protected and nurtured? Who would be responsible?
We must ensure that the city budget is sufficient to provide for proper maintenance of all city landscaping.
- West Palm Beach has a strong track record of innovation in livable streets and walkability enhancements. A Transportation Concurrency Exception Area east of I-95 makes it easier to do livable street design without Level of Service obstacles. Would you consider assigning a Livable Streets Transportation Engineer, such as West Palm Beach had in the past, to manage these areas in order to insure we continue to make our city more livable and walkable?
- Would you favor implementing a parking wayfinding signage program for downtown immediately? Or would you wait to create a master plan for the entire city before acting? How would such a program be funded?
I am in favor of implementing way finding signage now and in parallel with the creation of a master plan. In terms of funding, if we can find $2.9M to buy a piece of property we should be able to find the funds for a signage program.
- Where do you stand on the Broadway corridor and South Dixie Corridor efforts? Do you believe the priority for this right of way should be the convenience of drivers passing through it, or enhancing the potential of properties and neighborhoods located adjacent to it?
The two are not mutually exclusive. We need to work with all neighborhoods.
- In a 2012 “Face of the City” proposal, 10 new tree planters were planned on Clematis Street in order to accommodate new shade trees on the street. Doing so would have meant the loss of 7 on-street parking spots. How would you balance the important placemaking and economic benefits of street trees against the parking needs of downtown?
Again, these two are not mutually exclusive. Both parking and shade trees can be added to our city streets with proper planning.
- Okeechobee Boulevard is a real liability for the city. To encourage non-motorized mobility across the boulevard, and then not strive to provide safe passage, is a serious problem. How would you work to make Okeechobee Boulevard east of I-95 a more inviting place for people on foot and on bike, and how would you propose to fund such plan? Would you consider a local match using City funds such as CRA TIF dollars if it would move the project ahead?
This is going to be a critical artery not only for residents but for tourists visiting our city and staying at the convention hotel. I have spoken with many leaders in our city about how to accomplish a safe passage across this boulevard. Perhaps an architecturally pleasing pedestrian bridge, financed with TDC dollars would be an option. We need to address this issue sooner rather than later as more and more pedestrians are using this crossing.
- The Northwest neighborhood is harmed as a result of being disconnected from the rest of the urban fabric. Banyan Boulevard, the FEC railway, and the Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard bridge serve as ‘border vacuums’ that blight adjacent properties and inhibit redevelopment. Would you make this removing these impediments a priority? Would you consider the creation of connector streets between Douglass and Division Avenue to tie into the greater downtown urban grid network? How would such improvements be funded?
Connector streets should be provided in as many locations as are needed and are feasible, to reconnect the Northwest neighborhood with the rest of our urban areas. These connector streets should be designed to carry moderate levels of traffic, provide for multiple paths to downtown destinations and incorporate a design to allow for low volumes of automobile traffic while encouraging bicyclists and pedestrians. Pocket parks should be encouraged wherever possible to provide for family friendly areas and improve the overall neighborhood feel of the community. Funding for this should be found by making this a priority.