Mercer: City needs a business mindset

Published 8:56 am Monday, October 29, 2007

By By MIKE VOSS,Contributing Editor
Doug Mercer believes that a business mindset, not politics, is needed when it comes to running Washington.
That’s one reason he’s seeking a seat on the City Council. There are other reasons, including helping guide growth and development in the city and improving the city’s fiscal health, he said.
Infill-development projects should take place first, followed by any new development projects that are appropriate, Mercer said.
After existing buildings with their empty storefronts are restored and reused, that’s when the city should look at expanding downtown with new development projects, he added. Any proposed plans for new development projects should be “carefully evaluated” before those plans are allowed to proceed, Mercer said.
The public should have a say on any proposal that calls for changing the use of any city property into another use, including waterfront property owned by the city or city-owned property adjacent to the waterfront, according to Mercer.
If development projects are proposed for city-owned property on or near the waterfront, those proposals should come from the private sector, Mercer said.
The former Evans Seafood property, a half-acre lot, is too small to develop, Mercer said. The city should carefully study the possibility of combining that half-acre lot with two neighboring lots, the former Maola plant and former McQuay Building, he said, if those neighboring lots can be acquired by the city.
Combining those lots would allow the city to widen the narrow stretch of Water Street in front of those lots. The size of the combined lots would be more conducive to development, if that’s what the city decides to do with that land, Mercer said.
The open space adjacent to the former Evans Seafood property should remain that way, but with some changes, Mercer said.
The city should provide amenities there that would increase utilization of that open space, Mercer said.
Parvin said Mercer’s experience as a former council member will serve him well if he’s returned to the council. Mercer closely studied matters that came before the council when he was on it before and will do the same if he joins the council that takes office in December, Parvin said.
The city must do a better job of managing its finances, he said.
It’s way past time for the city to “cut every ounce of fat out of (the budget) that’s there,” Mercer said.
It’s time city officials began making hard decisions about how much fat to cut from the city’s budget, where to make those cuts and how long those cuts will be made, he said.
Some of those cuts may be made to the city’s labor force, he said.
Reducing the number of city employees would be a last resort, he said.
The city must stop viewing its electric fund as an ATM that provides money to subsidize other city services and functions, Mercer said. And the city’s enterprise funds, of which the electric fund is one, must “pay their own way,” he said.
Mercer said he wants to try to find ways to reduce electric rates charged by the city. At several council meetings in the past year or so, Mercer has appeared to talk about the need to better run the electric fund and find ways to reduce electric rates.
The city’s new police chief needs time and residents’ help to fight crime, he said.
There are nine candidates running for the City Council. Five seats are available. Election Day is Nov. 6.
Info box
Doug Mercer