Debbi Ross – Aberdeen City Council, Ward 4, Position 8

Occupation: Bookkeeper

Relevant experience: Over the past 45 years I have worked and volunteered in the communities where I lived. I am employed as a fulltime bookkeeper, continue to be involved in Habitat for Humanity of Grays Harbor and recently stepped up to work on the Aberdeen School Budget Advisory Committee.

1. Homelessness in Aberdeen has been a divisive issue lately, especially over what the city should do with the homeless population on the Chehalis riverfront. How would you envision addressing the city’s homelessness issue if elected? What would be your priorities?

The city is in the process of closing the camp on the Chehalis riverfront and I believe that is the right thing to do. I do not believe the city sidewalks are the best long-term solution for the homeless from the camp.

Short term I endorse setting up a mitigation site for the homeless to live until other arrangements can be explored and a better solution found. I would like to see a facility set up to provide a place for showers, laundry, food, retraining and counselling. These are basic necessities for people with time on their hands and I feel it is better than hanging out on the streets and sidewalks. I do believe they should participate in the care of this facility to earn their way and develop some personal accountability. Those who want no part of a shelter need to be invited to leave our city.

Long term we need to gather ALL stakeholders together and discuss potential solutions to finding a place for people who have nowhere to go. This would include the city, the county, business owners, community members, churches, service providers and neighboring communities. We need decent affordable housing, treatment centers, group homes for those with mental health issues and jail space for the criminals. The goal is to help these individuals reach the level of independence and dignity each is capable of achieving. This will take resources, commitment and determination on our part to accomplish.

2. Unlike larger cities, Aberdeen seems to be aging and losing its younger population after high school. What are your ideas to attract businesses or get more energy going to develop the city and help it grow economically?

I see the city of Aberdeen for what it can be. There have been great things happening downtown in the last few years. We need to continue to utilize our current base organizations like ARM, Aberdeen Main Street, the Aberdeen Beautification group, the Small Business Development Center and Greater Grays Harbor to help grow our business base. I would like to see more family wage jobs in our community to attract young families to this area and that means we need affordable housing and private investment. Aberdeen has so much to offer but without an opportunity to earn a decent living and affordable housing there is no incentive to stay. There is a limited amount of government business incentives which may help such as tax breaks for Opportunity Zone Investment, Investment Tax Credits, use of some designated .09 funds for specific infrastructure projects, as well as loans and grants that may be available form the state CERB and Public Works Boards.

3. The Gateway Center has been in the works for many years and might reach the point where it’s ready for construction soon. What are your plans for the project or do you have any ideas for how it would best be used?

I see the Gateway Center as an important statement showing we are a community ready to move forward and embrace the challenges of the 21 st Century. It will be an introduction to our community, allowing people traveling through, and locals alike, an opportunity to discover the Harbor and all it has to offer. I also see the Gateway Center as a gathering place for meetings, groups and a place to enjoy cultural events.