Tara Mareth – Aberdeen City Council, Ward 4, Position 8

Occupation: Marketing and public relations for All Star Driving school. Music teacher. Local Business owner.

Relevant experience: Administrative assistant, Hewlett Packard Finance Department, Spring, Texas. Microbiology Department administrative assistant and grant writer, University of Texas McGovern Medical School. Singers Company Director, Aberdeen. Business administrator for All Star Driving School, Aberdeen.

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?

Homelessness is a multifaceted issue. We must first look at our economy, in Aberdeen, on the grander scale. We need more living wage employment opportunities in Aberdeen specifically. An estimated 90% of retail space above ground level is available in Aberdeen for lease. We just need to do the work to recruit good fits (businesses) into our economy. We need affordable housing. We have large government agencies that have all the resources people need to get out of poverty, addiction and homelessness, IF they are willing to use them. In the interim, we need to set policies that will help all citizens of Aberdeen feel safe and have the opportunity to be successful and that will attract investment capital to our area to develop more apartment and affordable housing. Unfortunately, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in the case Martin vs. Boise is dictating a lot of how the “homelessness” issue can be handled. The city has already tried logical solutions, and been sued for them. If elected, it would be a priority to continue with the closure of the property for the safety of all involved. I realize many have had difficult things happen to them, but to continue not getting help when resources are available is an unfortunate choice.

Priority number one would be to process individuals off the property and direct them to the resources that can help them improve their life situation. Priority number two would be to explore options for getting the 30% of currently unlivable/condemned housing back to functional use. Priority number three would be to draft a plan to work with the mayor, council and city administrators to encourage apartment development in Aberdeen city limits, and explore options for restoring the Becker Building and the Morck Hotel to their former glory and future potential with the current owners or potential buyers.

2. Unlike larger Washington 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?

We must set policies that would incentivize small and larger businesses to come to Aberdeen and establish here. We could amend our tax policies to encourage development and draw larger companies in to town with the hope of employing our local skilled work force and apprenticing the coming generation. The tax incentives wouldn’t be indefinite, but would allow startups a break that we would ultimately benefit from in the future. Not all kids who graduate from HS necessarily want to go to college or have the means to do so, but skilled labor will be in high demand in the coming years. Apprenticeships are a fantastic way to get skilled training and avoid massive debt!

As for getting more positive energy, developing our waterfront for more than just industrial use would be a smart move. Cleaning, power washing and painting the 101 corridor from F Street to the turn off by Comcast and Mazatlan would be a good start. We have great potential for growth if we proactively police the problems that have been a continued nuisance. One of the first things people see when they come into downtown is a population that needs something to do besides loiter on city streets. The lack of unified vision for our downtown core is turning off investors. We need a leader with vision to do what has been done in Leavenworth, Bremerton and Astoria.

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

It’s a nice idea, but I think at this time, the Gateway Center is a very costly project that we just do not have fully funded. If elected, my focus would really be directed toward cleaning up the facades and buildings we already have downtown and maintaining the few historic edifices still left standing. It seems like we are putting the cart before the horse a bit when we have the problems downtown that we currently have: homelessness and vagrancy, and a downtown core dominated by social services and buildings on every block in need of maintenance. When we have funding fully secured, it would be nice to have an economic development center combined with the new museum that features the history of the area and those who founded and built this city.

Ultimately, I would love to see the Gateway Center combined with a new museum. My vision for this area is for downtown to be a destination stop, not just a quick pass through on the way to the beaches or national park. Eventually, a large covered pavilion with a merry-go-round or small Ferris wheel at Zelasko park or on the waterfront at the end of F Street with a trolley ride would be such a fun addition to our economy. I would also love to see an art gallery as part of the Gateway center and an exhibit dedicated to the memory of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana featuring their history and metamorphosis from Rock and Roll to grunge seems appropriate.