University Place City Councilmember Chris Nye, founder of MLS4owners.com, a marketing and listing service for real estate owners looking to sell their properties, got involved in local government out of a frustration of how government at all levels seems to operate.
“Government is just overreaching. It’s amazing the level of taxation and regulations we have,” he said. “That was kind of the motivating factor. Government is irrelevant in people’s lives until someone breaks into their car or they hit a pothole. Politicians think the world revolves around them. We have come so far from what government was set up to do and people have just grown to accept it. It’s at all levels. We need leaders who stand up for the citizens not play Santa Claus. Politicians love to give things out.”
He pointed to the council’s recent multi-hour discussion on the definition of a tree that would be used for land-use regulations on when property owners could cut down a tree on their own property rather than leave that decision up to the property owners themselves.
“We’ve got a lot of challenges in our community,” he said but added that some don’t get solved because they aren’t fully thought out before rules are passed. Effective regulations should state clearly what problem the rules are trying to solve, how the rules are going to address those problems and by what measure the rules would be judged whether they succeed or fail.
“We don’t work on the right problems. You have to determine that first,” he said, noting that the city council, for example, have yet to articulate what its role is in the community. “Twenty years as a city and we don’t have a mission for the city.”
“It’s not the staff, it’s the council,” Nye said. “Under the city manager’s leadership, it has been a pleasurable learning experience, but like all organizations people strive for guidance and leadership, as council we owe it to them.”
The city could benefit from a change in governance that would create an executive branch of local government, in the form of a strong-mayor system, to provide a system of checks and balances as well as promote accountability and leadership.
“If we had a strong mayor leading U.P., taxes would be lower and Town Center would have been done a long time ago,” he said, noting that instead previous councils ran up debt for more than a decade as the project languished. “It should be hard to raise taxes and limit citizen’s liberties. That’s all B.C., before Chris.”
Recent City Council members have made steps to prioritize services, most notably the recreation program cuts, balance the budget and pay down the debt as well as tie ongoing expenses to ongoing revenues. Those steps would have happened much sooner, Nye said, if more business owners entered government.
“They are problem solvers. They have to problem-solve to survive. Government is not going to change until we change the people in government.”
Prior to beginning his 20-year career in real estate, Nye served in the U.S. Army, where he commanded a Special Forces Counter-Terrorist Team and was a graduate of the Army Ranger School and Special Force Qualification Course. He later served on the state’s Department of Licensing Task Force 18.85, which reviewed Washington's law of real estate licensing; was a member of U.S. Congressman Adam Smith's Technology Advisory Council; and held several positions on real estate and business organizations.