City Council candidates trade ideas in forum

By Paul Archipley | Oct 03, 2013

Public safety, the environment, street maintenance, city budget and, yes, building heights were among the topics broached Monday by six candidates who are vying for three seats on the Edmonds City Council.

The candidates’ forum in the City Council Chambers, sponsored by the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Committee, attracted a near full house.

Running are incumbent Kristiana Johnson and challenger Randy Hayden for the Position 1 seat; incumbent Strom Peterson and challenger Alvin Rutledge for Position 2; and incumbent Adrienne Fraley-Monillas and challenger Ron Wambolt for Position 3.

Moderator Chris Keuss kept the two-hour forum moving with a range of questions.

Regarding their priorities, candidates varied slightly, but mostly agreed.

Strom Peterson said public safety was his top priority, followed by street maintenance.

“If we don’t start paving now,” Peterson said, “it’s only going to get more expensive. If we don’t have good infrastructure, how are we going to attract businesses?”

Al Rutledge said the city hasn’t moved forward as it should have, considering the many layoffs and sale of its fire services and equipment to Fire District 1.

“Something should have been done to make sure we have money coming in here,” Rutledge said.

Ron Wambolt also placed public safety and street maintenance at the top of his priorities.

“The most recent projections indicate the city is in pretty good shape for the next several years, but not enough to allow the restoration of some cuts, such as police officers,” Wambolt said. “That would be my first priority, to restore police officers.”

Adrienne Fraley-Monillas also put public safety first, and suggested all of Edmonds should get street repairs.

“I think about the outskirts of Edmonds that have no sidewalks,” she said. “Those are areas we need to focus on, so we have safety in all areas, not just the downtown corridor.”

Kristiana Johnson put public safety and transportation at the top of her list as well.

Noting the police department’s street crime unit has been cut back, she said the city needs to develop a crime prevention program.

In addition, “as a retired transportation planner, I know the importance of maintenance,” Johnson said of the city’s streets.

Randy Hayden, agreeing that public safety is the top priority, suggested the city work harder to make cuts elsewhere.

“To put more police on the streets, we have to look at the elimination of health care for City Council members,” Hayden said. “We need to go through the budget and prioritize.”

Candidates differed about how to fund street repairs.

Fraley-Monillas, Peterson, Johnson and Hayden spoke in favor of lobbying state and federal representatives.

Hayden also reemphasized going over the budget line-by-line to reallocate funds where they’re most needed.

Peterson and Wambolt also suggested the council consider using Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) funds, and Peterson and Fraley-Monillas said grant funds should be pursued.

Rutledge said the city can afford to fix potholes after a simple phone call from residents when they see one, but questioned going after grants.

“This is not going to be a grant city,” he said. “You’ve got to operate this city on your own money.”

Candidates broke ranks on allowing the sale of marijuana in the city.

Fraley-Monillas and Peterson leaned toward it, arguing the city could use the sales tax revenues.

“I think the citizens have already spoken,” Peterson said, referring to passage of Initiative 520. “The drug war money was poorly spent.

“It’s important that we look at it realistically and take advantage of the tax money.”

Rutledge and Hayden opposed. Hayden, a member of the Snohomish County Drug and Alcohol Advisory Board, was adamant.

“I don’t care whether you legalize it or not,” he said. “Drugs destroy families. I’m dead set against it.”

Johnson and Wambolt were undecided.

“I think we need to know a lot more,” Johnson said. “We need to know the revenue stream, how will we deal with violators, we need to determine where they (pot stores) could be located.”

Noting the state allocated two licenses for Edmonds, Wambolt said, “That may be two too much for some, not enough for others.

“The most reasonable way is to ask our citizens what they would like.”

Candidates’ opinions varied on Harbor Square as well.

The Port of Edmonds’ desire to increase height limits was particularly unpopular with some of them.

“I’m completely against increased building heights,” Rutledge said. “I don’t believe blocking views is what you need.”

“I would like to see some project,” Hayden said. “The big turnoff was the 55-foot height limit.

“Once you allow 55 feet on one spot, you’re opening the door to litigation and lawsuits to allow it elsewhere.

“I don’t think citizens want a judge to make that decision.”

Fraley-Monillas said the port didn’t engage the city enough before presenting its proposal.

“There were some positive things about this project,” she said. “I don’t think anybody wants to see the port project look like it does today.

“Unfortunately, our opinions weren’t asked much prior to the plan being introduced. Fifty-five feet isn’t something I’m interested in.”

Johnson, who said she followed the plan from the time it was introduced to the Planning Board, said, “The problem with the plan is it’s a very large bite for people to consider. The number one concern was building heights.

“We need to work together for a solution.”

Wambolt praised the port’s effort, saying, “What the port asked for was that their master plan be incorporated into the city’s comprehensive plan.

“That was a worthy request, because we certainly need transit-oriented development. If I’m on the council, I’d work to come to some agreement.

“Putting it in the comp plan doesn’t commit the city to anything.”

Peterson, noting there were both positive and negative elements to the port plan, said cleanup of the marsh – part of the plan – would be good for the environment as well as a tourist draw.

He also liked including residential development so close to transit options.

“It would be a great opportunity for people who want to help relieve traffic congestion,” he said, “as well as create housing opportunities for new families, retirees and others.”

Prior to the council forum, moderator Keuss questioned two school board candidates, incumbent Ann McMurray of Brier who is running unopposed in District 2, and incumbent Susan Phillips of Edmonds who is being challenged by Leticia Solis of Lynnwood.

Solis was unable to attend the forum.

The Beacon will recap their discussion in next week’s issue.

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