May 25, 2024 4:17 pm

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City Council candidates weigh in on living wage jobs and opioid epidemic


Lynnwood City Council Position 4

Naz Lashgari
Naz Lashgari

Naz Lashgari

By 2035 the Lynnwood area is projected to have a population of over 92,000 people strong. Ensuring financial stability and economic success is a priority in the strategic plan of the City of Lynnwood. I support this strategic plan.

I would support policies that help the growth of our city, while attracting businesses that create more living wage jobs for the residents of Lynnwood. I would support policies in creating incentives to employers by providing special enterprise zoning to attract them to relocate to Lynnwood.

I would also support special offers against future income with tax incentives to make it lucrative for employers to choose Lynnwood over neighboring cities. It is an exciting time to be living in Lynnwood, with all the projects coming to life within the next 5-10 years.  To be in a more vibrant, beautiful city where residents thrive, is impressive.

With light rail, city center, and plenty of mixed use projects with an active urban core, it is essential to be attracting more living wage jobs for our residents to ensure economic success.

2.  The Lynnwood Police Department has done an excellent job of addressing the drug epidemic within the homeless community, by hiring a social worker that works specifically with the homeless people in Lynnwood to know their core issues which led to their homelessness, and drug use.

I would support the Lynnwood Police Department in expanding their efforts in understanding and helping the homeless community by providing access to medical treatment, and steps toward healing the disease that is paralyzing their lives. I would also support a transitional home while they are restoring themselves from this debilitating disease, and retrain them to be participating members of the community.

In many European, Canadian and Australian cities around the world, they have safe injection sites which help addicts in their communities change their lives and become clean. That model won’t work in U.S. cities because there is no framework to stop abuse of the system, and no structure to support them after they stop using drugs.

Jim Smith
Jim Smith

Jim Smith

1. Lynnwood needs several categories of jobs in order to best serve out citizens. Every council candidate should recognize that Lynnwood is the most economically diverse city in Snohomish County.

We need to lower the barriers that make it difficult for businesses to locate or to thrive in Lynnwood. It is extremely short sited to think that retail, technical, and service industries will locate to Lynnwood if we make it too costly. Healthy businesses from the full economic spectrum are necessary in order to provide for the people of Lynnwood. By adding barriers to businesses, we penalize the very citizens that we are supposed to serve.

2. The safety of our Lynnwood citizens will be improved, and not compromised, by curtailing and hopefully eliminating the drug epidemic in the Lynnwood homeless community. We need a no tolerance policy for dealing with drug abuse and especially drug dealers. Lynnwood is not helping our community, and especially the homeless drug users, by raising the bar on drugs.

One step to accomplish this would be to add a substantial number of police officers to the patrol level of our city, as well as add support to our local drug enforcement. We need to further emphasize and support our Drug Court, which is a strong and effective way to give people the direction they need as well as the resources to do it.

From personal observations participating with our Neighbors in Need program in Lynnwood for nearly a decade, drug use by street people is directly connected to petty and serious crimes, as well as violence. No amount of case workers will help if we don’t have the tools and services necessary to turn these people around.

This problem needs to be addressed by TOUGH LOVE!

James Rutherford
James Rutherford

James Rutherford

1. Attracting companies to an area is one of the most difficult things to accomplish. Most are looking for breaks that will support their company goals. We as the council need to look at what would benefit both the people and the company. Granted, there needs to be higher wages.  The only way to attract higher wages is to get the companies here that pay them.

2. The present policies that are in place that control the drug epidemic in Lynnwood and the seniors are basically in place and supported by the council. As they are today, keeping the drug stores out of Lynnwood and policing as our police department does is as good as it gets.

Ashkan Amouzegar
Ashkan Amouzegar

Ashkan Amouzegar

1. There are two ways to support the living wage movement, either through living wage ordinances or income tax credits. I propose earned income tax credits over ordinances because tax credits won’t raise employer costs and tax credits reach more families in need, whereas ordinances historically benefit people without children and not low income families. Also, targeted tax credits boost disposable income because they are not subject to payroll taxes and typically not used to determine eligibility for other assistance programs. I advocate for earned income tax credits due to how cost effective they are while improving livelihoods. Tax credits have no increase in labor cost, ordinances only support less than 30% of people below the poverty line, and wage subsidies allow people to keep more of their income and benefits which has more tax advantages and the city pays less for improved gain to workers. This is a topic that needs more dialogue to fully explore income reform and improving outcomes to workers and families in our city. 

2. Connecting people experiencing homelessness to safe and stable housing allows the opportunity to address health, behavioral and dependency issues to support people on their journey to recovery. I propose a three point strategy focused on holistic, wrap around services. First, we start by engaging key individuals from the homeless and housing community, law enforcement, emergency responders and others familiar with the crisis. This will help reduce the stigma that people face experiencing chemical dependency. Secondly, 40 states have adopted access to naloxone for first responders with appropriate training. Medical assisted treatment has a proven track record in reducing overdose deaths. As an option, we can pursue state or federal funding for intervention resources. In 2016, the federal government granted $3.4 million to local governments for pharmacological intervention combined with behavioral therapy. Lastly, we can remove barriers to housing by strengthening partnerships between housing and health care providers.

Diodato Boucsieguez
Diodato Boucsieguez

Diodato Boucsieguez

1.The major reasons are property and sales taxes. Small businesses are deterred by the feckless local taxes and I will help to lower those taxes. 

2. The homelessness issue is a complicated problem with many factors, including drug use. We must be compassionate yet firm and enforce the law when it comes to drug abuse in portions of the homeless community. For example, in certain areas, used needles lie discarded on the grass in parks where children come into contact with them. That is unacceptable and atrocious. Needle pickup as well as enforcing hard drug laws are the key to addressing the epidemic.

Van AuBuchon: No response received.

Lynnwood City Council Position 5

David Schirle
David Schirle

David Schirle

1. 70% of the residents of Lynnwood work somewhere else. Certainly, Lynnwood must have a business-friendly policy. We want more businesses to move here and those here to stay. High sales tax and burdensome regulations do not promote businesses to move or stay here.

2. Heroin use is illegal. With heroin use comes crime. The solution to the heroin/narcotics problem is not a place to stay. It is quitting use of the drug. Enforcing the laws that are here to protect society is a must. We must find help for those who want to quit. There are no easy answers. But public safety must be the primary objective.

Rosamaria Graziani
Rosamaria Graziani

Rosamaria Graziani

1. The senior center is open Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 3:00pm. It should open from 7am to 10pm on weekdays and 8am to 1pm on weekends. It should have cubicles so small business owners and the self-employed can meet clients. I propose a business incubator at the senior center to foster the entrepreneurial spirit of our residents and provide mentoring.

  • Our license fees should be slightly lower than the fees in neighboring cities to attract businesses and we should provide the friendliest service to potential businesses.
  • Our city hall should become a cultural center, with concerts and social events that will promote local artists and produce revenue, which will in turn generate more local jobs.
  • The city should prioritize hiring local residents. It is good for the planet (less gas used in commuting) and good for local businesses, because the money stays in Lynnwood.
  • We should make our utmost priority to relieve the economic burden on our low income residents (lowering utilities and taxes for them) so they have disposable money to spend. Local money goes around five times in the local economy and it generates new jobs.
  • Senior citizens always get discounts in city services. Low income residents only get discounts until the funding runs out. They should have those discounts year round, not conditioned to available funding. This will promote more participation in REC activities, which will generate more local jobs.
  • We should promote community building and resident engagement by providing more services. A vibrant city, full of proud residents, attracts business and prosperity.

2. I propose hiring a social worker to help the homeless. Many already qualify for Medicaid and Veterans Care, which cover addiction and mental health, but need help with paperwork, copays or transportation. I propose urban rest stops with showers, storage, mail service and a laundromat to help the most vulnerable. The social worker will be based here, where help is most needed.

Lynnwood currently spends $120,000+ a year on staff lunches and other non-essential expenses. This money can easily cover the costs associated with the social worker and urban rest stops.

Julieta Altamirano-Crosby
Julieta Altamirano-Crosby

Julieta Altamirano-Crosby

1. There are two types of policies to consider, policies that cut the cost of living down to make more wages livable and policies that will help bring more jobs to the community.  The recent development of the City Center apartments is a good example. This is income dependent housing meant to fulfill the needs of those working and living in Lynnwood.  Surprisingly enough, allowing different housing types in the city would be a great way to encourage companies to move to the area. With diverse housing means a diverse workforce which is desirable for many companies.

As a council member, I would be cautious about implementing any development incentives to any company.  This is where my experience in community research would be very valuable on council. I know what questions to ask and how to verify their response to ensure they can upkeep their commitment to bring more living-wage jobs to Lynnwood.

2. I have worked for years finding housing for people from underrepresented communities. Addiction strikes every demographic, every culture, and impacts every city, state and country. The policies Lynnwood makes must be regional solutions because these are regional challenges.

I have established positive working relationships with state and county representatives.  I have experience working with the county sheriff and many other community leaders to reduce crime. I will ensure Lynnwood has a seat at the table in discussions with both the county and the state about different ways to approach these local safety issues that are caused by a national epidemic.  As a regional leader, we will have to come together with our neighbors to find solutions.

Lynnwood City Council Position 7

Shannon Sessions
Shannon Sessions

Shannon Sessions

1. I would continue to advocate working closely with and seeking out more experts on this topic. Our City Center manager, Economic Development Director, Lynnwood Chamber of Commerce and Economic Alliance of Snohomish County and other regional and state partners to attract particular industries that would provide living-wage careers to our city. I’m advocating for businesses and developments that want to enhance and be part of a robust, vibrant community and city center, a place we can all gather, engage and be proud of while still protecting our already established neighborhoods.

2. The homeless issue and opioid epidemic, along with other addictions, are a heartbreaking, complicated topic not just for Lynnwood, but for the county and the state as well. The last thing I want is our Lynnwood to start to look and behave anything like Seattle. I am an advocate for the “Compassion with Boundaries” philosophy.

This is where we lead with COMPASSION by helping individuals who are homeless and struggling; removing barriers and connecting them with specific needed resources so they can help themselves. But if they still refuse the help, we should provide BOUNDARIES required to make the city safe for all residents. That means enforcing laws we already have on the books, not tolerating continued pan-handling, illegal drug use, camping, indecent exposure, nuisance, theft and other crimes.

This issue isn’t just the responsibility for law enforcement, but also other city departments and community members. More than ever we need our general public to be aware and educated so YOU can be part of the solution. I supported providing a consistent funding mechanism to assist the Sno. Cty. Health District which directly provides this kind of prevention and education to our general public. I’m not in favor of “tent cities,” however, I will continue collaborating with other regional agencies to find housing options in Lynnwood or Snohomish County for our homeless families in the Edmonds School District and also continue sustainable funding for the Community Health and Safety Section of the Lynnwood Police Dept. and adding police officers as we continue to grow in population.

Maggie Mae
Maggie Mae

Maggie Mae

1. Let us remember, governments do not create living wage jobs. Businesses create living wage jobs. As a council member the best thing I can do for the city of Lynnwood is eliminate as many business harming regulations and policies as I can. I’d start by reducing business license fees and eliminating the head tax.

2. Arresting and imprisoning those of us who are struggling with addiction but have not directly harmed others over taxes our criminal justice and legal system. It does not improve public safety, reduce drug use, or reduce crime. If anything, it does the opposite.  Treating drug addiction as a crime has resulted in increased costs of more than one trillion dollars over the last four decades in the U.S.

There is a better way: The Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) is a national program to divert non-violent drug users to treatment and social support instead of jail and prosecution. 

The following communities and counties in Washington are already in some phase of exploring and/or implementing LEAD.

  • King County
  • Kitsap County
  • Pierce County
  • Thurston County
  • Whatcom County
  • Makah Tribe (Neah Bay)
  • Puyallup Tribe
  • City of Seattle

It was the first program of its kind in the United States, and the results are astonishing. 

  • Participants in the LEAD program are 58% less likely to be arrested. 
  • They are more than twice as likely to have housing. 
  • They are 46% more likely to be on the employment continuum
  • They are 33% more likely to be earning a legitimate income.

The LEAD program saves taxpayers money from day one by removing its participants from the criminal justice system. By implementing LEAD in Lynnwood, we can save lives and money.

If elected I would petition the city to explore LEAD as a viable option to combat addiction in Lynnwood.

Shirley Sutton
Shirley Sutton

Shirley Sutton

1. Initially, work with city Economic development staff and local agencies like the Lynnwood Chamber and Work Source to identify local businesses that provide living wage salaries.

I would discuss with other council members and staff to agree on what the definition of “living wage” means.  Then contact local businesses that offer the amount of salary indicated for their suggestions on how to establish a living wage survey of local businesses to identify what is needed to reach this goal.

I believe there needs to be a more inclusive environment for small businesses to thrive, so removing roadblocks to economic development is a must.

2. Our city has a social worker that teams with our police officers to assist individuals who are in need of shelter, medical and other services.

One of the goals written in our city vision is to be “safe and welcoming city.”  Council members and staff are currently discussing the idea of “compassionate boundaries” to include all of our residents.

The idea of compassionate boundaries is that all individuals, no matter what their circumstances may be, will be treated with dignity and respect.

Additionally, we partner with local agencies that provide resources and support to assist individuals with wrap around services.

I will continue to support policies that will keep our community members safe.  One idea is to develop a policy on panhandling.

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