Politics & Elections

Lynnwood City Council Forum at Black Box Theater

by Luke Putvin

On October 8th, the League of Women Voters of Snohomish County hosted a Candidate Forum containing those running for Lynnwood City Council. After the city council, candidates running for Edmonds School Board also answered questions; this article will focus on the Lynnwood City Council portion.

The forum was hosted at the Edmonds Community College Black Box Theatre and moderated by John Bauer, Editor at the Daily Herald.

Lynnwood City Council positions 4, 5, 6 and 7 are on the General Election ballot. Jim Smith and Van AuBuchon are running for Position 4, David “Doc” Schirle and Julieta Altamirano-Crosby are running for Position 5, George Hurst and Nick Coelho are running for Position 6 and Shannon Sessions and Shirley Sutton are running for Position 7. Sessions and Hurst are the incumbents for their positions whereas Position 4 and Position 5 have no incumbents. Sutton currently holds Position 4 on the council but is running for Position 7.

Altamirano-Crosby was unable to attend the forum. She sent a representative to provide a statement. “Lynnwood needs leadership that can effectively manage change and growth while recognizing the diversity in our city and making sure all are welcome. As a wife, mother and small-business owner, Dr. Crosby is well-experienced in the skilled balancing act that women professionals must execute.”

The forum began with the following question:

What are the qualifications and experience that make you the strong candidate for this office?

Smith answered first. “I was on the city council previously for 24 years, but more important than that, it’s a matter of how involved I’ve been in the community.” Smith mentioned his involvement in rotary, Neighbors in Need and other community organizations. He said that he continued his involvement while in office and in the years since he has been out of office.

AuBuchon began with citing his four years he previously served on the Lynnwood City Council. “While I was on the city council, I was the Planning Commission Liaison. I was on the Finance Committee for four years.” AuBuchon continued to state other committees he served on while on the council including the Visioning Task Force, which developed the vision of the city, and closed with mentioning his community involvement of over 14 years as a little league coach with the civic little league.

Schirle started with his military experience, primarily medical, including being a brigade surgeon for the 81st Brigade, a National Guard brigade. “I’ve been a business-person, I’ve been in the military, I’ve had to lead, I’ve had to organize equipment, supplies, personnel and I’ve had much experience with that.”

Coelho responded, “I find this a funny question… local government is a unique chance for members of our community to really step up and help collaborate as stewards of the city. And as stewards, we don’t necessarily need to be technical experts in every field.” Coelho put his emphasis on personal perspectives of those running for council and said he could be representative of renters and other groups.

Hurst began with the fact that his wife and he have lived in Lynnwood for over 25 years. “In the four years that I’ve been on the council, I’ve been on a lot of boards and commissions. And I could list them off, and I think you would forget most of them.” Hurst instead focused on his involvement of the consolidation of Lynnwood Fire and the two 911 Call Centers. He also emphasized communicating with and listening to the citizens of Lynnwood.

Sutton mentioned her experience as an educator as well as her community involvement for the last 20 years she has lived in Lynnwood. “My qualifications speak well… including operating a school for court-involved students, and just really having a good time serving all of you.”

Sessions was the final candidate to answer the question. “My unique professional and personal experiences are my greatest assets as a current sitting City Councilmember and community leader,” she said. Sessions listed some past professional experience such as being a US Air Force veteran, a former firefighter, editor, small-business owner and executive director of a non-profit organization.

Lynnwood Times photo by Luke Putvin of Lynnwood City Council candidates (L-R) Nick Coelho and George Hurst for Position 6, and Shirley Sutton and Shannon Sessions for Position 7.

What are your top priorities for the next term, and why do you see those as a priority?

Several candidates gave common concerns/priorities; Hurst, Schirle, AuBuchon and Smith all mentioned focusing on high taxes in the City of Lynnwood.

“To me, the taxes that can be reduced are the utility taxes and the car tab fees… In addition to tax reduction, we really need to control the increase in spending that is going on right now,” Hurst said.

Another common priority was tackling the issue of housing in the city. Sessions, Hurst and Coelho all mentioned housing. Additionally, Sessions, Sutton, Schirle and AuBuchon all mentioned Public Safety as a top priority.

“Our police situation needs some help,” AuBuchon said. “We have a growing crime situation in the city.”

“As population increases, it is imperative to maintain a city that is free of crime and graffiti,” Sutton said. “Lynnwood has one of the highest crime rates, and all residents are entitled to a well-managed, safe environment.”

How will you address the conflicting demands in providing lower income housing at the same time preserving the quality of life experienced by residents in single-family neighborhoods?

Many candidates disagreed with the point the question made and believed that the two demands were not actually conflicting.

“I don’t necessarily see those as conflicting issues,” Coelho began. “Single family home neighborhoods, I just don’t know how the quality of life would depreciate. What [these new urban areas] are going to create are more small businesses, more places to walk and more parks and green spaces.”

“I agree they’re not conflicting demands, they’re just two different needs,” Schirle said. His solution to preserving single-family neighborhoods was in zoning laws and not allowing multi-use dwellings in single-family neighborhoods.

Sessions agreed the demand was not conflicting. “Lynnwood needs all kinds of housing,” she said. Her solution to preserving single-family neighborhoods was sticking to current city plans to promote growth in certain areas but not letting that interfere with single-family neighborhoods in other areas.

“If we were to build 1000 units in Lynnwood, we would have people throughout the region coming to Lynnwood, and we still wouldn’t take care of our people here,” Smith said. “We have to do more than just that.”

Do you support expanding the Lynnwood Convention Center? If so, what sources of funds would you recommend for making that expansion?

“Yes, I would like to see this property expand and be rejuvenated,” Sessions said. “We need to grow our downtown core and this property to be vibrant, safe, robust and sustainable. A place where we want to engage with others… while still protecting our established neighborhoods and being fiscally responsible.”

Schirle responded yes and no. Though he thought it was a good idea, he asked, “Where is the funding coming from?” Schirle believed that the expansion should be funded from the profits of the Lynnwood Convention Center itself.

Smith’s idea was to allow Lynnwood residents to have “first dibs” at events since it is primarily the residents’ tax dollars that help fund it.

What haven’t we asked you about that you want to speak to?

Sessions chose to talk about Lynnwood and the diversity of the community. “We need to continue to establish a variety of trusted leaders to help build bridges between the city and our ethnic, faith and segmented communities,” she said.

Sutton also chose to talk about the diversity and cultural identity of Lynnwood. “We have moved beyond having a specific one definition of how to define our cultural identity that continues to evolve.”

Hurst took the opportunity to speak of the importance of light rail coming to the city. “You need people on the council who are experienced and ready to make the policy decisions that will shape this city for the next four years,” he said. “As representatives of the people, it’s the council that makes the decisions, not the department heads that don’t live in Lynnwood.” He did mention that department heads can advise, but ultimately, councilmembers make the decisions.

Coelho focused his time on talking about the downtown plans for Lynnwood. “We have this once in a generation chance to rethink how our city is built,” Coelho said. “I really want to make sure we include all the stakeholders in this conversation… this is all about being forward-thinking.”

Schirle stressed voter involvement and needing to do a better job getting the public involved in the political process. “I hear over and over from the voters that they’ll come to a city council meeting, but they don’t really feel like anybody cares about what they have to say,” Schirle said. He also mentioned hearing issues about permitting and licensing from the city.

AuBuchon placed a great deal of importance on the increase of taxes and the cut of the police force. “These things need to move ahead, and these dollars need to be spent properly.”

Smith took the opportunity to mention the need of a councilmember to get along with the rest of the council and the mayor. “What we need to be doing is getting along with everyone in order to be able to work together to accomplish something.”

All ballots will be mailed to Snohomish County residents on October 17. Ballots can be placed in ballot drop boxes or mailed in USPS boxes without postage no later than November 5.

For more in-depth information on candidate platforms, go to vote411.org and insert your address to see all the local and county races.

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