Update 8:43 a.m. October 5: City Council candidate Jessica Wadhams clarified her response to the Lynnwood Times to question asked in the forum, “If elected, would you support or repeal the ordinance banning safe injection sites in the city?” Although she is in full support of making sure residents have the mental health support of an embedded social worker, she told the Lynnwood Times, “At this time, I do not think safe injections sites are relevant to Lake Stevens.” With this clarification, The Times revised the article to read, “Every candidate but one, Jensen, outright rejected the idea of allowing injection sites within the city of Lake Stevens.”
LAKE STEVENS, Wash., October 2, 2021 – Lake Stevens residents filled The Mill on Lake Stevens Thursday evening for the city’s Community Candidate Forum. The Greater Lake Stevens Chamber of Commerce hosted the candidate forum which was moderated by Doug Warren.
Sam Low (R), incumbent for Snohomish County Council District 5 participated in the forum. Challenger Brandy Donaghy (D) was unable to attend. Lake Stevens City Council candidates participating the forum included incumbent Kim Daughtry and challenger Michele Hampton for Position 1; for Position 2, incumbent Gary Petershagen and challenger Joyce Copley; incumbent Steve Ewing and Jessica Wadhams vying for Position 6; and for Position 7, incumbent Marcus Tageant and challenger Joseph Jensen.
Nina Kim Hanson, candidate for Lake Stevens School Board Director District 4 was joined by Lake Stevens School Board Director District 5 candidate Vildan Kirby. Their opponents, Brett Rogers and Carolyn Bennett respectively, did not attend the event.
Also participating in Thursday night’s candidate forum were incumbent Jennifer Stevenson and challenger Rauchel McDaniel for Lake Stevens Sewer Commissioner Position 2.
Warren asked questions submitted by residents and provided by chamber members. Depending on the topic, each candidate was allotted either 30 seconds or one minute to respond to questions that centered on growth, American Rescue Plan funding, public safety, injection sites, youth recreational activities, sewer district merger, sex education, and equity.
General Candidate Questions
If given a $500,000 grant to use in Lake Stevens, county or schools, how would you allocate it in the best interest of your constituents?
The Lake Stevens Food Bank and a Senior Center were the common responses from most city council candidates. Wadhams would direct the funds to Parks and Recreation to protect green spaces and also towards the development of an economic zone or small business area. Jensen said he would allocate the grant to building more crosswalks within the city. Hampton would allocate all the funds to the Lake Stevens Police Department to hire more officers.
The loudest applauds of the evening came when Councilman Low shared that he is requesting $600,000 of the county’s $56 million American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to be directed towards the Lake Stevens Food Bank.
“Next Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. we are voting on ARPA funding of $56 million. I have a request that is coming out tomorrow for $600,000 for our Lake Stevens Food Bank. The only way we are going to get that through is to call at 1:30 p.m. [to the county council] and say we need to make sure our Lake Stevens Food Bank gets funding from the county. Help with that please,” Low said.
School district candidate Kirby said the funds should go towards addressing mental health of the youth who are coping during the pandemic.
“We are hurting, we are in a pandemic,” Kirby said. “We as adults are suffering from mental health. We need to destigmatize it; we need to normalize mental illness so they can ask for help.”
What is the plan for the youth who are running wild in Lake Stevens, the teenagers? Even my own son is part of the problem. Why can’t schools provide some community service to the kids who are struggling to behave?
All candidates stressed the need for more recreational activities within the city.
“The building across from Haggen that is unoccupied… that will give us something as a community to come together and do together, and keep our youth occupied; as well as help bring some economic funnel through,” Wadhams said.
Her opponent Ewing advocated partnering with the Youth Advisory Council and shared with the audience the contribution from several youth who installed and then painted the trim within the very room attended by everyone.
Both Low and Tageant thanked Senator Steve Hobbs, who was in attendance, for securing the state funds which led to the development of the Rotary Skate Park at Cavalero Park. Tageant also thanked Hobbs for his endorsement and advocated for more places for youth to play sports and funding for after school programs.
Hanson, school board candidate for District 4, suggested an advisory board of students and a community service-learning project.
Please explain how you will lead with an equity lens.
Listening and partnering with marginalize communities was the common theme between all candidates.
“The vast majority, unfortunately, of minority community members is that they tend to need more social services and lower income housing in order to achieve that parity,” Position 1 candidate Jensen said. “I am an ally; I have been an ally and I am still working to be a better one.”
Both he and Wadhams added that one must back up their words with actions.
“It starts with listening, but you must have action behind it,” Wadhams said.
Position 2 candidate Copley, shared a very simple yet direct answer, “I would lead by example.”
Hanson shared a similar sentiment as Copley.
Kirby said that she will continually assess to ensure that the classroom environment and school curriculum are in correlation with the increasing cultural diversity of the school district.
Ewing reminded the audience that equity is more than “just race and sexual orientation.” He shared his experience working with leaders within the NAACP on how they brought diverse groups together for the “betterment of the community” by not only listening but understanding from another’s perspective.
Lake Stevens Sewer District Candidate Specific Questions
Do you support the early merger between the city of Lake Stevens and Lake Stevens Sewer district? Explain your answer please.
The most heated discussions of the evening centered on the early merger between the sewer district and the city. All incumbent city council candidates – Tageant, Ewing, Petershagen, and Daughtry – were in favor of an early merger. Hampton, the only non-incumbent city council candidate also supported an early merger with the sewer district.
“Now is a good time to merge,” Tageant said. “We are in a unique spot in the next 10 to 12 years to move two organizations together and save money.”
Jensen, who is both against an early merger and Tageant’s opponent, insinuated negative intentions of those in favor of an early merger between the city and the sewer district.
“Members who are in favor have a lot in common and they have a lot to gain,” Jensen said. “The members who are against also have a lot in common and nothing to gain. There is a lot of control from people who will financially benefit from these decisions.”
Copley added that the city is not utilizing its developer’s agreement to require reasonable charges from developers for sewer and water.
“I do not support the merger,” Copley said. “I have spoken with people from the sewer district, and it is unfortunate we are not charging the developers more. You can write into a developer’s extension where you are charging them whatever you want to charge them for sewer and water. This is mandated by each city. You can require it and you can ask them for it, and you can make them pay whatever you need when you are developing.”
Sewer district commissioner incumbent Stevenson stressed that the city is currently under an interlocal agreement with the district that requires a mutual agreement to merge.
“I don’t think we are there yet for an early merger,” Stevenson said. “It has to be mutual, and I think the interlocal agreement that was signed in 2005, is a legal document and should be taken into consideration.”
She added that the district is in good financial standing, and the district continues to meet its debt obligations.
Steven’s opponent, McDaniel, is in favor of the merger arguing that rates will go up otherwise.
“The sewer district does depend on single family growth. We have a $60 million debt on the treatment plant and a $30 million debt in upgrades coming. How is the sewer district going to maintain this? Eventually there will not be enough developers to pay for it.”
In her closing remarks, Stevenson disagreed with McDaniel’s earlier statement by stating the city will charge a utility tax if it takes over the sewer district. She also implied that the city may have a hidden intention behind its push to acquire the district.
“There was talk about bonds by the city. I believe they lost their bond capacity, so they can’t get bonds because the revenue is not there. The district is healthy financially and I appreciate your support,” Stevenson said.
We are a city around the lake. What environment practices will best protect out lake?
Both candidates advocated for proper disposal education to prevent residents from pouring harmful products down the drain.
“Educating people what we should not be putting down our drains such as bacon fat and medications,” McDaniel said.
Lake Stevens School District Candidate Specific Questions
Hanson, candidate for Lake Stevens School Board Director District 4 was joined by Lake Stevens School Board Director District 5 candidate Vildan Kirby. Their opponents did not attend the event.
What is your knowledge and understanding of the new K-12 sex education curriculum? Are there any content you find questionable and objectionable, and how do you define age appropriate?
Both candidates shared similar views on the topic. Both approve of the curriculum as-is and stressed that parents have the ability to opt their child out of any portion of the curriculum.
“Our first obligation is our children’s safety,” Kirby said. “I am excited about the scientifically inform and age-appropriate sex ed curriculum….It is extremely important for children to know about inappropriate touching, trusted adults, and appropriate names of the body parts. However…parents can opted out completely or a certain curriculum that is to be taught in the classroom.”
What changes would you strive for if elected to serve on the Lake Stevens School Board?
Kirby said she would push for suicide prevention and improving special education programs. Hanson advocated for improve diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.
Snohomish County and Lake Stevens City Council Candidate Specific Questions
Do you agree with the growth direction the city is taking? Would you continue the current course?
Every city council candidate criticized either the Growth Management Act (GMA) or the process being undertaken to achieve GMA targets. Tageant, however, shared that the council amended zoning codes to allow for accessory dwelling units.
“Growth creates opportunities and opportunities help us solve problems,” Petershagen said. “We are going to grow, we are going to follow the GMA. Snohomish County has not granted an urban boundary extension to any municipality. Until the county recognizes we need some more room to grow, we have to deal with growth differently going forward.”
Emphasizing her planning and community development background, Petershagen opponent, Copley, was critical of the current process. In doing her research, she shared that a lot of the “dockets” were rejected for safety issues. She stressed that the city needs to evaluate the process, identify the barriers not meeting the GMA requirements and approach the county for help to move forward.
What is your view on police reform and is it needed in Lake Stevens?
Candidates who were endorsed by the police guild emphasized that endorsement very clearly to attendees.
“Lake Stevens is the safest city in Snohomish County and one of the safest cities in the state of Washington in large part due to the current council members supporting fully funding our police officers. I hear repeatedly from the hundreds and hundreds of people I talk to… do not allow your police department to be defunded. Do not be stupid, do not be like Seattle, and some of these other cities. [This is] repeated amongst all demographics of people,” said Ewing.
He added, “I work with some of the injustices that have been identified in the laws…there are improvements that need to be made, absolutely. I’m endorsed by law enforcement because I support them. If you say you support law enforcement but don’t have their endorsement, I’m not sure how much weight your support of law enforcement carries.”
Daughtry, Low and Tageant all shared they had the endorsement of law enforcement.
Petershagen communicated that he brought forth a resolution to the city asking the legislature and Governor Jay Inslee to “re-evaluate and hopefully clarify” some of the new state laws passed this year.
Copley advocated for reimaging policing by including an embedded social worker for mental health issues that don’t require force.
Both Wadhams and Jensen stated that if there is “ambiguity” it is understandable and it should be addressed.
How do you prioritize finding a way to funding the library and what other projects would you prioritize funding over the library?
All candidates expressed the value of a library to the community. Daughtry, Ewing and Tageant emphasized that taxes would have to increase to fund a library.
Petershagen questioned if funding a library is an appropriate use of city funds as the library has its own taxing district.
Copley and Wadhams said they would prioritize the funding of sidewalks over the library. Petershagen said he would prioritize Parks and Recreation, whereas Daughtry, Ewing, Low, and Tageant said public safety.
With this last year and a half of isolation, what are your plans to have better communication systems for the residents of Lake Stevens?
Social media and online mediums were the common solution provided by candidates. Ewing on the other hand shared that computer challenged individuals are left out of the solutions proposed.
Petershagen advocated for a return to in-person meetings.
“The last 18 months have certainly been a challenge,” Petershagen said. “I am pushing to get our council meetings back to normal. So, we can actually interact with our citizens instead of being on Zoom. Zoom has created a wall….it is pretty hard to get the feeling, the emotion of what is really going on.”
Tageant shared that the city is doing the best it can with Zoom meetings. He added that residents can email, call, or arrange to meet with local leaders at a coffee shop.
If elected, would you support or repeal the ordinance banning safe injection sites in the city?
Every candidate but one, Jensen, outright rejected the idea of allowing injection sites within the city of Lake Stevens.
“There isn’t enough evidence I am seeing to support safe injection sites,” Wadhams said. “I am in full support of making sure we have mental health support available…embedded social workers.”
After sharing how drug addiction led to the death of his younger brother, Jensen said he supports a repeal of the ordinance.
“There is a lot of ways to help fight drugs and safe injections sites is one of them,” Jensen said. “Monitored and managed appropriately, it is an incredible resource to help people treat their addiction.”
Tageant, Jensen’s opponent, shared that he voted to ban injection sites within the city and will not repeal it.
“We don’t have the social services here to support that,” Tageant said.
Tageant and Low also shared how that the surrounding areas are negatively impacted by the introduction of an injection site.