Let’s Talk About Safety: What are you doing for a safer Lynnwood?
LYNNWOOD, Wash., March 31, 2023—Local leaders and community members gathered at Meadowdale Community Church in Lynnwood on Thursday, March 30, to discuss public safety in an open forum setting for its third Let’s Talk About Safety event.
“I feel very pleased to see the presence of the community there in the sense that they had time to go and speak out, and make comments,” Dr. Julieta Altamirano-Crosby, Lynnwood City Council Vice President, told the Lynnwood Times.
Sitting on the panel were Bill Franz, Public Works Director, Lynn Sordel, Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Arts Director, Valerie Bouffiou, Presiding Judge of Lynnwood Municipal Court, Lynnwood Mayor Christine Frizzell, Lynnwood PD Commander Pat Fagan, Lynnwood PD Chief Jim Nelson, and Gregory Schwab, Assistant Superintendent for Edmonds School District.
In addition to asking questions verbally during the forum, attendees were also invited to list their top three concerns about safety in Lynnwood on a paper handout, which will later be tallied and considered among City officials and directors.
The first question of the evening came from someone named Shola, who asked what the City of Lynnwood is doing about “anti-blackness and far right terrorism,” and referenced the death of Tirhas Tesfatsion, who died within custody at Lynnwood Jail in 2021, and the October 2021 arrests of two Lynnwood men for their involvement in the U.S. Capitol riots on January 6. Shola was also critical of the recent public scrutiny toward Lynnwood City Councilman Josh Binda concerning a social media post in which he posed shirtless in what the public calls a “a sexually suggestive” pose to promote his Love Conquers All Tour to mostly minors.
Binda is currently under investigation for an ethics violation for entering council chambers, without permission, to shoot a promotional video for this tour – which he profited approximately $20,000 from – geared toward inspiring youth. The ethics investigation opened the same week that the Public Disclosure Committee (PDC) found Binda guilty of using thousands of dollars from his campaign funds for personal items. Despite this, Shola believed the public’s outcry, in which many community members called for his resignation at the Lynnwood City Council meeting Monday, to be racially driven.
Tirhas Tesfatsion’s death was found to be suicide following two investigations, both internal and external, after being arrested for DUI in July, 2021.
Shola ultimately noted that they do not feel safe in Lynnwood, as a person who identifies as Black and Queer.
“If you’re a resident of this city come talk to us,” said Chief Nelson in response. “Come actually see the work we do. I have men and women who would, in a heartbeat, lay down their lives for you. Ideological discussions, I’m happy to have those one-on-one with you…If you’re feeling unsafe in any way by how the Police Department is impacting you, or the City is impacting you, let’s talk about the issue specifically, not the theory of the issue. Let’s talk about ‘I’m feeling unsafe because’. I would love to have that conversation with you.”
Chief Nelson added that when it comes to acts of terrorism, the Police Department works with both state and federal authorities who take these matters “very seriously,” adding that the arrests of the two men involved in the January 6 riots is indicative of that commitment. In addition, the Lynnwood Police Department consults with its Race and Equity team throughout its hiring process, Nelson added, and continues to work closely with the federal Joint Terrorism Task Force on hate crime instances.
The Lynnwood Times followed up with Shola, who uses the pronouns “they/them”, to ask if they felt the City addressed their question properly to which they said “yes and no.” When asked what they would like to see the City do differently, to feel like a more welcoming and safe community, they said “more diversity in city roles with analysis” and “more mindfulness of different people’s unique struggles.”
The second question the public asked was if there was a specific website that shows how crime is trending within Lynnwood. Chief Nelson directed him to My Community Crime Map, which is directly linked to dispatch in the police department’s system that also covers unincorporated segments of Lynnwood as well.
Another resident asked, albeit vaguely, “what is happening at Meadowdale?” Greg Schwab took the question, on behalf of the Edmonds School District Superintendent’s Office, to say the schools are continuing to train its administrators to become better equipped with gang-related incidents.
“What’s going on at Meadowdale High is unfortuantely what’s going on with a lot of our schools right now,” said Schwab. “I think we’re struggling with coming out of the pandemic, and struggling with getting back into school and getting kids back in a regularly routine again. That’s why we’ve invested so heavily in mental health support for our students, additional counseling supports, and social work.”
Schwab mentioned the school district’s Family Resource Advocates, who help students, and their families, suffering from poverty and homeless, find resources and navigate the school system as just one way the school helps provide services for students.
A student of Meadowdale High School was arrested last December after bringing a pistol and ammunition to school. The 15-year-old was booked into the Denney Juvenile Justice Center in Everett for Theft of a Firearm DV and Unlawful Possession of a Firearm 2 on December 16, 2021.
“We’ve had real conversations about what do we do now, not after a situation, but now to help our kids find their identities and find a feeling of safety,” said Mayor Frizzell. “Being safe is different than feeling safe and it’s important for us to be working in those areas…we care about our kids, and we care about our community, and we want to make sure that we are touching kids’ lives.”
Other topics of conversation, throughout the evening, included the rising occurrence of graffiti, abandoned shopping carts, how the City is preparing for growth in terms of upholding safety, and the need for more police officers at the Lynnwood Police Department where there are currently 14 vacancies.
To conclude the evening, Lynnwood resident and a member of the Board of Trustees of Edmonds College, Wally Webster II, took the mic to say:
“Tonight I’ve listened to a number of questions and there’s been a lot of nouns used. What are you doing, what are they doing, what are our partners doing. I’d like to change that to say what am I doing?
“If you look at each one of us in this room there’s enough expertise, there’s enough people in this room to make a difference in terms of safety in this community. If we take 40,000 people in this city, and we’re all doing something this would be the safest place in the world to live. How many people are going up to the Boys & Girls Club and asking what can I do to help? How many of us are going up to the YMCA and asking what can I do to help?
“So change that to what are you doing, and what your budget is doing to what am I doing to make a difference? If we can do that, then we can solve the problems that we came to talk about tonight.”
The gentleman was met with resounding applause.
The event was the City’s third Let’s Talk About Safety event organized by Lynnwood City Council Vice President Dr. Altamirano-Crosby. Mayor Christine Frizzell, Councilman Jim Smith, Councilman Patrick Decker, Council President Shannon Sessions, and Councilman George Hurst were also present.
“We received a lot of emails and phone calls, and text messages regarding safety in the City,” Councilwoman Altamirano-Crosby said, recounting why she organized the event. “For me, safety is the priority. Receiving all those messages, I felt a commitment to do something as a public servant.”
Determined to take action following three shootings that took place in Lynnwood last year, the councilwoman reached out to Pastor Hector Garfias-Toledo of Trinity Church who sits on the Lynnwood Police Chief’s Advisory Committee, and volunteered to host the event at his monastery. Councilwoman Altamirano-Crosby also contacted Deputy Police Chief Cole Langdon, who loved the idea and agreed to participate. The first event was held May, 2022.
“The community deserves this,” said Altamirano-Crosby, “and the community needs to talk to us so we can know exactly what their safety priorities are.”
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