Lynnwood Today and the Lynnwood Chamber of Commerce hosted a Lynnwood Mayor and City Council candidate forum on Thursday, Oct. 5 at the Community Life Center on Scriber Lake Road.
During the event, a board member of the Lynnwood Chamber of Commerce, asked candidates questions about topics including the candidates’ top three priorities if they are elected, what the city’s role in race relations should be, how they would approach homelessness and whether or not Lynnwood is a welcoming city to families and businesses, among other topics.
Candidates were given three minutes to answer each question. They were also given two minutes for an opening statement and one minute for a closing statement.
A video produced by the Community Life Center showing the entire two-hour event is expected early this week.
First to take the stage was incumbent Mayor Nicola Smith and challenger George Hurst.
Hurst began his opening statement by saying he did not expect to run for mayor. When he was elected to council in 2015, he said he intended to be the best city councilmember he could for four years. That changed the more time he spent on the dais.
“I became convinced that there has to be better leadership,” he said.
He continued saying he disagreed with the way budgets have been created, and that he thinks the mayor should have a bigger say in the development of the budget.
Smith’s opening statement began with her running for mayor in 2013.
“I was asked to run for mayor because citizens wanted a refresh and refresh in this city,” she said.
She said in the past three years, she believes she has brought fiscal stewardship, civility and efficiency to the city. She highlighted that the city has a budget dashboard on its website so citizens can track where tax dollars are being spent.
Later in the forum, Hurst said he brings over 30 years experience in project management on multi-million dollar projects, which will help him manage the city budget. He also said he will prioritize finding financial stability so the city doesn’t need to draw from reserves to balance a budget.
Smith said during her time as mayor, she is most proud of the steps the city has taken to be safe, welcoming and inclusive. Staff training has improved, staff is 70 percent more diverse and the police department has made outreach efforts in many communities. If elected, she said her top issues would include continuing to build a budget for outcomes, building a culture of customer service and continuing to support city staff.
Candidates for City Council Position 1, Van AuBuchon and Christine Frizzell, were up next.
AuBuchon began by reviewing his history of public service. He served four years previously on city council. During that time he was on the city’s Finance Committee. He has also spent four years on the city’s Planning Commission.
Frizzzell grew up in Lynnwood, but had not been involved in politics. She became interested after attending Lynnwood University in 2014, where she said she learned “about a city that has a passion and purpose.”
She said her top three priorities would be following the intricacies of the city’s budget, improving roads and working with homeless and underrepresented people. AuBuchon said his top three priorities would be properly funding the police department; fixing 36th Avenue West, repairing roads and adding sidewalks in some areas; and studying water utility infrastructure and how water would get to Lynnwood’s citizens in the case of a major disaster, such as an earthquake.
AuBuchon said he is especially concerned about property taxes in the City of Lynnwood and people who have owned their homes for decades and are now leaving due to taxes. Frizzell said she is concerned about the clutter and chaos of vehicles parked along major streets due to lack of residential parking, especially near apartments.
Up next were incumbent City Councilmember Ian Cotton and challenger Shanon Tysland.
Cotton was born and raised in Lynnwood and has been on council for four years.
“The future of Lynnwood looks bright, if we can live within our means,” he said. He said he spearheaded efforts that have allowed the golf course to be profitable, and also was a member of the Snocom board while 9-1-1 texting was being implemented.
Tysland grew up in Iowa, but said he chooses to run his business and raise his family in Lynnwood. He said as a small business owner, he understands the importance of a budget and “spending every dollar wisely.” He serves on the boards of several local organizations, including the Foundation for Edmonds School District.
Both candidates agreed that, though Lynnwood has a growing population of homeless, it is a complicated issue that requires work with groups and cities outside Lynnwood. Tysland said this is a national problem, but he is glad that local police officers, for example, treat homeless with “compassion… dignity… and respect.” Cotton said he has a lot of friends directly affected by the opioid crisis, and though that can be somewhat addressed through police, it is not a police issue.
If elected, Cotton said his top three priorities would be “your voice, your money, your services,” meaning he thinks the city needs to do a better job reaching out to the community to include it in the process for things like creating a budget, bring taxes down and deliver excellent services “once we can do that within our means.”
If elected, Tysland said his main priority would be public safety. He said during his campaign, he has heard from families who don’t feel safe using local parks. He is also interested in finances and how to make Lynnwood more welcoming to businesses.
Incumbent candidate Ruth Ross was the last to take the stage. Challenger Rosamaria Graziani was out of town due to a family emergency and so could not attend, but Carol McMahon read a statement on her behalf during closing statements.
Ross moved to Lynnwood in 1995. She first took office in 2002, when she served until 2009. She returned to council in 2014. She said with city council, there is a steep learning curve and she feels she has been lucky to have the time to learn. She said she has been working to manage the expectations and changes coming to the city with the Lynnwood Link light rail.
“Change is coming and change is hard,” she said. “Light rail will affect this city. It won’t be the same place, but it will be the same people.”
She said she wants to look at ways the city can be more friendly to businesses, such as looking at the business licence model and seeing if it still works. She also wants to find ways to develop the city in ways that make a clear “gateway” to Lynnwood and make more gathering spaces.
McMahon read a statement from Graziani. Graziani is a former Yale professor and currently is a community advocate who regularly spends 40 hours a week working with the city’s most vulnerable populations. She is concerned about property taxes and affordable housing, among other issues.
“Our neighbors are being taxed out of their homes,” McMahon said, reading the statement.
Graziani wants to see the city take steps to incentivize low-income housing, as well as bring transparency to the city’s budget and look at sales tax rates. She said in her statement that she wants parks to be free of pesticides and toxins, and for covered playgrounds to be provided so kids can play even when it rains.
Again, a full video of the event produced by the Community Life Center is expected early this week.
–Story and photos by Natalie Covate