Council again talks about homicides, allocates more ARPA funds

Councilmember Jim Smith talks about the recent homicides in the city.

Discussion at the Lynnwood City Council’s July 25 business meeting centered on recent shootings and increased violence the city has witnessed in the past few months.

During the meeting’s public comment period, many Lynnwood residents criticized the council for how they handled the news of the homicides. A few accused councilmembers of staying silent during a time when the city is mourning the loss of two teenage boys who were killed at Spruce Park on July 14.

One public commenter, Derika, said the council needs to start taking steps to end violence in the city, rather than just say they want to.

“Two mothers lost their babies,” she said. “I’m tired of the City of Lynnwood acting like we don’t have a problem. We can’t just say we’re going to do more. We need to do more.”

However, Council President George Hurst said the council has not been silent about the shootings at all. On top of speaking out against these acts of violence during the council’s July 18 meeting, Hurst said councilmembers continue to be involved in schools and the Lynnwood community to try to prevent crimes like these.

Many commenters connected recent incidents of violence to the city’s construction of the Community Justice and Recovery Centers. Rather than focus on building a “psych jail,” as many called it, they said the council should be funding more mental health assistance for children who inevitably struggled during the pandemic.

“What happened is broken,” Councilmember Shannon Sessions said. “And the city council can’t fix that [on our own]. Yes, we are working on creating a youth council. But that won’t fix things either. [As for the justice center,] this is the same jail. It’s already here. It’s just going to be made better.”

Councilmember Josh Binda agreed with many public commenters, saying there were deeper issues the council should be focusing on to prevent crimes like these from happening again.

“There’s definitely a deeper root to these issues,” he said.

Binda said he hopes the council will decide to focus more of its energy on youth in the community and work to create a safer mental health environment for them.

Councilmember Patrick Decker said the council wants to do everything in its power to prevent senseless deaths in the community.

“We’re trying to do what we can here, as a governing body, but also as members of the community to … help solve some of the issues the community is facing,” Decker said.

While the council spends a decent amount of time discussing city park acquisitions and updates, Councilmember Jim Smith said none of that is worth much if Lynnwood residents don’t feel safe enough to visit those parks.

“It doesn’t matter how beautiful our parks are if they aren’t safe to go into,” Smith said. Regarding the justice and recovery centers, he added, “no one believes that either one of these centers is the finite fix-all. But what they do is they add a little bit more to be able to help with some of the challenges we’ve had in the city.”

Councilmember Julieta Altamirano-Crosby urged Lynnwood residents to come to the “Let’s Talk About Safety Meeting” on Aug. 10 at 6 p.m. Councilmembers, police officers and city officials will be there to discuss the city’s plans to keep the community safe and how it will deal with crimes like these.

Altamirano-Crosby said city staff want to hear from as many residents as possible to learn how the city can best support them and address their concerns.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Commission (DEIC) member Arra Rael also spoke during public comments, accusing the city council of purposely silencing voices in the community.

“The city council’s insistence that only registered voters should be allowed to serve on boards and commissions is … an incredibly limiting and potentially discriminatory practice,” Rael said. “It effectively silences immigrants, refugees and non-U.S. citizens from having their voices heard within the Lynnwood local government.”

Rael also said the council appears to be targeting the DEIC by scrutinizing the commission’s rules and regulations – a practice the council is allegedly not applying to other boards and commissions.

“The scrutiny, questioning and harassment this commission has faced in the past few months that I’ve worked with them has been astronomical, and frankly it’s shameful to have volunteers treated this way,” she said.

In other business, the council voted to increase the Community Recovery Center’s building contract by $2.3 million. Due to nationwide supply shortages after the COVID-19 pandemic, the two construction bids the city received were higher than anticipated, creating a funding shortage for the project’s completion.

While the council has heard many negative opinions from Lynnwood residents regarding the recovery center over the past few months, Hurst said that the council has “done its homework” and believes this is the best step forward for the community. Multiple judges and mental health professionals that city staff have talked to are supportive of the recovery center, and Hurst said it wouldn’t be wise for the council to ignore their opinions.

“This is one of the best things that this council is going to be doing,” Hurst said.

The motion passed with six councilmembers voting yes and Councilmember Binda abstaining.

In other business, the council returned to its discussion of how it should spend the remaining roughly $2 million of the city’s allotted $10.9 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.

Councilmember Smith made a motion to allocate $150,000 to the Washington Kids in Transition (WKIT) program. While Smith said he believes the council should be saving the remaining ARPA funds “for a rainy day,” since Snohomish County is matching the funds, he felt it was the best way to assist the community.

The motion unanimously passed.

Councilmember Sessions also made motions to allocate $250,000 to the Volunteers of America Western Washington’s (VOAWW) rapid rehousing program and $55,000 to the capital facilities plan for a Veterans Hub.

While the funding request for the rapid rehousing program was initially met with council pushback, councilmembers changed their minds once they learned that Snohomish County would also match any funds the city allocated. That motion was approved unanimously.

Regarding the idea of a Veterans Hub, Sessions said it has been discussed for a while, and would make a lot of sense with the recent numbers of veterans the city has seen coming to the monthly Hero’s Café. According to Sessions, the location of the café has had to change multiple times due to the crowds outgrowing the space.

The council voted unanimously to allocate $55,000 for the creation of a Veterans Hub.

In addition, Councilmember Altamirano-Crosby made a motion to allocate $60,000 in ARPA funds to cover the city’s Fair on 44th supply costs for the next three years. However, some councilmembers said they needed more clarification on how the funds would be used before they voted.

Councilmember Smith moved to postpone the discussion until Sept. 6. The motion passed unanimously.

The council also held a public hearing regarding the city’s Complete Street Ordinance. The ordinance focuses on creating roads for all uses and will contain an outlined plan on how to create and maintain streets that are safe for cars, bicycles and pedestrians.

Councilmembers did not ask any pressing clarifying questions. Former city councilmember Ted Hikel told the council they should not be spending money to build bike lanes that hardly anyone will use.

According to Hikel, only roughly 1% of Lynnwood’s residents use a bicycle as a means of transportation. While creating roads for all modes of transportation seems like the “politically correct” thing to do, Hikel said the city will be wasting money building any lanes other than vehicle lanes.

The council will vote on the ordinance at its Aug. 8 business meeting.

–By Lauren Reichenbach

  1. Hikel’s reasoning about bicycle lanes is ridiculous. Only 2% of the population use the city’s sidewalks to walk more than a few hundred feet (the average distance from a parked car to a place of business), so by his logic the city should not create new sidewalks or repair the ones we have.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Real first and last names — as well as city of residence — are required for all commenters.
This is so we can verify your identity before approving your comment.