For those Lynnwood City Council positions with three candidates or more, the Aug. 6 primary election will narrow the choices to the top two vote getters. The winners of the primary election will then square off in the Nov. 5 general election. To help Lynnwood residents learn more about each candidate, Lynnwood Today sent a questionnaire asking about each one’s vision for the future of the city and how they plan to address issues the city faces.
We will post these as we receive them.
Lynnwood City Council Position 6 is a two-way race, with Nick Coelho facing incumbent George Hurst. The two will not appear on the primary ballot. Coelho is a Lynnwood business owner and member of the city’s Parks and Recreation Board.
Q: Why are you running for Lynnwood City Council? What do you hope to accomplish during your time on council?
Coelho: I am running because I believe every current Lynnwood resident should be able to enjoy the tremendous benefits of the development on its way. New restaurants, new entertainment venues, newly walkable areas and parks — even a centrally-located exhibition hall for large musical performances is under serious consideration. Simply put, there is so much to look forward to in this city and I want to help make it happen.
Unfortunately, there is always an ugly side of growth, and without smart planning it will likely become a reality. Insufficient housing and a pattern of arriving “too little, too late” with corrective policies will unreasonably drive up rents, housing valuations and property taxes. With our town’s population projected to increase by a dramatic 50 percent over the next 15 years, the new people won’t stop arriving; it will be our current city’s residents that will be displaced as demand simply makes living here unaffordable. I have seen this first hand while I lived in Seattle, and am again starting to see it here. What good is all this development if many of us won’t be here to experience it?
The only path that sufficiently protects our single-family home neighborhoods, as well as our current renters who love this town, has us acting now to ensure we can create the necessary housing in time. Studies on this topic recommend that we be producing 300 percent more housing units a year than our annual average from 2000 to 2015. That’s not easy. Driving our city departments towards this goal full-stop, and championing a forward-thinking posture for the council, is precisely what I hope to accomplish during my time on city council.
Q: What is your 10-year vision for Lynnwood?
Coelho: My vision is three-fold — the beginnings of a thriving new downtown core near the light rail station, top-notch city services empowered to cope with a rapidly growing population, and becoming a regional model for affordable housing and programs for those who need a hand up.
As the light rail station arrives, I want it to be an opportunity for everyone in our community. From a farmers market for the crafty, to new opportunities for small businesses or a concert hall near the profitable Lynnwood Convention Center, there will be something for both the young professional in new apartments and the families living in our neighborhoods.
Our population is projected to increase dramatically over the next 10 years. Despite this growth, I want to ensure we continue to have a model police force that maintains its reputation for lightning-fast response times and excellent community engagement. I want to see our parks and recreation center continue to improve and be destinations for individuals and families in our community. And, I want to see our government continue along its current path of transparency and citizen involvement.
Finally, I want Lynnwood to be a regional model to show how to manage growth well and avoid the pitfalls Seattle has faced in recent years. I hope to see our partnerships with developers and regional organizations expand to ensure we have enough affordable housing for those who live and work in Lynnwood now to afford to stay in the future. And, for those who are struggling, I want to see local non-profit organizations work with our city to use best practices so that everyone who needs a hand up to improve their life gets that opportunity.
With a growing downtown, top-notch city services and growth managed in such a way that it impacts current residents as little as possible, I hope 10 years from now we continue to live up to our motto of being “a great deal more.”
Q: What ideas do you have for addressing the city’s homelessness issue?
Coelho: As much as I’d like to to whip out a silver-bullet solution to homelessness in our city, it humbles me to acknowledge that this is a complex problem involving issues like mental health, drug abuse and housing that go well beyond our ability as a city to control.
That said, there are things we can absolutely do to provide opportunities for those who need them. The least costly and disruptive solution to homelessness is to prevent it in the first place by connecting people in our city with services already provided by a variety of amazing non-profit organizations in our region. For example, the Volunteers of Western Washington provide dispute mediation services that help find win-win solutions between landlords and tenants to prevent eviction. There are also a variety of charities helping with the short-term financial needs of residents in crisis, such as being unable to work due to personal or family health issues or unexpected job loss.
Of course we should also work with developers and community partners to ensure that we have enough affordable housing for those who work in our city. Once someone is homeless, utilizing our social workers and local charities will help us find the right solution for each individual person. Some in our community may simply have a past eviction making it a challenge to find housing, and programs like Volunteers of America’s Renter Certification courses can help reassure landlords that they have earned a second chance.
Others have serious issues with addiction or are in a mental health crisis. Our city should seek out grants — something it does very well by the way — and work with community partners to ensure we have sufficient treatment centers and supportive housing available for those who are in need. Once provided, treatment and supportive housing are far less expensive than forcing our police, firefighters and citizens to deal with the issues caused by homelessness.
For those who are committing crimes against others, such as theft, harassment, disrupting the ability of residents to use parks and public places, or leaving needles, garbage or human waste in public, we should empower our police to take action and protect our community. The city recently adopted the mantra “Compassion with Boundaries,” and I am in complete agreement with this philosophy.
Q: What experience would you bring to the council and how is it relevant to the position?
Coelho: I bring two things to the table. Let’s start with my experience as an entrepreneur. I have been through nearly a decade of the rough-and-tumble world of small businesses and the craft beer industry, and have been a successful board game pub owner in Lynnwood for a good half of that. I am experienced in diving into new roles with shifting responsibilities, in managing the business climate and predicting trends. I have experience sitting down with others and collaborating on ambitious plans, although that last one’s usually over a beer. Not only is this entrepreneurial spirit relevant, I would argue it is almost necessary for anyone attempting to grapple with Lynnwood’s rapidly-evolving challenges and opportunities.
The second valuable commodity I bring to the council is perspective. I have seen first hand how the affordable housing crisis has completely transformed and savaged neighborhoods in Seattle. I have witnessed friends and patrons move further and further away as the cost of living creeped higher and higher. I know what it’s like to have had to live on a minimum wage job in this region within the last decade. I have talked to the homeless who frequented my neighborhoods. I have seen how the opioid epidemic in its present and past forms has wrecked families. And I’m an older millennial. The policies that shape our city’s future will impact me for many decades to come and I have every selfish reason in the world to make sure we get it right.
Q: How do you plan to involve residents in the city’s decision-making process?
Coelho: Lynnwood already does a great job of inviting residents to speak out and volunteer for the city in the areas where they feel most passionate. But, for many of those living here, there may still be barriers that prevent them from being more involved. We must continue to engage others where they are, hearing what they have to say about our city (good and bad) and providing the tools needed for them to get involved. For instance I will not only continue to advocate for family-friendly events at parks and our recreation center, but also push other council members and myself to attend them, to better hear the needs and concerns of the busy parents in our city.
For those who speak English as a second language, I would work with our excellent Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Commission to seek partnerships with community groups, cultural organizations, churches and businesses in order to learn how we can better empower everyone who wants to be involved. By listening and using unconventional gatherings to improve engagement in our diverse community, we all benefit.
Q: What do you think the city needs to do to address the increased traffic congestion and population growth that will accompany light rail arriving in Lynnwood in 2024?
Coelho: I live less than a mile away from where the light rail station is going to be located, so this is a very real concern for me. While I would like to live in a world where no one needs a car and can walk or ride a bike everywhere, I acknowledge the reality that for most of us that just isn’t possible. But, we can do more to make it easier. By working with Community Transit to improve bus routes leading to the light rail station and our downtown core, we can provide simple alternatives for those who want to avoid driving.
Additionally, focusing on density and mixed-use zoning that allows business and apartments in the same building near transit corridors ensures that new residents have as much as possible within walking distance from their apartment. For those of us who drive, I believe that our city needs to maintain its focus on using every possible state and national resource to help with improving traffic flow. Grants that aid the widening of vital thoroughfares like 196th Street Southwest and enable us to continue bringing in experts with experience handling new transit systems empowers us to take fiscally sound action on this critical challenge.
Q: What plans do you have for helping to ensure the financial stability of the town?
Coelho: We are fortunate enough to live in a city that has adopted award-winning best practices in relation to its finances. This dedication to transparency and budgeting for outcomes means that, in a big way, the city council only has to worry about the same things every one of us thinks about when it comes to money — income versus expenses.
The reserves are solid, so then the major hurdle towards improvement is diversifying revenue sources. Our tendency to be a destination to shop–not to live–has given us an unhealthy reliance on our sales tax to fund services, and has cost us dearly in past economic downturns. In order to pivot to a more sustainable economy, we are compelled to create an environment where more professionals will want to live and spend their time here. Access to Sound Transit light rail that connects Lynnwood to the rest of the region is key; our job at the city is to facilitate the creation of enough density to absorb the new residents and attract the businesses that will thrive serving the community. Once we are a destination to both shop and live, it is only a matter of time before higher-paying jobs arrive as well.
Q: Where are your favorite places to spend time in Lynnwood?
Coelho: I am a foodie and a geek, so I’m going to be pretty obvious:
- Around the Table Game Pub has not only been my workplace for the past five years, it’s been my go-to social spot. Everybody knows everybody, even if they don’t, and that is the making of a great place. Before the campaign, you could typically catch me Wednesday nights nerding out with others about history over a pint and a map of Europe.
- Rila Bakery and Cafe is where I unplug and enjoy one of the best BLTs in town over one of Sam’s hilariously gigantic lattes. I can’t say enough nice things about the guy; he has even made us pop culture-themed chiffon cakes!
- Subspace Comics is my favorite comic book store ever. Amy and her husband Brian, one of the original founders of Emerald City Comic Con and Jet City Comic Con, are a wealth of information and have given great recommendations every single time I’ve asked.
- Another Castle Video Games is the best independent video game store you will have the pleasure of visiting. While I frequent their Edmonds barcade more often, when I get the urge to grab a new title I head straight to their Lynnwood location and end up having fun conversations with the staff over a cabinet full of old Nintendo cartridges.
- Chili Basil Thai Grill is a family-owned restaurant across the street from the mall. My wife and I go there for lunch on a weekly basis, and it never lets us down. For vegetarians their Holy Basil with King Eryngii mushrooms is to die for!
- Taste of Sichuan is my local spicy food haunt. Their Szechuan crispy tofu and Szechuan boiled fish are fantastic dishes that we show off to friends in town. I can’t think of a better place to sweat in good company.
- Silver Platters is my heaven on earth. I could spend hours deciding on what genre of music to explore next. 1980s College Rock or 1960s Soul? Maybe just another pristine copy of the Pixies’ Doolittle since my original is so scratched up.
- I’m on the Parks and Recreation Board and I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about my favorite spot in all of Lynnwood, Scriber Lake Park. I can not count how many dog walks and picnics and thoughtful conversations I have had within this little oasis in the heart of the city.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
Coelho: We are in the midst of one of the most important periods of development in this community’s history. While the majority of the current council and the various departments have set up one moonshot of a plan for Lynnwood’s future, we are going to need some passionate voices to carry us through and execute on it. That is why I am proudly a member of the Lynnwood Forward slate of candidates for this year’s election. We are a group of diverse voices from different professional backgrounds who have impressed enough people to collectively be endorsed by Mayor Nicola Smith, our State Sen. Jesse Salomon and State Rep. Cindy Ryu.
We are all so thrilled to have a chance to provide new voices and fresh perspectives on our city council, and humbly ask for your help to move Lynnwood Forward!
Q: Where can readers go to learn more about your campaign? (website and other contact information if applicable)
Coelho: You can find out more about me and ask questions about my slate at www.LynnwoodForward.com/ElectNick, or reach me out to me personally at Nick4Lynnwood@gmail.com. We will be posting before long on our facebook page called you guessed it — Lynnwood Forward.