Election Watch 2015: Lynnwood City Council candidates sound off at Candidates Forum

Lynnwood City Councilmember Benjamin Goodwin chats with a resident during a Candidates Forum Wednesday evening at the Lynnwood Library. (Photos by David Pan)
Lynnwood City Councilmember Benjamin Goodwin chats with a resident during a Candidates Forum Wednesday evening at the Lynnwood Library. (Photos by David Pan)

Lynnwood voters got their first look at the candidates running for City Council at a Candidates Forum moderated by the League of Women Voters at the Lynnwood Library.

Appearing at the Wednesday forum were incumbent Councilmember Loren Simmonds, challengers Shirley Sutton and Maria Ambalada (running for Position No. 4); incumbent Councilmember Benjamin Goodwin and challenger Chris Frizzell (running for Position No. 5); incumbent Councilmember Van AuBuchon and challenger Shannon Sessions (running for Position No. 7) and challenger George Hurst (running for Position No. 6). Incumbent Councilmember Sid Roberts (Position No. 6) was out of town, so his daughter Jessie Roberts read a statement on his behalf.

Because of time constraints, the candidates were asked only one question about the status Lynnwood’s infrastructure and possible solutions in addition to giving opening and closing statements. The two candidates for Snohomish County Council District 2 – Greg Tisdel and Brian Sullivan – and the five candidates for Snohomish County Executive – John Lovick, Dave Sommers, James Robert Deal, Robert Sutherland and Norm Nunnally – took up the majority of time at the forum.

There was general agreement among the Lynnwood City Council candidates that the City’s streets are in need of repair and maintenance.

“The roads and the highways are really falling apart,” Ambalada said.

“We do have a congestion problem,” Sutton added. “We do have cars, vehicles coming into our city that is a lot more than just the citizens themselves.”

Lynnwood City Council candidate Chris Frizzell talks with audience members at Wednesday's Candidates Forum at the Lynnwood Library.
Lynnwood City Council candidate Chris Frizzell talks with audience members at Wednesday’s Candidates Forum at the Lynnwood Library.

Frizzell equated what’s happening in Lynnwood to someone owning a home and not taking care of the roof or doing any painting or maintenance.

“We need to fix it,” she said.

Simmonds said that the City Council is attempting to put together a plan to increase the amount of resources on an ongoing basis. The sources of these resources likely will be multiple, he said.

“We’re probably going to have to put together a combination of funding to meet that need,” Simmonds said. “But one way or another we will. It is probably the No. 1 concern that I have at this point in time with the City of Lynnwood and its major challenges.”

AuBuchon said that the answer isn’t just raising taxes.

“It’s also a matter of finding other forms of revenue besides just your utility bill,” he said.

Goodwin pointed to work that the City Council already is involved in as an answer to the problem.

“The real solution for that is what the Council is working on currently and that is on budgeting for outcomes,” Goodwin said. “It’s making sure our priorities are the core services – fire, police and public works.”

AuBuchon viewed streets as part of the essential services the City provides.

“We have to have roads to get them (fire and police) to your door if you need help,” AuBuchon said.

Hurst said that the funding for transportation and street maintenance hasn’t been adequate.

“I think the Council really has to turn around and start really being serious about funding,” he said.

Hurst said that the City has four housing projects, a hotel and a transit center being built and that the City Council isn’t making sure that the fire and police departments are adequately funded and the roads are maintained.

“The City Council needs to come to grasp that this City is growing and it needs to thrive,” Hurst said. “But it needs to be making decisions that are fair to the citizens and will let the City grow.”

“Infrastructure needs to be a priority for the Lynnwood City Council,” Sessions said. “I’d really like to guide that process so that we have infrastructure in place as we grow.”

Sessions, who along with AuBuchon, will appear on the General Election ballot in the fall, stressed to the audience that she is prepared to serve on the City Council.

“I will maintain my proactive approach towards public safety, enhance and guide economic growth and foster an environment where families, services, business can thrive. As Lynnwood develops into a major retail center, I have a vested interest in maintaining that high quality of life for its residents.”

AuBuchon emphasized the importance of an open government.

“Today I believe that Lynnwood faces many opportunities to be the regional model of sustainable environment, community with engaged citizens and an accountable government as stated in our community vision. However, I believe this is only attainable through open collaborative communication and leadership and engagement with the public.”

Sutton said that public input is a big part of why she is running.

“Citizens need to be honored and respected and what you wish to happen in our City is very important,” she said.

Simmonds noted that he is the senior member on the Council and has seen a lot in his time there.

“We are on the verge of doing some of the most outstanding things that the City has ever imagined,” he said. “We are moving in the right direction. We are making progress. … Lynnwood is on the cusp of becoming the major urban center of south Snohomish County.”

Ambalada said that she is passionate about the City, which is why she is running.

“I want to make a change,” she said. “I want to begin the change in politics.”

Frizzell described herself not as a politician but a concerned citizen. She was motivated to run for office after participating in Lynnwood University, a program run by the City that explores local government.

Lynnwood faces challenges and problems and Frizzell said, “I’m ready to join with others to tackle those things. I believe I have a lot to contribute and a positive way to make Lynnwood a great deal more.”

The City was in a much worse position four years ago and Goodwin is excited about what the future holds for Lynnwood.

“We’ve gained traction and momentum and we’re cruising along right along,” he said.

Goodwin added, “I’ve helped make Lynnwood better today than it was yesterday. I’m going to help Lynnwood be better in four years than it is today.”

Roberts in his written statement said, “I want to continue to provide leadership, direction and civility to the Council and to the City of Lynnwood.”

Hurst described the City Council as being a part-time pay position that requires a full-time commitment.

“I have come to the point in my life where I really want to make a difference,” Hurst said.

See video of the debate here

– By David Pan

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