With the goal of reshaping Lynnwood to be “for the people,” Lynnwood City Council Vice President Jim Smith kicked off his mayoral campaign earlier this week, pledging to address the city’s homeless, crime and taxes.
Smith is one of three candidates running for mayor and will face fellow Councilmembers Christine Frizzell and George Hurst in the Aug. 3 primary. Current Mayor Nicola Smith is not seeking a third term. The top two candidates will advance to the November general election.
If elected, Smith said he would be like to refocus the city’s attention on the community and worry less about trying to make Lynnwood a regional model — a goal that the current mayor has focused on heavily with the pending arrival of Sound Transit’s Lynnwood Link light rail expansion in 2024.
“I want to bring back our focus to the people here in Lynnwood — that’s where our focus should be,” he said.
During a kickoff event June 15, Smith’s friends, family and supporters gathered on the patio at Moonshine BBQ to help the longtime Lynnwood resident kick off his campaign. Attendees included newly appointed Lynnwood City Councilmember Patrick Decker, former Lynnwood Mayor Tina Roberts-Martinez and elected officials from the cities of Mukilteo and Snohomish.
During the event, Smith made several campaign promises aimed at addressing city issues, starting with a goal of reducing by half the number of people living on the streets in Lynnwood. On his first day in office, Smith said he would begin working with the Lynnwood Police Department to identify the number of people living on the streets in the city and work with nonprofit organizations to create a program that would help them find necessary treatment, jobs and housing. Smith said the program could be modeled off similar ones in other cities, like Marysville. However, he added that to be eligible, participants would have to want to get off the streets.
“I want to be able to help people, but we have to have their cooperation on this too,” he said. They have to be willing to be helped.”
Smith also said that if he is elected, he would work with the police department to address the city’s crime rate to make Lynnwood “the safest city in Washington.” Based on his observations, Smith said the crime has gone up in Lynnwood, particularly around Fred Meyer and Alderwood Mall.
In recent council discussions, Smith has voiced his support for funding law enforcement and hiring more officers for the city’s police department. Smith has also claimed that the police department is understaffed — a sentiment he said is shared by other department members.
(A police services study conducted in Lynnwood in 2016-17 examined the department’s staffing levels and concluded that it was the right size for the city’s population. As of March, the department had one unfunded vacancy.)
“The people of Lynnwood deserve to have a top-notch police department that is…very well staffed,” he said.
One way to get crime under control, Smith said, would be to stop what he called “small crimes” before they escalate to become larger issues.
“When we get the small crimes under control that’ll help us get the bigger crimes under control,” he said.
Smith also promised to eliminate Lynnwood’s 11 city-imposed utility taxes. Per state law, there is a 6% maximum utility tax rate for electricity, natural gas, steam and telephone utilities, unless a higher rate is approved by voters. Currently, all of Lynnwood’s utility taxes are “maxed out” at 6%, which Smith said is unacceptable.
Last May, Smith proposed to eliminate the city’s tax on water and sewer utility service. In his comments, Smith said the proposal was directed at helping residents save money during the health crisis.
“Lynnwood did very, very well and the citizens of Lynnwood all ended up having to make cuts,” he said.
Smith said eliminating the tax would send a message of “good faith” to community members struggling to pay bills amid skyrocketing unemployment across the state. However, the motion was vetoed by the mayor, citing the opinion of city staff who said removing the tax would ultimately result in a $1.4 million revenue loss to the city’s general fund and could result in layoffs.
Smith also pledged to implement frugal budgeting and spending reductions. If elected, he said he would work with each city department to review all expenses across the city. Smith admitted that staffing could be impacted and that any future staffing hires would be more thoroughly reviewed before being filled.
“I think that being smart, working with department heads, working with the employees (and) working with the finance director, I think we can make cuts and not spend as much money as we have been,” he said.
Smith has also emphasized his support for turning the city’s focus back on Lynnwood’s residents. As an example, he said the city has been contributing $19 million in taxpayer funds to the 196th Street Southwest widening project instead of repairing residential roads.
“We have not been focusing on the citizens, residents, families of Lynnwood,” he said. “We’re more focused on Lynnwood as a corporation and a regional power.”
“We have streets throughout Lynnwood that have been ignored,” he continued. “When we do not repair our local roads, the damage gets deeper and deeper into the road and becomes exponentially more expensive (to repair).”
To learn more about Smith’s campaign, visit electjimsmith.com.
— By Cody Sexton