Lynnwood council learns about Port of Everett expansion ballot measure

At its June 17 work session, the Lynnwood City Council heard about an upcoming ballot measure proposed by the Port of Everett to increase its boundary area, to include the City of Lynnwood as well as other areas. The measure will appear on the Aug. 6 primary election ballot, with a simple majority required for passage.

Classified as a public entity in Washington, the port district is governed by an elected commission. The governing entity can consist of three commissioners who serve six-year terms or five commissioners who serve four-year terms. Unlike most public entities, port districts are profit-driven and use their profits to stimulate the economies of the areas they encompass. According to the Port of Everett, port staff and operations are funded exclusively by the port’s revenue. Further, public investment – collected via property tax –  is only reinvested into the port district’s community to fund capital projects, environmental cleanups and public access opportunities.

Under the ballot measure, the expanded port district would assess those living within its boundaries a property tax at a rate of about 18.8 cents per $1,000. For a home with an assessed value of $850,000, the tax assessed would be $159.90 annually.

Port CEO Lisa Lefeber said that taxpayers from benefit joining the district in several ways, including:

  • The creation of local jobs
  • Environmental protection. The port participates in several environmental stewardship programs like large-scale cleanups and restoring contaminated lands and waters. The entity reports that it has invested $33 million in cleanup operations since the early 2000s.
  • Funding for major capital projects such as infrastructure, to which it has given $185 million.
  • Access to foreign trade zones to keep the cost of goods down amidst concerns about tariffs – particularly in Snohomish County, which is the most trade-dependent county in the state.

Councilmembers had questions about the proposition. Councilmember Nick Coelho asked what the port could provide that the City of Lynnwood could not, if the city was to implement a similar tax. Lefeber replied that the port district had access to other funding options such as specialized grants and its own port revenue. Coelho also inquired about job creation and how it would benefit Lynnwood’s largely unskilled labor pool.

Lefeber said that the port had established partnerships with local educators like the Sno-Isle Skill Center, Edmonds College and Everett Community College and could provide local training opportunities for much-needed jobs that the port requires for operation. Additionally, the port recently opened the first Maritime Institute in the Pacific Northwest, allowing locals to train for specialized vocations such as ferry captains without leaving the state for other institutions in California and Florida.

When asked why the Port of Everett was considering expansion to begin with, Lefeber replied that the port is seeking to spread its resources to add value to the larger communities that it could be supporting as they are unable to financially aid areas outside of their district. According the port’s website:

“While many large port districts in Washington state are county-wide — including all other ports in the state that operate international seaports — the Port of Everett is not. Currently, Port of Everett boundaries cover most of Everett (not all), portions of Mukilteo, and small parts of Marysville and unincorporated Snohomish County — a total of about 110,000 residents. To put this into perspective, with nearly 830,000 residents and growing, only about 15% of the County has access to the Port’s tools and investments.”

Lefeber said that the Port of Everett’s boundary size has been the same since its inception in 1918, when a vote to create a larger, countywide port district failed by “a few votes.” A special election was then held to establish the smaller Port of Everett to capitalize on wartime industries experiencing financial prosperity during World War 1. Voters at the time approved that proposal.

Councilmembers Nick Coelho (left) and Patrick Decker (right)

Councilmember Patrick Decker was critical of the proposition, stating that Lynnwood was very tax-averse in his option and that legally, the tax could be raised as high as 45 cents per $1,000. Lefeber stated that although that was the limit, this would require a vote of the commissioners elected by the people and that she’d not seen a vote to raise the levy rate in her 20 years with the port.

Later, Decker apologized for “asking a leading question” after he asked what would stop the funds being raised from Lynnwood from being used somewhere else.

Lisa Lefeber

Lefeber added that funding distributed by the port district was not based on which areas brought in the most income but rather which projects had the most “broad-based” benefits. One example she gave was a 20-year effort to acquire the former Mukilteo Tank Farm site from the U.S. Air Force, then transferring ownership to the city – which gave the area the ability to relocate certain ferry terminals, improve transportation and begin creating a waterfront space for the public.

“Thank you,” Decker responded. “It reminds me a lot of Olympia, who taxes the heck out of us and spends the money all over everywhere and we don’t necessarily think Lynnwood sees good return on value for those taxes in both county and Olympia,” Decker responded.

Proposition timeline leading to the Aug. primary


In other business, the council discussed liaison assignments, starting with replacements for vacancies left by Councilmember Shirley Sutton when she resigned earlier this year. The council then discussed poor attendance in certain liaison meetings.

Sutton served as liaison for the Lynnwood Arts Commission, Human Services Commission and the Alliance for Housing Affordability. She also served as an alternate on the Lynnwood Tourism Advisory Committee. Decker, primary liaison for the tourism advisory committee, said that he had not missed meetings and an alternate was not required so the council moved to discuss the other vacancies.

Coelho, who already served as the alternate for the Alliance for Housing Affordability, agreed to fill that liaison position.

Council President George Hurst attended the meeting over Zoom due to an illness.

Council President George Hurst said that staff had informed him that “some councilmembers don’t seem committed to attending board and commission meetings as liaisons” and asked if any councilmembers were reconsidering their assignments. He then added the item to the Monday, June 24 council agenda.

Attendance per councilmember as of June 3. Some liaison positions, like the Snohomish County 911 Board, were not documented.

Councilmember Board/Commission served as liaison Meetings attended Absences
George Hurst Finance, History and Heritage 8 2
Julieta Altamirano-Crosby Parks and Recreation 0 2 (one with notice beforehand)
Josh Binda Disability 1 3
Patrick Decker Finance, Tourism 7 1
Nick Coelho Finance, Disability, DEI 5 2
David Parshall Planning, Public Facilities District 6 1


Hurst said that the disability board, which meets once per month over Zoom, specifically requested a new liaison to replace Councilmember Josh Binda. The disability board requires two councilmembers to serve as liaison and, with Coelho remaining on the board, needed one additional councilmember. Hurst agreed to fill that spot after he and Vice President Julieta Altamirano-Crosby both volunteered to take it.

The other two boards with a vacancy – the arts commission and human services commission– were not immediately filled. Hurst asked Binda if he would be able to fill either spot, and Binda replied that he would check his schedule. The liaison positions are scheduled to be reconsidered when Sutton’s vacancy on the Lynnwood City Council is filled by a new councilmember.

Human Services Commission applicant Heather Alder (in blue, center)

Other items at Monday’s meeting included:

  • An interview with Human Services Commission applicant Heather Alder.
  • Discussion regarding the next steps in the council vacancy recruitment process. That process was delayed when councilmembers requested the resumes from all 24 candidates – as opposed to evaluating resumes from the eight finalists it would select. City Clerk Luke Lonie said that there had been some challenges acquiring that information and that a records request had been submitted for all applicants’ resumes, meaning they would soon be widely available as public records. The delay caused scheduling issues for a few applicants so the department was working to accommodate them for future interviews, Lonie said. The council is expected to select a councilmember by July 15.
  1. Dear Port of Everett,

    Please forget about spreading your “resources” to my neighborhood. We don’t need it. Please keep your hands out of my wallet.
    To my fellow taxpaying citizens please keep your eye on this measure and vote against it. It’s nothing more than a tax grab..

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.