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Four mayoral candidates answer public at Casino Road forum

EVERETT — At a mayoral candidate forum last week focusing on the immigrant and impoverished families in south Everett, the public received lots of answers, but what really took the cake was when the audience asked where the candidates stand on dividing the council by districts.
That got the candidates hopping at the forum held at the Casino Road Academy.
Up until then, the four mayoral candidates — Cassie Franklin, Shean Nasin, Brian Sullivan and Judy Tuohy — generally had similar takes on how the city should be run. Mayor Ray Stephanson is retiring after 14 years at the helm, making this an open seat.
Every candidate wants more police officers and firefighters.
Every candidate wants to bring in living wage jobs.
Nasin kept talking about transforming Everett into a “21st Century City” by turning downtown into a mecca for techies and economic development.
Most questions from the packed audience of many low-income immigrants also pinpointed their fears and concerns — about deportation and police involvement along Casino Road to fight gang issues, and how to avoid being priced
out of Everett from a shortage of affordable housing.
The candidates have some ideas on addressing crime along Casino Road.
Sullivan, a County Councilman, said Casino Road needs a community center built and law enforcement budgets need to be increased.
“That’s what I’m working on today” on a county level, he said.
Tuohy said as mayor she’d add more emphasis patrols along the troubled 2-mile stretch and build community-level prevention programs to dissuade kids from joining gangs. Franklin was shocked that mothers are afraid their young children will be swept into gangs.
To address affordable housing, Tuohy proposed to start a city loan fund as mayor that would help incentivize affordable housing.
Franklin said building partnerships with groups such as the Housing Authority of Snohomish County will help create a “pipeline” of new affordable housing.
The homeownership rate in Everett is “dismal and
needs to be fixed right away,” Sullivan said. (Over half of the city’s single family homes are rental homes.)
A few ideas oriented around promoting small business. Franklin suggests creating a small business advisory group.
Tuohy noted how she helped lower business license fees for small businesses, and called for resurrecting a local chamber of commerce.
Nasin said business chambers didn’t work in the past. “When people come in and see empty spaces and burned out buildings (downtown), that doesn’t seem like economic growth,” he said.
All of the candidates said they want to fully fund the Police Department, but being given two minutes to answer each question, nobody had the chance to tell the audience at length how exactly they’d beef up the department.

On districts
Districting seemed to create the most heat. A grassroots effort is out petitioning to put districts on the ballot.
Every candidate said it’s a good idea, but city council members Tuohy and Franklin said they’re hesitant about applying it right now.
Sullivan, a 25-year politician, seized on the issue to attack council members Tuohy and Franklin, basically telling them they screwed up by not putting districting on the ballot as a council initiative.
“No offense, but you should have introduced it (on council),” Sullivan said.
Nasin said he stands “100 percent” for districts.
The districting measure would ask to break up Everett’s seven-member council into five geographic districts plus two unrestricted “at-large” seats.
There’s certain hesitancies, both Franklin and Tuohy mentioned, on how the proposed district boundaries lumps some pretty disparate neighborhoods together as representative districts.
Whether the ballot measure makes it on this fall’s ballot seems too early to tell. The districting effort estimated it had about 4,000 of the 8,100 signatures it needed as of early last week, ballot measure leader Megan Dunn said. Dunn said the deadline to file is in September, but the city set a July 5 deadline for the 8,100 signatures. Snohomish County elections manager Garth Fell told this paper there’s some wiggle room.
The council currently has a geographic imbalance of one member in south Everett and the other six living in north Everett — four of whom live in the city’s most well-off neighborhood.

Next debate July 6
The Snohomish County League of Women Voters is holding a debate Thursday, July 6 at 6:30 p.m. at the County Campus, 3000 Rockefeller Ave. and have invited all the candidates for mayor and City Council.
The Aug. 1 primary will narrow the field to two final candidates for the Nov. 7 general election in line with the state’s unique top-two
general election system.



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