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Snohomish candidate forum stays friendly

SNOHOMISH — Everyone was packed into the room, fanning themselves and looking to the front with anticipation, reminiscent of a Sunday morning gathering; only it was a Thursday evening and people wanted to talk politics and city issues.
With less than a month until the Aug. 1 primary, at a debate hosted by the Snohomish County League of Women Voters last week at the Snohomish Library, candidates for city council
and the executive strong mayor seats were eager to get their messages out to the people in order to earn their confidence — and perhaps their vote.
There was more laughter and head-nodding than anything from the forum’s audience of approximately 100 people; a good sign that the candidates’ spoken opinions share many values with those who attended. Other times, there was head-shaking, sighs, scoffs and whispered remarks of disagreement with the discussion of issues such as marijuana and economics.
All four strong mayor candidates, Derrick Burke, John T. Kartak, Karen Guzak and Elizabeth Larsen, spoke at the forum.
City Council contenders Meagan Gray and Lisa Cald-well were there; candidate Steve Dana wasn’t present. Contenders vying for another council seat in the primary, Eric Reyes and Larry Countryman, also attended. (The third candidate who filed, Dale Preboski, is no longer running because of personal health reasons.)
The primary will cut each race down to two candidates.
The most-uttered words by all candidates were: “Careful,” “growth,” and “community.” All of them shared their love for Snohomish, and how they set down roots by starting a business or working or volunteering in town — which all has culminated for each as some of the main reasons they’re running for city government.

A direct question on marijuana was one spot that highlighted differences among the mayoral candidates.
The question came up since a marijuana advisory vote will be on the November ballot. Currently, the city bans all marijuana retail, processing and production businesses.
On the mayoral candidate side, marijuana was a loaded question: if voters pass it, what type of zoning should be in place, where the taxes should go, and if there will be an increase of impaired drivers — if so, how should the city respond?
The candidates responded:
Councilwoman Guzak said while she doesn’t oppose marijuana for personal use, she was glad there was an advisory vote on the
ballot to inform City Council’s decision, and “if it is a positive vote, and we allow retail marijuana, the City Council will have to be very careful about zoning”
so as not to have it near kids or encourage kids to use it.
Larsen said she was glad for the advisory vote and if it passes, she would “prefer not allowing it in or near Historic Downtown Snohomish,” instead suggesting it be zoned in industrial areas and to limit the number of stores and signage.
Kartak gave a staunch answer against marijuana: “I’m personally against marijuana stores in Snohomish, but I’m a fuddy-duddy,” he said, adding, that if the people approve it, he’ll want to hold town hall meetings to inform people and understand it’s a “one-way street, once they get marijuana stores, we’ll never be able to get rid of them.”
Councilman Burke said if it passes, he would not pass up the opportunity to lift the ban to allow the businesses in town, adding that “I do think when people are drinking and smoking marijuana at the same time, the odds of their being at fault in a collision go up about 463 percent, alcohol-only is 400 percent, marijuana-only is about 62 percent. I think I can
argue that if people are doing less driving to do their buying, there’s probably less accidents.”
Among council candidates, Caldwell said if voters approve marijuana in town and the city implements it, the taxes could help with the city’s revenue growth.
“It’s inevitable,” Caldwell said. “That’s not my personal opinion, that’s my public opinion.”
Reyes expressed the same attitude regarding marijuana, simply saying, “It’s happening,” around the state and it could help pay for city projects.


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