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Everett City Council primary has three contenders: McNeal, Vogeli and Rourke

EVERETT — This year’s sole City Council election has three candidates with differing approaches to and priorities for the city’s future.
Incumbent Ethel McNeal is looking to retain the seat she was appointed to in January. Tyler Rourke, a finalist in January’s appointment process, carries the largest campaign kitty so far. Liz Vogeli is seeking to change things.
Primary ballots are coming out this week; they are due Aug. 7.
McNeal was appointed to fill the council seat Cassie Franklin vacated when she become mayor.
The seat’s contenders all hail south of the informal 41st Street divide between north and south Everett. McNeal lives in the Twin Creeks Neighborhood; Vogeli chairs the Westmont-Holly Neighborhood that includes Casino Road; and Rourke lives in central Everett’s Glacier View Neighborhood.*
Rourke, at age 38, believes he can give a perspective for Everett’s young families on a City Council currently stocked with seven members all over 50 years old.
“I feel I identify with people in Everett frustrated about opioids and property crimes,” Rourke said.
Combating crime is on his mind. He said his family’s car was stolen the night before his candidate interview with the paper.
He supports the supportive housing efforts and public safety initiatives Franklin directed staff to create earlier this year, such as a gang task force.
Vogeli, 41, wants to give a voice to underrepresented members in the city and believes she can act as a go-to councilmember for the people.
People do not feel like they are connected, Vogeli said.
McNeal, 67, called the opiate problem and homelessness priorities, as well as neighborhood concerns such as building more sidewalks and wanting motorhomes and litter swept away.
“The homelessness problem, the opiate problem, it didn’t happen overnight and requires we be attentive to what’s going on not just from our perspective but the community’s,” McNeal said. She suggests sit-down talks to work on the issues from the inside out with people concerned broadly about the city.
All her life, McNeal has embraced equality. She said people need to look at city issues from the whole picture versus for individual gain. “I’m so tired of everybody wanting their way,” McNeal said.
Each candidate sees the city’s financial deficit as a challenge.
McNeal suggested using early retirements and attrition to bring down city overhead.
Vogeli said that any budget cuts must not impact low-income residents. Public safety must not be cut either, she said.
Rourke said the city should look for efficiencies, and floated the idea of taking a sincere look at whether the city’s standalone Everett Transit bus system should be absorbed by regional Community Transit. “It doesn’t make sense” Everett has its own system, Rourke said.
He also said turning Walter E. Hall Golf Course into a park might serve the neighborhood better.
Each candidate has a vision for Everett’s future.
Everett’s image needs to be improved, Rourke emphasized. People need to want to work and live here, and homelessness and opioid addictions “all contribute to a negative reputation of Everett,” he said.
McNeal said she wants “Everett to be that city you feel safe in and want to live in,” and that requires having stakeholders at the table.
“We have to consider everybody,” rich or poor, McNeal said. She also wants to strengthen the business community. McNeal suggests that if a business leaves or quits that the city should hold the equivalent to an exit interview to find out what happened — essentially, why.
Vogeli suggests two ways to improve the city are to amp up affordable housing and to hold off increasing taxes that squeeze people such as utility rates. Rising property taxes “are bumping people out of their homes,” she said.
Another idea Vogeli suggested is to open up zoning for tiny homes in backyards that she believes could allow for more affordable housing while adding a rental income stream for homeowners.
She also is investigating what businesses pay into the city. Businesses need to pay their fair share, Vogeli said, but she was unsure how to address the issue she raised. She is a “quick learner” who can facilitate dialogue, she said.
“We need to ensure that the corporations and our larger employers operating in Everett are investing in Everett and paying their fair share of taxes to move the community forward,” Vogeli wrote in a follow up interview.
Rourke, who works as an engineer, is the chair of the city’s volunteer Transportation Advisory Committee and avid bicyclist.
McNeal moved to Everett in 1969 from Mississippi and worked in education for decades including serving as a union president in the Edmonds School District.
Vogeli has worked in the education field and has helped facilitate meetings and community assemblies such as the June 30 #FamiliesBelongTogether rally in Everett. She moved here in 2011 from Bremerton.
None of the candidates have criminal court records in this county, from a standard search done by the Tribune.

* - CORRECTION: Candidate Tyler Rourke lives in the Glacier View Neighborhood. This story has been updated from the print version to correct the neighborhood. The Tribune regrets the error.


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