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Two longtime council members, Dana and Guzak, facing off for council seat

From left to right:
Incumbent Steve Dana and challenger Karen Guzak. Both have many years of experience on council.

SNOHOMISH — A duel for City Council Position 7 has incumbent Councilman Steve Dana up against former Councilwoman Karen Guzak.
Both carry 12 years of council experience. Both have been Snohomish’s mayor-in-title when the city government operated as a “weak mayor” city from 1971 to 2017, where Snohomish was guided by a city manager at City Council’s disposal.
Both have been business owners in town; Guzak still runs her small businesses.
When the city switched to the current “strong mayor” format, Guzak ran for it but was edged out by John Kartak by 80 votes, or three percentage points, in the 2017 Mayoral election. Guzak first took office in 2007 by ousting incumbent Larry Countryman. She lost her first try in 2005 against incumbent Swede Johnson. She bowed from the council in 2019, endorsing Judith Kuleta.
Dana won a run back to council in the 2017 council elections over first-timer Lisa Caldwell by 328 votes, or a spread of some 11 percentage points. He had been on council from 1990 to 1997 before that. In between council terms, he served on the city’s planning commission for nearly 20 years. Before winning election in fall 2017, Dana had applied earlier that year for a council vacancy; the council ultimately selected Jason Sanders.
Ballots are due Nov. 2.
The Tribune asked them each four questions and is reprinting their answers.

What goals for Snohomish would you push for in the next four years?

Dana:  Generally, I push the ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT agenda all the time. Setting the table for economic prosperity gives the city the best opportunity to provide funding for whatever services the city needs at a point in time.  A robust budget allows us options a tight budget cannot.

Guzak: 1) Commit to community health and safety by planning for pandemic, climate events, and natural disasters. 2) Provide for more affordable housing options throughout the city. Planting more trees and expanding healthy green spaces. Becoming a TREE CITY USA. See 3) Continuing to improve our streets and sidewalks for safety.4) Calling forth a more compassionate community that celebrates diversity and equity. See

What types of new businesses should Snohomish aim to attract?

Dana: I favor businesses that produce sales tax and jobs.  If we’ve done our planning and zoning, all businesses that fit the parameters are acceptable to me.

Guzak: Thanks to our city’s emphasis on economic development, we currently have a good mix of businesses: restaurants and shopping –big box stores, small shops, and diverse services. Although challenged by the pandemic, we are a destination city.
Mid-sized business opportunities exist that could bring in higher paid workers. This could be in IT and software services, or light manufacturing.  And, a boutique hotel could expand our tourist offerings.  

What values do you hear are important to Snohomish residents regarding the direction of the city?

Public safety is the most frequent concern. With all the talk about defunding police, they express the need to support our cops and firefighters. They are concerned that our cops may not be allowed to provide the level of safety we expect or are accustomed to.
People that talk to me think our city should continue with predominantly single-family developments as a means of growth. They value local jobs and local businesses. They appreciate a complete community. They talk about a need for affordable housing.

Guzak: With the divisive events of May 2020, we need to have open conversations about equity and diversity and how we can come together for greater care and cohesion. Our city leaders need to model and promote the values of kindness, inclusion, collaboration, and community. We can be a stronger and more resilient community. Keeping the promise to honor our history, while we promote cultural vitality.

Should the city expand its footprint by annexing any of its Urban Growth Areas? Which ones? Why?

In order to control our destiny, I’d annex all of our UGA so we can have certainty about how development will happen.  Because there’s some likelihood that development won’t take place south of the river due to flood issues, I’d advocate for expanding our UGA north to give us options for development that will enhance our city. Utility and infrastructure planning takes time; getting pipes in the ground even longer. During those years, nothing happens.

Guzak: It takes careful preparation to annex Urban Growth Areas. Providing sewer, water, roads, and bridges is expensive. Annexing requires a majority of property owners in a UGA to request to come into the city and assume bills for city services. An analysis of the tradeoffs of taking in the UGA south of the river, including Harvey Airfield, determined an overall negative cost, with persistent flooding issues and aging infrastructure that would need substantial taxpayer investment.

Additional topics

The candidates were asked questions for the primary which the Tribune is reprinting online below:

What are the city’s largest priorities right now?

  1. Complete the contract with the Sheriff’s office for police services.  2. Move forward with engineering and construction of the East side sewer interceptor to facilitate growth north of Blackman Lake. 3. Lay the groundwork for economic development out 10 and 20 years like the Mid-town planning area. 4. Work with property owners in the Terrace Ave neighborhood to develop solutions for traffic and safety.

Guzak:  Our priorities are, as they have been for many years, dealing with issues around how we handle our desired growth in ways that are compatible with our strategic goals of “Preserving our History and Promoting our Vitality”.
Finding balance, and encouraging more compatible investment in our city is the challenge of our elected officials. We do this through thoughtful planning and appropriate zoning — with an eye to our future economic needs and with a commitment to maintaining our small town aesthetics.

Yes or no: Should the city council reduce speeds to 20 mph across a wide, uniform area of Snohomish? Why?

  Traffic speeds can be reduced on non-arterial local streets.  Arterial street speeds should stay at current posted speeds. Establishing consistent criteria for arterial streets is essential.

Guzak:  I think this is a worthy goal, as there is a great deal of evidence that lower speed limits are significantly safer for pedestrians. As we want to promote growth that encourages more pedestrian traffic we need to be mindful...always....of safety. And, we need to implement this in phases, to allow for more acceptance of these changes.

Yes or no: Should the city rezone any areas currently zoned for just single neighborhood houses to allow larger, multi-family developments?

Dana:  Short answer, NO.  Our city chose single family development with small lots as a means of achieving state mandated population growth and density.  The foundation of our development plans was 60% single family and 40% various multi-family densities.  Property values are heavily driven by neighborhood configurations.  Placement of multifamily developments should be determined by a public process through the planning commission.

Guzak:  Generally, I’m in favor of more density in urban areas where we have services to support an increase in population. However, we need to carefully consider appropriate places in our city to allow for more multi-family and affordable developments. This needs to occur close to bus lines and support services.  Currently, we encourage more Accessory Dwelling Units in single family zones..... a form of increasing density that does not disturb the fabric of single family zoning. Other options, such as cottage housing and smaller lot sizes should be considered in appropriate places in our city.

Yes or no: Should the city continue to pursue the Second Street Corridor plan? Why?

Dana:  I’m ambivalent about the Second Street plan.  If the property owners can agree that it’s the right thing to do because it’s good for their businesses, I would support it.  I would be reluctant to inflict my will on them since I have no skin in the game.  If pedestrian safety is the priority, there are other measures that work for a much lower price tag.

Guzak:  This plan has great merit, and was carefully considered over many months by our consultants and by Council.  The primary benefits are for safety for pedestrians, bicyclists, and cars. The secondary important benefits are aesthetic: more street trees, better street lighting, more attractive cross-walks, and a significant upgrade to infrastructure on this major thoroughfare in our city. The challenge will be to find funding for this project, and we may need to do portions over time.

What is your No. 1 goal you hope to see for Snohomish’s near-term future through being on the City Council?

Dana:  Securing the economic future for our city is always my first priority.  In all the years of my council service setting the stage for private sector investment is constantly on my mind.  The size and shape of our Urban Growth Area, proactive annexation promotion, building infrastructure today for tomorrow’s development, conservative budgeting and adopting policies that encourage creative development are examples.

Guzak:  I am committed to notching up our city’s commitment to the health, safety, and happiness of our residents. This manifests at multiple levels both public and private. Council can set priorities and assign budgets to accomplish goals. Principally, we need to be cognizant of the threats of the Climate Crisis, and work to mitigate these changes. A relatively simple next step is to plant more trees and make our city a part of the Tree City Program. Then, broadening our scope to accomplish more energy efficiency throughout the city.



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