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Snohomish mayoral candidates answer questions

From left to right:
Incumbent John Kartak and City Council President Linda Redmon.

SNOHOMISH — The final countdown is on for who will be mayor of Snohomish come spring.
Incumbent Mayor John Kartak faces City Council President Linda Redmon for the job of leading the city for the next four years.
Ballots are due Nov. 2.
Kartak won the position in 2017 in a tight battle against Karen Guzak, winning the mayorship by 80 votes, or about 3 percentage points. In 2020, Kartak ran for and lost a run for state House by 15 percentage points.
Redmon won election onto City Council in 2017 by besting another newcomer, Bob Dvorak, by 68 votes, or also about 3 percentage points. Redmon became council president in 2020, taking over for Jason Sanders.
The Tribune asked both candidates four questions and is reprinting their answers:

Q) What public-serving functions, if any, should be added or improved at City Hall over the next four years? If so, how would you go about doing so?

Kartak: Having replaced an impractical, redundant K9 position with a Community Outreach Officer — and homelessness since reduced by half (getting the help they need), I will continue to strengthen community policing approaches.  Having signed into action three utility-billing reductions, with implementation of utility efficiencies, there is more to come.  Having implemented new, highly-efficient software in Planning and Finance which is much more transparent and user-friendly for this community, I will continue similar improvements.

Redmon: - Maintain parks and public spaces, especially restrooms and trash: hire adequate staffing and install security devices to prevent vandalism and promote safety. 
- Support events and recreation: coordinate resources such as the Carnegie, First Street and parks with those seeking to offer events and activities.
- Help small businesses navigate setting up and operating in our town: collaborate with our business organizations.
- Improve access to social services: work with the police, service organizations, and county providers proactively.

Q) Public perception on how much racism happens in Snohomish has varied widely, and the public’s characterization of your personal viewpoint on this issue has varied widely, too. My question is: What percent of today’s residents do you think are racist?

Kartak: Why is the friendliest, most welcoming community on earth being judged for so much racism?  Why do some people run for office to represent a community that they think is racist?  I certainly wouldn’t.  Should you vote for someone who holds such a low opinion of this town’s character and wants to “fix” you?  Clearly, no community is perfect.  Clearly, racism is evil, and racism is real.  Falsely accusing others of racism is also evil.

Redmon: No matter where you live in Snohomish, we are close neighbors who share the value of community. We value hard work and honesty, and right now our neighbors from all backgrounds are telling us loud and clear that we have work to do. I am willing to listen, learn and work with our community to bring us together again. I know that Snohomish is ready to roll up our sleeves to rebuild our community bonds. 

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

Kartak: Small-Town values.  From time to time, candidates talk about supporting our small town values who don’t even understand what they are.  The idea is that they must be elected in order to make Snohomish wonderful.  Government is not what makes Snohomish the best town on earth.  You are.  We are the most friendly community on earth, and we don’t need “fixing.”  The Mayor should serve and proudly represent you, not the other way around.

Redmon: People new to Snohomish came here for our small town charm, and share the desires of people who have lived here all their lives to protect that character. We all want public safety, which means a variety of things to our community, including prevention of property and violent crimes, speeding, drug use, and mental health issues. People also value the walkability of our city, and want to see better sidewalks, crosswalks, and pedestrian safety throughout. 

Q) What values do you consider important when representing Snohomish to the region as its mayor?

Kartak: When engaging in regional influence, I set the example of the way every City should be run by its Mayor: with Servant Leadership.  This is a fundamental distinction.  In regards to the residents, business owners, and visitors, a Mayor’s role is meant to serve and represent their community, not to rule them.  Leadership begins the moment he or she walks into City Hall, and this on behalf of the community.  Regionally, I lead by example.

Redmon: It is important to highlight Snohomish for its special, charming character. It is important to show that even though we are small, we are not unable to adapt or think creatively. It is important to understand the impacts of the region upon our town, and speak up for our needs. Housing and traffic issues have grown outward from the nearby metropolitan areas, and we need to work regionally to lessen those impacts on our community.

Additional topics

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

Q) Should the City rezone any areas currently zoned for just single neighborhood houses to allow larger, multi-family developments?

Kartak:  I support compatible, small-town growth that compliments our current, charming conditions and strengthens the friendly and welcoming nature of our community.  We currently have a well-rounded balance: 60% single-family (houses), 40% multifamily (apartments/condos) —10% of which is subsidized by local, private organizations.  Most importantly, all of our housing types are inclusively woven together across town rather than isolating renters far away from home owners.  This unique, Snohomish model unites our neighborhoods.

Some parts of our Urban Growth Areas could allow for denser developments that fit the character of our community. These types of developments are already tucked seamlessly into our current neighborhoods: duplexes up to fourplexes, subdivided larger houses, accessory dwelling units, townhomes and condos, and small apartment buildings. The area of Weaver and Ludwig just west of Bickford has potential for denser zoning because it is close to the transit line.

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

Kartak:  I have executed three reductions to your water/sewer bill, and realizing new operational efficiencies, recommend to City Council more reductions.  I will continue to fundamentally develop our community policing/low crime approach.  It is time to focus on Historic Downtown streets & sidewalks and to extend our Snohomish Riverfront Trail to the Pilchuck Julia Landing boat launch.  We need to revisit safety, zoning, and design standards for multiple areas such as north of Blackmans Lake.

Redmon:  We need to: Update our zoning and land use plans to allow for accessible housing for all of our community members. Make sure the City is ecologically sound in our practices and policies. Prioritize finding funding and start work on the serious infrastructure updates that are needed for sidewalks, streets, water, and sewers. Address the needs of our Historic Downtown Snohomish area that the past year has brought to light, and plan for future success.

Q) What would be the best strategy to addressing homelessness in our town?

Continue the proven, remarkably-successful strategy that City Hall and our police have been following these last four years under my direction:  Recognize that our homeless are local sons and daughters of infinite value, reach out to them with life-changing pathways that result in a healthy, productive future (and roof over their head), and be tough on crime —specifically, to not help anyone who needs such life-changing pathway to say “no” to it.

Many of the homeless have ties to our community so they stay here even though there are more resources elsewhere. There are people on the street but also families that stay in their cars, double up with friends or family, or couch surf. Increasing housing stock to bring costs down and partnering with organizations that provide for those experiencing homelessness are options. Primarily, school counselors and our Community Resource Officer are the contacts for shelter.

Q) What do you believe is the most neglected function of Snohomish? How could you improve it going forward as mayor?

Due to the current socio-economic recovery, many have seen  neglected garbage collecting along First Street while local tourists continue to fill our beautiful town.  Normally, the City doesn’t pick up garbage along sidewalks, but our downtown is a special place that most everyone enjoys.  I have already prioritized limited staff resources to deal with this temporarily, but will be asking City Council to use Federal ARPA funds for a limited First Street emphasis program.

To some extent we have neglected disaster preparedness. Our downtown is at risk of extensive fire damage, and would suffer catastrophic damage in the event of a major earthquake. We need to work with our Fire District to better protect our downtown. In the event of a major earthquake, neighborhoods might be cut off from first responders so we need neighbors trained to step up, like Community Emergency Response Team members or Map Your Neighborhood leaders. 



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