Growth issues divide Edmonds council candidates
Kristiana Johnson, appointed last year to fill the position left open when longtime councilman Michael Plunkett moved out of town, has a background in government and tends to cautiously weigh all sides of a question before taking a position.
Challenger Randy Hayden is running for office for the first time. He owns a construction business, wears a cowboy hat and seldom hesitates to commit when presented with a query.
Both candidates, among others, applied for the council vacancy last year, Johnson getting the nod.
Hayden said he ran against Johnson partly because he had applied for the vacancy and partly because he differs with her on certain issues.
One of them is a park-impact fee for developers. Builders of newly constructed homes or commercial buildings will be assessed a fee beginning next month and phased in over two years, according to Johnson. The fee would go to new park space or maintenance of current parks.
Johnson voted for it, Hayden opposes it.
"I don't like it when Edmonds does stuff to discourage new business," he said.
The fee would not affect new business owners moving into existing commercial properties, unless they plan to expand their building footprint by 10 percent, Johnson said.
The two also differ, at least partly, on the long-contentious issue of building heights in the Edmonds "bowl."
"I really don't want to see big buildings go into the downtown corridor because it's very detrimental to tourism that comes into Edmonds," Hayden said. "I do construction and developing, it's all about money, but we're going to lose money elsewhere because it's going to make Edmonds a less friendly community."
Johnson said she opposes increasing building heights in the downtown core but wavered when asked about the waterfront.
"It's a rather complicated issue that doesn't have a simple answer," she said.
Earlier this year, the Port of Edmonds withdrew a long-discussed plan to redevelop the Harbor Square commercial center into a five-story complex of shops, restaurants, offices and public open space.
The plan called for buildings up to 20 feet higher than the current limit at Harbor Square of 35 feet.
Hayden said Johnson showed a willingness to vote for the plan before the port pulled the plug when met with opposition from some members of the council.
"I have been open minded and willing to discuss all the options but if the port isn't at the table I'm not sure what the City Council can do," Johnson said.
When asked if she would have voted for the plan, she replied, "I just can't say right now."
In general, Johnson said she pursued the council vacancy and is running because "public service has been an important part of my life and Edmonds has been my hometown. I felt I understood the issues and had something to offer."
Johnson, 61, was an urban planner in King County, Bellevue and New Jersey, she said.
"The things that are important to me are land use and transportation," Johnson said.
For example, she said Edmonds is far behind schedule in repaving and maintaining its streets and sidewalks.
"It's a problem that's going to require multiple avenues of revenue to accomplish," she said. "This is something that all cities face. As the economy improves and the city starts to recover increased revenue this has to be our priority."
Hayden, 56, owns his own construction and storage businesses.
He applied for the vacancy last year and is running for office this year "just because I want to see Edmonds get back on track financially," he said.
He said his business experience will help the city set its priorities. Beginning in 2009, Edmonds made up a $5.2 million gap by laying off employees, eliminating its fire department and contracting out for fire service, instituting a hiring freeze and offering buyouts to employees.
"I've always been very money conscious," Hayden said. "There are some things we can do in Edmonds to tighten the belt before we raise taxes."
One of those things would be to eliminate health benefits for city council members, he said.
This could save $120,000 per year, or nearly enough to put two more police officers on the street, according to Hayden.
"To me (the city council) is a part-time job, why should it have health care benefits?" he said.
Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet the candidates
About the job: The seven Edmonds City Council members set policy and make law for the city. Council members are paid $600 per month plus $50 per meeting up to eight meetings. They receive health benefits under which their dependents are not covered.
Occupation: Owner, Inwest Development (storage units) and Hayden Construction, Inc.
Experience: No political experience. Several volunteer boards. Website: randyhayden.net
Occupation: Retired; former planner for King County and other local governments.
Experience: Edmonds City Council member, 2012-present; former member Edmonds Planning Board; several volunter boards.
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