MUKILTEO — This waterfront community of about 20,000 has been named the ninth best small city to live in the United States, and Mukilteo City Council candidates want to keep it that way.
They just don’t agree on how to do it.
Eight people are running for four seats on the council this year.
Steve Schmalz and Ted Wheeler are vying for the spot being vacated by Tony Tinsley, who after two terms decided not to run for re-election.
Schmalz wants to focus on balancing the budget without raising taxes. The city’s shrinking revenue — and how to boost it — has been a hot topic at City Hall this year. Schmalz is concerned that the city will run out of money to pay the $18 million owed on the new Rosehill Community Center.
He wants to preserve the money in the real estate excise tax fund, which pays for Rosehill, to fund other projects.
“When economic times are tough, we need to tighten our belts. We haven’t done that,” he said.
Schmalz is a vice president of the Mukilteo Arts Guild, a nonprofit organization supporting arts and artists in the area. His wife, Christine, is the president.
Wheeler, who has the endorsement of Mukilteo Mayor Joe Marine, disagrees with Schmalz on money matters.
“Mukilteo is dead-on on money. We’ve got money for Rosehill,” he said.
As a member of the city’s long-range financial planning team, Wheeler has been looking closely at the state of finances in Mukilteo. He said he sees the economy turning around.
Moving the ferry dock and fixing the ferry traffic is a priority for Wheeler. Heavy ferry traffic makes it unsafe for local drivers, he said.
A majority of the City Council agreed this summer that moving the ferry dock east to the tank farm is the best option for Mukilteo. It’s one of the solutions the state is considering to replace the aging ferry terminal.
Terry Preshaw is challenging incumbent Emily Vanderwielen.
Preshaw is focusing her campaign on fiscal responsibility.
“While I appreciate the outstanding job our financial officer, Scott James, has done, I’m concerned that without council members who understand the fiscal realities of our city, we can go down a very troubling path,” she said.
Preshaw’s mission is to increase transparency on the council — a task she said she can accomplish thanks to the skills she developed working as a lawyer.
She has criticized her opponent for being too closely aligned with the mayor.
If elected, Preshaw said she would work to cut city spending and, among other things, change Rosehill’s business model so it generates more money.
She said the 20-year bond payment on the new community center can put the city in a dire financial state.
Vanderwielen was appointed to the council in 2007 to serve the remainder of the term expiring at the end of the year. She then was elected to serve the next full term.
If elected again, she said she would focus on moving the ferry dock to the tank farm, improving parking in the city and finding a way for the city to make money without raising taxes.
Vanderwielen has been an outspoken critic of the medical marijuana gardens and a supporter of the new Rosehill. She also started the Mukilteo Youth Advisory Committee in order to get young people more involved with city business.
“I have given my heart and soul into gaining experience and education necessary for fulfilling Mukilteo’s vision of being a viable, sustainable city to live, work and play,” she said.
In another race, incumbent Linda Grafer will take on Scott Casselman.
Grafer, elected in 2007, has been an active member and chairwoman of the city’s parks and arts commission for 18 years and has been involved with other community organizations.
She is part of the city’s long-range financial planning team and believes officials have a good grip on Mukilteo’s finances.
Those who say the city is going to run out of money haven’t done their research, she said.
“Our future is going to be very bright. The light at the end of the tunnel is not a freight train,” Grafer said.
During her tenure, she stood behind improvements at Lighthouse Park and supported a new Rosehill.
Casselman believes the city’s financial projections are dangerously optimistic.
He said keeping the ferry where it is and making traffic improvements would be better for Mukilteo and he would try to convince the state that it’s the best choice.
If elected, he said he’d work to speed up the transfer of the tank farm from U.S. Air Force to the Port of Everett. The move has been in the works for years.
The site should become a home to retail businesses and a park, not a ferry dock, he said.
He bills himself as an independent thinker accustomed to asking probing questions.
“I would be independent of the mayor’s direction, which doesn’t always serves the community’s best interest in the long-term,” he said.
Carolyn “Dode” Carlson is challenging Councilwoman Jennifer Gregerson.
Gregerson has served two terms on the council.
During her tenure, Gregerson supported the city’s investment in the Japanese Gulch and Lighthouse Festival, and helped lead the city to create its own fire department. Emergency services used to be contracted to Snohomish County Fire District 1.
She also tried to persuade colleagues on the council to uphold last year’s initiative severely restricting traffic enforcement cameras. The council was treating the vote as advisory because of a statewide legal battle surrounding the initiative.
In July, she voted against a proposed moratorium on medical marijuana gardens.
If elected again, she plans to focus on balancing tax revenues with city services and developing a vibrant waterfront.
Carlson believes working as a manager in the postal service taught her to get along with everyone and work out their differences — a skill she feels the council desperately needs.
She plans to bring a retiree’s perspective to the council and stand firm against raising taxes. She said she worries that older people, a sizeable segment of the city’ population, will be taxed out of their homes.
She also doesn’t want the Mukilteo ferry dock to move.
“Moving the ferry dock would be like selling the lighthouse,” Carlson said.
Instead, she proposes to ease traffic by using the Olympic View Elementary School parking lot for commuter parking during summers and weekends, when traffic is heaviest and school is not in session.
Katya Yefimova: 425-339-3452, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mukilteo City Council
Priorities: Public safety; financial stability; careful economic development.
Occupation: Commercial construction
Priorities: Maintaining a balance on the City Council; moving the ferry dock to the tank farm; keeping Paine Field free of commercial flights.
Occupation: International business immigration lawyer
Priorities: Improving public safety by protecting essential services and making roads a priority; improving tax dollar value through fiscal discipline, transparency and accountability; improving neighborhoods through committed, consistent advocacy and by proactive dialogue with Mukilteo residents.
Occupation: Administrative assistant at Northshore Christian Church and Academy
Priorities: Moving the ferry to the tank farm; growing economic development through aerospace manufacturing and training skilled workers; protecting Paine Field from commercial flights.
Occupation: Retired physician
Priorities: Keeping Paine Field free of commercial flights; keeping the ferry where it is and developing the tank farm; preserving Japanese Gulch.
Occupation: Retired from the health benefits industry
Website: Facebook page at http://tinyurl.com/LindaGrafer
Priorities: Keeping Paine Field free of commercial flights; seeing the tank farm transferred and developed; finishing work at Lighthouse Park and solving parking problems there.
Occupation: Retired post office manager
Priorities: Saving money without raising taxes; leaving the ferry where it is; maintaining quality police and fire departments.
Occupation: small-business owner
Priorities: Public safety; sustainable budget; keeping Paine Field free of commercial flights.