Q: Balancing the budget is an annual challenge as the city’s expenses exceed what is collected in tax receipts. What steps will you take in your first year to stabilize the city’s finances?
A: We’re going to have to make some very tough decisions. Every department is going to be looked at … Governments across the country are having to do more with less and one of the best ways to do that is through the use of technology. Everett’s been slow to grow in that area. But that’s not what immediately stands out. It’s not lost on me that we have two golf courses that are costing a fortune. It’s not lost on me that our transit is not producing revenue. It’s not lost on me that we have one of the most expensive fire departments in the state. These are all things that will have to be looked at honestly and immediately because we have to make these decisions early on.
Q: Will you propose increasing any tax or fee?
A: I’m not interested in taxing our residents. I am interested in growing our economy. I see the opportunity to address our budget deficit is to grow our B&O (business and occupation) and sales tax. Investing in economic development and proactively going after businesses that are going to support Everett and grow Everett is the best way to address this structural deficit while looking for all of those efficiencies.
Q: Elaborate on your strategy for economic development.
A: My goal is to triple the size of the department. We have one team member in economic development. She’s fantastic. She is one person with one vision. We need an expanded vision and an expanded team to be able to do more. It is the revenue-producing arm of our city. So you add to that team.
Q: More staff costs money.
A: Sure. I will absolutely find efficiencies to hire those two team members. Those two team members will bring in the revenue to not only pay for themselves but also pay for parks and police and fire and all the things that we need to run a city.
Q: Let’s talk about public safety. Does Everett need more police?
A: We need to be fully staffed. We have budgeted for a full staff in the police department and we haven’t seen a fully staffed police department. Once we have a fully staffed police department we can see the impact that that has on policing and keeping our community safe. I don’t envision immediately adding force but I think there are things we can do in the department as well to ensure that officers are spending their time on crime and not other areas.
Q: What about the Fire Department? Does Everett have enough firefighters?
A: I am not of the mindset that we need to hire more firefighters at the moment. I think we need to work on our relationship with the fire union. I think that’s been damaged over the years. We all want Everett to be safe, we want there to be a quick response if there’s an emergency, if there’s a fire, if somebody is having a heart attack. They want that and the city administration wants that. What hasn’t been happening is positive communication between the two. That is something we can work on and come up with a better plan that is cost effective and provides safety for our citizens.
Q: What will you do to reduce the incidence of crime and presence of gangs in the Casino Road area?
A: Community policing is number one. I am a big supporter of all those efforts that get our officers in front of young people, building trust and rapport. Those kids are less likely to become involved in gangs, less likely to become involved in drugs when they have that strong officer presence and relationship in their community. We have the school resource officers in the middle schools that’s really important. I’d love to see school resource officers in the grade schools.
I met with some moms in the Casino Road area. What was stunning is they were all worried about the safety of their kids and about their kids entering gangs. They felt fairly powerless to stop it. We need to look at what systems are lacking in our community to help these families parent their children and feel like they can keep their kids safe and safely out of that life.
Q: Do you believe Everett should establish a separate Human Services Department to coordinate the city’s response to needs of those battling homelessness, opioid addiction and mental health issues?
A: Absolutely. And I wouldn’t say there is a cost associated with it. It might be a matter of reorganization or reprioritizing people’s roles on the city level. There’s a lot of coordination that needs to happen. Having a human services department says we as a city prioritize the care and well-being of our citizens and we will work with our nonprofit partners in the community to help them successfully serve those populations. We see them as a priority.
Q: There’s a debate on whether a second methadone clinic should be opened in Everett or elsewhere. Where would you put it?
A: We as a community — and I mean community as a broader community — need to find a spot for another clinic. It’s complicated to say, “Here’s where this goes.” I, for one, am not convinced that I’ve seen the ideal location for another methadone clinic. If you look at the service area we cover, people need to get across Highway 2 to get there, they need to come from Marysville area to get there and we need to serve Everett constituents. You kind of draw a circle on a map and you get parts of Marysville, you get parts of Lake Stevens, you get parts of Everett. It’s not clear that “Oh, here’s the ideal location”.
Q: Mayor Ray Stephanson has expressed concern that other cities and the county aren’t stepping up and offering a location. Do you feel this second clinic is getting dumped on Everett?
A: I think a lot of citizens feel like Everett is the dumping ground. We’re the urban center. We’re always going to see a higher number of these urban challenges because we are the urban center. We’re all thinking about what we need to do. There’s all this push for methadone clinics right now as if that’s the silver bullet that’s going to solve our opioid crisis. It’s not. It’s one of a variety of treatment options.
Q: Regarding the city’s response to the homeless, what would you do in your first year as mayor that is not being done now?
A: We need to immediately increase our cold weather shelter beds and see if we can open those year round. We have people on the street every night and we have complaints from citizens because we have the waste and the garbage and people sleeping in doorways where they are not supposed to be. But you can’t tell them not to be. They need somewhere to go.
Q: There’s a shortage of available housing in the city. Is there anything you would do differently than what is being done now?
A: It’s expensive to build in this community. We need to make it less expensive. Affordable housing developers need to have an easier pathway to developing units of housing and we need to work with the general housing developers on sensible voluntary incentives they can use to provide affordable units and make their housing production more affordable.
Q: With incentives, this suggests the city give up revenue in the short run?
A: Absolutely. That’s why you have your strong economic development team working on bringing money in through other industries.
Q: You think the city can afford to be aggressive in this manner?
A: The city cannot afford not to be aggressive in this area. We have a housing crisis and we think the problem is bad now, wait 10 years if we don’t do these efforts. We have to build. We have 60,000 people coming to this city. We can hide and watch and see what happens if we don’t take these steps or we can plan for that growth and ensure that we are going to provide affordable units.
Q: What are your thoughts on the plan for upzoning parts of Everett?
A: It is fantastic. When I first saw it I was excited. I think some of my colleagues were like a little worried. Everyone is afraid of change. I’m not. We have to grow and we have to plan for that growth so we can do it in a way that meets our needs. We can still preserve all that we love about Everett. We should build high. We’re not talking about building high-rises in neighborhoods. Neighborhoods will still have single family homes. And we’ve provided ways to provide additional density in those areas with such things as zero lot lines and accessory dwelling units.
Q: The state is studying whether to legalize home grows of marijuana. One option would let cities impose their own ban if they want. Where do you stand on home grows?
A: Our citizens in this state voted to legalize marijuana so that’s what we approved. If we have folks that want to grow a couple plants at home for their own personal use, I don’t see a reason not to let them. We don’t have a marijuana crisis. We have an opioid crisis.
Q: Do you agree or disagree with NFL players kneeling during the national anthem? Would you?
A: I absolutely support the players that choose to kneel at the national anthem. I’ve not kneeled. I am not a person of color. I think that they are speaking to the injustice they are seeing in young black people disproportionately killed in our country. They have a right to speak out to that and I praise them for doing it.
Q: Given the tragedy in Las Vegas, let me ask about guns. Do you support new limits on the sale of certain types of guns and the “bump stock” kits?
A: There are things you can do locally to reduce gun violence. We can look at policies around reporting stolen firearms. The young man that was killed a month or two ago was killed by a stolen firearm. If that firearm is immediately reported as stolen and the police can immediately start investigating then maybe there would have been the ability to track it down before it was used as a deadly weapon. Having a gun is a responsibility. Everyone wants to protect the Second Amendment right. When a gun is getting into the hands of a teenager, something’s gone wrong in our system.