Historic downtown Monroe’s future a campaign issue

Over the past three decades, Monroe has grown from a sleepy town with its landmark single downtown traffic light on U.S. 2 into a bustling city of 17,000 people with both the benefits and problems that come with growth.

The future of the city will be determined in part by the voters’ choice between two candidates for mayor.

Ed Davis, whose military experience includes duties as an attack helicopter pilot, has served on the City Council for two years. Geoffrey Thomas is a former City Council member whose six years in that role ended in 2009.

Among the issues being discussed in the race are the future of Monroe’s historic downtown, continuing economic development and public safety.

Davis said he decided to run for mayor when the current mayor, Robert Zimmerman, decided not to seek re-election. The mayor and council had to make difficult budget decision during the recession, when city debt hit $11.5 million, Davis said.

That has been reduced this year by $6.5 million, he said. Davis said he tells people: “Do you realize how meaningful that is? That’s one of my goals, to continue on and to come out of debt within a few years.”

Davis said the city has not raised property taxes for the past two years and his goal would be to continue that for the next four years. “With the revenues now coming into the city, I think we can do that,” he said.

As one step toward easing traffic bottlenecks in the city, Davis said the city hopes to begin work next year on a new east-west road north of U.S. 2. It would run from Tierne Place to Woods Creek Road and then link up again with the with U.S. 2.

Davis said that as mayor, he would support redeveloping and bringing new life to the city’s historic downtown area.

In visiting cities throughout the state, he said that the older part of town is usually the heart and soul of any city. “It’s more of that hometown feel,” he said.

Yet Davis said that the newer developments on the north side of U.S. 2, including a Walmart scheduled to open next year, help bring people and potential customers to the city. Downtown businesses “can and do capitalize on that,” he said.

Davis said he continues to oppose red light cameras in the city. He said he thinks that safety can be improved in school zones through steps such as signs with flashing lights and radar to tell drivers how fast they’re going. “That works,” he said.

Thomas said he believes his experience as a legislative analyst for the Snohomish County Council has provided him experience with many of the issues faced by local governments, including planning, redevelopment and budgeting.

Thomas said during his campaign he has visited 2,000 homes, giving potential voters a chance to ask questions.

“That demonstrates the way I would approach things with the council as mayor,” he said. “It would be to try to find common ground across all seven council members, not just four to try to push an agenda.”

Thomas said he would like to see more investment in the city’s downtown. One way to do that would be to redirect a portion of the state’s business and occupation tax to invest in such efforts through a program called the Main Street Tax Credit.

“I think it’s important to talk to the downtown businesses and landowners and say, ‘What are you willing to do to bring investment to the downtown?’” Thomas said. “There are people who live within walking distance of the downtown who don’t feel there are safe walking routes to get to dinner or go to the bakery.”

Thomas said he decided to leave the City Council in 2009 so he could instead serve the community in different ways, such as being a scout leader and lacrosse coach.

If elected, he said he would like to focus on economic development and building a vibrant economy. The development should be compatible with the community’s vision while providing an opportunity to reinvest in the city’s roads, parks and schools, he said.

“Part of that is also addressing the issues of crime and homelessness and improving community policing to help build and enhance public safety in Monroe,” Thomas said.

Thomas said he worked in Olympia as a planning commissioner and saw how its port properties were redeveloped. “I see parallels with downtown Monroe,” he said. “They’re all properties that are ripe for redevelopment.”

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; salyer@heraldnet.com.

Meet the candidates

About the job: At stake is a four-year term as the mayor of Monroe. The mayor’s duties include overseeing departments and employees, providing general supervision of city government, and presiding over council meetings. The job pays $3,000 a month.

Ed C. Davis

Age: 58

Experience: Previously served as an Army aviation medical evacuation pilot and officer, now works as a surface security inspector for the federal Transportation Security Administration. Serves on the City Council.

Website: www.edavis4mayor.com

Geoffrey Thomas

Age: 43

Experience: Former Monroe City Council member and mayor pro-tem, and a planning commissioner in Olympia. Works as senior legislative analyst for the Snohomish County Council.

Website: www.facebook.com/GeoffreyOThomas

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