EVERETT — If you feel physically, mentally or financially spent by what transpired in 2017, there’s a good reason.
The past 12 months brought the ascendance of Donald Trump, the deadly devastation of natural disasters and the tragic toll of two mass shootings. We couldn’t help but be touched by these events.
In Washington, this was another year in which home prices surged, homelessness soared and a crisis of opioid abuse continued to grow.
Traffic worsened on area highways, new mayors won elections in Everett and Snohomish and two major airlines announced they’re ready to fly out of Paine Field.
And a few things that were supposed to happen in 2017, did not.
The state didn’t make the Supreme Court completely happy with how it funds public schools. And cars aren’t moving quite as fast as they should on the I-405 toll lanes.
This year will end not only with a volume of memories for us all but a list of significant unfinished business as well, the resolution of which will be a story line in 2018.
A new era begins
Trump generated attention seemingly every day of his first year as president, often with middle-of-the-night tweets.
His executive orders and federal agencies’ new rules touched off one legal fight after another with taxpayers of this state in the middle of most of them. Attorney General Bob Ferguson of Washington is leading or supporting almost two dozen legal actions targeting policies of the president and his administration. He’s recorded a couple victories, including blocking Trump’s proposed travel ban.
In the meantime, the tax reform bill signed by Trump carries potential consequences — good and bad — for everyone filing a federal return for 2018.
But there’s much unfinished business. The Republican president and GOP-led Congress have yet to agree on a budget beyond Jan. 19. They are still talking about how to deal with young immigrants known as Dreamers. And the lack of a transportation plan has Sound Transit nervous about receiving a $1.2 billion grant for light rail expansion it’s counting on.
Touched by tragedies
A mass shooting at an outdoor in concert in Las Vegas in October scarred lives of Snohomish County residents in attendance that night.
And the gunman’s use of a weapon modified with a “bump stock” is spurring state lawmakers to pursue restrictions on sale of such devices in Washington in 2018.
After hurricanes claimed dozens of lives and wreaked havoc in Texas and Florida, volunteers with the American Red Cross, churches and other community organizations in Snohomish County traveled to aid those in hard-hit communities.
A to-do list in Olympia
Lawmakers made history in 2017 by laboring through the longest legislative session since statehood — 193 days.
In the course of one regular and three special sessions, they increased spending on mental health services, established a paid family leave plan for all workers and agreed on a plan to ensure the state pays for the basic education of public school students as demanded by the court in the McCleary case.
To do so, lawmakers enacted the largest-ever increase in the state property tax rate and started taxing bottled water.
But there is plenty of business carrying over to the 2018 session.
They did not act on a $4.2 billion construction budget, inaction that has cost people their jobs. They did not resolve a water-rights dispute spurred by the court’s 2016 decision in the Hirst case.
Most Puget Sound lawmakers want to provide relief for payers of Sound Transit car tabs. And in Snohomish County there are still people forced to pay property taxes to the transit agency even though they did not get to vote on the expansion plan known as Sound Transit 3.
And the Supreme Court said their school funding approach works but needs to be in place a year sooner than lawmakers planned. That means the Legislature in 2018 needs to come up with another $1 billion or so to comply with the McCleary mandates.
Commutes took longer in 2017. A good economy, lower gas prices and an influx of people into Snohomish County, where those looking to buy a home are finding prices they can afford, are all causes.
The 17-mile stretch of express toll lanes on I-405 between Lynnwood and Bellevue completed the second year of operation in September. They are generating more revenue than expected but traffic isn’t traveling as fast in the commute as hoped, prompting calls from some lawmakers to get rid of them.
It didn’t get any easier in 2017 to get onto and travel across the westbound trestle of U.S. 2 from Lake Stevens to Everett. Next year might finally see movement on dreams to build a new westbound trestle — but that could require tolls or a gas tax increase to pay the staggering bill.
Ray Stephanson’s 14-year reign as mayor is ending and the Cassie Franklin era will begin. She will be the first woman elected mayor in Everett.
Franklin bested Judy Tuohy in November in one of the city’s most expensive mayoral contests ever. It also stood out because roughly 11 percent went to a write-in, presumably businessman Gary Watts.
Supporters of district elections in Everett failed to get enough signatures to qualify a measure for the ballot in 2017. They’ve vowed to try again in 2018 even as some on the City Council seek to forge ahead with their own approach.
Allowing a second methadone clinic ignited debate. At one point Stephanson asked leaders of surrounding cities and the county to take their “fair share” of social services such as a clinic. The City Council could vote sometime next year on whether to approve a permit, and where.
A 65-unit low-barrier housing project on Berkshire Drive in Everett nearly got derailed in 2017. Neighbors weren’t happy with the site. And the county almost didn’t kick in money needed to secure state funds. It’s all coming together now and the City Council could act Jan. 3 to provide some land to Catholic Housing Services for the undertaking, which is expected to give some homeless a place to live.
The city opened a new front in its effort to help those with opioid abuse disorder when it sued Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, in January. It alleges the company knew drug traffickers were illegally obtaining and selling the pain medication in the city but chose to ignore the diversion. Everett is seeking money from Purdue, which it can spend to boost treatment services to those addicted to the drug.
City Council members set out this year to require baristas be adequately clothed at work but a group of bikini baristas sued, saying the new dress code rules infringed on their First Amendment rights to freedom of expression. The rules are on hold pending resolution of this federal case.
More change, more challenge
Snohomish voters directly elected a mayor for the first time in nearly half a century. Now all eyes are on Mayor John Kartak to see how he’ll steer the city.
Sultan Mayor Carolyn Eslick resigned in October after getting appointed to a seat in the state Legislature. Councilman John Seehuus took the reins as interim mayor until City Councilmembers decide in early 2018 which one of them will get the job until the end of 2019.
Eslick replaced Republican John Koster of Arlington, who resigned from the state House in August to take a job running a small state agency. Also this year, Republican Kirk Pearson of Monroe quit the state Senate to join the Trump Administration. His successor will be chosen Jan. 3.
Snohomish County Council members set their collective foot down on taxes in December, rejecting an increase proposed by County Executive Dave Somers. The coming year will reveal whether this frugal fiscal approach inhibits their ability to bolster public safety as councilmembers pledged to do.
This year, the dream of passenger air service from Paine Field moved closer to becoming an every day reality. Construction began in June on a passenger terminal to be operated by privately owned Propeller Airports. Alaska and United airlines both signed up to start flying out of Everett as soon as it opens, which could be in 2018.
K-12 and beyond
Funding of public elementary and secondary schools was one of the year’s big story lines as school districts worked out how changes made by state lawmakers affect their students. Next year will be critical as most districts in Snohomish County will be asking voters to renew local property tax levies to fund enrichment programs and approve bond measures to pay for new schools.
The Marysville School District has started to study possible changes to secondary education that families worry could disrupt, even end, small learning communities at Marysville Getchell High School. The multi-stage process to gather input will culminate with community meetings next Spring.
Washington State University cemented its commitment in Everett this year when it cut the ribbon in August on its first building, the four-story University Center.
Students started taking classes there days later, providing the city with the permanence of a four-year institution long sought by its leaders.
This year the Boeing Co. began assembling its newest passenger jet, the 777X, at a state-of-the-art plant in Everett.
Company leaders also started talking about the next new plane Boeing will build, which is getting dubbed the 797. In response, city, county and state leaders have begun organizing a campaign to convince the aerospace giant to build the aircraft in Washington. In 2018 it may become clearer what it will take to win the competition.
Funko was born in Snohomish and grew up in Everett. Still, it was a big deal when company officials decided to move the corporate headquarters to downtown Everett. And in November, Funko’s CEO and president, Brian Mariotti, took the company public.
Developer Lobsang Dargey was in the process of building his second big project in Everett, Potala Place, when authorities accused him in 2015 of defrauding investors. After initially denying wrongdoing, Dargey pleaded guilty to fraud-related charges in January. In August he was sentenced to four years in prison and must repay $24.1 million to investors.
Ownership of the The Everett Clinic may be changing hands, again. DaVita, which acquired the independent medical group in 2016, announced in December that it plans to sell its medical group subsidiary, which includes the Everett operation, to UnitedHealth Group’s Optum unit.
And the future of Snohomish County’s biggest hospital made news. Officials of Ascension Health and Providence St. Joseph Health reportedly are discussing a merger that would create a chain of hospitals, including Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, in 26 states spanning both coasts. 2018 will see if those rumored talks bear fruit.