Why today’s pick matters

An awkward question rebounds from the 777X clatter: Why do most employees working at the largest manufacturing facility in the world opt to live someplace other than Everett? Can the political class reverse the trend?

“Livability,” a broad-brush, know-it-when-you-see it word, is an instructive backdrop.

Later today, the Everett City Council hopes to remake the political landscape (at least a wee bit.) For the third time since 2012, the council could appoint a new member to a vacated slot, in this case, the seat held by Shannon Affholter. Affholter resigned last month to take the reins of the Master Builders Association.

All legislative bodies itch to consolidate power, which often translates into a spreading sameness: The same kind of folks with the same kind of ideas. We hope that the council — human nature notwithstanding — avoids the self-duplication trap. It makes for an ossified, get-along culture that doesn’t mirror the collective interests of the city. Debate and change are an index of civic health.

Affholter’s departure generated 12 applicants, whittled down to seven. On Tuesday, June Robinson, perhaps first among equals, withdrew her name from consideration. Robinson plans to seek appointment to the Legislature.

The remaining six contenders are an impressive lot. Judy Tuohy has served as the executive director of the Schack Art Center since 1995 and has a stellar civic resume. So, too, Megan Dunn, a Lowell neighborhood activist who has bird-dogged the use of pesticides in city parks. Art Thomson, an engineer and commercial real estate broker, is a lifelong Everett-ite who also chairs the city’s parks commission. Elly Smith, a real estate agent, is a Lowell resident (a neighborhood that produces leaders the way Virginia once produced presidents) with a quarter century of local activism. Rich Anderson, a well-regarded CPA, has served on local government, nonprofit and business advisory boards for decades. And Kim Nielsen, widow of Councilmember Drew Nielsen, is a volunteer extraordinaire who works at a nonprofit that helps homeless teens.

All are qualified. All would serve the interests of the people of Everett. And all things being equal (which they are), the council needs to add a second woman to its ranks.

The female contenders underscore livability. Rangers for the city’s 42 parks have been reduced from five to two, Dunn notes. A long-term solution to combined sewer overflows must be found, Tuohy said. Crime, Smith said, remains an ongoing challenge. And what about affordable housing? (Dunn again.) Tuohy is formidable; Dunn is a rising star.

Demographics, gender and smarts all matter. The first step to landing Boeing families begins here, of all places, with a single council vote.

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