EVERETT — Two candidates — one well-known in nonprofit circles, the other a relative unknown — are challenging incumbent Ron Gipson for Position 4 on the Everett City Council.
Gipson is the longest-serving councilman in the city, having held onto his seat for 20 years. Challenging him in the primary are Cassie Franklin, the CEO of Cocoon House, a service provider for homeless youth, and Vic Paul, an Everett resident who recently worked in pest control.
Gipson, running for his sixth term, draws from his own background to say he’s the only person on the council who can legitimately represent working-class Everett.
“I truly represent blue collar folks,” said Gipson, who works as a corrections officer at the Denney Juvenile Justice Center.
For that reason, Gipson advocates for services for the less-well off, including public transit and paratransit, making parks and other services accessible to all, and keeping utility costs under control.
Utility costs are one of his major concerns this year.
“The rates are horrendous,” he said. “Every time we want to build a project, our rates are going up.”
New projects like ongoing sewer separation and the backwater valve program benefit the north end of the city primarily, but the south end is footing part of the bill.
“The south end is bearing a lot of the cost of utility upgrades and to me that’s wrong,” Gipson said.
Gipson is also an advocate for restoring council committees to give the City Council a stronger hand in setting policy, especially on the city’s budget, which the council only sees at the end of the process.
“We get it, and rubber stamp it, and that’s wrong,” Gipson said.
Gipson dismisses complaints of harassment that have been filed against him in the workplace, saying the charges brought against him are “100 percent false.”
Franklin portrays herself as a bridge-builder, someone who will bring her experience in nonprofit leadership and collaboration to the City Council.
“What I’ve seen on the council is a divide. We all want a better Everett, but it seems that the systems to share common goals aren’t there,” she said.
The top priority for Franklin will be working on the city’s social issues and homelessness. She sat on the city’s Streets Initiative task force, which she initially was skeptical about.
“At first I wasn’t sure we were going to be productive at all,” she said.
But there have been some early successes, such as embedding social workers with law enforcement, and she hopes to see more efforts expanding the number of day centers and kinds of housing available.
Franklin also said the council is going to have to be mindful of downtown development, with new projects such as Riverfront and Waterfront Place getting under way.
“I want to ensure we have a good system in place to keep our community in place,” she said.
With water on both sides, downtown is only going to become denser. The council will have to work to ensure that growth doesn’t detract from livability and that the south end of the city can share in some of the benefits of that growth.
“We need to connect Everett because right now it doesn’t feel like we have one Everett, we have several little Everetts,” she said.
“The families living in that area are not experiencing the Everett I see in 20 years,” Franklin said.
Victor Paul is coming at the race as an outsider, which he said will allow him to inject new ideas into the council.
“It seems like there’s no dissenting views or opinions,” he said.
In particular, Paul believes the city needs a different approach for tackling homelessness.
“The homeless are increasing and the jail is packed with people who really need help in other ways,” he said.
He also highlighted tax equity, and said that it isn’t fair that developers qualify for tax breaks that average citizens don’t receive.
“We need equal taxation,” Paul said.
He’s concerned about growing traffic in the city and feels the city should be doing more to alleviate congestion.
“We need something in Everett other than just buses. We need to work on getting light rail, and having the Sounder (commuter rail) service take some priority” over freight traffic, he said.
Paul acknowledged that the city can’t make unilateral decisions on some of these issues.
“A lot of things are outside the control of City Council members, but at least you’ll hear me speak up,” Paul said.
Everett City Council, Position 4
Experience: First elected to the council in 1995, served five terms. Has worked as a corrections officer at the Denney Juvenile Justice Center since 1996
Website: Not provided
Experience: Chief executive officer of Cocoon House since 2011. Also worked as a development director for Cocoon House, Wonderland Development Center, and PAWS. Served on city’s Streets Initiative task force
Experience: Worked in pest control for three years and in banking before then.