Christine Frizzell (left) and Jim Smith.

Christine Frizzell (left) and Jim Smith.

Crime, taxes are key questions in Lynnwood mayoral race

It’s Jim Smith’s sixth mayoral run. He’s up against first-time mayor candidate Christine Frizzell.

LYNNWOOD — Longtime City Councilmember Jim Smith lost bids for mayor in 1993, 1997, 2001, 2005 and 2009.

Now, both he and Christine Frizzell hope 2021 is their lucky year.

The city council colleagues are running to become Lynnwood’s next leader.

The first stint for council vice president Smith, 70, began in the late 1980s. He served for over two decades and then was brought back in 2019.

Mayor Nicola Smith’s decision to not run for re-election after two terms opened the seat. Nicola and Jim Smith are not related.

Frizzell was first elected in 2017. She came in first in the mayoral primary with over 45% of the vote. Jim Smith advanced in second with more than 31%. And city council president George Hurst was the odd candidate out, with just 23.5%.

Like the rest of the county, Lynnwood has grown over the last decade, as shown in recent census data. And the city’s comprehensive plan projects around 16,000 new residents in the next 15 years in a city of under 40,000 people.

The projected arrival of light rail in 2024 is expected to bring tens of thousands of travelers to south Snohomish County. But that could also exacerbate already rising housing prices as Lynnwood becomes a more popular destination. Two out of five households in the city struggle with housing affordability, according to its Housing Action Plan.

For both Frizzell and Smith, adjusting the city’s taxes are a top priority. The sales tax rate in Lynnwood is 10.5%, a number Frizzell notes is higher than most of the city’s neighbors. For every $1 in sales tax levied in Lynnwood, the city gets about 10½ cents, including a portion for its Transportation Benefit District. In 2020, the tax made up over 40% of Lynnwood’s revenues.

In 2022, the city will pass its next two-year budget. The average Lynnwood homeowner, Frizzell said, pays about $4,000 in property taxes each year. Just one-twentieth of that goes to the city. That money also goes to the Edmonds School District, the county and elsewhere.

“It’s not that Lynnwood is getting rich off of anybody, but we are providing services that our community is asking for,” said Frizzell, who has worked as an accountant for decades. “We need to be mindful of what those taxes are, how they’re spent.”

Frizzell said she’d look to change taxes on small businesses. But “until I sit in the mayor’s seat, I don’t have a specific agenda.”

Smith, who spearheaded the creation of the Lynnwood Chamber, called the city’s taxes “sky-high.” Smith said he specifically would look to cut utility taxes and vehicle license fees.

Lynnwood has a $40 vehicle license fee. That money goes toward transportation projects like sidewalk work and traffic improvements. Over 54% of the city’s voters approved Initiative 976 in 2019, which would have reduced car tab fees across Washington, but it was struck down by the state Supreme Court.

For Smith, Lynnwood’s top issue is public safety. He worries about families going to parks and seeing needles and drugs. He said he’d work to recruit more officers to the Lynnwood Police Department, including with financial incentives.

“We need to get crime going back down again,” Smith said. “And we can do that.”

The crime rate is higher in Lynnwood than its neighbors. According to a Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs report, counting reports of both violent and property crimes, the rate was 102.8 per 1,000 in 2020; in Everett it was 85.6; and 40.4 in Mill Creek.

There were no murders, however, in 2019 and 2020 in Lynnwood, according to the WASPC report. In 2020, the city had 38 aggravated assaults and 311 instances of simple assault. Overall, crime went down slightly from 2019 to 2020, the report found.

Frizzell said while she personally feels safe in the city, she notes other groups, particularly people of color and the LGBTQ community, don’t always have that same luxury. In August, Lynnwood hired its first race and social justice coordinator. Frizzell hopes this will help develop “ways for people to thrive.”

Like most of their council colleagues, both candidates voted last month to approve the $56 million-plus construction contract for the contentious Community Justice Center, which will include a new jail, police department and misdemeanor court. In early August, Smith voted against a postponement on approving the contract. That delay, passed 4-3 over Smith’s dissension, resulted in a mental health wing being added to development. Smith called it “20 years overdue.” After the addition, Frizzell said a “great program went to much better than great.”

Smith, who notes his campaign has directors of outreach for the local Latinx and Korean-American communities, touts endorsements from former mayor Tina Roberts-Martinez, county Sheriff Adam Fortney, Snohomish Mayor John Kartak and the leaders of many Korean-owned small businesses in Lynnwood. Frizzell has the support of the city’s current mayor, the Washington Housing Alliance Action Fund and city council candidates Nick Coelho and Naz Lashgari.

Ballots for the Nov. 2 election were mailed to voters earlier this month. Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 2. Drop boxes are available until 8 p.m. on election day.

Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet

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