Q: Balancing the city’s budget is an annual challenge as the city’s expenses exceed what is collected in tax receipts. What steps will you take in your first year to stabilize the city’s finances?
A: Over the next five years there is a $65 million (cumulative) deficit. That is a big challenge for the next mayor. I believe we need to live within our means. I do not want to compromise on our services to the citizens. Some of the things I would do starting right away is look at efficiencies throughout the city. Things like making payments online. We’re not able to do all the payments from citizens online. We need to do that. That reduces time and effort on both sides.
Q: How much can you save?
A: I know there are efficiencies throughout the city that will have some cost savings. How much, I don’t know at this point because I’ve never been able to really get into that side of the city budget.
Q: Do you have specific places in the budget where you will look to cut spending?
A: No. I’ve never had that much information. You really need to be well informed to know where you are going to cut before you just cut. There will be tough decisions to be made but I’ve made tough decisions in how we’re running our business.
Q: Will you propose increasing any tax or fee?
A: No. What I’m hearing is most of our citizens are overtaxed. They’re struggling to just keep up with what just happened on their car tabs, the (higher) rates on utilities and things like that. We have a lot of people on fixed incomes and middle and lower incomes in Everett and that really affects them much more than it does me. I need to try to be as aware of that as much as possible.
Q: What is your plan?
A: We are going to have to look for more ways (to raise) revenue. I would like to look to the construction and business industries, generating sales tax and certainly when tourism happens in our town we get revenues from that. I would raise taxes, and fees, as a last resort.
Q: Elaborate on your strategy?
A: Our city has to be safe. That is the number one component for economic development. If people aren’t safe in their neighborhoods, businesses won’t want to be here. Then you’ve got to make your city a place where people want to live. We have to have quality housing at all price points so that all levels of workers can find a good house to live in. We obviously need jobs and job training. Businesses will come. We do have to look at recruiting more businesses. Since we got rid of our Chamber of Commerce we haven’t really had enough support for our small businesses. I definitely would look at how we can expand that support.
People ask me all the time, “What about all the empty storefronts.” Basically what we need there is more density. We need about a thousand more people living in downtown. We need some more marketing. We also need some kind of incentive for the landlords to get a rent structure that can at least get people into those empty storefronts.
Another thing we’re not capitalizing on is the tourism that comes to downtown Everett. My theory is you have a theory of three. When people come from out of the city to visit you they need to do at least three things in your city before they leave. I don’t think we’re capturing that. We need more restaurants. We need more things to do.
Q: How do you make this happen?
A: I don’t know. I’ve got to figure that out. There are some revitalization ordinances you can do for development.
Q: It’s called redevelopment.
A: Right. I think we need to look at that.
Q: Let’s talk about public safety. Does Everett need more police?
A: I don’t know. Money is in the budget to fill the department’s 18 vacancies. It is the city’s goal to have two police officers per 1,000 citizens. We’ll find out when we get there. One of the things I would like to do in the interim is to rehire some retired Everett officers to come in and do administrative work because officers do a fair amount of admin work. If we can bring a few people in to alleviate that side of things, we can get the officers on the street until we get fully staffed.
Q: What about the Fire Department. Does Everett need more firefighters?
A: I believe they are pretty close to being fully staffed. I feel comfortable that they are able to perform their duties. I know they are doing a lot of overtime. I know overtime is stressful and physically draining. There’s been kind of conflicting understanding on what level (of staffing) we should be at. I wouldn’t know today what that number is without having more knowledge and I would depend on the fire chief to help make that decision.
Q: What will you do to reduce the incidence of crime and presence of gangs in the Casino Road area?
A: I would look at beefing up our preventative measures. They say kids get into gangs because of economics. They don’t have any money and they get some money by doing some of this stuff. And they get this connection, this family, that they don’t have. They have the peer pressure to do it. We need to get to these kids before they get to that point. They need to have adult mentors. We need to provide them activities to keep them busy and feeling good about themselves. You don’t know what their interests are going to be. If they have an adult mentor they can figure out what that niche is and get them going in that direction as opposed to sitting around and having peer pressure drive them on. A really substantial community center in that area would be really helpful. The other piece of that is more police presence. When the police have a large presence on the street and in those neighborhoods, things quiet down.
Q: Do you believe Everett should establish a separate Human Services Department to coordinate the city’s response to needs of those battling homelessness, opioid addiction and mental health issues?
A: I don’t. That would be tough to pay for. We do need someone to oversee the process for the grants that we give out. We have someone to do that. As far as our initiatives on the opiate addiction and the streets issues, I don’t believe we should be the social service provider. We have great social service providers right now. They are out there doing all the things that we need.
I’d like to hold a regional summit where we have social services, health district and all the cities there and say this is the problem, who is doing what and where, where are the holes, where are we duplicating services and where do we need to work together to maybe get more treatment centers or detox beds or more low-barrier housing or more day shelters. It needs to be a regional approach and Everett needs to be at the table as a leader in that.
Q: There’s a debate on whether a second methadone clinic should be opened in Everett or elsewhere. Where would you put it?
A: I want to look at the whole region. I heard there were 200 on a waiting list for this methadone clinic treatment program. I need to see where are they coming from and if it really and truly is North Everett they are coming from, the majority of them, then we need to site it there.
Q: Mayor Ray Stephanson has expressed concern that other cities and the county aren’t stepping up and offering a location. Do you feel this second clinic is getting dumped on Everett?
A: Originally that could have been true. People are now seeing that the problem is bigger in their own cities than what they originally thought. Now is a good time to have that regional task force pulled together and not just meet to identify the needs but to meet ongoing until we’ve solved them.
Q: Regarding the city’s response to the homeless, what would you do in your first year as mayor that is not being done now?
A: I would like to get a temporary day shelter up.
Q: On city property?
A: I don’t know. We would look at that. It would be temporary, somewhere for them to go during the day. We would have social services there. We would have food available there. While we want to help the homeless we have to also mitigate the challenges it imposes to our neighborhoods and businesses. Police have told me that this would be beneficial for them.
Q: There’s a shortage of available housing in the city. Is there anything you would do differently than what is being done now?
A: We can look at making sure we are getting projects moving along as fast as we can. The city can help on the affordable housing piece. We have great housing providers. We need to work with them. The other thing that we really need to do is figure out more ways to stabilize those that are in housing so that they don’t lose their housing.
Q: What are your thoughts on the plan for upzoning parts of Everett?
A: I haven’t seen all of it. It’s stunningly beautiful. I don’t have a problem with building heights. I don’t mind upzoning in the downtown core and the transit area. I would have a hard time in some of our established historic neighborhoods. Single family needs to stay single family.
Q: The state is studying whether to legalize home grows of marijuana. One option would let cities impose their own ban if they want. Where do you stand on home grows?
A: I haven’t seen the whole proposal. If they limit it to a certain degree… my guess is that people are already doing it.
Q: Do you agree or disagree with NFL players kneeling during the national anthem? Would you?
A: I don’t have a problem with that. They’re not infringing on my rights or anybody else’s rights. They’re making a statement. I respect that. I couldn’t do that.
Q: Given the tragedy in Las Vegas, let me ask about guns. Do you support new limits on the sale of certain types of guns and the “bump stock” kits?
A: I certainly would support banning certain types of weapons that are not needed for recreational use like we just saw. I also would support gun safety laws. I would support background checks. People want to have guns. That’s great. But we just can’t have these kinds of guns getting out there, doing this horrific damage to people.
Read the other interview: Everett mayoral candidate Q&A with Cassie Franklin • Introduction