EVERETT — Voters who’ve been waiting to see the political differences among Everett’s mayoral candidates heard mostly similar answers from them Monday night.
All four candidates agreed that affordable housing and social services are essential, especially in Everett’s rapidly growing south end. All say they want to work on public safety and gang violence and to make immigrants feel more welcome.
Those are some of the most important issues facing south Everett, the candidates were told at their first public forum. The event at the Children’s Village on Casino Road was standing room only. For the first time in nearly 15 years, Everett is getting a new mayor. The population boom south of 41st Street could play a role in who might take the job.
“This is a race that could be close. Every vote will count,” Snohomish County elections manager Garth Fell told the crowd, which included many Spanish speakers.
Brian Sullivan, a longtime Snohomish County councilman hoping to jump to the mayor’s seat, suggested there’s need for a new community center on Casino Road to serve multi-lingual families. Judy Tuohy, now City Council president, cited her work on the Evergreen library branch improvements. Shean Nasin, a substitute teacher, spoke of growing up poor in the north and south parts of the city. Cassie Franklin, who also serves on the council, described seeing up-close the impacts on families from street-level social issues.
The first audience question dealt with districting. There is an effort in Everett to create City Council districts instead of at-large elections. The question drew applause and brought forth frank answers about the racial, gender and socioeconomic makeup of city leaders and staff.
Nasin, Sullivan and Tuohy said they support districting. Franklin said she wants to make sure the underlying under-representation is addressed.
All but Nasin said that future proposals for low-barrier housing should be more transparent for neighbors early in the process, in another response to an audience question. Nasin said the issue would be better addressed by districting.
The tone of the forum was different from many recent political conversations in Everett. Absent was talk of aerospace and tax breaks, development along the waterfront and the market for high-rise condos. It was clear the candidates had brushed up on the challenges of working families who can’t afford houses and don’t spend their days at offices downtown.
The forum was hosted by the Casino Road Academy, which offers English classes as part of a coalition of the YMCA, Edmonds Community College and Seattle Goodwill Industries.
The primary is Aug. 1. The top two vote-getters will continue on to the general election in November.
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; email@example.com; Twitter: @rikkiking.