Snohomish races draw crowd

SNOHOMISH – This fall, 12 people are vying for four seats on the City Council, making Snohomish the most-contested city in the county.

“That surely is unique,” said Cameron Bailey, a former city council member. The community “usually has much less interest.”

In the Sept. 20 primary election, voters will select eight candidates to advance to the Nov. 8 general election.

Susan Palmer, a former city councilwoman who lost to Melody Clemans in 2003, said that people are talking politics in town and calling her about candidates.

“I think it’s very important, and I think it’s very healthy for the city,” Palmer said.

The number of candidates reflects the hot political atmosphere in town, Bailey said.

“I think the council has been adding some large and fundamental issues that people have interest in,” he said.

Bailey resigned this year after about five years on the council to work as a legislative aide for state Rep. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe. Bailey, who now lives part-time in Snohomish, is not registered to vote in town, but he does have knowledge of city politics.

One of the most interesting races is between council member Doug Thorndike and incumbent Mayor Liz Loomis, whom the council elected mayor in January 2004. Thorndike gave up re-election to his seat and filed to run against Loomis. The two have been at odds on growth-related issues. Bridget Fawcett Johns has also filed to run in the race.

The council has split on “a lot of issues on visual themes,” Bailey said.

In 2004, on a close vote, the council passed an ordinance setting design standards and requirements for future residential and retail development outside the city’s historic district.

Also, in May, the council passed a new sign ordinance, about 16 months after the issue came up. In January 2004, some people complained that a 34-foot-tall digital sign at Kla Ha Ya Village, a commercial and residential complex on Avenue D, didn’t fit Snohomish’s small-town atmosphere.

Those measures would allow the city to grow and attract quality businesses without losing the town’s historic character, supporters say. Critics say the measures would make it difficult for businesses to come to town when the city needs to boost retail tax revenues to keep up with growth.

Thorndike opposed both measures, which were supported by a majority of the council, including Loomis.

Bailey, who served as mayor before Loomis, said the council had dealt with growth issues in a more collaborative way.

“I don’t know whether issues were more significant, but perhaps less divisive,” he said.

The results of this year’s election will set the course of the city’s growth for years to come, Bailey said. The more candidates, the better council members the city will get, he added.

“Competition is always good,” he said.

Reporter Yoshiaki Nohara: 425-339-3029 or ynohara@heraldnet.com.

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