EVERETT — Voters will get their first chance Tuesday to decide who could represent them in newly established Everett City Council districts.
They’ll choose from a field of mostly first-time candidates, people encouraged to seek election by the formation of five geographic districts, each with around 20,000 residents.
Council positions, which are four-year terms, for Districts 3 and 5 are on the primary ballot. Neither has an incumbent.
Everett’s mayoral election is there, as well, but Ron Wittock announced last month that he was not campaigning and instead backed Steve Oss against incumbent Mayor Cassie Franklin.
The seven-member City Council acts as the legislative branch of Everett’s government. Council members help shape laws and policies, approve the budget and represent Everett in regional groups. The city has over 111,000 residents and is anticipating growth in the coming decades, a squeeze already felt through home values, rents and other cost-of-living increases, longer commutes, the effects of climate change in the form of smoky summer skies and extreme temperatures, as well as unmet needs in people without health care and housing.
Some likely pressing issues for city leaders to resolve in coming years are a budget in which spending outpaces revenue growth, housing and land-use policies, and action on climate change.
District 3 (Boulevard Bluffs, Harborview-Seahurst-Glenhaven, View Ridge-Madison, Evergreen, and South Forest Park neighborhoods)
Lacey Sauvageau ran for the first time last year to represent the 38th Legislative District. She didn’t advance to the general election but decided to focus on her hometown with a run for City Council.
Sauvageau works as an emergency dispatcher in Snohomish County. Those calls and other conversations gave her insight into the housing and mental health issues facing people in the city, she said.
“I have talked with residents first hand about their concerns with Everett and what they like about the city,” she said. “… I am seeking election to (the) Everett City Council because I was born in Everett and desire to see Everett grow and expand.”
She wants to see continued development downtown and along the waterfront, most of which is Port of Everett property but must adhere to city zoning. As a council member, she would focus on affordable housing, infrastructure and public safety via law enforcement support and social services, she said. To help with the housing crunch, she sees multifamily housing (apartments and condos, for example) along roads such as Broadway and Mukilteo Boulevard as a solution.
Making Everett “bike friendly” is one of her goals, as is increasing transit service, which she said would be achieved best through a merger of Everett Transit with Community Transit.
Her proposals for resolving the structural deficit are to consolidate programs and to eliminate “wasteful spending.”
Don Schwab had a three-decade career as a firefighter in Everett before joining Snohomish County Treasurer Brian Sullivan’s office, where he works as deputy treasurer. His professional experience is a strength for the council, he said.
“I am optimistic about Everett’s future,” Schwab said. “Serving the public all these years, I have experienced the passion, resiliency, strength of our community, and the importance of service. Everett has so much potential, including great parks, a thriving waterfront, good schools, successful small businesses and proximity to both the mountains and the Puget Sound.”
He said he supports more affordable housing through incentives for builders, developers and non-profit groups to erect mixed-income housing in areas such as Broadway, Evergreen Way and Everett Mall Way. Similarly, he is in favor of the city’s small shelter village near the Everett Gospel Mission but not the council’s decision to tie its permit to the “no-sit, no-lie” ordinance, because he said those rules won’t “solve” homelessness and instead can disperse people.
In addition to more housing, he said, he wants more social workers embedded with the police department, called the Community Outreach and Enforcement Team.
For the budget challenges, Schwab said, he will start by learning and listening. But tax increases would be an option only if other “reasonable” choices to balance the budget, such as seeking a public vote on creating a park district or regional fire authority, were exhausted.
Jacob Vail sees his candidacy and the position as an opportunity to bolster accessibility in government and transportation.
As someone who receives disability benefits, he said, he wants to ensure Everett is a place for everyone.
“I am running for City Council to give a voice back to the people,” he said. “I aim to grow and maintain equality throughout the City of Everett.”
He is on the Snohomish County Parks Advisory Board and Everett Civil Service Commission, and said he has the time and will to listen to residents’ concerns.
Housing development can be spurred through zoning changes, which, he said, could allow for “abandoned” buildings and empty lots to be repurposed for low-income housing.
“Repairing and renovating these abandoned buildings will provide much needed housing, remove ‘eyesores’ in the city, and create construction jobs,” he said. “This solution is environmentally friendly, maintains and improves the appearance of neighborhoods, and provides for our unhoused citizens.”
To address the budget deficit, Vail said, he wants the city to apply for grants, ask voters for a short-term or long-term tax increase, and eliminate redundancies.
District 5 (Cascade View, Pinehurst-Beverly Park, Cascade View, Twin Creeks and Silver Lake neighborhoods)
Demi Chatters aims to bring to the council her community advocacy and business experience, which has spanned real estate and public service careers.
She sees housing as one of the prime concerns, citing a 2019 assessment by the city which showed a need for almost 23,000 more housing units by 2035. But the average number of units built has been around 250 per year, which isn’t meeting the demand now and can’t meet it in the future, she said.
“The reality for many 20-somethings, or even 30-somethings, is that they have been priced out of the housing markets in the very communities they grew up in,” Chatters said.
Part of the solution, Chatters said, is for zoning regulations to allow mixed-use and multi-family housing, with an emphasis for those developments near places people work. Putting those kinds of buildings close to transit also gives people the opportunity to ditch single-occupant vehicles on their commute, an element of the city’s target for emissions reduction in the Climate Action Plan, which she supported.
The city knows its options for addressing the budget deficit, but now it’s time for the council to act, Chatters said. She would vote to ask voters about moving Everett’s fire and transit services into other regional organizations, and raising the property tax. But if the council did so, she would want to speak with residents to hear their concerns and ideas.
Kelly Fox sees COVID-19 recovery as the imminent and ongoing crisis. She has had a look at it as executive director of Snohomish County EMS, the group that trains and certifies emergency medical technicians, among other responsibilities.
But while vaccination rates rise and the toll of the pandemic lessens, the city’s budget deficit largely will remain unchanged. Some of her proposals include approving and installing red-light cameras, which “provide some much-needed income, with the benefit of increasing safety,” she said, and merging the fire department into a regional district. She also said the city should pursue partnerships with non-profit organizations, such as Pioneer Human Services, which helps people with mental health conditions, substance use disorders or a jail or prison record return to general society.
But asking voters for a property tax lift should be “seriously” considered, Fox said.
Fox, who identifies as queer, is seeking the position to bolster representation on the council, where she would use her education and experience to help solve some of the city’s lingering woes, she said. When it comes to people who live without stable housing, Fox disagreed with the City Council’s vote against the proposed Norton Avenue multifamily housing development, which, she said, had a strong plan, and the “no-sit, no-lie” ordinance.
“This type of punitive response criminalizes homelessness,” Fox said. “We need to respond with compassion and provide more homes, programs and services.”
Ben Zarlingo is a longtime resident of the Silver Lake area, where he has served as the neighborhood association co-chairman. In that capacity and others he has presented to city citizen boards and commissions and the council, and county hearing examiner.
“I know I have a lot to learn about the issues coming up, but I feel that I know the territory enough to quickly become an effective decision-maker,” Zarlingo said.
He retired from careers as an electrical engineer and product manager, roles in which he learned and then explained something, both of which he cited as skills useful to a council member.
Zarlingo was wary about merging fire and transit as a simple fix to the structural budget deficit, noting that early indications for the possible merger with Community Transit would mean a higher sales tax. It has led him to consider a property tax lid lift as the “most straightforward” solution. Putting the tax increase on the ballot would let voters decide what services and tax levels they wanted, he said.
To bolster the city’s Climate Action Plan, he’d like to see Everett foster development of more charging stations for electric vehicles and planning/zoning policies that encourage fewer vehicle trips.
He commended the City Council’s decision to pair the small shelter village with the “no-sit, no-lie” ordinance, which he did not see as punitive but rather as a “careful compromise” that addressed the issues in a test of how well the tandem work and could be implemented elsewhere.
Ballots are due Tuesday.
This story has been modified to reflect Don Schwab’s position on the “no sit, no lie” ordinance, which he did not support being tied to the small shelter village permit.