Nick Coelho

Nick Coelho

Editorial: Coelho, Altamirano Crosby, Parshall for Lynnwood Council

Two new-comers and a veteran council member are the best choices to represent Lynnwood’s residents.

By The Herald Editorial Board

Voters in Lynnwood will select among candidates in three contested city council races and one where the incumbent is unopposed for the city of more than 43,000 residents.

Council Position 4: Incumbent council member Jim Smith, who has served on the council for 27 years, is challenged by Nick Coelho, the owner and manager of a board-game pub, Around The Table, marking its 10th year in Lynnwood. He made previous runs for the council in 2019 and 2021. Smith did not respond to requests to participate in an interview with the editorial board.

Coelho has been active in the community, serving on the city’s parks and recreation board, the South Lynnwood Neighborhood Co-Design Committee and volunteer work with the Lynnwood Food Bank, the city’s parks foundation, Volunteers of America, Habitat for Humanity and Washington Trails Association.

Coelho said his work with the parks and recreation board has prepared him to serve on the council. More than planning for playgrounds, he said, the board’s work includes capital budget planning, land acquisition, citywide development and gentrification issues, maintenance and facilities, staffing, conservation and climate change and social infrastructure, including public safety.

While he said he encourages the conversations around affordable housing, Coelho said he is also concerned about providing ample space and opportunity for small businesses in Lynnwood, in particular along Highway 99, but also for issues of livability in the city’s neighborhoods.

“We’re getting really good at building homes and houses and apartments. But we’re not building neighborhoods,” he said, suggesting the city needs more events that bring neighbors together, create neighborhood identity, foster relationships and contribute to public safety.

Regarding the move of a drug treatment facility into Lynnwood from Bothell this year, Coelho said he was disappointed by the council’s actions regarding the move, including a moratorium on such facilities. State law now classifies drug treatment and other centers as essential facilities, but the council’s actions, he said, missed an opportunity for members to provide public education on the necessity for cities to accommodate such assistance.

Coelho also said he is concerned that the council has squandered time in recent months on infighting amongst council members. The city has many opportunities ahead, “and I would hate for us to miss it just because of the squabbling and nonsense.”

Smith has built a long tenure of service on the board, but Coelho offers voters an opportunity they should not miss. Coelho has shown his commitment to the community from his years of service to the city and its organizations, a deep understanding of the city’s needs and potential and proven skill at collaborative work. On his third try, voters should elect him to the council.

Council Position 5: Incumbent council member Julieta Altamirano Crosby, owner of a diversity consulting business who first won election to the council in 2019, is challenged by Robert Leutwyler, an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan and is employed as a pension fund manager for Amazon.

Leutwyler, who has a master’s in business administration and serves on the city’s planning commission, sees four issues of importance for the city: housing equity and affordability, transportation, the environment and climate solutions and public health and safety.

Leutwyler does support the state change to increase density in single-family neighborhoods but said it needs to be followed by conversations with residents about what additional housing in Lynnwood will look like and how it can fit each neighborhood, a conversation that he said isn’t being pursued by the current council. He’s also concerned about the city’s underfunding of road maintenance and improvements, particularly sidewalks, and believes that’s another discussion that hasn’t gotten enough attention.

Leutwyler also said he wants to challenge the idea that the city’s problems with addiction and homelessness have been transplanted from Seattle. The problems involve Lynnwood residents and have to be addressed at the local level by strengthening the city’s finances so that it can support the hiring of police, mental health services and other solutions. Likewise, the city’s mishandling of the drug treatment facility’s move into town was a disservice to the community and worked against its interests.

Altamirano Crosby, who immigrated from Mexico about 15 years ago, has a doctorate in social communication and a master’s in educational leadership. Having taken English language courses at Everett Community College, she earlier worked as an interpreter in her daughter’s schools and in medical offices and also has worked to increase Latino enrollment in public schools.

Among her priorities, Altamirano Crosby said, are public safety and public health, and sustainable growth for the city.

She opposed the state legislation on residential density, but believes there’s now a responsibility for Lynnwood and other cities to prepare for the housing but also for the needs and services for existing and new residents. She said she wants to see an outreach to all residents to have those conversations and make them aware of programs and opportunities.

Regarding the handling of the drug treatment facility, Altamirano Crosby said the discussion wasn’t helped by a lack of transparency in how the move was brought to the council’s attention, though that has improved more recently with an open house and other engagement. It’s vital, she said, that services for mental health and drug treatment be made available to address those needs.

“This is something that has to be a collaboration by local, state and county, and we have to be on the same page,” she said.

In addition to the council’s work in its meetings, Altamirano Crosby takes seriously what she sees as service to her community. She has worked to win funding for residential street improvements, tutoring for students and the Lynnwood Food Bank, where she is a volunteer. When the pandemic arrived shortly after she joined the council, she helped secure federal assistance funds for the Lynnwood Neighborhood Center and other programs. She also organized forums around public safety.

The race between Leutwyler and Altamirano Crosby offers two well-qualified candidates, both committed to the community with thoughtful approaches to public engagement and solutions. Altamirano Crosby’s commitment to her work, on the council dais and off, should earn her reelection from Lynnwood voters.

Council Position 6: Incumbent council member George Hurst is running unopposed.

Council Position 7: Incumbent council member Shannon Sessions is not seeking reelection, opening the seat to David Parshall, a high school social studies teacher formerly at Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace high schools, and Derek Hanusch, a piano teacher, caretaker and a political science student at the University of Washington.

Parshall, with a degree in political science and a master’s in education, also serves on the city’s salary commission and Friends of Lynnwood Library and Friends of Scriber Lake.

Hanusch currently serves in the UW’s student Senate and has participated in the city police department’s Citizens Academy.

Parshall, who stresses the importance of local government to his students, said he decided to put that lesson into practice with a run for the council.

Among the challenges for the city, Parshall in particular noted homelessness and addiction, both of which all cities and states are having to play catch-up. Lynnwood and Edmonds are lucky to have treatment beds available at Swedish Edmonds hospital, but at the same time fentanyl has complicated efforts, he said. Cities, he said, will have to work closely with state lawmakers regarding their needs to provide treatment, and he has built relationships with local lawmakers.

As drug treatment centers are now considered essential facilities, Parshall said he has seen in recent months work by the council to discuss how to accommodate such facilities and work to provide transparency to the community.

On housing, Lynnwood can’t escape the work necessary to accommodate growth, especially as the light rail terminus arrives. At the same time he’s concerned that growth doesn’t come at the cost of the city’s parks and the opportunity to add more of those amenities.

“I think the important thing for the city is to be proactive and plan Lynnwood for Lynnwood, and actually be ahead of some of these things,” he said, noting that there are opportunities to increase density by encouraging cottages on lots or multi-unit condos on two or three lots.

Parshall, as he has canvassed neighborhoods, said he has heard concerns about some of the infighting on the council. And having regularly attended meetings, he’s seen it himself. Parshall said it would be his intention to put those battles in the past.

Hanusch said he has concerns about how the city handles the growth and other impacts from the new light rail terminus. He wants to propose a program that pays the city’s homeless population and others to pick up trash and clean up areas. On housing, Hanusch said he sees opportunities to redevelop some of the now-vacant retail spaces as affordable housing.

Regarding the interactions of council members, Hanusch said he felt welcomed to Lynnwood when he arrived five years ago, and would extend the same attitude when working with the rest of the council and the public.

Hanusch’s desire to serve a community that welcomed him is notable, but Parshall, having taught about government, could provide valuable service to a council that needs to build on its outreach to residents and to the region. Up to speed on the issues before Lynnwood, he can quickly take on a seat from a council veteran and move ahead with work to evaluate and resolve issues, improve transparency and take advantage of opportunities. Parshall should be the voters’ choice.

Nov. 7 Election

Ballots for Snohomish County voters are scheduled to be mailed on Oct. 19, and must be returned to ballot drop boxes or mailed by 8 p.m. Nov. 7. The county voters guides will be mailed Oct. 18, but are now available online at tinyurl.com/SnoCoVoterGuide23. More information on the election and registering to vote is available at tinyurl.com/SnoCoVote23.

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