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Editorial: Dunn deserves second term on county council

Her opponents raise valid concerns, but Dunn’s work during the first term warrants re-election.

By The Herald Editorial Board

The District 2 race for the Snohomish County Council seat drew two challengers to incumbent council member Megan Dunn, one of three Democrats on the five-member council: Republican Georgia Fisher and Kristina Mitchell, who states no party preference.

The top two candidates from the Aug. 1 primary will move on to the Nov. 7 general election.

District 2 includes Tulalip, Everett, Mukilteo and the Silver Lake and Lake Martha neighborhoods east of I-5.

Fisher’s work resume includes work with Rockwell on NASA’s space shuttle program, and with Boeing in change management scheduling.

Mitchell, who has a master’s in education, is a teacher for the Mukilteo School District and works with youths and teens.

With degrees in biology and policy studies, Dunn’s work has included environmental programs and advocacy work to change the Everett City Council to district representation and work with the state PTA. She’s seeking re-election to a second term on the council.

In a joint interview with the editorial board, the candidates discussed their concerns and priorities for the position.

Dunn said she’s running to continue the work that she started as the covid pandemic first hit. Working with county departments, the county health district, and leaders with cities, tribes and hospitals, Dunn said she helped organize the “boots on the ground” in response to secure resources, such as masks and to organize relief and support programs.

Dunn said wants to continue ongoing work on issues she ran on initially on housing affordability and the county’s livability and sustainability, which resulted in the sales tax increase for behavioral health and housing; a change in county policy to allow accessory dwelling units on existing residential property and the county’s purchase of two hotels in the county that will provide those who are homeless with supportive housing.

Fisher said she is running in hopes of adding a third Republican voice and vote to the council, to address her concerns around public safety and the support of the sheriff’s and prosecutor’s office. Fisher said she is concerned by the crime, drug use and graffiti she sees in the county and in particular in District 2. “It’s the most horrible area in the county, and people are tired of it,” she said.

Mitchell said she was running as a nonpartisan candidate to provide balance to the county council and come at issues with an open mind. She also wants to work to see improvements to the foster care system and providing more resources for youth programs.

More than in most races in the county’s primary election, the three candidates for the District 2 seat feature the greatest difference regarding policy and approach to issues, in particular regarding homelessness and addiction.

Fisher is unimpressed with solutions pursued by the county, in particular the purchase of the two hotels as housing. She criticizes the cost in buying and decontaminating the hotels and does not believe they will be successful in getting people into treatment for addiction and behavioral health. She opposes the “housing first” approach the county is using, adding there’s no compassion in “hiding addicts from our sight.”

Mitchell hesitated to respond to a question regarding the “housing first” concept without more information, but said generally it makes sense to her to require treatment before housing individuals.

Dunn responded that part of the reason for the “housing first” approach is that it is a requirement for federal grant money that effort uses. The county would have to forfeit those funds without that approach. And there will be requirements for residents to meet with a program manager and not to use drugs within residences. “We do know that ‘housing first’ works,” she said.

Fisher and Mitchell are sincere in their concerns, in particular for crime, addiction and public safety in general. And there is validity in challenging the council’s Democratic majority on its policies and priorities, a counterpoint that Republican council members Sam Low and Nate Nehring now provide. But Dunn in her first term — perhaps tested by the fire of the pandemic — quickly learned how to work within the council and with the county’s departments and staff.

Dunn showed herself well-versed on affordable housing, sustainable growth and land-use issues and a coming effort to include climate change as part of the comprehensive plan update and develop countywide tree canopy guidelines.

Dunn also is supporting the county’s work with south county cities to annex unincorporated areas to provide more opportunities for housing development and services ahead of coming population and job growth.

Dunn’s first-term experience has further developed the background knowledge and political skills she offered in her first run in environmental issues, planning, education and legislative outreach.

Voters should return Dunn for a second term representing the district and the county at-large.

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