The phrase, “May you live in interesting times,” is supposed to be taken as a curse.
And while significantly less interesting in that regard than when Aaron Reardon was the county executive, Snohomish County is still living in interesting and challenging times.
The county government is wrestling with a budget shortfall and is now weighing cuts, including millions of dollars from law enforcement, following an unsuccessful ballot measure that would have increased the sales tax to fund the hiring of more than 30 sheriff’s deputies.
The Snohomish County Council, at the recommendation of County Executive Dave Somers, scrapped plans this summer to build a new courthouse, after $12.4 million had already been spent to acquire property, draw up architectural plans and perform other prep work. A 3-2 vote of the council sent the project in the direction of a $62 million renovation, rather than a $163 million new facility.
Snohomish County won funding for more than $570 million in road projects in the Legislature’s 2015 transportation package, but even that left off funding for others projects on U.S. 2 and its trestle and Highways 9 and 522 needed to address safety and congestion.
And like other communities throughout the state and nation, Snohomish County is grappling with the often-related issues of addiction to opioids and other drugs, homelessness and mental illness.
The candidates for Snohomish County Council’s District 5, then, are seeking to serve in interesting times.
Hans Dunshee, a Snohomish resident, was appointed this February to the seat vacated by former council member Dave Somers, who won election to county executive. Prior to the appointment, Dunshee had served a total of 12 years in the state House of Representatives, most recently as its chief budget writer.
Sam Low is a Lake Stevens small business owner and, since 2013, a member of the Lake Stevens City Council and its president and has served on the council’s utility and budget committees.
The 5th District, with about 150,000 of the county’s 746,000 residents, encompasses much of the eastern portion of the county and includes the cities of Lake Stevens, Snohomish, Monroe, Sultan, Gold Bar, Index and portions of Bothell.
Low began his campaign for the post as soon as Dunshee was appointed, criticizing him as a “far-left Olympia politician” who had failed the residents of the district.
If elected, Low said he would focus on issues related to public safety, transportation and heroin.
Low has been critical of how the county handled the courthouse issue and the waste of $12 million, remarking that the county’s “Plan B” for renovation should have been its Plan A from the start. Dunshee voted with the council’s Democrat Terry Ryan and Republican Ken Klein to renovate rather than build a new courthouse.
Low also wants the county to pursue additional funding for U.S. 2 and Highways 9 and 522, particularly 522’s current configuration that goes from four lanes to two lanes and back to four as a leading cause of congestion on the highway.
Low and Dunshee are agreed on many of the challenges facing the county, but Dunshee isn’t confident that significant transportation funding will be available from the state. Instead, Dunshee said the county will have to focus on local solutions to address congestion, including public transportation.
Dunshee has had the advantage of serving in the position for several months, but, as he had in the Legislature, has demonstrated an ability to work with Klein as well as with fellow Democrats Ryan, Brian Sullivan and Stephanie Wright.
Dunshee showed innovation in addressing disagreements between those who want to enjoy private fireworks displays and those who oppose them in the county’s unincorporated areas. The council passed Dunshee’s proposal this summer that allows specific neighborhoods to ban fireworks if they can get 51 percent of an area’s residents to sign a petition, a process that should encourage discussion and resolution among neighbors.
He has also proposed using an now-unused portion of the Denney Juvenile Justice Center for a drug treatment program.
Dunshee, while serving in the House earned his reputation as an effective and responsive lawmaker who worked for all of Snohomish County. One project he worked on is now rising from a Broadway parking lot across from Everett Community College, WSU North Puget Sound.
We endorse his election to the County Council, so he can bring those same qualities to the residents of the 5th District and the rest of the county.
Correction: This editorial has been corrected to reflect Terry Ryan’s political affiliation, which is the Democratic Party.