Editorial: Endorsements for Mukilteo city council races

  • Monday, July 24, 2017 8:17am
  • Opinion

By The Herald Editorial Board

Mukilteo is a city surrounded by modes of transportation, so it’s no surprise that how residents, commuters and visitors get around and through the city arise as frequent issues before the city council.

Work began this year on Washington State Ferries’ new and relocated $134.7 million terminal along the waterfront. The state Supreme Court last week declined to reconsider a case brought by Mukilteo challenging a commercial passenger terminal at Paine Field. And the city will go to the voters in November for approval of a transportation benefit district tax intended to provide more sidewalks and bike paths in the city.

Mukilteo, with a population of about 21,500, faces other issues not related to transportation, including a planned Islamic center in the city, the city administration’s financial management and issues that all Snohomish County cities must address including public safety and social problems such as homelessness and the opioid crisis.

Three of the city council’s seven seats are up for election this year, and all three attracted three or more candidates, requiring primary elections in each to determine the two candidates who will move on to the Nov. 7 general election.

Mukilteo City Council Position 1: The position is currently held by Ted Wheeler, who was elected to the seat in 2013. Wheeler is not running for reelection.

Running for the open position are James Yoo, owner of two construction related businesses; Riaz Kahn, a lead manufacturing engineer for Boeing’s aerial tanker program and proponent of a project to build a mosque in Mukilteo; and Anna Rohrbough, who runs a leadership coaching and training business.

All three offer impressive resumes and profess a desire to give back to their city. But Rohrbough, with her background in coaching public speaking and collaborative leadership would be an asset to the council.

She has demonstrated her commitment already to the city by her participation on the city’s long-range financial planning committee since 2014 and will have background in issues before the city because of her work there. She also is well-versed in economic issues and is active with Economic Alliance of Snohomish County’s ambassadors committee, which helps to advance its work.

We do want to state our appreciation for Khan and his campaign with others to build an Islamic center in Mukilteo for the area’s Muslim community. He has become the face of the project, and when opposition mounted — including that by another city council candidate, Peter Zieve — Khan defended the project, his faith and First Amendment religious freedom. Khan, through his participation in community meetings about the project, has helped educate city residents about the Muslim faith and merits gratitude for standing up to opposition.

Mukilteo City Council, Position 2: Bob Champion, an aerospace scientist and executive with Honeywell, is the incumbent, and completing his first term after winning election in 2013. He is challenged by Peter Zieve, CEO of Electroimpact, a major Boeing supplier; and Christina “Tina” Over, a real estate agent.

Zieve, last year, led a postcard campaign against the mosque proposed by Riaz Khan and others. While he later apologized for the campaign, “in particular to my Muslim neighbors,” Zieve still harbors attitudes that are concerning. During an interview with the editorial board, Zieve talked about his meetings with Khan and expressed dismay that he could not get a guarantee or promise from Khan that what happened in Seattle in 2006 at the Jewish Federation — when Naveed Afzal Haq shot six women, one fatally — wouldn’t happen in Mukilteo if a mosque were built there.

We don’t understand how such a guarantee could be made. It’s an odd request to make of Khan or anyone, for that matter, and shows a lack of understanding of religious liberty, personal responsibility and of the 2006 shooting itself. Haq, while self-identifying after the shooting as Muslim, was rarely seen at mosques where he lived and had been baptized as a Christian in 2005.

Zieve’s conflicting responses regarding the Islamic center disqualify him as a good choice to represent a diverse community such as Mukilteo.

In contrast, both Champion and Over were clear in their support for religious freedom and the right of the Muslin community to build a house of worship, adhering to the city’s building codes, as much as any faith community.

Over has shown herself to be an asset to the Mukilteo community through her leadership on her children’s school’s PTA and her volunteer work with a homeless ministry and a organization helping foster children. And she demonstrated that she was well informed on issues. Over would be an asset on a range of city committees.

But voters should return Champion to the council.

In his first term on the council, Champion has made an obvious impression among his fellow council members, having been elected to the council president’s post the past three years. His business experience has saved the city money and helped stabilize the city as it hired then lost a string of finance directors. A recommendation to refinance the bonds of the Rosehill community center, for example, has saved the city about $25,000 a year, he says.

Even before the news of the Supreme Court decision on Paine Field, Champion said it was time for the city to move past that challenge and begin working with the county, the terminal developer and Alaska Airlines to address the impacts of commercial flights by negotiating flight paths and hours of operation.

Mukilteo City Council Position 3: Randy Lord, who has served on the council since 2006, is not seeking reelection. Four candidates filed for the seat: Maxwell Chen works as a bartender and handyman and a volunteer with the county’s emergency response team and other organizations; Tony Markey is director of a health care clinic and serves on the Washington Army National Guard; Sarah Kneller is a TV producer and production manager for sports networks; and Troy Gray is robotics engineer for Electroimpact and a real estate investor and landlord.

The editorial board was unable to contact Chen and Gray for an interview.

Kneller and Markey in their discussions with the board demonstrated understanding of the issues facing the city.

Kneller’s volunteer work with the Everett Gospel Mission and its Women’s and Children’s Shelter and her time advising women on personal finances proves her commitment and background on social issues. Like her fellow candidate, Christine Over, Kneller would provide valuable service if appointed to a city committee.

Markey offers the council his experience in managing a budget and operations of an outpatient clinic and his service on the city’s long-range financial planning committee.

He’s been a regular at council meetings and has the endorsement of several council members as well as the mayor. Markey also has served on the Mukilteo School District’s budget committee and is active in the community through Rotary, the Chamber of Commerce and Big Brothers, Big Sisters.

Voters would be well-served by electing Markey to council.

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