By The Herald Editorial Board
Regardless of election outcomes, the Everett City Council will look much different in January as it completes its switch to district representation and elections from the current seven at-large positions, putting added importance on voters’ participation in an off-year election.
Seats for the five newly created city districts are up for election this year, with voting limited to each district’s registered voters. The remaining two at-large seats, now held by council members Brenda Stonecipher and Judy Tuohy, are not up for election this year. Of the five seats on the Nov. 2 ballot, only two races feature incumbent council members, following the decision by current council members Jeff Moore, Scott Murphy and Scott Bader not to seek reelection.
Everett voters wisely made the choice to switch from at-large to council districts and now must step up in an off-year election to set the city’s course for the next four years.
District 1 represents the city’s Northwest, Delta and Riverside neighborhoods and the northeast portion of Bayside and east Port Gardner.
Incumbent Paul Roberts, who has served on the council since 2006, faces challenger Mary Fosse for the four-year term.
Fosse, a small business owner with past experience as a legislative assistant in the state House, has not run for office before but has extensive neighborhood and community service experience. She has served as chair of the city’s Delta neighborhood council and founded the Delta Kids Program. Fosse also represented North Everett in the city’s settlement work regarding cleanup of arsenic and other contaminants from the Asarco smelter. Fosse also has worked with the Everett School District’s financial advisory board, with the PTA, has grown produce for the food bank and has served as a volunteer teacher at the Denney Juvenile Justice Center.
Roberts, prior to his work on the council, has four decades of experience in public policy and municipal management, working as a transportation and planning consultant, and assistant city manager and public works director for Marysville, and planning and community development director for Everett. Running for his fifth term, Roberts indicated this would be his final term on the council.
While with the council, Roberts has represented the city on Sound Transit’s board of directors, with the Puget Sound Regional Council of Governments, the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency and with the Association of Washington Cities, specifically leading an effort to draft and adopt a economic-based climate action plan for the state Department of Commerce, “Growing the Green Economy.”
On the major issues Everett will continue to confront in the coming term — the city’s housing stock, homelessness, the city’s structural budget deficit, public safety, transportation and climate change — the two candidates in a joint interview with the editorial board expressed general agreement on those issues and how to address them. Achieving a sustainable budget, both said, will require going to voters to seek an increase of the city’s property tax and the move to a regional fire authority for fire and EMS services. A successful outcome to those voters will require outreach to city residents, Roberts said, while Fosse sees work ahead to rebuild trust.
Fosse has done the work to build connections in her neighborhood and in the greater city and demonstrated solid knowledge of the range of issues and the ability to work for solutions and consensus. She’s the kind of candidate that proponents of the move to districts likely hoped would be motivated to run for the council.
But Roberts is able to draw on a lengthy track record of past experience and leadership on the very issues that are at the top of the city’s list to resolve in the coming term. A notable example was Roberts’ leadership among fellow Sound Transit board directors earlier this year to hold the board to a commitment that kept ST3’s light rail arrival at Paine Field and downtown Everett— admittedly delayed — still a top priority.
Roberts’ leadership and experience will be valuable as the new council begins its work in 2021.
District 2 includes the southwest portion of Bayside, most of Port Gardner, South Forest Park, Glacier View, Lowell, Valley View and north Pinehurst-Beverly Park neighborhoods.
With no incumbent, two first-time candidates — Greg Lineberry and Paula Rhyne — face each other for the four-year term.
Lineberry recently retired at the rank of captain following 32 years with the Everett Police Department, and now is head of safety, security and health for the Lake Stevens School District. A U.S. Army veteran, he has served on the boards of Boys & Girls Clubs of Snohomish County and Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County and is a member of Everett Rotary. Lineberry also campaigned for the effort to switch to council districts in Everett.
Rhyne currently works as legislative aide to Snohomish Council Council member Megan Dunn. Previously she served as an legislative intern and constituent relations director for members of the King County Council. She was also an affordable housing program director for Seattle’s Federal Home Loan Bank. She also has worked as a paralegal. More recently she has served on the Port Gardner Neighborhood Association.
Lineberry, in a joint interview with Rhyne, noted that the caliber and diverse background of candidates this year for Everett City Council has validated the effort to switch to district elections and should help reconnect residents with the council and its members. Rhyne agreed with that assessment and said a local focus by council members should make for a more responsive council.
Nor is there significant disagreement between the candidates on issues confronting the city.
Rhyne said she’s supportive of the city’s Rethink Housing and Rethink Zoning efforts to encourage an increase in the stock of housing, especially for the “missing middle.” Lineberry concurred and additionally sees opportunity to increase housing density, especially along the city’s transit corridors.
Rhyne supports seeking voter approval for both a regional fire authority and a levy lid lift of the city’s property tax, but said she would want to see some protections written in for the city’s senior citizens and lower-income residents, perhaps in the form of rebates. Lineberry sees reason to consider the move to a regional fire authority but would have to see certain benefit to both the city and taxpayers before supporting it. Likewise, any move on taxes, he said, will require careful consideration.
Lineberry is correct about the quality of candidates for city council that the move to districts has prompted, as demonstrated by his and Rhyne’s candidacies. Both are closely matched in knowledge and political acumen. The difference comes down to weighing Lineberry’s years of service in the city against Rhyne’s ability to identify with and represent the city’s younger families and residents on a council with mostly older representation.
On balance, Rhyne can provide careful and reasoned consideration of issues while also providing more balanced representation for residents in her district and the city at large.
District 3 includes the neighborhoods of Boulevard Bluffs, Harborview-Seahurst-Glenhaven, View Ridge-Madison, Evergreen and neighborhoods along Hardeson Road.
Another race without an incumbent, the election features Don Schwab and Lacey Sauvageau, who were the top two candidates following the Aug. 3 primary, both making their first runs for office. Prior to the primary, the editorial board endorsed Schwab for District 3.
Schwab, who is retired after 30 years with the Everett Fire Department, impresses with his history with the city and community and an ability to see various angles and avoid unintended consequences for certain actions. Schwab would bring a fresh perspective but also experience to his district and the council.
District 4 includes the Westmont and Holly neighborhoods as well as portions of Cascade View and Twin Creeks.
Incumbent council member Liz Vogeli faces challenger Tommie Rubatino, a first-time candidate.
Rubatino is employed as a mortgage loan officer and is a pastor and middle school teacher at Northshore Christian Church and Academy. He has also volunteers with Casino Road Kids, an after-school program at Horizon Elementary.
Vogeli, is making her third run for office in the last four years. She won election to finish a term in 2018, won election in 2019 to what would have been a full four-year term but was shortened by the district switch. Vogeli is a former Head Start teacher, therapeutic child care provider, ombudsperson for the U.S. Coast Guard and a community organizer. Vogeli also worked with the council districts campaign and on the Westmont-Holly Neighborhood Association.
As seen in other races, Rubatino and Vogeli are not on opposite sides of most city issues. Rubatino said he’s been reading up on housing issues and supports the city’s Rethink Housing efforts. Vogeli has sought to push the rest of the council to make even greater provisions for housing, notably dissenting in a council decision that denied a rezone for a Housing Hope project that would have built student family housing on a playfield near Sequoia High School.
Regarding the city’s budget, Rubatino sees opportunities to increase revenue without raising taxes, suggesting, for example, a redevelopment of the Everett Mall that would provide space for housing as well as retail. Vogeli voiced her support for going to the voters regarding a lift of the property tax levy and creation of a parks district to remove the parks department from the city budget.
Rubatino, voicing his support for council districts, said he hoped to increase the visibility of the city’s southwest neighborhoods and their needs on the council, including parks, streets and public safety.
Vogeli, even without the benefit of a full term, has distinguished herself at times as the dissenting voice on the council and on the losing side of votes, but has taken on the job of assuring that issues are fully discussed and that her concerns, particularly on affordable housing, are considered by the full council. At the same time she has demonstrated an ability to work as part of a council team.
Vogeli has twice earned the trust of voters, who can now give her the full four-year term that she has earned.
District 5 includes neighborhoods in portions of Pinehurst-Beverly Park, Cascade View, Twin Creeks and Silver Lake.
In the Aug. 3 primary election, voters moved first-time candidates Ben Zarlingo and Demi Chatters on to the general election. Prior to the primary, the editorial board endorsed Zarlingo.
Zarlingo, employed in project management at Hewlett-Packard, has extensive community service on the Silver Lake Neighborhood Association and the neighborhood’s action committee and has volunteered with Forterra’s forest restoration work in Silver Lake and other neighborhoods, work that will serve him well in representing his district as will previous work on city-wide issues of zoning and the comprehensive plan.