Lynnwood has long moved past being the butt of Seattle comedians’ jokes and has built an identity as a thriving and increasingly culturally diverse city of about 38,000 residents. And nearly four years ago, voters pushed the city past what had become a divisive and morale-busting administration of the then-mayor.
Discussions between candidates for mayor and city council now thankfully center not on divisiveness but on issues of greater importance to a city that is preparing for the arrival of Sound Transit’s Link light-rail in 2024, while addressing issues of growth, affordable housing, city services and social issues such as homelessness and addiction.
First-term mayor Nicola Smith is challenged by current city councilmember George Hurst for the coming four-year term.
Meanwhile, three council races pit one-time councilmember Van Aubuchon against Christine Frizzell, while incumbent councilmembers Ian Cotton and Ruth Ross are challenged by Shanon Tysland and Rosamarie Graziani, respectively.
Mayor: Smith, who formerly served as an administrator at Lynnwood-based Edmonds Community College for 26 years, has lived in the city for about 19 years. She has used her administrative skills to improve the climate at city hall and build on the city’s stature as a leader in the county.
Hurst, elected to the council in 2015, has worked for 30 years in the commercial lighting industry. Hurst’s duties, while on council, have included service on boards and committees for Snocom 911, Community Transit, the city’s Transportation Benefit District, and as chairman of the planning committee for the city’s merger with Fire District 1.
In discussions with the editorial board and at a recent League of Women Voters forum, the main difference of opinion between the two candidates centers on their perceptions of the city’s financial standing and its budgeting practices.
Hurst has faulted Smith for a process that he says relies heavily on city staff to write the budget, resulting in outcomes that have required the city to use reserves to balance the budget even as revenue has increased along with taxes and fees. Hurst said he would also seek to increase the budget process’ transparency by establishing an advisory commission for the budget.
Smith countered that she has restored balance to budgeting, and said that reserves are used only to cover ebbs and flows of revenues from year to year. The city’s financial management has resulted in no adverse findings by the state Auditor’s Office, she said. And its municipal bond rating has improved from A-plus to AA-plus.
Hurst also shared concerns with the pace of maintenance of city roads. But Smith said a recent study has allowed the city to set a sustainable schedule that is within the city’s budget.
Hurst’s dissatisfaction with the budget is shared by others on the council, evidenced by a recent 4-3 vote for the budget’s approval.
While reserves are there to fill in minor ebbs in revenue, other local governments have learned the importance of using relatively good economic times to boost rainy day funds that will be needed later during downturns.
Hurst should continue his watchful eye on budget issues from his council post — and push for the advisory panel he’s suggested — but Smith’s leadership has built on the city’s progress on many fronts.
Smith, during her first term has advanced work to develop a new city center for Lynnwood, including 1,000 units of affordable housing; fostered the process to merge the fire department with Fire District 1 by hiring a fire chief with experience in regionalization of service; and worked regionally with other cities and agencies on social issues, including a social worker patrolling with city police and the city’s “cops and clergy” program to meet transition needs for those moving from jail to treatment programs and the community.
Smith’s leadership has earned support from other local officials. And it should have the support of Lynnwood’s voters.
Endorsements for the Lynnwood City Council will follow in Thursday’s Herald.