Everett City Council, Position 7 candidates (from left) Judy Tuohy, Judith Martinez and Bryce Nickel.

Everett City Council, Position 7 candidates (from left) Judy Tuohy, Judith Martinez and Bryce Nickel.

Editorial: Return Judy Tuohy to Everett City Council post

Martinez or Nickel would add vital insight for the council, but Tuohy’s experience is needed there.

By The Herald Editorial Board

After a years-long process to switch the Everett City Council to district representation, voters this year will choose among candidates tor the city council’s two at-large seats — Positions 6 and 7 — who work with the five district-elected council members.

Position 7: Incumbent Judy Tuohy, who has served on the council since 2014, is challenged by Judith Martinez and Bryce Nickel. The top two candidates from the primary will move on to the Nov. 7 general election.

Nickel is an advocate for the disability community and a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant. Although now in stable housing, Nickel said he lived for many years unhoused, providing perspective on the needs of those who are homeless. He serves on the board of the Autism Society of Washington and the Homes and Hope Community Land Trust.

Martinez, a mother and volunteer, works as an assistant safety specialist for the Snohomish County Public Utility District and is an advocate for working families and Black, Indigenous and People of Color communities. She immigrated to the U.S. with her parents when she was two and is a naturalized U.S. citizen.

Tuohy won election to the council in 2015 and reelection in 2019, and ran for mayor in 2017, losing by a narrow margin to then-fellow council member Cassie Franklin. Tuohy is executive director of the Schack Arts Center and the Arts Council of Snohomish County, with programs focused on using the arts to serve the needs of youths and justice-involved teens.

The three candidates met jointly with the editorial board, discussing the city’s housing, public safety and other needs.

With the city expected to add about 60,000 residents to the current population of 111,000 in the coming 20 years, Tuohy noted the importance of increasing the availability of housing and including those plans in the city’s comprehensive plan update. Tuohy said she wants to ensure that there are affordable apartments available for young families, but that those developments include open spaces and playgrounds as part of or near housing. She would also like to see new programs to aid first-time homebuyers. But as part of that growth in housing the city also must make sure infrastructure and support, such as police and fire protection are provided in step with growth.

Martinez, in addition to encouraging more housing, also wants to see an emphasis on family wage union jobs, so families can afford housing. Everett is a union town, she said, and should use that to its advantage.

Nickel said his primary focus on housing are the needs of the city’s homeless community. He is a supporter of the housing-first concept, offering low-barrier supportive housing that provides shelter first and then works toward treatment and development of job and other skills. Nickel said he would push the city to make such housing the city’s top priority, to the point of making cuts to other programs until the need was satisfied. Regarding affordable housing Nickel said he supports developments that include a mix of income levels, encouraging diversity among neighbors.

Regarding public safety, Martinez said she has heard concerns among neighbors and others and understands the dangers felt by some. But she disagreed with a recent council decision to provide more authority to the mayor to determine boundaries for the city’s “no sit, no lie” ordinance and its restrictions on providing water, food and other aid to the homeless. Martinez said there’s an obvious need for more mental health and other services.

Nickel said he would prefer to see an end to ordinances that he believes criminalize homelessness, instead preferring more focus on programs and investments that will provide shelter, housing and services. Nickel also discourages the belief that most homeless people are on the streets because of bad choices. “It’s not bad choices; it’s bad luck in losing your job, and you can’t get another job when you’re living on the street,” he said, noting that the disabled community has an 81 percent unemployment rate.

Tuohy said the expansion of the “no sit, no lie” ordinance is temporary, while the city gathers more data that can help inform the city’s response, but the city is working to resolve concerns in the city’s south end, in particular around the Fred Meyer store and Casino Road. However, she said, the no-sit area around the Everett Gospel Mission shelter has alleviated problems and improved safety there and is supported by the mission and its clients, as well as local businesses.

Fentanyl has further complicated the crisis, she said, because it is prevalent and its addiction works against people seeking help. Tuohy said it will take an all-out effort involving federal, state and local partners to resolve.

Martinez and Nickel stand out as strong candidates who understand the challenges facing the city and the ability to represent their peers and the rest of the city at an at-large position that requires a commitment of considerable time and effort.

Tuohy’s experience, however, can’t be ignored. She has served in council leadership for many years, and represented the council in a range of capacities that helped adopt programs and policies, including police body cams, the city’s gun buyback effort, red-light cameras and its diversion program. Notably she earlier led the formation of the council’s neighborhood liaison outreach, assigning each council member to a specific neighborhood, a precursor to district representation.

The change to council districts resulted in the election of several new council members in recent years who, while showing themselves as able representatives, still benefit from the institutional knowledge that a veteran such as Tuohy can provide.

Voters should return Tuohy to that role on the council.

2023 primary election, Aug. 1

The primary election for local offices is Aug. 1. Ballots, which were mailed July 12, must be returned to drop boxes or postmarked by Aug. 1. The voters guide was mailed July 11. Voters also can consult an online voters guide at vote.wa.gov.

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