By The Herald Editorial Board
Because of a recent switch in how voters elect members of the Everett City Council and the decisions by three current council members to step down at the end of the year, city residents can expect significant churn in the council’s makeup following this year’s elections. At least three new council members will join the city’s leadership in 2022.
The creation of five council districts in the city means voters will be selecting council members for each of the new districts this year. Except for at-large positions, which won’t be on the ballot this year, voters will elect the council member for the district in which they live.
Two candidates each filed to run for election in Districts 1, 2 and 4, setting the ballot for the general election. Districts 3 and 5 each drew three candidates, none current council members, requiring voters in the Aug. 3 primary to select the two finalists for the Nov. 2 general election.
The switch in how the council is elected, which itself was approved by city voters, and what it means for the future direction of the council and the city increases the importance of voter participation in this year’s primary and general elections.
Situated in the city’s west-central region, District 3 includes the neighborhoods of Boulevard Bluffs, Harborview-Seahurst-Glenhaven, View Ridge-Madison, Evergreen and neighborhoods along Hardeson Road.
Everett residents Lacey Sauvageau, Don Schwab and Jacob Vail, all first time candidates, are running for the position.
Vail recently operated a small business, was an account manager for an internet development firm and has been a life coach for 12 years. He serves on the city’s civil service commission and the county parks board and is enrolled in an online education program for professional mediation following studies in business marketing at Everett Community College. Vail lives with a disability and advocates for that community’s needs.
Schwab is retired following a 30-year career with the Everett Fire Department. He has served as deputy treasurer for the county, associate faculty at EvCC and a labor representative for the local firefighters union. Schwab has a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership. He has volunteered as a youth and adult rec coach, at local food banks, Volunteers of America and the Red Cross.
Sauvageau, a 911 dispatcher, has an associate’s degree from EvCC in criminal justice and serves on the Snohomish County 911 safety committee and volunteers with the Lynnwood Police Department’s citizens patrol. She’s active in her church and volunteers in the city and county.
All three candidates met via teleconference with the editorial board, discussing the city’s structural budget deficit and potential solutions, housing issues and public safety issues.
All three candidates demonstrated understanding of the city’s financial issues and the struggle to balance services against the tax base. Sauvageau and Vail said they were open to considering consolidation of services, including transit and fire and emergency services and for examining opportunities for a property tax increase. Schwab agreed but foresees some complexities in the “moving parts” regarding consolidation and adjustments to taxes.
On housing availability and affordability:
Schwab sees a need for the construction of housing that meets the broad range of income levels. The city council can have a significant impact on zoning and would like to see concentration of housing along the city’s transportation corridors. A coming inventory of the city’s housing needs will help direct city actions, he said.
Vail agreed that zoning is key to increasing housing stock so that more of those working in the city can live here. Along with increasing the stock, Vail sees a need to encourage business growth and increasing income. Vail would also like to see the city purchase vacant or available hotels to house the homeless.
With little land left available for single-family developments, Sauvageau said more apartments and multi-family housing should be encouraged, especially along transportation corridors. She also suggested programs for training that would help develop homeowners’ maintenance and related skills.
All three candidates were quick to praise the city’s police department and its management as well as recent reforms and accountability programs. Sauvageau said she’d support increasing the department’s budget, in particular for training. Schwab, having worked side-by-side with officers, said the department is a model agency. Schwab said he would consider looking at alternatives for calls related to mental health concerns and adding to the program to team social workers with patrols. Schwab sees implementing recently adopted state legislation regarding law enforcement as needed but a challenge for the department and the council. Vail also would support increasing the public safety budget and the hiring of more officers, but he also sees the need to reallocate funding to resources other than law enforcement for some situations.
All three candidates demonstrated detailed knowledge of the issues and opportunities facing Everett, but Schwab 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.
Situated to the city’s south, District 5 includes neighborhoods in portions of Pinehurst-Beverly Park, Cascade View, Twin Creeks and Silver Lake.
Everett residents Ben Zarlingo, Kelly Fox and Demi Chatters, all first-time candidates, are running to represent the district.
Chatters is a former small business owner with 10 years of experience in real estate sales, appraisal and property management in Snohomish and King counties. She has a bachelor’s degree in business administration with emphasis on marketing and leadership and is pursuing a master’s in business administration. A member of the Evergreen Middle School’s equity team, Chatters has served on boards and volunteered with organizations in Snohomish and King counties.
Fox currently serves as executive director of Snohomish County EMS and has held public service positions for the Renton Fire and EMS, Seattle Public Utilities/City Light and Puget Sound USO. She has a master’s in social work. She has served on the city’s salary commission, Community Emergency Response Team and as a volunteer with Red Cross, Pride Foundation and ACT and 5th Avenue theaters.
Zarlingo is employed in project management at Hewlett-Packard and previously worked at Agilent Technologies. He has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. He has served 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. He also has volunteered through United Way in construction projects for Cocoon House and Helping Hands Thrift Store.
In an interview with the editorial board, the candidates provided their insights on the city’s budget and taxes and housing issues.
On the city budget and tax issues:
Fox said it will be a hard sell but the city needs to look at some tax increases to address the structural budget deficit. She also wants to consider ways to partner with service organizations that offer resources to them but also offer opportunities for agencies to provide services now handled by the city. She also supports consolidation of Everett Transit with Community Transit because it can improve service throughout the city.
Chatters sees a communication deficit as well as a budget deficit. The city, she said, needs to do a better job of helping city residents understand what the city’s budget deficit means and how it might be resolved. More clarity is needed on issues like consolidation of transit and fire and emergency services and possible tax increases, she said. These are major changes, she said, and city residents must be included in those decisions.
Zarlingo agreed with the need for community outreach on the issue, recalling conversations with then-Mayor Ray Stephanson. If the city can show the modest portion of the property tax that it receives relative to school districts and others, it might convince the public of the need for a levy lid lift. The city could also appeal to state lawmakers to reconsider the 1 percent cap on the city’s ability to increase its portion of the tax. Zarlingo has not come to a conclusion on regionalization efforts regarding fire and transit.
On housing availability:
Zarlingo sees a healthy range of housing in the city but a clear need for greater volume of it. He supports the city’s ongoing efforts regarding Metro Everett and Rethink Zoning and believes higher density needs to be concentrated near services, including transit. He also supports changes to ease restrictions on accessory dwelling units.
As with the budget, Fox sees a need for community outreach on housing issues and the city’s efforts to resolve homelessness. There are opportunities to adjust zoning to encourage more construction of housing units.
Homelessness, Chatters said, has become the most visible aspect of housing issues and an indication of a lack of response by the city over time, with police being tasked to address the issues that develop from it. There’s an immediate need for housing that will allow delivery of resources that can help return that community to stability. On housing availability and affordability — both for purchase and rental — Chatters said the city needs to build partnerships and address the regulatory environment to increase the stock of affordable housing.
As in District 3, District 5 voters have a wealth of able and knowledgeable candidates from which to choose. Fox and Chatters show great promise as future city leaders, but Zarlingo’s past leadership role in the Silver Lake neighborhood will serve him well in representing his district; his past engagement on city-wide issues of zoning, the comprehensive plan, wetlands and commercial and residential developments will serve the city as a whole.
For information on voter registration, a link to the voters guide and ballot drop box locations go to tinyurl.com/SnoCoVote2021.