Strong field for four seats

Having finally resolved years of debate by building a new Rosehill Community Center, Mukilteo faces a shortfall in the revenue source designated to pay for it — real estate excise taxes. Payments are covered for now, but if the real estate market continues to languish for several years, new revenue and, more likely, spending cuts could be needed to keep up the bond payments and balance the city’s budget.

That, along with whether to join a regional fire authority and how to maintain the city’s high quality of life, are key issues in this year’s four City Council races.

Our endorsements:

Position 4: This is the sole race for an open seat, with two-term council member Tony Tinsley deciding not to run again. In a close call, we endorse Steve Schmalz for his strong business background, record as a community volunteer, and the homework he has already done to gain a firm understanding of city finances.

His opponent, Ted Wheeler, also has a business background (he and his wife own a contracting company) and has also worked to get up to speed on the budget as a member of the city’s long-term financial planning committee. We’re more impressed, though, with Schmalz’s clear commitment to asking tough questions and making city government accountable.

Position 5: In another close call, attorney Terry Preshaw gets our nod over the incumbent, Emily Vanderwielen. Like Schmalz, Preshaw’s key issue is fiscal responsibility. She says “magical thinking” put the city in a risky position regarding revenue to pay for the new community center. We think her background as an independent, critical thinker and small-business owner in town would be assets to the council.

Vanderwielen has proven herself as a hard worker who, we think, would serve capably in a second full term. Preshaw’s skills and fresh eyes offer a bit more, in our view.

Position 6: We endorse longtime community activist E. Scott Casselman over one-term incumbent Linda Grafer.

Casselman, a retired radiologist, has played an informal watchdog role over the years, and his passion for Mukilteo is obvious. He’s also a realist, arguing that the ferry dock should stay where it is because the state doesn’t have the money to move it. He calls the former tank farm property, where some think the ferry terminal should go, “Mukilteo’s greatest opportunity,” one that should be used for public waterfront access and “enlightened development.”

Grafer has years of community service and four years’ experience on the council on her side, but we think Casselman’s assertiveness and long commitment to city issues would make a more positive impact.

Position 7: Two-term incumbent Jennifer Gregerson’s experience, intelligence and work with leaders throughout the region serve the city well. She should be re-elected.

Gregerson says the question of whether the city should join a regional fire authority is one of the top issues, and she understands the potential tradeoffs. She’ll be an important voice on this and other regional matters.

Gregerson’s challenger, Carolyn “Dode” Carlson, is a retired U.S. Postal Service manager who works in a variety of volunteer positions. She’s a thoughtful candidate who says she would bring a retiree’s perspective to the council, and as the city navigates through its fiscal challenges, would oppose tax increases that fall hardest on people with fixed incomes.

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