Edmonds Chamber forum part 2: Questions to Edmonds City Council candidates

Forum moderator David Cornell explains the ground rules to the audience and participants.

The latest in the current cycle of election-season candidate forums brought 15 candidates in eight separate races to podium Monday evening in the Edmonds City Council Chambers. Hosted by the Edmonds Chamber and moderated by David Cornell, the event included candidates for Edmonds Mayor, City Council and School Board.

The candidates responded to a series of questions previously submitted to the chamber by its membership, and provided opening and closing statements.  Candidates did not know the questions in advance, and the format did not include the opportunity for questions from the estimated 50 citizens in attendance.

What follows is a summary of responses from Edmonds City Council candidates. You can see Edmonds School District Board of Directors responses in our previous story here.

The first group of city council candidates to come forward were Diane Buckshnis and Jenna Nand running for position 4, and Alicia Crank and Vivian Olson seeking position 5.

Opening statements were first.

Buckshnis began by thanking Edmonds for the honor of representing them for the past nine years. She stressed that her message and priorities haven’t changed, and that paramount among these are financial integrity and transparency, the environment and maintaining Edmonds’ traditional values of charm and small-town atmosphere. She emphasized her support of the Edmonds Waterfront Center, and to addressing issues of parking, economic vitality, public safety and transportation issues.

Nand reiterated her campaign tagline as the “hometown candidate,” stressing how she grew up and attended school locally. She stressed that Edmonds is facing decisions that will affect it for decades, and that the city needs new ideas and fresh perspectives to ensure the right decisions are made. One issue that she would address is the city’s over-reliance on consultants. She also summarized her experience serving on the Mayor’s Climate Protection Committee, her service as second vice-chair of the 32nd District Democrats, and her work as a practicing attorney specializing in helping small businesses and pro bono work with refugees and those facing deportation.

Crank summed up her message as one of “collaboration and action” that would prioritize Edmonds and its contributors. She mentioned her 20 years’ experience as a business and non-profit leader, and her work on the Edmonds Planning Board and as vice-chair of the Paine Field Airport Commission. As a councilmember she would work toward more transparent and accessible city government and “put my experience to work for you.”

Olson spoke of her experience and education at the Air Force Academy as an Air Force officer, being an Edmonds mom, a swim coach, and a range of other volunteer endeavors. “Through these I’ve learned about the community,” she said. She also stressed her strong support of the new Waterfront Center as a catalyst for intergenerational living, partnering with businesses, and coming up with creative solutions to the issues we face as a community.

The first question went to Jenna Nand and Diane Buckshnis.

Do you think Edmonds is perceived to be an inclusive city, welcoming of people from all backgrounds? If so, why? If not, why not and what can be done to change the perception?

Jenna Nand is seeking to unseat incumbent Diane Buckshnis from Edmonds City Council position 4.

Nand shared that as an ethnic minority and being raised in Edmonds, she never felt discriminated against or marginalized here. But recently there have been hate crimes, and people are looking toward the city council for leadership and a statement of the city’s values.

Buckshnis said that she “pretty much agrees” with Nand’s assessment that Edmonds has historically been a welcoming place, but noted that recent incidents sparked the creation of the Diversity Commission, that other recent incidents are concerning, and that we continue to need to move forward as a community in addressing this.

The next question was directed to Olson and Crank.

What core values will inform your work for the city and its constituents?

Olson called for expressions of integrity from local officials. Noting the national scene and that many have difficulty feeling proud of our national leaders, she hopes to help make a difference locally by listening and reflecting local values in policies and other council actions.

Crank said it comes under that broad heading of diversity in thought, language, values and opportunity. She stressed that we have to be more welcoming to those with different experiences and backgrounds. “What we believe isn’t necessarily wrong,” she said, “but we need to be open to other ideas.”

The next question went to Diane Buckshnis and Jenna Nand. 

Whether as an elected official or in your personal life, what project or accomplishment are you most proud of that had a direct and tangible impact on your constituents or people in your community?

Incumbent Diane Buckshnis is running for a third term in position 4 on the Edmonds City Council.

Buckshnis responded that she takes tremendous pride in her work to address financial reporting and openness issues early in her tenure on council, and that she continues to be a watchdog for financial integrity, transparency and oversight. On a more personal level, she mentioned pride in her work over the past 15 years to help establish and maintain the Off Leash Area Edmonds dog park.

Nand cited the free legal work she does to help folks facing deportation, loss of food stamps, and helping solve other problems for folks who find themselves alone and in a strange place.

The next question went to Alicia Crank and Vivian Olson. 

Our elected officials have a duty to act in the best interest of the entire community. How will you balance your duty to act on behalf of all 42,000 residents, when faced with a vocal minority who stand in opposition?

Alicia Crank is running against Vivian Olson for Edmonds City Council position 5, an open seat.

Crank responded by acknowledging that she knows “she can’t make everyone happy,” but that “I can listen to everyone and find the best solutions for most people. It’ll never be my way or the highway.”

Olson pledged to “listen up to the very last moment before a vote, because I may hear something that will change my mind.” Like Crank, she acknowledged that she can’t please everyone, but she will always keep the best interests of Edmonds and its people uppermost in her mind.

The next question was posed to Jenna Nand and Diane Buckshnis.

In your opinion, what are the most important challenges facing our city and how do you propose to address these challenges?

Nand responded that housing affordability tops the list, as the best place to start on the path to achieve the city’s goals of economic and social diversity. She said that ADUs (accessory dwelling units) are an important piece of this. Along the way, the city needs to be careful that its bond measures do not put an undue burden on property owners.

Buckshnis agreed about the importance of housing diversity, but added the issue of infrastructure. Saying that our city buildings are going “kaput,” she favors a capital plan to fix them, noting that bonding is important for long-term projects.

The final question went to Vivian Olson and Alicia Crank. 

If you could choose only one action to address parking in Edmonds, what would that one action be and how would it mitigate parking in our community?

Vivian Olson is challenging Alicia Crank for the open seat on Edmonds City Council, position 5.

Olson responded that she favors expanding the trolley service and making it more attractive by displaying art in and on the trolleys, and perhaps having musicians and other artists performing on board.

Crank believes the parking issue can be mitigated by looking at a range of different ways to supplement it, including having trolleys to run in and out of downtown and serve other areas of town and remote parking areas. “We’re more than just downtown,” she said.

Closing statements were next.

Crank shared that the campaign has been “the longest and most intense job interview I’ve ever had.” She cited her five-plus years in Edmonds and the “significant footprint” she has left, her experience, and her values as reasons to vote for her.

Olson talked of collaboration, saying it’s “just another buzz word until someone does it.” Citing her neighborhood walks as evidence that she is already doing this, she pledges to continue and expand on her commitment to involving the community and the individuals in it.

Buckshnis cited her track record on council and as a community volunteer, and reiterated her commitment to environmental protection, governmental oversight and transparency, community empowerment and retaining Edmonds’ small-town heritage and charm.

Nand said that she’s running because the city needs new ideas and fresh perspectives, to change the culture of City Hall, and to enhance communication and respect. She pledged to bring citizens in earlier on decisions and minimize the use of consultants.

The second group of City Council candidates then came forward, comprising Susan Paine and Diana White for position 6, and Laura Johnson and Nathan Monroe for position 7.

Opening statements came first.

Susan Paine is running against Diana White for Edmonds City Council position 6, an open seat.

Paine praised Edmonds’ virtues, saying these are the result of good stewardship. “It’s not by accident that we’ve become a destination,” she said. “It’s the result of conscious stewardship. Highway 99, downtown and the Edmonds School District are big draws. I love calling Edmonds home.” She moved on to stress that we need to focus on the basics as we move forward, including sidewalks and traffic safety preserving our parks and open spaces if we want Edmonds to remain as beautiful and welcoming as it is today.

White spoke of her 20-year residence in Edmonds and her volunteer work at Edmonds Elementary School, where she led the efforts to build the new playground and walking trail.  Next came the Hazel Miller Foundation Board and her role in founding the Teachers of Color Foundation in 2016.  She also explained her other volunteer positions.  She was elected to the Edmonds School Board in 2011. She stressed her lifelong commitment to equity, inclusion and diversity. If elected to the city council, she pledged to hear all voices, not just the loudest voices, because it “means better decisions,” and to be a good steward of taxpayer dollars.

Johnson cited how Edmonds is her chosen home. As a small business owner, she learned the importance of listening to her clients and putting them first, and pledges to provide the same to Edmonds as a councilmember. She went on to cite her community and volunteer experience including serving as chair of the Edmonds Historic Preservation Commission, as legislative lead for the local chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Control, and as a founding member of the Edmonds Neighborhood Action Coalition. She promisedto provide a sustainable future for the next generation, and to continue showing up and taking action.

Monroe talked of being born and raised in Edmonds. “I have deep roots here, and this town is part of who I am,” he said. He stressed his support of infrastructure and fiscal responsibility. As a civil engineer, he pledged to provide the engineering voice on the Council, and as an MBA he understands the importance of fiscal responsibility. He cited being on the Edmonds Planning Board for five years, including the last year as chair. “I’m ready to go to work on day one,” he concluded.

The first question was directed to Diana White and Susan Paine.

Pride in your community is often expressed in the organizations you belong to and where you volunteer your time. What local organizations do you belong to and what volunteering have you committed to in the recent past?

Diana White is seeking election to City Council position 6, running against Susan Paine.

White harkened back to the algebra club when her children were in 6th grade, noting that it resulted in an immediate boost in grades coming out of the classroom. She also expressed pride in her role in founding the Teachers of Color group and helping provide opportunities for its members.

Paine spoke of her work with the Sierra Club and the Save Our Marsh group, and her passion to work out in nature. She also cited her tenure as president of the Edmonds School Board during the economic downturn and the challenge of keeping things working during those difficult times.

The next question went to Nathan Monroe and Laura Johnson. 

Do you believe the city is currently doing enough to tackle climate change? If not, what actions would you like to see the city address sooner rather than later?

Monroe responded that this is a global issue, and that the city has come up with some good ideas, such as encouraging solar. He pointed out that since Edmonds doesn’t expend a lot of energy, there are limits on what we can actually do.

Johnson said that this is a priority issue on which the city can always do more.  She supports Edmonds’ commitment to go 100 percent renewable to 2020, moving away from gas, going electric, reducing storm runoff, prioritizing carbon sequestering, and increasing green infrastructure to maximize benefits for Edmonds and help ensure a more sustainable future.

The next question was posed to Susan Paine and Diana White 

The opioid crisis is not going away.  How do you plan to address this in our community?

Paine recognized this as both a national and local question. It affects families at all economic and social levels. She would advocate for increased availability and training in the use of Naloxone (the overdose drug).

White pointed out that this is an issue that affects every family, and the city needs to get a handle on it right now.  She recommends collaborating with groups like Verdant and first responders.

The next question went to Laura Johnson and Nathan Monroe.

Now that the Waterfront Connector project is dead, what do you believe the next actions should be to address emergency access over the tracks?

Laura Johnson is running against Nathan Monroe for Edmonds City Council position 7, vacated by Neil Tibbott who is running for mayor.

Johnson pointed out how she actively opposed the project because it was proposed to be built over a wildlife sanctuary, and due to her belief that it was not the best use of our infrastructure dollars. She advocates looking at less-invasive ways to ensure emergency access, and that this should be done in collaboration with first responders.

Monroe said that the connector project would have “fallen apart” anyway after an environmental assessment. He recommends looking at a bridge at the south end of the waterfront that would provide access, but not affect a wildlife preserve or be a visual blight on our downtown and waterfront areas.

The next question was posed to Diana White and Susan Paine.

Snohomish County is seeking to ban the use of fireworks in unincorporated urban growth areas.  This would include areas of unincorporated Edmonds like Esperance. Are you in favor of this ban on the private use of fireworks? Why?

White responded that she favors banning fireworks, citing that as our population gets more dense and our summers get hotter, the risk of fire and injuries grows. “There is no purpose for this in our neighborhoods,” she said.

Paine cited other impacts including the effects on pets, other animals, and people suffering from war-related PTSD. She offered other ways to enjoy the holiday including parades, shows, and community get-togethers. “We don’t need to have sparklers,” she said.

The final question was directed to Nathan Monroe and Laura Johnson. 

Affordable housing continues to be a pressing issue that requires addressing in our community. What concrete actions can you take in Edmonds to help tackle this?

Nathan Monroe is seeking election to Edmonds City Council position 7, running against Laura Johnson.

Monroe stated his belief that this is a regional issue requiring a regional solution, and could be partially addressed by taking advantage of the lower land prices outside of Edmonds. This would also provide an opportunity to improve our east-west transportation. He also advocates detached ADUs. “We need to help citizens solve this problem in an organic, smart way,” he said.

Johnson advocated for a careful, community-driven plan that would examine all housing options, include allowing seniors to age in place, new families to join the neighborhood and green building technologies, all while preserving our existing neighborhoods.  She recommends Highway 99 as the perfect place to start.

Closing statements were next.

Johnson began, stressing her love for Edmonds and stating that she is running to “protect what is most important to us – our safety, environment and economic health.”  She advocates reaching out to all neighborhoods, reducing the city’s carbon footprint, and supporting its emergency responders.

Monroe pledged to ensure that the city’s future is built with the same passion as our past. He promised to make every decision based on what is best for Edmonds, and not by actions taken in Seattle or Olympia. “It’s the only lens I’ll look through,” he said.

Paine stressed her 25 years of municipal experience, community involvement and leadership.

White cited her experience, record of leadership and collaboration, and commitment to hear and engage all voices.  She pledged to serve Edmonds with the “levels of integrity and commitment that you deserve.”

You can watch the video of the forum here.

— By Larry Vogel

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