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 mayoral candidates Mike Nelson and Neil Tibbott. You can see Edmonds City Council candidate responses in our previous story here and the School District Board of Director candidates responses in our story here.
Mike Nelson stressed his conviction that Edmonds needs new leadership to move the community forward. He cited that Edmonds’ small town atmosphere and charm were the things that attracted him and his family to settle here, and that he got involved in local government to make a difference. He reviewed his various endorsements and pledged that as mayor he would work to ensure the city’s charm is protected and citizen involvement is enhanced, going on to enumerate what he would do to ensure this.
Neil Tibbott pointed out that being mayor of Edmonds is a serious job with serious consequences. He listed his endorsements, including one from current Mayor Dave Earling and mayors from surrounding cities. He pledged to work for positive solutions by coming to meetings prepared and working to elevate others around him. “I don’t care who gets the credit,” he said. “I just want what’s best for our city. I believe in putting people before politics and being fair and inclusive.” He promised not to come in with a laundry list of priorities, but rather work with citizens and staff to establish these priorities.
All subsequent questions went to both candidates.
What experiences and strengths do you bring from your time on city council that will inform your approach as mayor?
Tibbott cited his experience from his entire time serving the City of Edmonds, beginning 15 years ago on the Transportation Committee, where he learned about transportation systems and walkways, and how the city’s capital plan works. His four years on the Planning Board included a year as chair, where he learned about the intricacies and processes of city planning in Edmonds. This also provided the opportunity to hear from citizens about what is important to them and why city officials need to pay attention to them. As a councilmember, he said he learned the importance of always sharing ideas and coming prepared, and pledged to carry this on as mayor.
Nelson pointed out that as one of seven on council, you can’t be effective unless you can work with others. “Legislation is our job, and I have an extensive record of being effective in this regard,” he said. “I’m honored to see the level of engagement of our citizens, and I’ve only been effective by collaborating with citizens from all walks of life. At the end of the day, we all have to do this together,” he concluded.
We are long overdue for an economic downturn. How will you ensure our city is able to weather this next economic challenge?
Nelson stressed that the city needs to both maintain its reserves and examine carefully and prioritize decisions to hire more staff and consultants. While Edmonds needs to invest in infrastructure for the long haul, “we need to look out for our citizens and make sure we’re not taxing them too heavily,” he added.
Tibbott expressed pride in establishing the city’s reserves and the way city officials have practiced fiscal restraint. He cited several positions that were let go during the downturn and have since been rehired, saying that these are essential for the long-term economic health of the city. He said that Edmonds needs to invest in infrastructure that lasts, and work on continued economic expansion.
Non-profit organizations in our community fill many needs not met by state and local government budgets. In what direct and indirect ways can the city support these organizations in our community?
Tibbott cited his experience with churches and other non-profits, including the Meadowdale Boosters and the Edmonds Schools Foundation, and that all need access to volunteers, funding and staff.
Nelson advocates for better coordination of efforts among the various non-profit groups, recommending exploring opportunities for collective vs. individual efforts as a way to better serve their target populations, and for opportunities for the city to assist, such as providing space.
Initiative 976 is on the ballot and if approved would drop the annual car tab fee down to just $30. Are you for or against this initiative? Why?
Nelson responded that he has mixed feelings. While he and others have “enjoyed” the lower car tab fees of past years, he realizes that if car tab fees again drop to $30, cities like Edmonds will take a hit. “I’m still thinking about this one,” he said.
Tibbott stressed the importance of funding improvements to roads and walkways, and that car tab fees allow this. “We need to keep people moving,” he said, “and we need these funds to make the needed infrastructure improvements.”
Can you speak to the perceived division of “the Bowl” and “the rest of Edmonds” and ways you hope to help bridge this divide?
Tibbott said that as mayor he would like to meet everyone throughout the city. He said he’s learned that no matter where you live in the city, people appreciate the amenities of Edmonds like walks, parks, theaters and schools. “These all bring us together and give us the opportunity to experience community,” he said.
Nelson pledged to look for ways to bring government to all parts of the city. This would mean regularly going into neighborhoods and meeting directly with citizens in coffee shops and living rooms to learn about the issues affecting them. Every neighborhood is unique, and they all have different concerns, he said.
What can you do to ensure that we attract and retain quality city employees?
Nelson stated that we are a great city and great place to live. “Edmonds sells itself,” he said. “People choose to work here because they want to make a difference.” He promises to spend time in each city department interacting with employees.
Tibbott stressed the importance of finding the right person for the right job. “When you get this you save money,” he said. “Employees enjoy their job and do it with passion.” He also recognizes that the city needs to be clear about its purpose, so employees know the overarching goals, and that we provide employees with the tools and resources they need to do their jobs right.
Name one “moon shot” project that you would like to see accomplished in our city?
Tibbott said he would love to see an interconnected walkway system throughout the city, linking downtown, the waterfront, Sunset Avenue, the arts corridor and Main Street. “This would be a great way to tie our city together,” he said. “It would be great for our future.”
Nelson envisions revitalizing Highway 99, addressing housing needs and reducing crime. “The motels on Highway 99 are not where the tourists are staying,” he said. “Shoreline did theirs in sections. We could do that too.”
Closing statements were next.
Nelson began by stating that he has the skills and experience to move Edmonds forward. “When issues have arisen, I have learned, taken action and introduced legislation,” he said, pointing to examples like gun storage, reducing carbon emissions, cutting property taxes, hiring more police officers and accessible playgrounds. He pledged to continue to act to keep our community healthy and safe.
Tibbott pledged to protect the unique character of Edmonds, not let anyone “Seattle-ize” the city and protect the environment and Edmonds’ natural beauty. “My career has been about collaboration and building consensus,” he concluded. “My only interest is Edmonds.”
You can watch the video of the forum here.
— By Larry Vogel