Election 2021: Four vying for Edmonds City Council Position 2 take debate stage

The candidates on the dais for the Position 2 debate. L to R: Lora Petso, Janelle Cass, Will Chen and Luke Distelhorst.

With the Aug. 3 primary election ballots on their way to voters, candidates for Edmonds City Council Positions 1 and 2 faced off against each other for the first time Wednesday evening at a debate organized by My Edmonds News. Positions 1 and 2 both have three or more candidates on the primary ballot (Position 1: Alicia Crank, Kristiana Johnson and Brian Hartman; Position 2: Janelle Cass, Will Chen, Luke Distelhorst and Lora Petso). The top two vote-getters will advance to the Nov. 2 general election.

This story will focus on the candidates vying for Position 2. (See our coverage of the Position 1 debate here.)

As previously reported, the debate format, which drew an estimated 250 attendees to the Edmonds Center for the Arts, called for each candidate to give a one-minute opening statement.  They then took turns answering a series of questions developed by debate moderator and My Edmonds News Publisher Teresa Wippel, based on suggestions from readers and from the following Edmonds civic organizations: the Alliance of Citizens for Edmonds (ACE), the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce, the Edmonds Civic Roundtable and the Edmonds Neighborhood Action Coalition (ENAC). Each candidate then gave a one-minute closing statement. The debate also included several “lightning round” questions requiring a simple yes or no response.

Event sponsors were Edmonds College, James Russell, PLLC certified public accountants and business advisors, and OfficeTech.

Candidate Will Chen greets opponents Lora Petso and Janelle Cass as he takes the stage for the Position 2 debate.

All candidates drew numbers to determine the order in which they would respond, and took the stage in order based on this. First was candidate Lora Petso, followed in order by Janelle Cass, Will Chen and incumbent Luke Distelhorst.

Opening statements:

Petso:

“I’ve always advocated fair and public decision making,” she began.  “I’ve served for many years and have never been involved in any shenanigans.  During my years of council service, I’ve almost always come prepared, and I always put the citizens first.”

Cass:

“Thanks to all who are here tonight,” she began.  “Your attendance shows your interest in bringing good government back to city council.”

Cass criticized the current council calling out what she called “blatant disregard” for the concerns of the citizens of Edmonds and citing the recent proposals to up-zone neighborhoods from single- family to multi-family residences as a prime example, calling it “just the tip of the iceberg.”

Chen:

“I am running for city council because I care, I want to preserve and protect the special community that we all love and care for, and I want to be the voice for everyone, especially those who often feel unheard,” he said. “As I ring doorbells and talk to thousands of people, these issues keep coming up: community safety, housing, fiscal accountability, and transparency. With your help and vote, I am ready to tackle these issues head on.”

Distelhorst:

“I’ve been fortunate to be able to collaborate with my fellow councilmembers in putting our residents first in responding to the pandemic, helping to keep our most vulnerable residents in their homes with lights on and food on the table,” he said. The Position 2 incumbent (Distelhorst was appointed to fill Mike Nelson’s seat in January 2020 after Nelson was elected mayor), he went on to say that he’s proud of the work the council has accomplished to prioritize business assistance, support affordable housing, tackle driving offense reform, and establish a new human services fund.

Wippel then posed the first question:

The city council created a Citizens Housing Commission specifically to come up with ideas for expanding “the range of housing (including rental and owned) available in Edmonds… irrespective of age, gender, race, religious affiliation, physical disability or sexual orientation.” The commission has issued 15 recommendations for council consideration, and they have divided the community. Some say that — in particular — recommendations favoring detached accessory dwelling units, smaller housing and placement of duplexes and townhomes on a single-family lot, will change the character of Edmonds by leading to the elimination of single-family zoning. Others say such options will provide more housing opportunities for lower-income individuals and families, seniors and the disabled. Do the housing commission recommendations reflect your long-term vision for Edmonds?

Janelle Cass

Cass:

“Most of these recommendations lacked public input,” she began. “They were gathered during COVID, and folks weren’t there to talk about them.”

Citing data that say 78% of Edmonds residents do not want to eliminate single-family zoning, she stressed that “we need to respect that.”

In response to the contention by some that accessory dwelling units would make more affordable housing available, she stated that “we’ve yet to see the math actually work out” for this.

“We’re 96% built out right now, and that leaves either eliminating single family housing or going up as the only options,” she concluded.  “I’m not for either of these.”

Chen:

“I was on the housing commission, and I voted against up-zoning the entire city,” he began. “However, we do have a responsibility to plan for the future of our city. With light rail coming and people on the move, we have to prepare. Our city is not isolated – we are interconnected with the whole region. I favor finding suitable locations for up-zoning and other housing options, but only in areas where these make sense.”

Distelhorst:

He began by citing his role as council liaison to the housing commission where he watched the commission study, research and develop their recommendations.

“An important question is that if you’re a senior on a fixed income and want to downsize, how far away do you want to move?” he asked. “Our current housing mix simply does not provide the diverse sizes, prices and options that many in our community need.  As a councilmember I hear from seniors who can no longer afford the taxes on their home.”

He concluded by stressing that we need to take the necessary time for planning board consideration and public engagement on the housing recommendations as the path to planning for the future.

Petso:

“I do not support all of the housing commission recommendations,” she began. “Expanding housing types does not fit with eliminating single-family housing. This does not match my vision.”

Articulating that zoning is a tool for land use planning and conditional use permits are tools for making exceptions to these in specific cases, she said she would favor “keeping both these in our toolkit” and taking a closer look at employing conditional use permits within the current zoning structure.

“Yes, we need to create more housing options,” she concluded.  “We do not need to eliminate single family zoning to do this.”

Wippel then moved on to the next question:

Homelessness was a crisis in our region before COVID-19 hit but now, with many facing the loss of jobs and homes, we are seeing more unhoused individuals in our city. What ideas do you have for eliminating housing instability and homelessness in Edmonds?

Will Chen

Chen:

He began by sharing his personal experiences, relating that he experienced homelessness for two years as a child, and that today he witnesses it daily near his Lake Ballinger-area home.

“We need to look at both short-term solutions to find temporary housing, and long-term solutions that address the root causes of homelessness,” he said. “But we can’t solve this problem alone in Edmonds.  It’s a regional issue that calls for regional efforts and cooperation.”

Distelhorst:

“The best way to prevent homelessness is to keep folks sheltered,” he began. “We’ve done that with assistance for families in need. We need to create options for permanently affordable housing, which means we can transition people from shelters to stable properties. This means long-term work on regional solutions where we pool resources with neighboring communities. We can’t do it alone.”

Petso:

“The best and most cost-effective way to do this is to help people stay in their homes,” she began. “Many folks today are finding themselves a car repair bill or a utility bill away from not being able to stay in their home.  We need to get money to them to get them past the crisis and allow them to do this.”

Cass:

“I echo what the other candidates have said about the need to partner with and work with other jurisdictions and agencies. This is a regional issue,” she stressed. “We also need to get back to normal and get our economy moving again so folks have jobs.  And we must focus on drug addiction and its role in the homelessness issue.”

The next question was the first “lightning round:”

Parking continues to be a concern for residents, businesses and visitors. Would you consider a structure to ease the downtown parking situation? Yes or no.

Chen – Yes

Distelhorst – No

Petso – Yes

Cass – Yes

The next question was:

If elected and you could change only one thing during your term – just one thing – what would that be?

Chen:

“I would change the culture,” he said. “Currently we are too divided along partisan lines. We need to bring everyone to the table to discuss and prioritize in a way that benefits us all, and not base this on partisan divides.”

Distelhorst :

“We need to ensure equitable investments throughout our city,” he said. “We’ve seen lots of time and money spent in certain areas while others are neglected.”

Petso:

“I would like to emphasize getting council back to basics,” she said. “Things like basic procedures, quality of life and financial oversight without all the partisan distractions that are consuming our council meetings of late.”

Cass:

“I would favor an update and revision of the city codes,” she said. Citing the need for a more efficient permitting process as an example, she said that things are so convoluted today that Edmonds has a bad reputation and that “many contractors simply don’t want to bid on jobs in Edmonds.”

The next question:

The State Legislature will offer the 22-acre Unocal Property near the Edmonds Marsh to the City of Edmonds for purchase when the environmental cleanup is complete. Given the size of the property and a range of potential uses that could benefit all residents, what would you do to engage the public in a discussion of ideas for use and funding sources to purchase the property?

Luke Distelhorst

Distelhorst:

“I see this as a great opportunity for review of the Master Plan, and bringing people in from the entire community, the tribes, environmental organizations and all stakeholders,” he stated. “We should look beyond just preserving salmon habitat, but also the area around it to ensure that it doesn’t become polluted again and remains a healthy estuary for the future.”

Petso:

“We need an open, transparent public process and discussion of potential uses,” she began.“Not all potential uses are right for that property – marsh restoration certainly is – but more options may emerge through a full and robust public process.”

Regarding funding, she recommended that the city define the Unocal property project – is it a stormwater project, a parks project, or something else – to enable better targeting of potential funding sources.

Cass:

“This is an exciting project for Edmonds, but we must be sure we’re doing it with everyone’s input,” she stressed. “This will likely be a very expensive endeavor, and we need to ensure that clean up processes etc. are conducive to the streams and other environmental aspects. There needs to be lots of discussion among the public to ensure it’s done right.”

Chen:

“This is exciting news for Edmonds,” he began. “We must engage every citizen in every corner of the city in the process [geographically and culturally]. There are 134 languages spoken in our school district, and we must reach out. We need to reach out and look for more funding, both public and private, state and federal. This is a dream project come true.”

Next was lightning round 2:

You are running for a nonpartisan position. Did you seek and/or receive an endorsement from a political party (YES or NO) and if so, which party?

Petso – No

Cass – No

Chen – Yes, Democrat

Distelhorst – Yes, Democrat

And the next question was:

Do you believe it’s important for city councilmembers to serve as role models for the community on issues of diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility? If so, how would you demonstrate this in your work on city government issues?

Cass:

“Yes, it is important that we as leaders participate in discussions of equity and inclusion,”  she said. Citing her work with local businesses through the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce, she stressed the importance of developing useful toolkits to engage and provide for inclusion and adaptability.

Chen:

Pointing to his work as a local CPA, he related his experiences in serving businesses and business owners.  “Among my clients, half speak other languages,” he said. “We’re all Americans. We all need to be included.”

Distelhorst:

“Yes, we absolutely must bring equity, accessibility and inclusion to every decision we make,” he said.  “It is especially important as we serve our most vulnerable citizens. On council I’ve been proud to support inclusion goals and businesses outside the bowl.  But we need to always ensure that we are supporting anti-racist work in our city.”

This comment elicited the first rebuttal, which came from Janelle Cass, who asked Distelhorst that given what he had just said, why he accepted appointment to the council when this in effect took the position away from several candidates of color who were also applicants.

Distelhorst replied that he applied with 14 others, and was selected by council to fill the seat. “I don’t think I blocked anyone; I was appointed by a majority of the councilmembers,” he said.

Lora Petso

Petso:

“I am proud to have been one of the councilmembers involved with founding the (Edmonds) Diversity Commission,” Petso began. “I have always tried to be fair in committee appointments. With me, your opinion doesn’t count more if you’re wealthy, famous or important, or less if you aren’t these things or even if you’re fairly unusual. If it’s a good idea, I’ll take it no matter who it’s from; if it’s a bad idea I’ll just say no thanks.”

The next question:

Proposals for increasing housing density in Edmonds may conflict with current environmental protections already in place, including the city’s Critical Areas Ordinance, the sustainability element of Edmonds’ Comprehensive Plan and the current Climate Action Plan. In your opinion, which should carry more weight: environmental protections or increased housing density?

Chen:

“Environmental protection should come first,” he responded. “We have a responsibility to plan for growth, but we must do it carefully and responsibly. We have only one Earth – we need to protect it by reviewing our master plan and related policies and make changes where these make sense.”

Distelhorst:

“Housing and the environment have this great intersectionality in our policies,” he began. “Our two greatest greenhouse gas emitting sectors are buildings and transportation. We have great opportunities to have people ditch their single-occupancy vehicle and get our buildings de-carbonized so we can make the transition from fracked gas to electricity produced by clean hydro. We have the opportunity to incentivize these and make sure that our housing and environmental policies are working together.”

Petso:

“Definitely environmental protections need to be put first,” she stressed. “In some places it’s just flat unwise to increase density; for instance, it doesn’t make sense to pave areas that are prone to flooding.”

Cass:

“The environment definitely wins over densification,” she began. “We have a very important environmental contribution to the Puget Sound, and eliminating green areas would be detrimental to this.  In addition, the tree code and the densification plan seem to be in direct opposition.  We need to get our master plan together and ensure that it’s solid with what citizens want, so that we know how to plan. It can’t be done haphazardly. Let’s get a plan.”

Will Chen pauses for a photo with his supporters after the debate.

Lightning round 3 was next:

The city council pulled the plug on the Edmonds Waterfront Connector project following citizen outcry, but we still haven’t addressed the issue of ensuring safe passage across downtown railroad tracks during an emergency. On a scale of 1-5 – #1 being not at all important and #5 being extremely important – rate how you would prioritize this issue as a councilmember. (Reminder: All I’m looking for is a number.)

Distelhorst – 3

Petso – 3

Cass – 2.5

Chen – 3

And the next question was:

The city council approved a new set of regulations aimed at retaining existing trees when private property is developed in Edmonds. Do you support this approach to protecting Edmonds’ tree canopy? Why or why not?

Petso:

“This was a terribly complicated proposal,” she began. Adding that while she does not agree with a $2,500 fine for cutting trees when you’re not supposed to, “it is clear that we need to retain trees.  One idea would be to offer saplings to help folks get the right tree in the right place. Other cities are doing this. We need to look at other options as well.”

Cass:

“I don’t like it,” she said. “Most people love their trees and all the advantages they bring, but I know of 10 trees that lost their lives as a direct result of this overreach by local government. It’s a huge burden on people. We need to focus on education, not bureaucracy. Let’s not add green tape on top of all the red tape we already have.”

Chen:

“I do not agree that personal property – including trees – should be controlled by local government,” he began. “We need to approach this both short and long term.  In the short term we need to provide assistance – it’s expensive to remove a tree.  In the long term we need to plan where to plant so it doesn’t create a problem down the road.”

Distelhorst:

“I agree that this is an extremely complicated issue,” he said. “There was no tree code before, and we’ve seen lots cleared – lot line to lot line – because we didn’t have a tree code.  In developing the tree code we’ve prioritized replacement, retention, and low-impact development. We need to provide flexibility so folks can build and retain trees.”

The next question:

Describe your thoughts on policing in Edmonds and our current police force. Are there any changes you would like to make?

Janelle Cass with her supporters at the post-debate meet and greet.

Cass:

“Number one – we need a police chief right now,” she stressed. “The Chief of Police hiring debacle has cost us more than $120,000, wasted more than 18 months, and we still have no permanent chief. Getting this done is critical to helping us stay a safe and welcoming community. I have nothing but admiration for how the police force is taking this demoralizing process in stride, and I commend them.”

Chen:

“We desperately need a permanent chief, and the problem is the process,” he explained. “It needs to be consistent, transparent, requires homework and investigation, and allow us to hire the most qualified person to protect us.  I appreciate the great work of our brave men and women on the police force, and I commend them.”

Distelhorst:

Referring to several recent meetings he’s had with Acting Chief of Police Michelle Bennett, where he learned how she is “tracking the metrics” to help focus local policing efforts, he stressed the need for a Crime Prevention position that would “create a framework for community outreach” and focus on preventing crime before it happens rather than policing it afterward.

Petso:

“I am a long-time supporter of our police,” she began. “I do think that we need to look at updating our training, and make use of our social worker to create a more comfortable environment for people who want or need to talk with the police.”

And the next question:

As a city councilmember, describe how you will support our business community.

Chen:

“With businesses now emerging from the pandemic, city government must step in and provide resources to help our city recover,” he stated. “We should look at federal funding available to us, and source these to the businesses directly.”

Distelhorst:

“Last year the CARES Act provided funds that the council directed to helping support our businesses and ensuring they got through the pandemic,” he said. “Now as we transition out, we are looking to use ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds to continue with this so we don’t have shuttered storefronts and go back to ‘Deadmonds.’ We need to create a framework to attract new businesses and support existing businesses.”

Petso:

Stressing no new business taxes as basic to creating a supportive environment for business, she also noted the importance of infrastructure such as the Hazel Miller Plaza, and the current Highway 99 plans, which “should really help the businesses in that area.” She also cited the importance of engaging directly with businesses, and the negative effects the downtown street closures have had on these.

Cass:

“As a small business owner, I would not want the government to close down the street in front of my business,” she began. “Government needs to listen to the businesses owners. They know what the till says. Let’s work with them, and let’s not interfere with them. Secondly, we need to be careful with zoning and not eliminate commercial space in favor of residential. This will help attract new businesses to Edmonds.”

Next was lightning round 4:

Yes or No: Do you support the mayor’s decision to operate Walkable Main Street on both Saturdays and Sundays, instead of limiting it to Sundays only as a number of downtown merchants had requested?

Distelhorst – No

Petso – No

Cass – No

Chen – No

At this poin,t Janelle Cass requested another rebuttal, which she again directed at Distelhorst.

“At the time the businesses made the request to limit the street closures to one day only,” she asked, “Councilmember Olson brought forth a discussion point to have council do something to look out for the businesses. Why did you not vote with her?”

Distelhorst responded that closures such as Walkable Main Street need to be built around “parameters, because it applies to more than just one event.  So I asked her to come up with a framework including those parameters, and she didn’t.”

Cass then request to rebut again, asking how come Distelhorst did not help Olson come up with these parameters to help out the businesses.

Distelhorst responded that these parameters were “not around helping out businesses.” He also explained that any policies around street closures, construction, events and “all sorts of different policies,” are administrative functions, not policy functions, and do not need to come before council.

Cass again rebutted, asking Distelhorst, “So are you basing decisions around what other cities do in the region instead of what’s best for Edmonds?”

Distelhorst responded that “this is a great example of understanding the difference between public policy and administrative functions, and where those divisions lie.”

The next question:

Share a “moonshot” idea that would draw more businesses and customers to Edmonds.

Petso:

“We need to establish more parking downtown,” she said. “One way to do this is satellite parking lots for supplemental downtown parking.”

Cass:

“I love the idea of a moonshot – my husband is a rocket scientist, and my daughter is going into the Space Force,” she began with a laugh. “Edmonds is already a gem and a destination. I would echo what Ms. Petso said – we need more places for our visitors to park.”

Chen:

“We need to look at three things as we come out of this pandemic. We need to increase parking and remove the temporary structures that have come up on the streets. We need to look at city codes and revise where needed to incentivize new businesses. And we need to remove unnecessary taxes on businesses.”

Luke Distelhorst greets supporters at the post-debate meet and greet.

Distelhorst:

“Definitely Highway 99,” he began. “Right now, the environment is hostile for persons visiting businesses, safety, and accessibility. We now have a project that will cost $180 million – definitely my moonshot category – which will address these. We also need to create more business opportunities throughout the city.”

For the final question, each candidate was given the opportunity to ask a single question of the other. “You only get one question,” cautioned Wippel, “so choose wisely.”

Cass:

Her question went to Will Chen. “I would like to understand who you will represent on council, since 77% of your donations are coming from outside Edmonds. I am concerned with who is paying to get you elected. Please elaborate on whom you will serve if elected to city council.”

Chen responded saying, “If elected I will serve Edmonds 100%. I am proud to be an Edmonds resident – it is my true home. While I have raised money outside of Edmonds, I have raised more within Edmonds than most other candidates on this stage. People in and out of Edmonds know that I am a person of integrity, they can trust me, and that I will do a good job. If elected I will listen, reach out and connect with residents.”

Chen:

His question went to Luke Distelhorst. “You voted to confirm a Chief of Police who was later disqualified. How can we trust you not to make decisions you will later regret?”

Distelhorst responded, noting that two candidates were considered, Pruitt and Lawless. “The council interviewed, and the mayor made the selection. I voted to confirm Pruitt. It was a public process, and all background checks were done faithfully.”

He added that going forward, the city needs to ensure a very public process for the final chief selection and that people have the necessary time to meet and hear from the candidates and that all background check companies hired to do that work complete their jobs.

Chen responded with a rebuttal, asking, “Why didn’t you do that when you were on the job?”

Distelhorst responded that councilmembers do not do background checks themselves, but that this is the purview of human resources professionals, and that state laws exist to govern this process, adding that not following these could open the city to “frivolous lawsuits.”

Cass then added a rebuttal, asking why Distelhorst voted to push up and condense the voting period, and why would he as a representative of us not consider all pertinent due diligence information as part of his decision.

“I saw what was happening in the community to both Pruitt and Acting Chief Lawless,” he said. “I saw them being damaged in the press, interviewed and questioned by others. It became clear to me that the selection had to be for someone who would lead the force and serve the community with integrity and represent all citizens.”

Cass then rebutted again. “My question wasn’t answered. The question was about moving up the vote to confirm and ignoring information that would provide more in-depth background.”

Distelhorst responded that the information was not ignored, but was “viewed and reviewed.”

It was now Distelhorst’s chance to ask a question.

“My question is for Ms. Cass,” he began. “Please tell us which of the 15 housing commission recommendations you support, and how you would provide more types of housing so that when your daughter returns from the Air Force Academy she can live here.”

“There were actually a few ideas I like,” she began. “I’m also not under the impression that my daughter as a new First Lieutenant would be able to afford to live in Edmonds. While I like some of the ideas about cluster housing, developers I’ve spoken with do not want to touch Edmonds with a 10-foot pole due to the restrictive codes and permitting process. We have to get back to the basics, set our codes and architectural standards, and determine which areas can tolerate density.”

Distelhorst then rebutted, asking, “Which areas do you feel can tolerate density?”

Cass responded that this could be part of the city’s current Highway 99 development. She added that right now, Edmonds is meeting its goals under the Growth Management Act, and that this gives us the needed time to take a breather and get everyone involved in the decision.

Petso then directed her question to Will Chen.

Referring to his recent interview with the Everett Herald, she asked if he supports Detached Accessory Dwelling Units (DADU’s) in Edmonds’ single-family neighborhood without conditional use permits.

Chen responded, “Yes, I do support that policy with appropriate strict restrictions on setbacks, lot size, height and parking. These DADUs can help address our aging in place issue. Rising property values mean higher taxes, and these folks will be priced out.”

Closing statements were next, with Chen going first:

“I understand the value of hard work,” he began. “I will bring a fresh voice to council. I am ready to engage and connect with the community. I am ready to tackle the housing issue, fiscal accountability and the other issues that are facing us all. I am a leader, and it would be an honor to have your vote on Aug. 3.”

Distelhorst:

“If you watch council you’ve probably seen me get emotional during council meetings; public service is a passion,” he began. “It truly is humbling to receive so much support from our community serving you on Council, and to have received endorsements from so many currently elected local leaders at the city, county, and state levels, as well as numerous labor organizations the Alliance for Gun Responsibility and other groups. There are so many issues and opportunities for us to work on at all levels of government, and across city lines, and I feel really lucky to have made these connections while serving Edmonds residents. Being a public servant in my day job, being on Council, and in my volunteer roles I bring a people-first, regional approach to working toward an equitable, healthier and more resilient future. Thank you.

Petso:

“We need to get back to basics, and one of the first things council needs to do to accomplish this is get its own house in order,” she said. “I can use my experience to help do that. Public meetings need to have adequate notice, consent agendas and extended agendas should be published publicly. Moving up the police chief vote was a really irregular move, and I can use my experience to help address these matters. I am the only councilmember you can elect this year who will actually increase the experience level of the city council.”

Cass:

“Tonight you’ve heard a lot of opinions about how to protect the Edmonds we all love,” she began.  “You now need to decide who will represent the people of Edmonds and bring real solutions to our city.  When you sit down to vote, ask yourself if you want a councilmember who will represent the people of Edmonds, bring real solutions, restore transparency and accountability, protect single family zoning and infrastructure, preserve our charm and support businesses and police, firefighters.  If you answer yes, then support Janelle Cass.

Wippel then thanked the candidates for being present and participating and thanked the audience before closing the event. You can watch a recording of the debate here.

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel

 

23 Replies to “Election 2021: Four vying for Edmonds City Council Position 2 take debate stage”

  1. The debates were extremely well organized with amazing production value. The format worked really nicely and the questions were fair and interesting. We are MORE than lucky to have My Edmonds News, and FREE access to their reporting every day. PLEASE consider donating to MyEdmondsNews so we can continue to get such high quality from Teresa and the team!

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  2. I attended the debate, and I would like to thank myEdmondsnews for putting it on. I thought that the questions were well thought out and the answers and non-answers were quite elucidating. I do wish that there had been a question regarding the elimination of the Salary Commission.
    In the debate between Kristiana Johnson and Alicia Crank two things stood out. 1.Ms Crank is endorsed by the Democrat Party and in her 2 previous attempt at a Council seat she was backed Fraley-Monillas, Paine and Laura Johnson. This suggests to me that she would support the policies put forward by the Four (Fraley-Monillas,Paine,Laura Johnson and Distelhorst).
    In the Petsos, Cass, Chen, Distelhorst debate several differences were clear. If we want more of the same re-elect Luke.
    Both Chen and Distelhorst are endorsed by the Democrat Party for this non-partisan position. Why. 77% of Chen’s funding comes from outside of Edmonds. Why? I’m sure all of the other candidates have lots of other friends and family living outside of Edmonds who could have donated to their campaigns.
    To me Cass and Petsos seem to be the two true independents in this campaign. Cass has the best grasp of facts, and clearly has a great deal of environmental knowledge. She also proved to be tough when she forced Distelhorst into an uncomfortable position when she pushed him to explain his vote to move the vote for Police Chief forward by one week.. We need someone like Cass who is willing to speak up and won’t be under the thumb both either Fraley-Monillas or Mayor Nelson.

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    1. I like Cass and Pesto. However I don’t want cluster housing…Cass. I also don’t want height up here any more than they do in down hill. Wanted to let you both know that.

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  3. As Christine said, thank you to My Edmonds News for organizing this, and thank you to all the candidates who participated. It’s never easy to subject yourself to public scrutiny yet it’s important that voters get hear from candidates directly.

    As Janelle pointed out, it is disturbing that the overwhelming majority of Will Chen’s funds were raised from outside the city of Edmonds. As a voter in a local election I certainly don’t expect candidates to raise absolutely nothing from outside Edmonds, because all of them have friends and family beyond the city borders who want to see them succeed. But 77% is excessive. Will’s claim that he will be 100% for Edmonds would simply be a lot more persuasive if he managed to raise the lion’s share of his funding from within Edmonds itself.

    I was also not impressed with Luke’s answer to the Walkable Mainstreet question. His “no” answer is not consistent with his public statements touting Walkable Mainstreet in its current format, and his response to Janelle’s challenge was not persuasive either. If he truly doesn’t support Walkable Mainstreet on both Saturday and Sunday, why has he waited until now to make this known? The council has had months to take action on this and yet he chose to say nothing when it would have mattered. I do not want a CM who is not willing to be honest about his or her position on key issues.

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  4. I agree that we are fortunate to have Teresa and MEN. I had a conflict the night of the Council candidates forum.

    The questions and answers and the format in general helped me to better understand the candidates.

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    1. Is it not obvious who had the best debate here? Regardless, we will always get the government we deserve. For any lay observer, knowledge of each candidate quadrupled in everyone’s mind. What an amazing format. Donate to MEN!

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  5. I watched the debate via live stream. Thank you MEN for putting on an excellent debate and for following up with this in depth write-up! I support you financially and I hope other Edmonds residents will do the same so we can continue to have access to your top notch reporting.

    The debates made very clear the differences between candidates. To me it was obvious who to vote for if we want change on the council that will offer a different direction than we are currently going.

    We need to retain Kristiana Johnson. She asks good questions at the council meetings and definitely listens to the citizens of Edmonds. Kristiana has served Edmonds well.

    I was totally impressed with Janelle Cass’s poise, professionalism and command of the facts. Clearly she is not afraid to ask the hard questions of her opponents (ie Luke regarding Walkable Main and Will Chen regarding the large percent of donations coming from outside Edmonds) and yet maintain a respectful demeanor. Her service in the Air Force, working for the FAA and now owning a business in Edmonds has provided her with skills that will serve Edmonds residents well. She will listen respectfully to opposing views and yet have the courage to stand up for the citizens of Edmonds as demonstrated in this debate. Her collaborative approach will facilitate finding solutions to the issues facing Edmonds.

    I want to encourage all of Edmonds citizens to take the time to dive deep into the background of the candidates and follow the money so you can make an educated decision about the best candidate. Please vote! This is an important election that will shape the future of Edmonds.

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  6. What a great debate and format and thank you to Theresa , MEN and the Center for the Arts.

    Johnson V Crank:

    Both did themselves well and articulated their positions clearly. I am also concerned like many other commenters on this site that Crank is affiliated with the Mayor and the gang of 4 who are destroying this city. Crank is also supported by a political party in a non-partisan race. I think a vote for her is a vote for the Mayor and the gang of 4 (Fraley-Monilas, Distelhorst, Paine and Laura Johnson). Kristiana Johnson has served our community for many years and has always stood up to the Mayor and Gang of 4. We need her back on council.

    -Pesto, Cass, Chen and Distelhorst:

    This was a great debate with 2 clear winners. Cass number 1, Petso number 2, Chen number 3 and Distelhorst 4th by a long shot.

    Luke Distelhorst gave every bureaucratic excuse on COP, Walkable Main Street and even had the audacity to blame the triple digit heat wave on Edmonds Carbon footprint!!! What is to blame for the 68 degree weather we have now Luke…the coming ice age?

    Will Chen did not clearly state his positions on many subjects and rambled on quite a bit going back to the same statements over and over.

    Lora Petso answered the questions very clearly and direct and articulated her position well. The only concern I have about her is her heart really in it? She made a comment about how people asked her to run so she decided to run.

    Janelle Cass was the clear winner of this debate. She held the other candidates accountable. She had mastery of the issues and common sense solutions to solve them. Janelle exemplifies what we need in our leaders!! You could tell she did her homework!!!

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    1. A fair question, and the answer is yes my heart is in it (and has been since 1999). I applied for this position 18 months ago. I honestly believed that I had a lot to offer a Council with three completely new members.

      I believe Mr. Chen and Mr. Distelhorst also applied. I do not recall if Ms. Cass applied(?), but we all know who was chosen. This time, the voters choose.

      I have the full support of my husband in this effort, and I would never let our community down.

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  7. One of my comments was edited by MEN so I will state it a different way…..

    I was really put off by the way Will Chen entered the debate stage when introduced. When the moderator introduced him, he walked on stage and waved and then blew a kiss to the crowd. Waving to the crowd is obviously acceptable, but blowing a kiss to the crowd seems a bit much to me. No other candidate did this so it caught my attention and did not sit right with me. Our leaders need to demonstrate humility and the gesture by Will did not do that in my humble opinion.

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    1. Rod, since you have given your humble opinion, I would like to point out that my husband was blowing a kiss to me, as I was sitting in the auditorium that evening. As his wife, I can say with confidence that Will Chen is one of the most humble, generous, and non-judgmental people I have ever met.

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      1. Tall men are the most electable simply because we judge people on that first impression. I’m not voting will, but can’t deny he isn’t acting the part and running the best campaign I’ve ever seen in Edmonds. I thought he was kissing to me via the YouTube stream. So much for that now.

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      2. Lisa:

        I really appreciate the clarification and I stand corrected. Thank you for letting me know this as I would not have wanted to be left with that perception if it is not true.

        Respectfully,

        Rod James Schick

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  8. How refreshing it is to have a news organization just report the facts without a political slant or bias. We are fortunate to have such an news organization like MEN. The reporting of both debates was very clear and helped me with one race, I was undecided on, without having to sift through the normal political media bias. Thank you again MEN.

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  9. Hands down Will Chen and Janelle Cass were the winners of the debate. Cass was the best prepared, and very on message. Chen made some of the best points of the night.

    When Will Chen said “So why didn’t you do that when you were on the job?” in response to Distelhorst’s explanation of the mishandling of the Chief Selection process, the entire room erupted in laughter.

    While Distelhorst pretty much never got applause apart from the same 4 supporters, Chen and Cass got applause regularly from most of the room.

    At times Distelhorst’s comments were downright embarrassing. Including when he said that he supported a Walkable Main Street compromise but didn’t know how to support the compromise from Olson or wasn’t willing to take the effort to figure it out. Or when he confirmed to Cass that he reviewed the disqualifying information for Chief Pruitt, but pushed to move the confirmation vote up anyways.

    Chen, Petso, and Cass did great. I am torn between Cass and Chen, but I am leaning a little more towards Chen. I had the opportunity to talk to Chen before the debate, and he talked about some of the ways that he has been working with businesses during the pandemic to help them figure out the resources needed to survive the lockdown. I think he may have the best experience and insight to help out local Edmonds businesses recover and thrive.

    Also, our council is pretty bitterly divided right now. Chen talked about bridging the partisan divide to get things done while Cass was definitely more combative during the debate. While both Cass and Chen agree on pretty much all of the major issues with some variations, I think that Chen would be more productive in getting important agreements passed.

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  10. I agree with Mr Nelson that Mr. Chen and Ms. Cass won the debate. Both seem to have similar views on the major issues. I do agree that Janelle Cass was more assertive than was Mr. Chen, but I see this a a good thing. This trait will be quite an attribute when dealing with the strong personalities of Mayor Nelson, and Fraley-Monillas(should she happen to be re-elected).
    A general rule of politics and business is “follow the money”. I remained concerned that 77% of Mr. Chen’s financial support comes from outside of Edmonds, and no matter what he claims will have an influence on him.

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    1. I have zero concern about either Mr. Chen or Ms. Cass. The money trail, in this case, points to support from relationships formed over years of service. Yeah, it’s sad that it costs as much as it does to run for City Council. It sucks that decent candidates have to work three times as hard because they don’t exploit the masses by virtue signaling or explosive general comments. It bites that Lora Petso doesn’t have to answer questions or go into details about some.of the votes she made whilst on Council. If experience is what mattered, then Petso will get us more studies, more pencil whipping, more.stalling and less done. I know who I am not going to vote for, and have two awesome candidates to choose from. Remember the Council back then? If change is what everyone wants, then think about how prior Council was run…

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      1. Mr. Bennett, I would love to answer questions about any vote I made, please be specific.

        Further, while I recall supporting taking extra time on issues when requested by Council or the public, I don’t recall being an advocate for studies. Which studies did I take the lead in requesting?

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        1. So do tell? What part of Hickman Park did you lead? Why have you not stepped out and tanoed the negative talk about Mr. Chen and his supporters? Why was Five Corners (and your opinion that we study it more) suchba horrible thing for the City.? What part of that 2 million you saved was normal and proper city management under City Staff? My facts are from the Council minutes and My Edmonds News. They came from your quotes. I don’t need to defend your decisions, you do.

          I applaud your service to the City. I also believe that Edmonds has made progressive steps forward since your tenure has ended. There are two viable candidates that are alternatives that will not take us back to hand wringing and pencil whipping. They are diverse backgrounds with connections to communities that have not been adequately represented on Council.

          It is my hope that either of them is the choice.

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