Election 2021: Written summary of Position 2 Edmonds City Council debate

To help voters learn more about general election candidates running for Edmonds City Council this fall, My Edmonds News hosted a series of virtual debates.

This report summarizes the third debate between incumbent City Council Position 2 candidates Janelle Cass and Will Chen. Full video of this debate is available on You Tube here.

The questions were compiled based on the suggestions of civic groups, including the Alliance of Citizens for Edmonds and the Edmonds Civic Roundtable, plus numerous individuals who sent in their own questions.

These debates are supported by the following Election 2021 event sponsors: Edmonds College, James Russell, PLLC certified public accountants and business advisors, and Office Tech.

General election ballots are due Tuesday, Nov. 2.

Debate format

Each candidate makes a two-minute opening statement, after which moderator Teresa Wippel poses a series of questions to each. Both candidates are given two minute to respond. After both answer, the candidates are allowed one minute to rebut. After the questions, each candidate makes a one-minute closing statement.

Introductory statement

Janelle Cass:
I’m a mother, wife, local business owner, a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy with a degree in civil/environmental engineering, and a veteran. Like you, I love Edmonds and want to keep its charm. I’m running for city council because our city government has been in turmoil for the past two years. Together we’ve witnessed blocked voting, disregard for some councilmembers’ opinions and the people being left out of decision-making. Because each councilmember has been voted in by the people to represent them, my top priority will be to advocate that all councilmember voices be heard and be a welcome part of the process. In my professional career I have demonstrated the skills to bring multiple views, people and diverse organizations together. As a Federal Aviation Administration environmental lead on complex projects, I unified FAA management, unions, major U.S. airlines, the National Parks Department, tribal nation leaders, and historic preservation officers, among others. The results were positive outcomes for all involved, including the environment. I intend to bring my skills of diplomacy and fostering strong working relationship to the city council to create efficiency, civility and constructive results for the people of Edmonds. I will serve the citizens of Edmonds with the core values ingrained in me during my Air Force time: integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do. As your city councilmember I will work to fulfil my campaign message to restore transparency to government, protect single-family residential housing and the environment, and invest in our police, firefighters, and small businesses. Thank you.

Will Chen:
Like you, I love Edmonds, the place where I found my American dream. When I first arrived in America, a friend took me straight from the airport to the kitchen of a restaurant, handed me an apron, and said “welcome to America!” I started working and never stopped since. I am blessed to be a resident, a father, a husband, a business owner and a CPA who has helped many small businesses succeed. As a first-generation American I will bring a more diverse perspective to the council. More importantly, I’m a good listener. I make decisions based on residents’ and business owners’ input, and the considerations of all concerned stakeholders. In addition, I’m a team builder who will work with all councilmembers, even the ones who might disagree with me, and the members of the entire community to find practical solutions rather than be drawn into the partisan divide. This is who I am. It’s why I’m the best candidate for this position.

Question: There has been a lack of civility and decorum displayed by elected officials at Edmonds City Council meetings. What will you do as a councilmember to restore decorum and collaboration on the council?

Chen:
Yes, I have witnessed how our council functions and the partisan divide. When elected to the council I will focus on the issues at hand rather than focusing on the individuals. As councilmembers, we need to have the interests of all residents and businesses in mind when voting, and not base our decisions on party-line divisions. I have a long history of being able to work across these lines. I will reach across party lines to the individuals and focus on the issues at hand to improve our city, community and help our police, firefighters and first responders. I will make sure they have adequate funding to do their jobs protecting our community. Also we need to bring our council and municipal government back to basics, focusing on ensuring that our roads, streets, buildings and basic infrastructure are maintained. We need to take care of the 20% of our population who are seniors.

Cass:
I wholeheartedly agree that the lack of civility on council is a big issue. I was the one who brought to the public eye one of our councilmember’s blatant disregard for the code of conduct.  I would support some degree of accountability for breaching the code of conduct. As citizens we deserve more. One thing I’d recommend – and I have a proven track record of bringing together people with diverse opinions – is to hire a parliamentarian to ensure we stick to the rules and maintain decorum. This will also improve the efficiency of the meetings. Over the past two years we have had three councilmembers who have not been able to get anything on the agenda. This is disconcerting because those people were elected to represent the people of Edmonds. If they can’t get their ideas on the agenda, it means the people who elected them are not getting their ideas on the agenda. I am a big advocate that agenda items be all inclusive from all city councilmembers. Furthermore, we need enforce the code of conduct and have expectations. I want to set the example of being a team builder and listening to my colleagues on the council.

Rebut from Chen:
I have a question for Ms. Cass. She says she will work will all councilmembers, but during the campaign she has engaged time and time again in public attacks on individuals at the (council) meetings. How do you demonstrate this kind of behavior and how can work with other councilmembers when you get elected?

Response from Cass:
Each time I’ve come to council and made public comment – which has been more than you have – I have brought concerns expressed by other citizens to me. You can’t confuse being unafraid to bring up issues and engage in honest dialog with being controversial. So, my pointing out the hate portal, which never went through a public process is not controversial. A lot of others share this concern, and by bringing this up I am actually representing the people.

Follow-up from Cass:
I would ask Will how many times you’ve made comments in Council over the past year.

Response from Chen:
I probably have made one comment in a council meeting and it was in regard to public service. I saw a need and provided a constructive recommendation that our community would benefit from a citizens’ patrol program. It would reactivate our neighborhood watch program, allowing volunteers to be trained to protect their own home and community. I am very pleased that this budget line has been reflected in the current 2022 budget, and that the city is taking this recommendation.

Question:  People have been polarized at both the local and national level into factions that reflect their beliefs. As a city councilmember, describe your specific approach to pulling your constituents together to listen to each other, try to reach consensus around tough issues, and move forward in an intelligent policy-making process.

Cass:
I totally agree about the polarization. I’ve notice while doorbelling one of the beautiful things about local politics is that it doesn’t matter which party you align with, when it comes to local things like sidewalks and traffic concerns, 90% of the people agree with 90% of the things. We need to focus on the things on which we can come together and agree on, and go for those small wins. That’s something that I did on complex, controversial projects I’ve done before on noise and the environment.  It’s really important to bring all the data, focus on the information, and not be reactive about opinions, but be open and listen.  I’d like to bring that to city council.  Focus on the wins where we can all agree like sidewalks and public safety. Once we get those wins and we get the trust back, I think you’ll see people becoming more unified and cohesive.

Chen:
Yes, our political environment is polarized at the national level and the local level as well. My approach is to bring people to the table to have a conversation. As a municipal government we need to focus on local issues that impact the quality of our lives like public safety. This morning I was out doorbelling and had a conversation with a homeowner about sewage drainage issues. We need to listen to the people that we represent and bring all councilmembers and residents to the table. Everyone doesn’t agree on everything, so we need to look at the costs and benefits. If a project is a win-win, we should definitely do it. For those that will benefit some but cause problems for others, we need to discuss and analyze the costs and benefits before moving forward. We need to come back to the basics.

Question: There is a belief that some councilmembers in Edmonds align themselves with political parties even though the city’s elected positions are non-partisan – and that councilmembers are listening to outside interests rather than their own constituents. Do you align your views with a political party and if so, what do you say to those who believe it hurts your ability to represent all residents in your decision-making?

Chen:
I position myself as a moderate Democrat. But this is a non-partisan position, and I am running to represent all of Edmonds. Our local government should represent the people who live and work here, and that’s what I intend to do. I will listen to the people in the Bowl and outside the Bowl. I have plenty of experience working with people with diverse backgrounds and bringing them to the table. My business is on Highway 99 and my clients come from very diverse backgrounds. I have talked to thousands of residents. Many are tired of the political divisions and want us to focus on issues and not partisan attacks. I have shown time and again that I can work with people from the left, right and everywhere in between. I want to bring this kind of representation to the council.

Cass:
I agree that there have been partisan and special interest influences on our local government. I think partisan politics has no place in local politics. Sidewalks don’t care if you’re red or blue, and quite frankly I don’t care either. I am focused on Edmonds, and Edmonds is the only special interest I will serve. Unlike my opponent, I purposely did not seek endorsements from partisan or special interest groups. You know where my loyalties lie. The vast majority of my funding comes from here in Edmonds, unlike my opponent, who has over 66% of his money come from outside EdmondsThat includes some donors from outside the state. When residents vote for me, they are going to know that I’m dedicated to representing them and their interests alone. I’m here to represent all of Edmonds. In my doorbelling I’ve seen that we have common concerns about what the government here in Edmonds should be doing. We need a return to hard-core, nonpartisan, Edmonds-focused leadership.

Response from Chen:
I am very proud that people I have worked with and served in different capacities during the course of my professional life, including the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and associations in other places, have shown trust in me and my ability to represent the community where I live and work. I can’t help that I have more friends than you do, Janelle, I have many supporters and donors in Edmonds, and many who trust in me but in many cases can’t afford to live in Edmonds.

Response from Cass:
My professional career has taken me all over the U.S. and its territories. I have many supporters nationally. But I’m focused on Edmonds.  And I’m more proud of the recent acquaintances and support that I’ve gained since last year. I don’t think this is a matter of who has more or less friends, this is about the politics and passing policies which are focused on and only influenced by Edmonds. The question started off about partisanship, and my opponent has made sure he gets endorsements from partisans and special interests. This has been what’s troublesome about our politics as of late. Let’s focus just on Edmonds.

Follow-up: What is your approach to collecting input from residents and incorporating it into your decision-making? Can you provide an example of where your initial inclination on a decision was changed by constituents’ feedback?

Cass:
I have broad experience seeking input from citizens on a broad range of topics. This includes setting up workshops, getting feedback verbally and in writing, and pulling this together to balance with scientific data and information and making sure that this information is available either via social media or the press. Having open and honest discussion about issues is critical.  Folks along Bowdoin Way are concerned about the bike lane coming in. I’m a cyclist, I love biking. I’ve had experience with bike-related injuries, so bike safety is really important to me.  But when I heard that residents had some real concerns about the bike lanes, and even though we are getting outside money for this project, I really thing we need to listen to our citizens.

Chen:
The key to public engagement is having the humility to not go into it with any pre-conceived ideas or outcomes in mind. Go in like a blank piece of paper, listen to peoples’ concerns and input. Most importantly, be there. Be there to see the situation firsthand before you make a decision. Just this morning when doorbelling I spoke with a homeowner whose home is below street grade, and he has a drainage issue. I took some photos and looked at the drainage patterns.  And this is the sort of hands-on approach I will bring as part of incorporating all the information into decisions. I especially will include input from those who have been historically underrepresented.

Response from Chen:
I will take this opportunity to rebut my opponent’s response to the prior question. My opponent stated I have been endorsed by a political party. This is false. I am not endorsed by any political party.

Question:  As a legislative body, the city council is supposed to provide a needed check and balance for the executive branch/mayor and his or her administration. How would you work with your fellow councilmembers to create a strong legislative vision and implement it?

Chen:
This is the beauty of our government – we have this check and balance. On council I will work with other councilmembers to maintain checks and balances with the mayor. It’s important for councilmembers to have input into this process instead of focusing on party lines and trying to push partisan agendas through. We need to keep our residents in mind and focus on the matters that are important to them. For example, right now our police force is about 10 people down and are therefore less able to deliver the services they need to perform. We need to ensure that our police have the tools and resources they need to protect our lives. This is the kind of check and balance that I will foster by reaching across the aisle and bringing everyone to the table to ensure this check and balance.

Cass:
It does seem that with the recent voting block of four, the mayor has almost unilateral decision-making. So it’s important that the council become stronger in balancing out the decision-making.  This will take being organized and having good extended agendas, making sure we’re including agenda items from all city councilmembers so there can be open dialog, and the public is brought in with enough lead time to come and speak about their issues and concerns. When the public is left out of the equation, then the mayor is not hearing from them. For example, Walkable Main Street seemed to be a unilateral decision made by the mayor that deeply affected our retailers who were already stressed from the pandemic. We saw Councilmember Olson attempt to bring this forward as an agenda item, but the other members shot it down. So even if it’s an idea or concept that’s not your own, it’s important to bring it forward as an agenda item so we can have open and honest dialog. This will help make our legislative body stronger.

Response from Chen:
My opponent Janelle is constantly attacking the one side of the councilmembers who have a different opinion from hers. My concern is that if she gets on the council, she will stay in this attack mode and further tear our council apart. I am humble, I listen to both sides, I want to focus on issues, not individuals.

Response from Cass:
There has been no attacking on my part. My focus has been on issues. For example, my comments on the hate portal were not an attack on any individual, but rather the potential pitfalls of that system. So that was issue focused. My concern was that this be discussed by council and not just be allowed to be put up there by the mayor. It didn’t even come from the diversity commission. My emphasis was that we need to get back to process, which will get back to teamwork and bring inclusion back into the process.

Question: The Edmonds’ Citizens Housing Commission submitted 15 recommendations for city council action. One of those would permit upzoning in single-family zoned areas of Edmonds, allowing the construction of duplexes, triplexes, and quadraplexes citywide. Do you support this upzoning for areas now designated as “single-family residential”? Please state your reasoning.

Cass:
I absolutely do not support upzoning in single-family neighborhoods. I am resolved to stand up for single-family zones in Edmonds. We are meeting our Growth Management Act densification requirements. In some areas we are more dense than Seattle, Bellevue and Tacoma.   find it ridiculous that we are being pushed to densify our single-family zones.  urthermore, 78% of the people who responded to the housing survey indicated that they want to maintain the single-family zones. My opponent, who was on the housing commission, voted to support three different initiatives that would include adding duplexes, triplexes and zero-lot-line quadplexes in single family zones. This is exactly what the people don’t want. He wasn’t listening to the people during his housing commission representation, so how is he going to listen to the people when he’s on council? The zero lot lines are also a detrimental risk to our stormwater system.

Chen:
I am absolutely against upzoning our single-family zones in Edmonds. That has been evidenced by my votes on the housing commission. I voted down the very specific policies that will allow duplexes in single-family zones. My opponent, time and time again, makes false statements about this. We can go back to view the public records of the meetings and the voting records. I have time and time again stated my positions about protecting our single-family zoning, and she is continuously making false statements about this. This is not healthy, it is making up false statements to misguide the public, and is not a good practice. An honest and open public servant needs to stick to the facts and not make false statements.

Response from Cass:
These aren’t false statements. These are evidenced by the video from the housing commission and the votes. There are three specific recommendations that do encompass the adding of the duplexes and quadplexes.Will initially supported these three initiatives. At the last minute, yes he did change his vote, but the timing is congruent with his declaration to run for council. My impression is that he changed his mind when he realized it would be politically disadvantageous to be pro duplexes and quadplexes.

Response from Chen:
That’s not true. Housing commission members were selected by the sitting councilmembers, based on seven zones, to ensure that citizens from every area of the city were represented. My point is, part of our job on the commission was to reach out to the public and get input about what they want and don’t want. Our decisions were based on the input we gathered, and that is exactly what we need to do.

Question:  Which housing commission recommendations do you support and why?

Chen:
One housing commission recommendation I do support is the interlocal agreement with the Snohomish Housing Authority (Housing Authority of Snohomish County or HASCO). This will help bring affordable housing. This is unlike my opponent, who thinks that only the elite who can afford to live here belong here. I want to protect our single-family zoning, but at the same time want to find solutions that will bring affordable housing to those who live and work here and serve our community.

Cass:
I was happy to see the interlocal agreement with HASCO was signed. I also support the initiative that multi-family homes should be subject to architectural review and have some standards because we are talking about wanting to incorporate the charm of Edmonds everywhere – not just in the Bowl, but our uptown neighborhoods too. Other neighborhoods deserve the same standards of aesthetics as downtown. I am very excited that even without these housing commission recommendations, we’re about to see 700 units being built in areas that already support multi-family. So it’s not about preserving housing stock for the elite. When you add things like the triplexes and townhomes, they tend to be more expensive than much of our existing housing stock of modest homes.  If we were to allow this upzoning, these would be knocked down and replaced by townhomes like we see in Ballard and Shoreline that cost $800,000 and $900,000. I am vehemently concerned about keeping housing costs down.  So we protect those zones for people who live here and want to stay here.

Response from Chen:
As a community, we can’t just ignore what’s happening. The entire Puget Sound region is changing. In 1890 Edmonds had 1,000 people; today that’s 42,000. We need to plan for growth.  To not do this is irresponsible.

Response from Cass:
I agree we have to plan for growth. It’s part of our responsibility under the GMA (Growth Management Act) and part of the reason we’re updating our Comprehensive Plan. We’ll need everyone’s input to ensure that Edmonds evolves with what we are envisioning. We don’t have to be like the rest of the Puget Sound area. We are a gem of the Northwest, we’re a charming and unique city. We need to preserve that, and that will take planning and accommodating densification where we can. But we are 96 % built out so it would be irresponsible for us to think we need to massively densify beyond where we are now.

Question:  Define affordable housing — using YOUR definition of affordable — and give an example of a successful project in a similar city where it has worked.

Cass:
Affordable housing is based on what an individual can afford. It takes individuals and families looking at their own budgets. I’m happy to hear about the Housing Hope project at Edmonds Lutheran, and based on their work in other cities it appears that Housing Hope does a very nice job of providing housing, helping people learn how to budget, and seek education and other opportunities that would allow them to afford more later on.

Chen:
Affordable housing means spending 30% of your income on housing. Edmonds is generally a more affluent community but we do have families live paycheck to paycheck and do need affordable housing. I too am very excited about the Edmonds Lutheran/Housing Hope project to have 52 units of affordable housing in Edmonds. I stand for protecting our character, and our charm and our single-family housing, the small-town feel. But at the same time, we need to help find ways to streamline this and ensure that the permits get approved so this kind of housing can be in place for those who need it.

Response from Cass:
When you say something like 30% of gross, that’s still individual based and what an individual’s income is, so that’s why I’m not defining it and giving actual numbers.

Question: How will you ensure the critical needs of those who are homeless in Edmonds be met without enabling “Seattle-style” issues such as public camping, trash along streets and related public safety concerns?

Chen:
As a child growing up I experienced homelessness at the age of 8. Through my own experience, I know that the street and the park are not the safest place for those people. Our leaders need to have the heart, compassion and are willing to work with churches and other non-profits to come up with solutions to help those people. I am so glad we now have a social worker on staff who can link the people in need with the services they need. I want to ensure that those who need the services know that the street is not the best place for them and know that the services are available. We want to teach them how to cast their nets after we give them a fish so they can stand on their own feet.

Cass:
Like Will, this is a topic that’s very near and dear to my heart. We need to realize that 65% of those struggling with homelessness are also struggling with addiction and mental illness. That’s a big chunk that we really have to pay attention to. Last week I hosted a town hall on this topic that included experts who have gone into homeless camps and helping people struggling with addiction get help. They explained some pitfalls and challenges. When you get someone to go to detox, upon getting out they often find that there is no bed in rehab for them. So that suggests a voucher systems like what Edmonds has been using. These hotel programs must come with oversight and expectations. We can’t have drug use and low-barrier type situations in these hotels because this puts at risk those residents who are not addicts. Also, in talking to law enforcement, Edmonds probably needs to have a no-camping order that will trigger law enforcement to help get folks into the services that they need.

Follow-up from Chen:
Homelessness is not just those people who are on the street. It’s not just those people who have mental problems, who are drug addicts. We also have students who are couch surfing because of various issues. We can’t lose sight of that and also provide the support that is needed.

Follow-up from Cass:
I wholeheartedly agree with what Will just said. I do want to emphasize something we learned from representatives that Second Chance provides more than $250,000 in grants to homeless and ex-prisoners to help them get off the streets. Also kudos to Edmonds College for helping with this and providing housing as well.

Question: The BNSF railway recently confirmed that starting in 2023, it will be installing a second track next to the existing track that runs along the Edmonds waterfront. This raises a host of questions about the impacts — ferry, bus and Amtrak traffic, the ongoing safety issues related to Edmonds waterfront access during emergencies, and the environmental effects on the Edmonds Marsh. What should the city council be doing now to plan for this second track and what specific steps would you take to address these concerns?

Cass:
As someone who has been trained for incident emergency response, this particularly concerns me. Edmonds is woefully behind in updating its Comprehensive Emergency Response Plan. We need to ensure that this is updated. We need to practice responses. We need another hazard risk assessment now that conditions have changed involving first responders. The Port (of Edmonds) and the railway need to be involved in this to help identify what we can do right now. This needs to start ASAP.

Chen:
We need to pay close attention to this. We have a beautiful waterfront that many enjoy. The Edmonds Marsh is another asset and I have been fortunate to participate in the restoration efforts.  We need to work with the experts on this to identify and assess the potential risks (from double tracking) including emergency access. The (Edmonds Waterfront) Connector was not a good project, however the risk and the need remain. As a councilmember I would work with the port and the railroad in addition to experts in the area to assess risks and create a plan to mitigate them, especially developing practical and good solutions to solve the issue of emergency waterfront access.

Follow-up from Cass:
This is something that should be folded into our upcoming conversations with the fire department and whether we’ll have to look at coming up with having assets on the other side of the tracks.

Question: The City Council has put great emphasis on protecting “critical areas” in Edmonds. As a councilmember, what would you require in administering critical area studies and State Environmental Policy Act requirements governing Edmonds’ development? Further, how do you propose protecting the integrity of analyzing critical areas given pressure from outside parties — such as consultants for developers — working to influence city staff?

Chen:
Our critical areas including Perrinville Creek and the marsh need special attention. We need to plan carefully. Overdevelopment will lead to stormwater overflows that would pollute areas critical to salmon populations.We need to come up with set of criteria that take into account resources at the state and county levels. Edmonds has tremendous talent among its citizens, which is another valuable resource in addressing this. Also, we must stand up and say “no” to special interests whose agendas would cause potential damage to our critical areas.

Cass:
As an environmental specialist who has performed impact analyses under the National Environmental Policy Act and in some cases the State Environmental Policy Act, I think these are a fundamental tool for decision-making. As a councilmember I would ask for review of SEPA documentation for proposed actions and ensure that we are following the law. Recently the updated stormwater plan was being brought before the public for hearing before completing SEPA documentation, putting the cart before the horse. This might not change the final decision, but we need to have all of the data to ensure we make good decision.

Question: Describe your experience working collaboratively with other jurisdictions to address regional issues, and name one regional project you would like to see the City of Edmonds develop with other jurisdictions.

Cass:
I have worked with a number of agencies including the Department of Ecology, other cities, Sierra Club, and the tribes. By working together, we were able to reduce carbon emissions by 22,000 metric tons per year. That’s like taking 400 cars off the streets every year. We need to be working regionally on the homelessness issues, because homeless persons are often traveling between jurisdictions.

Chen:
My life’s work involves cooperation with other jurisdictions. I work in multiple jurisdictions and have developed strong relationships with these  I have worked with County Executive Dave Somers, Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson and Mountlake Terrace Mayor Kyoko Wright among others. I have reached out to councilmembers as well, they have come to admire and respect my ability to work across jurisdictional boundaries and have come out to endorse me.  Issues that I feel require a regional approach are homelessness and transportation. For homelessness especially, we need to pool our resources to best help homeless people who travel between jurisdictions.

Question: During the past year, we have learned more about negative experiences of BIPOC residents living in Edmonds. What is the role of the city council in addressing racism and the effects of white supremacy in our city?

Chen:
As a minority myself and a first-generation immigrant, I felt welcomed with open arms when I arrived in Edmonds. The (Edmonds) Chamber (of Commerce) staff were particularly welcoming and gave me a job right away as a chamber ambassador. That said, racism and white supremacy do exist, and it has touched me personally. My mother-in-law was walking from her home to my house, and someone told her to go home to her own country. In fact, she has lived in the U.S. as a citizen for 53 years. We need to realize that all of us – except Indigenous people – are immigrants whether from Europe, Asia, Africa, or other continents. We need to work together.  It’s what makes this country beautiful and strong.

Cass:
There is no place for racism is Edmonds. You may not notice it to see me, but my grandmother is Japanese, African-American, and Hawaiian. She grew up in a time when even family members would say negative racist things to her. But she served as a role model to me. She was educated, managed some of the first computers at the University of Hawaii, and was a leader in her civics club in Hawaii. The fact that she stood tall and embraced her culture has always been an inspiration for me. We are really blessed here in Edmonds that we are growing in diversity. We have a majority-minority school system – I see this in my children and the diverse friends that they have. This extends to the LGBT community as well. I know that the city has worked really hard with the diversity commission. Both Will and I serve on the Diversity and Inclusion Committee of the Edmonds Chamber.

Follow-up by Chen:
A heartfelt thanks to this community for welcoming me and creating such a wonderful atmosphere for all of us to live and work.

Question: If elected, what will be your spending priorities in the next budget?

Cass:
We need to focus on fundamentals like streets and safety. I’m happy that 2022 will see two phases of the Highway 99 project – the median strip and crosswalks will improve safety. We’ve put a lot into Civic Field, but need to budget for green spaces in other neighborhoods. We need to put together a resolution like other Snohomish County cities have done, asking Gov. Inslee and the state Legislature to go over some of the recent changes in policing that have created ambiguities and confusion and have handcuffed our police from being able to do their jobs. This would have huge impact on local public safety, and it won’t cost us anything.

Chen:
My top priority is public safety. We need to make sure police, fire and first responders have the tools and resources they need to protect our lives and our freedom. Some of these have been pointed out in the recent police department audit report that suggest improvements including more active recruitment of female officers. We need to follow up on this. I am also very pleased that the administration is putting more emphasis on Highway 99, an area that has been overlooked for too long. I was pleased to see this year’s Uptown Market. This is a tremendous opportunity to add some reasonable and strategic improvements that will in turn protect our single-family zoning elsewhere. I would be the perfect person to bring the needed multi-cultural background to council.

Follow-up from Chen:
I want to add that as we move forward that while the city of Edmonds is a culturally diverse community with many languages, this is concentrated along Highway 99. I want to use my expertise, connections, and multi-lingual skills to reach into this community. I want to see a multicultural center along Highway 99, where we can celebrate this rich cultural diversity.

Question: Other cities provide direct financial support to their chambers of commerce for the work they do – ranging from contracts for marketing and business support to waiving permits for park use for chamber events. How will you work to support the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce?

Chen:
The chamber is a very important community organizer for our city. I am honored and privileged to serve on the chamber board. During this pandemic, the chamber really needed help. I was honored to be on the chamber’s task force that raised $107,000 to help the chamber through difficult time. Our city needs to support our chamber because our chamber does a lot of work for our city. On council I look forward to working with other councilmembers in coming up with ways to support our chamber so that they can continue as a strong advocate and continue events such as the Fourth of July and the car show that enrich our community.

Cass:
Like Will, I serve on the chamber board of directors. We’re both huge fans of the work they do.  The fireworks, the tree lighting, the car show – Edmonds would not be the same without these events. Beyond these activities, the chamber is a wonderful resource for all our small businesses.  While there are limits to what the city can do, providing grace on the rent during the pandemic was a help. Being able to work with them when it comes time to pay the required overtime for events like the Fourth of July parade and keeping them in mind for grants and other sources of funding will help them remain a vital part of Edmonds.

Follow-up from Chen:
As a CPA and small business owner I always look at the top line and the bottom line. The top line is revenue, the bottom line is expenses. Regarding the citizens’ patrol program, we can save money. For example, with Taste Edmonds, we can take some of the pressure off the police department and save money by having these involved citizens do this work.

Follow-up from Cass:
I want to point out that there has been a community outreach officer hired so that’s already on the docket and we’ll look forward to seeing what they can do for the Fourth of July parade next year.

Final question: Without engaging in partisan or personal attacks, tell voters why you will be a better councilmember than your opponent.

Cass:
First, I am supported by Edmonds to work for Edmonds – 88.8% of my funding comes from the people here in Edmonds. My heart, my obligations and my loyalties all lie here with the people of Edmonds. I have a proven track record of handling very complex projects that involve budgeting and minding the bottom line for the taxpayer. It also involves taking into account complex data and input, reaching out to concerned citizens and other organizations and stakeholders like the Sierra Club and the Department of Ecology and having direct contact with tribal leaders to come up with solutions. I have come up with successful solutions by creating teamwork and creating a cohesive group that can look at these things and talk about them openly and honestly. As an example, I was able to work with stakeholders in Las Vegas to reduce flights over the Grand Canyon by 100 per day, even though this was an unpopular idea, plus eliminate all flights over Zion National Park. That skill set is what I bring to the city council, and I want to apply these skills here.

Chen:
This November you will have a chance to elect a collaborative leader who will work with my fellow councilmembers and the mayor. I will ensure that your tax dollars are spent wisely to improve public safety. I will provide fiscal transparency and accountability. I believe in family, community and service. Service is in my blood. I believe in equity and that opportunities should be available for everyone. On the other hand, my opponent says that if you can’t afford to live here, you don’t belong here. I came to this country in my early 20s with next to nothing and very limited English skills. Now I am a successful business owner. I am dedicated to extending these opportunities to every member of our community. I ask for your vote. Be an Edmonds kind of hero. Together we will.

Follow-up from Cass:
I want to emphasize that I am the only non-partisan. I did not seek any endorsements from partisan influences. The evidence is on Facebook video of those who sought the endorsement of the 32nd District Democrats. I also want to point out that I believe Edmonds is for everyone, and that’s is why I want to protect single-family zoning as well as our existing home stock, which is more affordable. I come from a long line of service – my father, myself and now my daughter is serving in the Air Force.

Comment from Chen:
Was this the closing statement?

Response from Wippel:
No, I think there may have been a misunderstating. What you just said might have been your closing statement – it sounded like it could have been.

Response from Chen:
It’s OK, I’m good, I can come up with another closing statement.

Closing statement

Chen:
I want to thank the community and the voters for coming out and being responsible voters. From the bottom of my heart, I want to say that diversity and representation matter. I respect my opponent and her service to our country. We are all indebted to her.  But she reflects representation that we already have on the council.  The Asian-American community is nearly ten percent of our population and has been underserved historically.  I am the one who can step up and add a face to our council that reflects the people who live and work here.

Cass:
Now it’s up to you to decide who you want to represent you on council. Do you want someone determined to restore transparency and accountability, who prioritizes the concerns of Edmonds residents rather than the interests of outside money and regional or partisan influences? Do you want a councilmember determined to protect residential single-family zoning, Edmonds’ charm and bring environmental engineering credentials to the table? Do you want a councilmember determined to invest in small businesses, our police, our firefighters, as well as Edmonds’ infrastructure? If you answered “yes,” you are ready for leadership with a proven track record of leadership, collaboration and win-win solutions – then I ask you to cast your vote for Janelle Cass on Nov. 2. Thank you so much.

— By Larry Vogel

2 Replies to “Election 2021: Written summary of Position 2 Edmonds City Council debate”

  1. If I hadn’t recently decided to endorse Janelle Cass, I would have done so after reading this transcript. Will Chen repeatedly makes untrue accusations of Ms. Cass. Among them:

    “during the campaign she has engaged time and time again in public attacks on individuals at the (council) meetings.”

    “On the other hand, my opponent says that if you can’t afford to live here, you don’t belong here.”

    Ironically, in one attack Mr. Chen said, “An honest and open public servant needs to stick to the facts and not make false statements.” Yet, the accusations made by Mr. Chen were false and unsubstantiated.

    I have closely followed this campaign, and Council meetings during the campaign and have observed none of what Mr. Chen stated in his effort to discredit Ms. Cass. Anyone who is on the fence about who to choose for Position 2 would be wise to read this transcript.

    Ignored

  2. To correct my previous comment referencing this post as a “transcript”, it is a summary, as stated in the title of the article. Undecided voters who don’t intend to listen to this debate would be wise to review this summary.

    Ignored

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Real first and last names — as well as city of residence — are required for all commenters.
This is so we can verify your identity before approving your comment.

By commenting here you agree to abide by our Code of Conduct. Please read our code at the bottom of this page before commenting.

Notify me of followup comments via email. You can also subscribe without commenting.