Here’s our summary of three of the six candidates who were interviewed by the Edmonds City Council Monday, Aug. 29 to fill the Position 1 seat left vacant with the death of Councilmember Kristiana Johnson. The council also met with 10 candidates Saturday, Aug. 27 and you can see those summaries of interviews here and here.
The 17th candidate, Erika Barnett, was out of town during the interviews and as a result councilmembers will pose questions to her individually once she returns.
We will post the final three interview summaries next. The council is scheduled to appoint a new Position 1 councilmember during its Tuesday, Sept. 6 meeting.
During the interviews Monday, each candidate gave an opening and closing statement, and also answered a series of six questions — one posed by each councilmember — which they received in advance.
Bob Cram was born and raised in Lynnwood, in the Meadowdale area, and in 1979 moved to Edmonds, where he and his wife raised their family. He worked 42 years as a director of operations and is now a Boeing engineer. He said he has spent much of his life volunteering, including 24 years working with homeless teens in Seattle’s University District.
The first question came from Councilmember Will Chen, who asked Cram about his understanding of the concept of ONE Edmonds and how the city can equitably deploy its resources for different neighborhoods. Cram said that even though Edmonds is spread out, residents tend to congregate downtown. “It would be extremely advantageous… to start working on different ways to have forums in the different neighborhoods,” he said, including ways residents could share the features of their neighborhood with visitors from other areas of Edmonds.
Councilmember Laura Johnson asked Cram to explain what steps he would take to begin implementing the top three priorities on his application, which were protection and safety, conservation of natural resources and responsible, balanced growth. “We need to be able to grow and bring businesses into our city and I think I have some good ideas,” he said. He also feels strongly about advocating for those who are homeless. The hotel that the county is acquiring on Highway 99 for temporary housing “gives us a good opportunity to not only bring homes but bring health care and other things to some of the homeless,” while also making sure “we are protecting our people at the same time,” he said.
Councilmember Susan Paine asked Cram’s opinion about streateries and using city streets for non-vehicle purposes. Cram replied that he and his wife were regular users of the streateries during the pandemic, “but in fairness, safety is number one. When people are looking for places to park, they aren’t always looking a pedestrians. And we’ve seen a lot of near misses.” As for streets for non-vehicle purposes. Cram said, “if we were able to come up with more parking, then I could support that.”
Councilmember Vivian Olson then asked Cram if he has the time to devote to the council job. Cram noted that his kids are grown and he has the ability to meet the obligations required by the council. “This is a city that I’m proud of and I’m 110% committed to really solving the problems that come before the council,” he said.
Councilmember Neil Tibbott asked Cram to share a recent activity in Edmonds that gave him an insight into the needs of the city. Cram replied that as a scuba diver, he spends time at the Edmonds Underwater Park next to the ferry terminal. He wondered if there would be a way to enhance the current ferry terminal — perhaps by using state, federal or BNSF funds — and add plexiglass “so people could actually get a chance to see…some of the marine life we have down there.”
Councilmember Diane Buckshnis asked Cram’s opinion about zoning. Cram said there are expectations from those who move into a single-family neighborhood that the same zoning will continue. He compared that to his experience as a Boeing engineer: “At Boeing, if we’re going to change a part, we have to look at all of the different angles.” When talking about single-family residential areas, the infrastructure is set up for that type of housing, he said, and making a change to multifamily raises different issues. While Cram said he supports growth, “I certainly would not support making sweeping changes to…just changing single housing zoning to multiple-family housing,” he added.
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Maria Montalvo is a 21-year resident of Edmonds. She and her husband Strom Peterson are former restaurant owners, closing The Cheesemonger’s Table last year; she currently serves as executive director of a private family foundation specializing in scholarships for military children and spouses. She has been active in a range of volunteer activities, including co-chairing the Edmonds Veterans Plaza Committee, has chaired the boards of the Edmonds College Foundation and the Hazel Miller Foundation, and served on the Edmonds Public Facilities District board. Other volunteer service included the Edmonds Diversity Commission and the Snohomish County Foundation for Public Health.
Tibbott asked Montalvo to talk about a recent activity she did in Edmonds that gave her an insight into the city’s needs. Montalvo replied that her work with the Edmonds Public Facilities District Board, which is the governing body for the Edmonds Center for the Arts, highlighted the valuable partnership between Snohomish County and the City of Edmonds. “There’s a regional approach to all of our problems and we have to work together,” she said. She also cited the “small and mighty team that put the Edmonds Veterans Plaza together,” pointing to a design competition for the facility “that allowed us to move things along a lot more quickly but also got us our design for zero dollars.” That effort “taught me we have to be flexible and we have to be creative when we work with the city,” she said. Finally, she noted her work with the Edmonds College Foundation during the COVID pandemic, when the foundation was able to provide emergency funding for students who couldn’t pay for tuition and rent, and worked with the Edmonds Food Bank to ensure students had food.
Chen asked about Montalvo’s understanding of the concept of ONE Edmonds and how to deploy resources to the city’s different neighborhoods. She replied that studies show that investing in underserved parts of the city is not only the right thing to do, “there’s a bigger return on investment.” She added that “everything from road repairs, to business infrastructure to community events, all of those things need to be distributed around town.”
Olson then asked whether Montalvo has the time to devote to the council appointment. Montalvo noted that she is serving on three “very active” boards and has been able to balance her time. “I really like to stay busy,” she said. “I’m not very good at being bored.” Closing the restaurant last year has been “a huge timesaver,” she said and added she is not traveling for work like she used to. “I will say, though, that I think it’s very important that the council pay attention to making sure that you don’t have to either be crazy like me or have a lot of extra time on your hands in order to be a city councilmember. I think that really limits who we bring into our government.”
Buckshnis asked Montalvo for her opinions about zoning. “It demonstrates how we as a city envison our city and what we want it to look like,” she replied. “Zoning also has a big impact on affordability,” she said. “Home prices in my lifetime have gone up 120% after you adjust for inflation.” As a result, 70% of Americans under the age of 40 can’t afford to buy a house. “We have to be careful. Our population grows at least 1% per year in the state and even thought that’s not a lot, it still puts pressure on housing,” she said.
Paine asked Montalvo’s opinion about streateries and about using city streets for non-vehicle purposes. Montalvo said “there are a lot of good reasons to use city streets for non-vehicle purposes but like everything it’s about how you implement it.” The key, she said, is to “prepare and adapt the town for the change before it actually happens” — something Edmonds didn’t have time to do during the COVID pandemic. “If you do it gradually with some preparation, we can persuade people and help people understand where the positivity is but also be cognizant of allowing access for people who need it.” Generally, “having those walkable areas are going to be critical to the community and just maintaining that civic pride and community we love so much in Edmonds,” she said.
Councilmember Laura Johnson asked Montalvo how she would implement her top three priorities, which are promoting more collaboration and less divisivenessc citywide; promoting cooperation with regional partners and protecting the environment and maintaining fiscal responsibility. “I think that a town like ours can really model good behavior for having positive and friendly working relationships,” she said. As for working with regional partners, she noted that projections indicate the Puget Sound region will add 1.5 million people before 2050, and addressing that growth will require regional solutions. “We are not an island, we are part of a larger community,” she said. She also noted that she has had past job experiences working on stormwater issues and would bring that skillset to addressing environmental protection
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Pete Spear moved to Edmonds from Ballard in 2020. As a technology consultant for the past 20 years, he said said he believes “there’s a usefulness to data and analytics and how you can solve problems with data,” noting that it provides “an unbiased viewpoint on how to attack certain issues because the numbers are there.” He said he first came before the council as a citizen with concerns abou speeding issues on 9th Avenue North and “I was just amazed and inspired by how quickly everyone responded to my concerns. “That experience, he said, “made me want to be part of the process.”
Olson asked Spear if he had the time to devote to the council appointment. He replied that he has two small children who go to school locally and he works from home with “a very flexible schedule,” and is “confident I could could provide my time and resources to the effort.”
Paine asked Spear to share his opinion about streateries and using city streets for non-vehicle purposes. Spear said he and his family used the streateries during COVID and they were “a great solution to helping support those restaurants during that time.” He added that while he didn’t notice “a huge impact on parking” as a result of the streateries, he did understand the concerns of the retail business owners who were affected. “I think there should be an option for resturants to have streateries in the future,” he said, but the city also needs to address concerns about parking, especially for those with mobility issues. As for using streets for non-vehicle purposes, Spear said he would be supportive of that — particular on Main Street south of the fountain. “I’m all for pedestrian and other types of access there.”
Chen asked about Spear’s understanding of the concept of ONE Edmonds and how the city can equitably deploy its resources. He suggested appointing “neighborhood stewards” who would gather ideas from other neighborhood residents and meet with the council on a quarterly basis to share their concepts for business generation and other activities, as well as concerns about public safety like sidewalks and speeding. In a followup question, Chen asked Spear about ways to address public safety concerns on Highway 99, and he suggested more emphasis patrols, possibly in conjunction with the cities of Lynnwood and Shoreline.
Next up was Johnson’s question about how Spear would implemennt his top three priorities, which are public safety, education and financial efficiencies. In terms of public safety, he would like to engage further with Edmonds police leadership to understand what the concerns are. In terms of education, Spear said he’d like to figure out how the city can better support before- and after-school child care. As for financial efficiencies, Spear said he wants to gain a better understanding of the city’s financial data and look at what solutions can be put in play to make the city more efficient.
Councilmember Diane Buckshnis then asked Spear’s opinion about zoning. He replied that an urban village is being created in his former North Ballard/Crown Hill neighborhood, which has generated both good feedback and concerns. “There has to be a balance between managing growth and managing affordability of housing…and also maintaining the character and aesthetics of a small town like Edmonds,” he said. “There are definitely ways to leverage zoning changes to create more interesting kind of mixed-use housing, whether that’s increased retail or mixed-use living arrangements.”
Tibbott asked Spear to describe a recent activity he did in Edmonds that gave him an insight into Edmonds’ needs. Spear again pointed to experience working with the city to address speeding concerns on busy 9th Avenue. “It was just an inspirational thing,” Spear said. “It’s that kind of thing and that kind of engagement with the city where you can make some change. I would love to put that energy back into the city and provide my time and resources as an asset for the city.” Coming from the technology world, Spear said, he would bring a different approach to solving problems.
— By Teresa Wippel