MLT Election Watch 2013: City Council Position 4

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To help prepare Mountlake Terrace voters for the November 5 General Election, MLTnews.com will post the responses to questions asked of the six candidates running for City Council Positions 3, 4 and 5. Here are the replies in their entirety, from Kyoko Wright and Wanda Clarke-Morin, candidates for Mountlake Terrace City Council Position 4. (A reminder that you can also watch video interviews of these candidates here.)

Kyoko Wright
Kyoko Wright

Kyoko Wright
Real Estate Broker with Coldwell Banker Bain
Mountlake Terrace resident for 29 years

MLTnews.com: Why are you running for re-election to Mountlake Terrace City Council Position 4?

Wright: I am running again because I want to finish the projects we started when I was on the planning commission. And that includes the town center. I care about this city and want to be a part of the progress that is just starting to happen here. That includes economic development like Gene Juarez’s and the Diamond Knot’s decision to move here. And Double D Meat’s decision to remain here and expand. Also, I serve on Transportation and Land Use committees and want to make sure Mountlake Terrace has a say on Light Rail and other projects. We have so many things on our plate. It is an exciting time since we are finally starting to move into the future.

MLTnews.com: What accomplishments from your current term on the city council are you most proud of, and what would you like to accomplish, if re-elected, during your next term?

Wright: I’m proud of the updates we made to the city. Like bringing the zoning and building codes up to current standards that were 25 to 50 years out of date. Like being proactive with our town center plan to encourage economic development. All this was done so that we could preserve our neighborhood and parks. Economic development will bring in the resources needed to maintain our roads, parks and public facilities for our residents. I’m proud of the fact that our city is financially stable, even in the worst of times economically. We managed our money well and did not overspend. In all this, we managed to not cut services, but improve services to our citizens. While other cities are trying to keep up with fixing potholes, our city has improved our streets yearly, including the addition of sidewalks. Other cities look to us as a role model. They want to know how we are doing all this.
In my next term, I plan to continue the great work we have already started.

MLTnews.com: What is the best solution for fulfilling the need for a Mountlake Terrace City Hall?

Wright: We are going to have to rent for a few more years, which is very unfortunate because we may have missed the window for the lower building costs. We will soon be discussing what our next steps will be about the future of a new city hall.

MLTnews.com: Can a new Mountlake Terrace City Hall / Civic Center be built for less than $25 million? Are you in favor of bringing another $25 million municipal bond measure before city voters sometime in the next two years?

Wright: We may have to build the new Civic Center for less than $25 million, but it may not include some of the amenities that we heard from our citizens that they wanted to see. It may be smaller in scale, but possibly not less money per square feet since the building costs may be more by that time. I will work with the city and the council to bring this to the vote of the people when the time is right.

MLTnews.com: Are you pleased with the rate of economic development occurring in Mountlake Terrace at this time?

Wright: Yes, however we could have been further along if the economy was better sooner.

MLTnews.com: Should the current zoning allowances for four-to-six story development in the city’s Town Center district be expanded? Should it be adopted for the former Melody Hill School property at I-5 and 220th Street Southwest?

Wright: We have worked hard on the zoning for the town center and Melody Hill. I’m satisfied with where we have it.

MLTnews.com: Do you feel there is enough healthy debate among the current members of the Mountlake Terrace City Council?

Wright: Yes, there is a lot of debate among us. We do not all think alike and we do not always vote alike. When we are ready to vote at our meetings, it is after we have asked a lot of questions and studied the issue for a long time. I like to think about the issues and go over the pros and cons. I talk to residents to get their opinions. I like to see that there is another side to the issue. In the end, I vote my conscience on what is the best for the citizens of the whole city. How I vote may not necessarily be the best for me as one person as I need to do what is right for the city.

Wanda Clarke-Morin
Wanda Clarke-Morin

Wanda Clarke-Morin
Faculty (Fashion Design and Fashion Marketing) at the Art Institute of Seattle
Mountlake Terrace resident for 13 years

MLTnews.com: Why are you running for election to Mountlake Terrace City Council Position #4?

Clarke-Morin: Prior to my kids being born, when I lived in Southern California, I was politically active, lobbying for women’s pay equity, as a member and President of the Woodland Hills Business and Professional Women’s Organization. When the kids and I moved to the Seattle area, as a single parent, I worked two jobs to support us, went back to school, earned my Master’s degree – there just was not enough time to be more than an employee, a student, or a mom. With both of my kids now in college, I again find myself drawn toward the political arena. With more life experiences, and years of education behind me, I feel I have much to offer to my community in the way of insight, focus and commitment, and would like the opportunity to help guide our city toward a vital, prosperous future.

MLTnews.com: What would be your biggest priority if elected to the city council?

Clarke-Morin: If elected to city council, my biggest priority would be connecting with an listening to my constituents … encouraging them to become engaged in the workings of the council and their city … allowing myself to be the conduit for clear, straightforward communication … over the last couple of months, as I engaged people within the community about issues presented before the council, only to be told “I don’t know, I (don’t) vote anymore … I don’t feel like my opinion has been heard” I saw a challenge that needed to be addressed. In April 2013, 38 percent of the registered voters cast a ballot for/against Proposition 1 (research indicates, a typical small city has 47-54 percent of its constituents voting) – meaning that 38 percent of registered voters are making decisions impacting the 62 percent who don’t vote. I would like to see a positive change in those figures reflecting more interest and engagement in the governance of the city. My second biggest priority is to fully educate myself in the workings of local government as an insider, rather than just as a constituent. As with any new position, it may take six months to be educated in the culture of the job, but my past leadership positions have trained me well to be successful in the long-term task at hand.

MLTnews.com: You have been critical of the Mountlake Terrace city government not being as forth-coming with city financial information as you claim it should be; how would you make city government more open and available to city residents?

Clarke-Morin: Actually, what I have been more forthcoming about is my frustration with the misleading and fear-based marketing the city used with the community to vote for Proposition 1. Their “Fact Sheet” that was sent in the mail stated (if Proposition 1 passed) “the property taxes of the ‘average’ home would increase ONLY $3.77/month in 2014.” … however, they never clarified what the value of the “average” home was, that was the basis of their statement. Median home prices in 2012 was $190K (www.coldwellbanker.com), yet median home prices June-August 2013 was $249.6K (www.trulia.com). The emphasis of the marketing materials was to entice “average” voters with low initial numbers and inaccurate numbers in later years. Their “Fact Sheet” also states if Prop 1 does not pass that “essential services such as public safety and parks services would be cut” … That did not happen, nor is it currently being proposed as a solution … was this an intentional manipulation? Or just poorly written marketing materials?

MLTnews.com: What is the best solution for fulfilling the need for a Mountlake Terrace City Hall?

Clarke-Morin: To answer that question would require breaking it into two scenarios – short-term solution and long-term solutions.
The short-term solution revolves around whether to continue to lease at its current location or whether to move to a location that the city currently owns. The council is currently discussing a renegotiation of the lease … it appears the council has already decided what needs to be done for the short term. As you may be aware, much conversation has been posted in the media about using the Ballinger Clubhouse as a City Hall, but based on the October 3 council working session discussions, that building is in need of much repair and maintenance before it could be considered a viable option. The long-term solution may look very differently over the course of the next six months. At the council’s working session, held on October 3, information was discussed outlining opportunities available to the city from grant money applications (to be submitted in January 2014), that if awarded, would allow necessary repairs to the HVAC systems and roofs of the police station, the library, and the operations facilities buildings. The presenters made a point of stating these facilities were considered to be mid-life cycle and awarded grant money would be applied only to facilities with a 10- to 15-year return on investment. My takeaway from that conversation was prior requested monies (re: 2013 Prop 1 ballot measure) for a future Civic Center may look very different if prior state conditions were no longer part of the equation.

MLTnews.com: Would you support another attempt to pass a $25 million municipal bond measure to build a new city hall / civic campus? Is there a monetary amount at which you would support a bond measure?

Clarke-Morin: I would ask the council to quantify and justify the costs of a proposed city hall/civic center for THIS community with a demographic landscape of approximately 25 percent of its citizens in the +55 age segment, and approximately 25 percent in the ages 28-40 segment, with an assessment of the needs of both demographics to really understand what kind of a city hall / civic center brings the most value for the future. I cannot state a specific amount that is appropriate. The dollar amounts the cities of Kenmore and Mill Creek spent to build their city halls have been parlayed into discussions about what is best for Mountlake Terrace, but it is more than just a dollar amount for a building. We already know, based on the past elections that the $25M Bond as presented did not get a majority vote, so I continue to think we need to ask the community of Mountlake Terrace for what they place Value on before I could fully support a municipal bond measure of any amount for a city hall/civic campus. Of course, I have my own biases on this issue, but if I were elected to the council, my first priority would be to what my constituents would support.

MLTnews.com: You have said the “small town feel” of Mountlake Terrace is one of its biggest strengths; is it possible for Mountlake Terrace to see economic development and still keep it’s “small town feel”? How?

Clarke-Morin: I actually think that is two topics…”Small Town feel” and Economic development. “Small Town” feel, to me, is about community engagement….A much larger city than Mountlake Terrace can still have a “small town” feel….Glendale, California, with a population of slightly less than 195,000 has that feel… its center “Village” has boutiques, specialty food shops, and provides a social hub for community events. With a much lower crime rate than comparable California cities, thanks to a very progressive and technology savvy police force, its community feels like and is one of the safest communities to live in Southern California. Economic development is about increasing revenue coming into the city. Local restaurants where we want to gather with our friends and family, increases revenue, and expands the sense of community. Providing affordable and well-designed childcare facilities for young, working families, brings revenue into the community, and expands the sense of community. (This particular issue is very important to me. As a single parent — living in Mountlake Terrace — for eight years when my sons were young, I traveled to Edmonds every morning and every evening to drop-off/pick-up my kids from the only daycare that I felt truly had my kids’ developmental interests at the core of their philosophy. Do the math—8 years/12 months a year @ $800 month = $76,800 that went into the Edmonds community). Supporting of community charitable events, or our own school’s music programs gives us a sense of community. Community events, more than just Tour de Terrace, could increase revenue. Over the years, Arts of the Terrace has grown so that it barely contains the walls of the library. Maybe it is time to consider turning that event into a month long display, instead of a week, creating pop-up art galleries in the local coffee shops and restaurants around town, allowing patrons of the art community more time and opportunities to support this event, while giving more attention to selected artists. Revenue is not just that which is generated by the people who live here, but also by the people who travel here to participate and enjoy in what the community has to offer. It is time for innovative thinking about how to bring revenue into the city, instead of just focusing on increasing real estate.

MLTnews.com: You are concerned about congestions on Mountlake Terrace city streets; is it possible to generate economic development in the city without increasing traffic congestion?

Clarke-Morin: This also feels like two distinct topics…Traffic congestion and Economic development. Traffic congestion is a result of streets that are incapable of accommodating traffic flow for the conditions at hand. A street that allows traffic to flow unimpeded at 2pm, or 10pm, may be completely congested at 6:30-8am, or at 4:30-6pm, when the community is either going to work, or coming home from work. When I pass through the intersection at 56th Avenue West and 236th Street Southwest at 7:30 a.m., I note that my commute time to work has significantly increased over the last year. I recognize there are more cars taking a left turn, the configuration of the lanes has been revised to include bicycle lanes, and Arbor Village sits on that corner with an entrance/exit ¼ of a block from a very busy intersection. I have great concern about the impact when Arbor Village is 100% leased, as each of the unit’s 1-2 cars (guess-timate 150-200 cars) are exiting and entering onto that street everyday, as they (like myself) are going to work… Nearby communities that have, in the last few years, gone through a period of development (i.e. Wallingford, Kirkland) widened their streets to accommodate the increase in traffic….however, our main intersection through town is being taxed with more vehicles and (what appears to be) a less efficient thoroughfare to accommodate the changes. I understand the long-term benefits of economic development for our city—economic development = money. My concerns lie in the planning processes, focusing on the positive/negative impact to surrounding established neighborhoods. (Sorry, but I’m going to pick on Arbor Village again) When I drive by Arbor Village at night, its outside lights are extremely bright, posing a distraction to me in my car, as it must to the families living across the street. Blending development with the surrounding community requires a commitment to foresee and respond to the impact of lighting, fencing, trees, architecture, more than sufficient planned parking, realigning traffic patterns to accommodate increased volumes, for a community to fully embrace the economic development that may be good for the future of the community.

— By Doug Petrowski

2 COMMENTS

  1. Let us not forget Kyoko Wright’s quote of the year…..
    January 5, 2013
    Councilmember Kyoko Matsumoto Wright speaks her mind at the council meeting.

    “I think the citizens of this city really don’t have anything to complain about when you come right down to it because they can always move to another city that has more problems.”

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