Candidates face off at MLT forum

Leonard French and Bryan Wahl at Monday's forum. (Photos by Paxtyn Merten)
Leonard French and Bryan Wahl at Monday’s forum. (Photos by Paxtyn Merten)

By Paxtyn Merten/425 Editor
MTHS Hawkeye

Candidates for Mountlake Terrace City Council and Snohomish County Council were given a chance to speak about their goals and purposes at a forum held Monday night at the First Baptist Church.

The forum included two questions for each candidate, asked by Mike Cooper, Executive Director of the Mountlake Terrace Senior Center, which sponsored the event.

Of the candidates, only two are unopposed: City Councilmembers Rick Ryan and Jerry Smith.

Ryan, running for Position 1, has been a councilmember for the past six years. At the forum, he mainly focused on the continuation of economic growth in MLT with the Town Center project, involvement with youth and increasing safety of the citizens.

Smith, who serves as Mountlake Terrace’s mayor, stressed the importance of maintaining downtown development. He also said that the council wants to hear public input, especially at council meetings.

Here is a summary of the other races:

Council Position 3:

Incumbent Councilmember Douglas McCardle mentioned the importance of continuing the city’s Main Street revitalization process as well as continuing to look for a solution to the civic center issue.

McCardle’s opponent, Stephen Barnes, put his main focus on the idea of “honest politics” and “common sense budgeting.” Fom his own experience, Barnes said, the city council needs to work on giving a voice to the people and staying within its budget.

Both candidates were asked to answer a question about the best approach for economic development. McCardle argued that it is to maintain the momentum of the Main Street Project, which is “finally seeing results.”  Barnes, however, said that he has not observed much growth with the current plan and suggested the council should look for a different approach.

Both men were also asked about the future of a city hall for MLT, given the recent failure of ballot measures aimed at funding  a new city hall/civic center. Barnes suggested that maybe there was no need for a new city hall, but if the city did decide to try to build one again, they would need to lower the cost of it.

According to McCardle, the city is currently negotiating another three-year contract with the interim city hall. After that process is over, he believes that the next step is to address the building needs for the civic center.

Council Position 4

Current Councilmember Kyoko Wright is facing political newcomer Wanda Clarke-Morin, who said her goal is to increase voter participation by talking with and listening to people in order to give them a voice. Wright talked about the importance of continuing the Town Center plan. She also mentioned her pride in the city’s auditing awards, as it shows the city is being responsible with the citizens’ money.

Wright and Clarke-Morin were asked how — if elected — they would make information more accessible to the public. Clarke-Morin suggested that the council meetings should have written transcripts for citizens to read. Wright countered that with the city’s website, newsletter, press releases and online recordings of the council meetings, information is already easily and widely available to the public.

Council Position 5

Incumbent Bryan Wahl is facing challenger Leonard French in the final race. Wahl talked about wanting to maintain a sustainable budget and deliver quality city services. On top of that, he said he encouraged public input. His said the city needs to “stay moving forward in the right direction.”’

French’s goal in seeking a city council seat s to represent people in the community. “I’m running for an opportunity to represent you because you deserve a voice in the city council,” French said. He also talked about the importance of the infrastructure and safety of the city.

Both candidates were asked about the future of the Ballinger Clubhouse, formerly part of the Ballinger golf course and now being used by the MLT Senior Center. Wahl said that allowing senior citizens to use the clubhouse will provide them with more activities and will give the building itself the opportunity to expand.

From French’s perspective, the Ballinger Clubhouse plan was originally a good idea, but his opinion of it has changed over time. Instead of using it as a senior center, French thinks the space would be better used as an administrative space for the city;

A member of the audience asked French why he is against more development in MLT. French responded that he is not against development, but he is against expanding simply for more density.

Robert Reedy and Terry Ryan.
Robert Reedy and Terry Ryan.

To conclude the night, those running for the Snohomish County Council Position 4 — Republican Robert Reedy and Democrat Terry Ryan — gave short presentations and answered questions.

During Reedy’s presentation, he talked about Snohomish County’s growing population of aging adults, many of them are retiring too early when they should should be staying productive, even into their 70s and 80s. He also addressed the idea of energy plants fueled by waste.

Ryan gave some of his background in politics, including the role he played in the revitalization of the Mill Creek Town Center. If elected, Ryan said he would bring “expertise, dedication and leadership” to the table.

Both candidates talked about the need for jobs to contribute to economic growth. “No matter what your dream and what you want to hope, you need jobs,” said Reedy.

  1. Thank you Paxtyn for reporting this news. The Hawkeye staff was professional and personable. You and your team did a great service to the community by covering the event. I hope the voters are able to make a better informed decision by reading this story and viewing the soon to be released video

  2. Thank you Hawkeye staff…we, the candidates, appreciate your participation in this community event…I hope the voters take the time to review all of candidate comments posted over the last few weeks to get a more comprehensive picture of the platforms of each of the candidates…from Teresa Wippel’s video interviews, to Doug Petrowsi’s candidates responses about the city issues…there is much to see and read to become more informed about each…thank you for giving us the opportunity to connect with the voters.

  3. I too thank the Hawkeye staff for their fine, even-handed synopsis of our candidate forum. I would add just one point about the Ballinger clubhouse. The idea is to use it temporarily for our administrative functions along with other city-owned spaces and possibly modulars. That solution provides a much lower cost alternative to continuing to rent in the most expensive building in town until the city can fashion an affordable long-term answer.

  4. Given that the issue of our aging population was brought up by some of the candidates during the debate, the Ballinger Clubhouse seems to be the best choice for our Senior Center.

  5. The comments about using the club house and temporary modular structures for city office space show a profound lack of understanding about the facilities and infrastructure required in the twenty-first century. The current city council members are putting in place what is needed for the city and its citizens to thrive in the first half of this century. We’ve lived in Mountlake Terrace for 48 years and it’s exciting to see what the City Council and supporting citizens have accomplished in recent years to improve the image and livability of the city.

    The Town Center plan is succeeding by bringing in new jobs, places to shop, and modern places to live. It’s unfortunate that we don’t yet have a new, full-feature, civic center in the heart of the city, but we will eventually have one we can be proud of and one that will meet our needs for many years. It’s sad that it will have to be more expensive because the naysayers have caused us miss the opportunity to realize low construction and borrowing costs.

    I’d like you to join me in returning all of the incumbents to the City Council. This City Council continues to provide us with a high level of city services while keeping the city financially sound in these difficult economic times. This is a wonderful achievement that some of our surrounding cities have been unable to accomplish.

    1. Mr. Dybing appears to be swayed by inaccurate sound bites. The City’s financial statements show that the high level of city services have only been maintained by seriously depleting the City’s cash reserves while financing rent with unsustainable debt. Tough choices lie immediately ahead. Politicians unwilling to openly debate these choices are poor stewards of our City’s finances.

  6. I invite Mr. Dybing to enlighten the community concerning what he claims is my profound understanding. What, besides council’s disdainful choices, would keep the the clubhouse, space in our public works building and modulars from working as a temporary solution to our administrative office needs.

    1. Leasing more space in the same building would do that, to address Mr. French’s question. We’ll be there awhile. I don’t see a wholesale change in Council intent, an agreement to slash the City Hall/Civic Center idea to just a City Hall with commensurately more modest expectations factored into the project, request for proposals, initial design, review, re-design, approval, Council debate and approval, ballot initiative, approval by the voters, final design, request for bids, bidding process, awarding to successful contractor, permitting, and construction occurring in the three-year time frame of a lease extension I have been reading about on this site. We’ll be there closer to five years, I would estimate. That’s our reality, and it’s really not a bad one at that.

      Councilman Wahl stated (elsewhere on this site) that he thinks the best place for a Civic Center is on the former/proposed City Hall site. How long until he changes his mind about that? A Council that voted 7-0 for the Full Meal Deal not very long ago at all has to become a Council whose majority openly supports a far smaller project before that smaller project can even be considered.

      Longer lease at current location may mean lower leasing costs on a per-square foot basis, as might leasing larger space as part of a renewal. An honest comparison between leasing and construction/ownership makes leasing somewhat more attractive – maybe next time the Council considers ownership costs in public, it can mention that buildings have a carrying cost and those costs should be considered in their deliberations. Hopefully they at least did so in executive session.

  7. The genesis of my consideration of the alternative I have described comes from a closer look at the city’s realistic cash flow expectations over the next few years. Our former city manager told us all before he left not to expect revenue increases for the General Fund in the next few years. Yet, it is only if the miracle he tells us not to expect actually occurs that we can reasonably expect the General Fund to finance the $300,000 per year to pay back the 5-year loan for past rent and the estimated $500,000 per year for current rent. I take the former city manager at his word, as the council has done for so many years.

    As such, those two costs, which have never before been borne by our General Fund, have the potential to create shortfalls leading to service cuts. What I am asking for is a conversation about that potential and consideration of options, however unattractive to city insiders, which have the possibility of saving that rent money for more important uses.

    I didn’t put us in this hole, but I would like us to stop digging – now.

  8. I strongly encourage that any civic center be designed and built for projected population ten years in the future. Too often we build infrastructure to the minimum amount necessary to complete the project but end up seriously underbuilding what was truly needed and have to create additional space, disrupting current business. Long term fiscal responsibility is incumbent upon quality writing such as this article to inform the taxpayers and encourage participation in the betterment of life in Mountlake Terrace. For myself, I do not want another cinder block structure that looks like something built during the WPA; it should reflect the style of the area. We are not big city fancy, but could construct something that not only reflects conservatism while having a building so unique that it becomes a destination for the city itself and looks like it belongs here with modern green technology. Why not include high school students in the drawing of preliminary concepts where they take an interest in their community? Grow a pea patch on the roof, build a park there. Solar heating; solar power. These are long term ideas that hold our standards high. Ideas expressed foster new ideas, and eventually something will be agreeable to everyone and projects can get started.

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