Election 2021: Brier City Councilmember Gallagher addresses issues at candidates forum

Brier City Councilmember Mike Gallagher speaks during the virtual forum for candidates.

Candidates for Brier City Council Positions 3 and 5 recently participated in the League of Women Voters of Snohomish County’s virtual forum in advance of the Nov. 2, 2021 general election. All of the councilmembers on this year’s ballot were invited to participate in the forum and two did so.

Six of the Brier City Council positions are elected through non-partisan, citywide elections every two years to serve four-year staggered terms. There is also one elected council-at-large position that serves a two-year term. The councilmembers elect a mayor pro tem to serve a one-year term.

Council positions appointed on an interim basis that have more than two years left on the original term are automatically put on the ballot during the next regular election to fill the remainder of that term.

Councilmember Mike Gallagher, who was first elected to the council in 2009, is running unopposed to retain Position 3.

Opening and closing questions were shared with the candidates in advance of the forum. Other questions were not shared ahead of time, however each candidate was made aware of the issue areas that the forum was likely to cover. Beforehand, community members were able to submit recommendations of local issues and questions they’d like to be addressed.

Each candidate was given 60 seconds to respond to questions and 90 seconds were allotted for their answers to the forum’s final question. The candidates were given the first response to questions on a rotating basis.

Participants were first asked what qualifications and experience make them a strong candidate for the city council position.

Gallagher said, “I am cognizant of being unopposed, but I would still like to identify that I’ve put a lot of years of council work serving on various boards – Community Transit currently, Northwest Marine Trade Association as a trustee, have worked for government entities, military experience – captain in the Army, Vietnam vet, private industry as well, labor contract negotiations and business contract negotiations up to and including companies such as Boeing.”

He added, “So I feel that I’m representing the community and capable of helping manage the city.”

The candidates were then asked about the biggest issues facing Brier and what strengths it can call on to resolve them.

Gallagher responded that there are currently several issues before the council. “We are working through bringing our infrastructure up to speed through a variety of inspections and work orders,” he noted. “We have police negotiations ongoing and a lot of the issues we have are mandates from state and county entities, which have kept us scrambling to maintain our codes that are in compliance with those laws as well as respecting the desires of our community to remain largely as it is.”

Participants were asked whether they thought 236th Street Southwest, which borders Brier and Mountlake Terrace, should be opened.

Gallagher replied that it shouldn’t be. He added that 236th Street Southwest “is a bit of a challenge,” and “we understand people would like to have a better commute through there, but the Brier community itself does not seem to want that – they don’t come to the council requesting that be opened.”

He noted that within Brier city limits the street is a major east-west passageway for children getting to school. “We’re looking at upgrading that corridor for the pedestrian traffic that we have and we would just as soon not see a lot more traffic on that road for the safety of the kids that do use it,” Gallagher said. “So we’re not looking at that as something we’re going to open up.”

The candidates were queried on what options they would support to keep housing options affordable in Brier.

“It’s an input or an impact from the regional aspects (of housing) and I really do support the property owners as they are here now,” Gallagher responded. “I feel very reluctant to come back after folks have moved into our community based on our 12,500-foot minimum lot size and the structure of our community to come now and tell them we’ve got to change that.”

“So I’m not looking very much personally towards altering our codes that would allow different forms of housing,” he added. “We’ve got some rentals and accessory units that I think are sufficient for our community at any rate.”

Candidates were asked if they support the creation of a dog park in the city and the reasons for their position.

Gallagher said that in his time on the city council the issue has been raised frequently but, “We really aren’t set up to do it. We’ve looked at it, we’ve looked at other communities and our budget, and our parks budget, just doesn’t allow it.” He added that it is often mentioned users will maintain the facility “and that works just for a little while and then all of a sudden the city has got it.”

“The other interesting part about this is that when we canvas our neighborhood and we talk to people nobody wants it near them  — so now where do we put it,” Gallagher said. “It’s just not workable for our community, we have big lots, people can keep their animals (on) or maybe go to the Edmonds beach, we just can’t do it.”

Participants were asked about their strategies for working productively with city council colleagues and members of the public whose ideas and/or life experiences are different from their own.

Gallagher said, “We welcome all input graciously and heartily.” He noted the community is also accessible to city staff and the council “so we can in fact talk to folks” and follow up with them. “Our main discovery is that folks may not be fully aware of the constraints and conditions that we have to do things,” he said. “So by helping them understand what’s going on, they then become more accepting of what we’re doing.”

“We really do get a lot of good ideas and input from our community, it’s amazing how much they come to us with thoughts and many times we can implement them – so it’s a good two-way program,” Gallagher added.

Candidates also responded the the question of whether they believe that City of Brier’s current levels of staffing for its police department are adequate, their reasons for those thoughts, and if not, then how might the city pay for additional policing.

Gallagher said that state laws passed recently “are going to be tough,” and “we have always been a stepping-stone, an entry-level police department community,” with a turnover of “typically about 40%, as high as 50%, we lose half our staff every year. Our table of equipment is such that six officers when we’re fully staffed gives us very good coverage in our community.” Gallagher noted, however, that those include several shifts with a single officer on duty.

“So we deal with the surrounding communities and we hope to get back to full staffing which will include a new police chief and that’s all in the works,” he added. “We struggle with this continuously and hope to get back to normal.”

Candidates were then asked about the most pressing environmental issues the city currently faces and their proposals to address those.

“A big issue for us is stormwater, stormwater runoff, sewer system integrity, septic systems – so we are inspecting currently our entire sewer system and stormwater system to make sure that it is in good condition,” Gallagher said. “We do encourage our citizens, through our newsletter primarily, to be careful about the way they do things, – the oil from cars: some folks change their oil at home, wash their car – so that that material doesn’t go into the storm system.”

He added that the city is “pretty aggressive at picking up the sand and the debris after storms” and making sure it is then “handled and decanted and done properly.”

Finally, each candidate was asked for any additional issues or information they would like to bring to the community’s attention.

Gallagher said, “The main issue I’d like to help our citizens understand is just how much the laws and actions of the larger entities — the county and the state — what impact that has on our management of the community and the community itself.” Examples he pointed to included the Growth Management Act and changes recently made by the Washington State Legislature to laws about policing.

“I and a couple of other councilmen spoke at the state level to try to get some of it tempered so that small communities like us won’t be impacted so severely,” he added. “The police one is a real big issue for us, we’re working that through the budget to see how much of it we can actually afford.”

Gallagher noted that over time, “I’ve been thinking about this a lot because the calls from my constituents suggest that they’re not able to make the connection between what happens at the state level and how it impacts our community. And I’d like to help folks understand just what’s going on in that area.”

The League of Women Voters of Snohomish County is a nonpartisan organization. Its candidate forums are virtual and pre-recorded. Audio recordings of the forums are available here and video recordings can be viewed here.

Councilmember David Marley, who is running for Position 5, also participated in the virtual forum although his opponent Susan Weldon did not due to health reasons. Marley was selected by the council in August 2020 to fill the position on an interim basis when longtime councilmember Dale Kaemingk was appointed mayor of Brier. The winner will be elected to serve the remaining unexpired two-year term of the position.

Additional Brier City Councilmembers who will be on the election ballot include John Lockhart for Position 1, Martin Krienke for Position 2, Valerie Rosman for Position 4, and Donald (Don) Moran for the Council-at-Large Position. All of these candidates are running unopposed for those positions.

Councilmembers Rosman and Lockhart will be elected to serve the remaining unexpired two-year term of their positions after both were appointed on an interim basis last year following the resignations of Kerin Steele and Robert Thorpe. John Joplin, who currently serves in the Council-at-Large Position, is not seeking reelection.

— By Nathan Blackwell

 

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