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The Beacon's general election guide: Q&A with the mayoral candidates

 

Last updated 10/27/2021 at 2:45pm

Mayor Jennifer Gregerson and Councilmember Joe Marine

Jennifer Gregerson (Mayor)

What makes you the best candidate for the position you are running for in the general election?

I am prepared and ready. My education from UW in city planning, my experience as your current mayor for eight years, as well as 10 years on City Council where we made tough decisions like where and how to build City Hall, the Rosehill Community Center and the renovation of Lighthouse Park.

I have a proven record of accomplishments as mayor. We delivered Harbour Reach Drive, connecting our neighborhoods and building new safe places to walk and bike. There are new sidewalks on Harbour Pointe Blvd North, near Second and Third Street, and soon, on 76th Street.

I will continue to focus on public safety. Public safety means protecting our community – from car thefts, burglaries, and in vulnerable moments. My leadership led to our new school resource officer, victims advocate, and two traffic officers.

I believe in a city that listens to its residents. As mayor, I led our city in establishing our first ever Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Commission, bringing new voices to City Hall. This is a hallmark of my leadership, from the Rosehill Board to the Transportation Taskforce.

If re-elected, I promise to continue responsive communication, lead our community through pandemic recovery, and deliver on our shared vision.

What is the most important issue the City is facing in 2022, and what steps will you take to address this issue?

Our city needs to recover fully from the pandemic. That means strategically investing the federal dollars that the City has received in transformative change. I want to look back at our decisions and know we made a big impact on big challenges.

Small business ownership has been a pathway to the middle class for generations of Americans. We distributed over $400,000 in grants to over 100 small businesses this year. Looking forward, we all need to continue to support the restaurants, shops, and other businesses that are the backbone of our City.

How should Mukilteo approach annexation, especially of the commercial areas along SR-525? How much of a priority should annexation be for Mukilteo?

Annexation is important because it diversifies our tax base, shares the burden of paying for services amongst a larger base; and allows us to shape the look and feel of areas that often appear to already be part of the city. We should approach it in phases, ensuring that each phase makes sense for Mukilteo at that time. Right now, we are looking at the east side of the Speedway – many don't realize that Tapped Mukilteo, the Speedway Cafe, and McDonald's to the Chevron are not part of our City already! Annexation of that area just makes sense.

With full staffing in 2022, we will be able to take the steps necessary to move forward. With the council's budget holding key positions vacant in 2020-2021, it slowed our progress. But, we are on track now for 2022.

What is your opinion of the upcoming Advisory Ballot Measure? (Should the City encourage high density housing to be built in Mukilteo?) Would you be in favor of zoning changes in order to address the issue of affordable housing?

I grew up in Mukilteo, and I want to keep the things that make it a wonderful place to live. I don't want to destroy it or harm it. I think the three reasonable strategies that came through the public outreach process for the Housing Action Plan make sense, and I am glad we are moving forward with those.

I think this advisory ballot measure is not a good use of resources. Because of the format, it just can't be well-defined. My opponent defines high-density as the new two-story townhouses near 84th Street selling for $550,000. Those houses are less dense than many of the condos throughout Harbour Pointe. These neighborhoods are part of our city, they offer options like single floor living and elevators in some buildings like the Fairview, and home ownership opportunities.

Obviously, these developments also don't make sense for other neighborhoods that are well developed. If you live on a road or cul-de-sac with a number of other single family houses, of course it wouldn't make sense to rezone that to add townhouses.

The City Council ordered the installation of speed humps in Old Town and on 53rd Avenue West, bypassing the City's traffic calming program. Was this an appropriate action by the City Council?

In 2015, I led the City in establishing a process that allows residents to request improvements for neighborhoods with speeding issues. This process gives residents a clear path to take, allows our team to do enforcement, study the issue, and identify the right solution. It's why you see so many new pedestrian crossing signals, crosswalks, and other improvements.

That process provides fairness for everyone, allows neighborhoods to work together, and ensures that we put the right solution for the issue in place.

If we make decisions just based on who has access to the mayor or council, or who is able to come to an evening council meeting, then we're not leading the city with fairness and equity.

Some residents have issues with Paine Field related to the noise and timing of commercial flights. How should the City be working with Snohomish County to address residents' concerns?

I believe in partnerships and in understanding and using our leverage. Working towards a voluntary good neighbor/fly friendly program is a good way to resolve these concerns. It requires strategy, and it can't be an angry demand. Our City needs partnerships and relationships to get this done. I have been endorsed by both County Councilmember Megan Dunn and County Executive Dave Somers. I appreciate their support and the opportunity to work with them on these issues.

What role should the Rosehill Community Center play in the City and to what extent, if any, should the City be subsidizing the center?

Recreation access is a key part of our quality of life. More and more businesses cite the quality of life, parks and recreation as key factors for the communities they choose to locate in. It is important to have recreation access for all members in our community, and Rosehill is at the heart of that for Mukilteo.

I also disagree with the premise of subsidy. If we look at city services this way, we might say that we are subsidizing all of our parks, subsidizing your permit for a deck on your house, subsidizing the police response. I believe we are simply providing the services that the community expects and deserves, with the resources the City has.

What should the City do with the Hawthorne Hall property (former site of Boys & Girls Club)? Should the City sell the property, use it for City-related activities (Police, Parks and Recreation), or use it for City-related activities and lease to community groups?

If I had a vote on council, I would vote to keep the building. We are not in a financial position to renovate and operate the building today, but we can work towards that in the future. I appreciate the vibrant history of Hawthorne Hall as a town center in the 1930s onward. I know it's hard to get resources like a gym and multipurpose rooms, so I think it's an important amenity that we should keep.

What sort of development would you like to see on the waterfront, and how should the City encourage that development?

I believe in the waterfront vision that we have established through the Waterfront Redevelopment Master Plan. This vision would give us a revitalized downtown waterfront which includes local restaurants and shops, a looped pedestrian sidewalk, bike lanes and playful waterfront uses. Walking from Ivar's to Edgewater Beach, you'll be able to experience the waterfront from an urban environment to a natural shoreline. Interpretive signs will connect us to the natural, cultural, and urban qualities that compose the past, present and future Mukilteo waterfront.

We need to work together with all the property owners on the waterfront, and ensure that we continue to be clear about our vision and that we stick to those principles.

Joe Marine (Mayor)

What makes you the best candidate for the position you are running for in the general election?

This year Mukilteo has a choice between two different mayors, each with eight years' experience in the office. You can listen to what we say we will do. More importantly you should look at what we did with the time we were given. During my time as your mayor, I worked with council, staff and citizens to move long-dormant projects from discussion to action. Together, we built a new Rosehill Community Center and City Hall, procured Japanese Gulch, secured the tank farm property for the ferry terminal, renovated Lighthouse Park, started online tracking for the City's planning department, and created the Citizen's Police Academy.

For the first time ever, Mukilteo received a AAA bond rating by Standard and Poor's, and was ranked twice by Money magazine as one of the top 10 small cities in America, a ranking we'd never had before. We did all of this during one of the worst downturns in our economy, and when I left, we still had over 40% of our operating budget in reserves.

What is the most important issue the City is facing in 2022 and what steps will you take to address this issue?

One of the reasons I am running to be your mayor again is what I see as a lack of leadership at City Hall. The biggest indicator is the constant turnover of staff in the city. Under the current mayor we are on our fifth finance director, our fourth city administrator, third police chief, community development director, public works director, and recreation director.

This turmoil directly affects the services you receive as a citizen. The mayor has paid (with your tax dollars) over $260,000 in severance pay. Under my administration we had very little turnover, and I paid out no severance pay. I know I can right the ship. I did it before, and I can do it again.

How should Mukilteo approach annexation, especially of the commercial areas along SR-525? How much of a priority should annexation be for Mukilteo?

We absolutely need to annex the east side of the Speedway, most of the money spent at those businesses come from Mukilteo residents, and all the tax revenue continues to go to the County. This is unacceptable. We must work with the County and the Boundary Review Board to get that annexed into Mukilteo.

Previously, I was a supporter of annexation of our municipal urban growth area because it made sense to control how the area got developed, and we should receive the new construction revenue from that development. Unfortunately, the area is mostly developed now under the County standards, and we are stuck with it on our boundaries (think of the large apartment complex across from Safeway).

I have no idea where the residents will park when they fill all the units. I don't believe I would support a larger annexation now.

What is your opinion of the upcoming Advisory Ballot Measure? (Should the City encourage high density housing to be built in Mukilteo?) Would you be in favor of zoning changes in order to address the issue of affordable housing?

I was the councilmember that made the motion to put the question on the upcoming ballot. What I witnessed during the public hearings on the Housing Action Plan was over 95% of the citizens' comments were against more density, and it seemed as though they were being ignored by the mayor, staff, and a majority of the council. I thought it would be a good idea to hear from the entire community. I am against higher density in Mukilteo because we are at around 98% buildout. There is very little land left to develop, so all you're left with to add density is to rezone existing neighborhoods to allow developers to buy multiple lots, take down the houses, and replace them with multi-family structures. I don't think that is fair to our residents who bought into a neighborhood and have it completely changed. I am not against multi-family housing.

You may be surprised to know that multi-family units already make up 40% of our housing units; Mukilteo has proportionately less single family housing than the county.

The City Council ordered the installation of speed humps in Old Town and on 53rd Avenue West, bypassing the City's traffic calming program. Was this an appropriate action by the City Council?

No, I don't believe it was. The city has a process in place that was not followed. This is done to make sure that one party is not favored over another. My biggest concern was the council made the decision without your input, and the speed humps ended up right in front of a councilmember's and former councilmember's homes. The secondary concern was since the process wasn't followed, and other residents around the speed humps weren't consulted, they complained about them. A study and a polling of the residents should have been done.

As your mayor, I will ensure that the process of listening and including resident input on these decisions is followed.

Some residents have issues with Paine Field related to the noise and timing of commercial flights. How should the City be working with Snohomish County to address residents' concerns?

We can work with the airport to institute a time restriction on flights as well as when the pilots go to maximum lift. For example, they take off and then wait until they are over the water to continue their climb.

My biggest concern about commercial service at Paine Field is if they are allowed to expand. What impact will it have on our aerospace manufacturing? Paine Field is one of the highest revenue generating airports in the world, and we need to do everything we can to protect it and not assume that Boeing would never leave.

What role should the Rosehill Community Center play in the city and to what extent, if any, should the city be subsidizing the center?

The Rosehill Community Center should provide a place for our community to gather, learn, play, and recreate. Exactly what is happening now. Rosehill was never intended to be financially independent any more than the police department is funded from tickets and fines, or the fire department is funded from ambulance fees. However, we should always be improving the way we provide services to our residents with a steady eye on expenses.

What should the City do with the Hawthorne Hall property (former site of Boys & Girls Club)? Should the City sell the property, use it for City-related activities (Police, Parks and Recreation), or use it for City-related activities and lease to community groups?

Currently, I'm leaning toward selling it. It is at the end of a quiet residential street, and doesn't provide adequate parking for larger events. Also, the City had a study done that showed it would take $900,000 to bring the building into compliance with City building codes as well as the ongoing cost to staff and operate. I am certainly open to community suggestions.

What sort of development would you like to see on the waterfront, and how should the City encourage that development?

I would like to see more public space on the waterfront as well as a little bit of commercial, maybe a restaurant or shops. The biggest problem we have is a lack of parking. Unfortunately, all the parking on the waterfront is surface parking, which is sprawling and inefficient. We could consider a parking structure to help with this. We can also consider offsite parking with a shuttle, although that is labor intensive and less desirable from a user standpoint.

 

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